The following book review of The Blogging Revolution appeared in the Melbourne Age on September 20:
Antony Loewenstein’s journey through the blogging world brings some surprises, says Thuy On.
In 2007, journalist Antony Loewenstein travelled to some of the world’s hot spots to meet up with bloggers, activists and dissidents whose cyber activities challenge the dominance of the state-run media of various repressive regimes. The Blogging Revolution is the result of his informal discussions with those who agitate for change in the face of government propaganda, censorship and suppression.
Loewenstein discovers that Iran’s blogging community is the healthiest in the Middle East despite constant surveillance and filtering. That by comparison, Cuba’s online presence is negligible and that China is the most paranoid of all with regards to its citizens’ internet usage. He also visited Egypt, Syria and Saudi Arabia.
But this is not a simple “us and them” dissertation; Loewenstein is also critical of the complicity of Western powers (particularly the US) in hindering the dissemination of information.
He points out that everywhere he went, he heard the same message: “That democracy, the rule of law and free media would come in spite of America, rather than because of it.”
This is a well-researched and engaging examination of private revolt by those unable to express themselves in public. Though they face harassment and imprisonment for speaking out on contentious topics such as police brutality, torture, human rights and freedom of speech, the bloggers’ criticisms of the ruling elites offer an alternative view. Loewenstein accepts that governmental change will be slow and incremental but points out that these subversive sites at least provide a space to flout the official line.