Barrett Brown and the US Government’s war against journalists, PR reps, and bad videos on YouTube

barrett brown impression

the author above, engaged in an “unofficial PR campaign” for Barrett Brown. This is my impression of him. Here is a fantastic video impression of him. Full disclosure: I’ve been making fun of Barrett Brown since 2011, before it was cool. 

Since Barrett Brown’s sentencing in January, some security journalists are scared, saying the ruling in many ways criminalizes security journalism. Former WIRED journalist Quinn Norton, for one, has quit covering the field because she doesn’t want to be sent to prison for copy-pasting a link or analyzing stolen data. She wrote in more detail about why last month here. If you haven’t already, I suggest you read it. Now, I am freaking out — ok, that is a bit strong– I am quite upset by the ruling for two other reasons, ones that have hardly been discussed. Going to jail for viewing, or passing along, stolen e-documents is an alarming thing (and Brown didn’t even open the link!) but this has been covered extensively already. Brown’s ruling is alarming to me, and to PR reps, because it criminalizes PR,  in this case for a hacktivist group. Another alarming thing? Being charged for a video you made while mentally incapacitated. I’ve literally done every single thing Brown has done (I made Chanology posters in 2008!). Am I next?  

Rapists get away with their crimes using the “drunk” excuse, serial killers can plead insanity, but here we have the government saying that Brown, who was off his meds, coming down from a drug addiction and in a manic state (this is known and fact), is somehow responsible for statements he made in a rambling YouTube video. Great.

This is a man who friends have called “slightly autistic.” This is a man who makes videos drinking wine in a bathtub and yet when he makes an angry video directed at a federal agent, he is taken seriously.  Please. Brown has always been more kooky bravado than realized action. The government making an example out of him, pretending like Brown’s insults hurt their feelings and made them scared for their lives, is a cruel and misguided farce.  (It also makes the agents look like complete pansies… if they heard the shit talk competitive gamers sling at each other, would they be in tears?)

Just as concerning, is how Brown has been denying he was ever a spokesperson, whether official or unofficial, for Anonymous, despite ample evidence otherwise. Brown can say he was never the spokesperson for Anonymous all he wants but that won’t erase the fact that he actually was one.

A spokesperson by its very definition is someone who speaks on behalf of an organization, or in this case a collective, to the press. Spokespeople field questions, shape narratives, repackage and disseminate information. This is exactly what Brown did for Anonymous. Not only did he answer questions from the media, he guided and gave advice on Anonymous’ public relations strategies, helped write releases, and other PR rep stuff. Spokespersons tend to be former journalists, or PR reps.

We all know Brown is not in prison for hacking, because that wasn’t the charge and besides, Brown can’t hack his way out of a cardboard box. We also know he didn’t actually get “too close to the hackers,” because they hated him, mocked him constantly, held him at bay and strung him along. (And even if he did get close, he was doing his job as both a journalist and a PR rep so how close is too close exactly???)

Before Brown was incarcerated, he was a journalist, a heavily disrespected PR rep, and a guy who liked to talk shit and party on webcam when he should have been in bed. Are all three of these crimes now?

It certainly appears that way.



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