The Cyberflâneur #32: Vincent Bevins

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 WorldIt’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. 

Vincent’s bio and Twitter.

~ Evgeny Morozov

Vincent Bevin and Vijay Prashad discuss how Washington’s anti-communist wars have shaped our world.

Vincent’s Selections

I.

A Lost Cyber Utopia: What Happened To The Soviet Internet?

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.


II.

A (Select) Political History of the Internet

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.


III.

Digital Colonialism: US Empire and the New Imperialism in the Global South

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.


IV.

Internet Infrastructure and the Persistent Myth of U.S. Hegemony

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?


V.

Digital Sovereignty or Digital Colonialism

“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.”


VI.

Leaderless Rebellion: How Social Media Enables Global Protests

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?


VII.

After Protest: Pathways Beyond Mass Mobilization

“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?”


VIII.

‘Cooperate to Win’: the Influence of the Chilean Student Movement on the 2012 Budget Law

“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.”


IX.

Pierre Bourdieu on Social Transformation, with Particular Reference to Political and Symbolic Revolutions

“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”.”


X.

Rethinking Prefiguration: Alternatives, Micropolitics and Goals in Social Movements

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:

“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.

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).” 

Vincent Bevins writing in the New York Times

Other Cyberflâneurs

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:

 

  • 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.

If you’d like to propose a candidate for this series, please use this simple form.

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