Vincent Bevins is a journalist and writer. He has covered Southeast Asia for the Washington Post and previously wrote for the L.A. Times and Financial Times on Latin America. He has just published his first book The Jakarta Method: Washington’s Anticommunist Crusade and the Mass Murder Program that Shaped Our World. It’s a fascinating read about a very dark and largely overlooked corner of Cold War history – and America’s ugly role in it.
Vincent has used our systems to find some brilliant articles and reports on two distinct questions: (1) How “American” is the Internet, and (2) How effective is the “spontaneous, horizontally organized, mass protest” form?”. You’ll read about a “Lost Cyber Utopia”, why the infrastructre of the Internet is undermining US hegemony and about the tactics that are successful in translating protest movements into political change.
~ Evgeny Morozov
How would the internet be different it it had not taken shape in the era of undisputed US hegemony? If there were competing models, or if even had to merge with different technological visions? As the article notes, Salvador Allende was also experimenting with cyber-socialism before the CIA-backed coup in 1973.
Served as a good refresher on where this thing actually comes from – and, especially – the very specific way the internet was privatized under Bill Clinton.
How can we compare the relationship between Silicon Valley and Africa to the relationship between Western European colonial powers and Africa? I think we’re going to be dealing with this question for a long time.
On the one hand, Google, Amazon, Facebook, Netlflix and Microsoft dominate about 60% of all internet traffic. And this paper notes that US firms dominate the “code” and “content layers” of the web. But relative North American preponderance is in decline, particularly when we take into account the physical infrastructure. What would a (future) less American internet look like?
“The world’s offline populations are the disputed territories of tech empires, because whoever gets them locked into their digital feudalism, holds the key to the future.”
It is remarkable how much the mass protests that exploded around the world from 2019-2020 have in common. This FT big read pinpoints those commonalities. Which are strengths, and which are weaknesses?
“These protests attract considerable attention while they are occurring….But far less attention is devoted to what happens after such protests die down. Do protesters simply go back to what they were doing before? Does all the sound and fury lead into new types of long-term civic activism? Does the high drama of street mobilization unleash a new type of politics, or does the momentum of change quickly unwind? Is there a new wave of political engagement by young people, fired up by their participation in protest movements? Do they seek to transform the political parties around them? Do new political alliances formed in the heat of revolt endure or easily splinter? How do civic activists cope with the government repression that can sometimes follow protests?”
“The model considers more successful tactics to be having a single issue demand; using selective incentives; using violence and disruptive tactics; being more bureaucratized, centralized and not divided into factions.”
“As different fields become drawn into the conflict, the taken-for-granted nature of everyday life and the anticipated future became suspended, replaced by an extraordinary experience of “public time,” a “vague and almost empty time”.”
Prefigurative politics is the idea that the means employed by protests should match their ends; that the protest movements should in some way take the form of the society they aim to bring about. The term, this paper notes, “was coined by Carl Boggs (1977) as a political logic posing a ‘direct attack on statist Marxism.” How has this technique worked out?
More by Vincent Bevins – from our Stacks
Our archive of high-quality content across text, video and audio – our “Living Syllabus” – has already reached over 25,000 items and grows larger every week.
Here are some recent pieces by or featuring Vincent from those archives:
- The ‘Liberal World Order’ Was Built With Blood (journalism)
- How ‘Jakarta’ Became the Codeword for US-Backed Mass Killing (journalism)
- Victims Of Anti-Communism (video)
- Bolsonaro’s War on the War on the Coronavirus (journalism)
- The Murderous History and Deceitful Function of the CIA (video)
- Sure, whataboutism seems bad, but have you considered other bad things? (journalism)
- Move Fast and Break Democracy (video)
“If you read the commentary coming out of New York and Washington, or speak with elites in Western Europe, it’s easy to find people panicking about the loss of “American leadership.” From Joe Biden’s campaign pledges to trans-Atlantic think tanks, exhortations to revive American supremacy and contain China are everywhere.Vincent Bevins writing in the New York Times
They have reason to be worried: This moment is shaking the foundations of America’s hegemony. It is painfully clear that the United States is ill-equipped to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, which does not play to American strengths (we can’t shoot it, after all).”
We’ve featured many fantastic individuals in this series: artists, musicians, academics, writers, journalists, politicians, and more. For the full list and to browse their selections.
A handful of our contributors so far:
- Brian Eno – Musician, Record Producer, Visual Artist
- Hito Steyerl – Artist, Filmmaker, Writer
- Adam Tooze – Professor of History at Columbia University
- Shehla Rashid – Activist & Academic
- Holly Herndon & Mat Dryhurst – Musicians, Artists, Technologists
- Raquel Rolnik – Architect & Urban Planner
- Kaiser Kuo – Writer, Musician, Podcaster
- Li Andersson – Finland’s Minister of Education and the Chairperson of the Left Alliance party
- Ivan Krastev – Chairman of the Centre for Liberal Strategies in Sofia, Fellow at the Institute of Human Sciences in Vienna
- Fabrizio Barca – Italian Politician, founder of Forum on Inequality and Diversity
More About our Cyberflâneur Series
To learn more about how this particularly eclectic edition of our syllabi works. Note that if you subscribe to any of our weekly syllabi, we’ll keep you posted on our latest cyberflâneurs too. Our subscribers also get a monthly Highlights From the Cyberflâneur edition.
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