Conversation with Gabriella Coleman about her latest book “Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The Many Faces of Anonymous”

shelfie hibbard for twitter

Here is the unedited 30 minute conversation/interview with Coleman, three times the length as the one published on CSM’s Passcode

FE: I finally finished your book last night…. at 3 in the morning….  it’s a pretty long book… while I was reading it, it hit me that this book is really about everything that has to do with the modern Internet, so in that way it makes sense why it is so long… you have to provide context for all these different and new concepts that no one has really written about.

GC: that’s something that’s been interesting to see the reviews, a lot of them have been repetitive. It is about Anonymous, but it is about so much more….

FE: Like modern activism…

GC: yeah, and what it means for hackers… they’ve really coalesced into a major political force just in the last five or six years.

FE: I’m glad you brought the political activism angle, do you think there will ever be an Anonymous political party?

GC: I don’t think so, they’re going to continue in their guerrilla war fashion, but we will see more hackers in government, for sure. Anonymous has to be independent… there’s no way that they can overtly work with government…

FE: So, onto prepared questions… what does the media still get wrong about Anonymous?

GC: I am currently writing this article for this anthropology book about relationships with journalists, and how I came to see journalism differently over time, just as the same way Anonymous is not unanimous, the same can be said for journalism. There are much more local journalists, and some are fucked up, there are structural constraints, and it is the same for Anonymous.

GC:  But basically, I do think a lot of journalists get it, and initially there was three things that were really difficult. Read the rest of this entry »

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.

The two obvious problems with the media’s coverage of the Slender Man stabbing

In the past week, there have been two heavily publicized instances of little girls stabbing their loved ones in the name of Slender Man; the first being the two 12-year-old Wisconsin girls charged last week as adults for stabbing their “best friend” last year, the second a 13-year-old in Ohio who tried to stab her mom while wearing a white mask. The media has tripped over themselves trying to explain Slender Man, and inadvertently (or purposefully) demonized Creepypasta, unsupervised Internet usage and online culture. Even those outlets that did not demonize these suspects still failed to properly portray the reach of Slender Man and the stabbings in context of the Slender Man community.

Like all killings the media takes a shine to, a large roster of armchair psychologists have come out of the woodwork to bloviate on Slender Man. Everyone, including those not qualified, especially those not qualified, are theorizing on online culture while completely glossing over the community aspect of a phenomenon like Slender Man. Folks that are qualified to write about online culture, like this lady at the Washington Post, this lady at the Verge and this gentlemen at the Awl (not linking to said trollish article), have also massively fumbled to explain these stabbings in context of the community. (Why the Verge is linking to the awful tone-deaf Awl piece is beyond comprehension, but that’s a post for another matter.)

So here’s the first thing wrong with all this Slender Man stabbing coverage: the absence of Pew Die Pie and adequate mentions of Slender Man in video games

Why is top YouTube celebrity Pew Die Pie important? Well, a large portion of his fan base comprises of girls in the same age range as the little girls stabbing their loved ones. Teens and tweens don’t watch TV as much any more, they watch YouTube and play video games. Pew Die Pie’s main claim to fame is his Slender Man videos and many little girls got into Slender Man because of his charming accent, golden locks and good looks. My now-13-year old brother used to complain all the time about how all the girls in his class are obsessed with Pew Die Pie, and subsequently Slender Man because of Pew Die Pie. My evidence is anecdotal, but that doesn’t make it less true. In the case of the Wisconsin girls, they cite and favor video game lore; they want to go to Slender Man’s mansion, which only exists in the video game. A video game made popular by Pew Die Pie.

The little girls first tried to stab their friend in a public restroom, then in the woods. Both scenes, of Slender Man catching up with you in a public restroom and in the woods, happen in the first episode of Pew Die Pie’s Slender Man video series. Is Pew Die Pie responsible for the stabbings? No, of course not.

In the case of the 13-year-old girl, her mother mentioned her daughter plays Minecraft, and the ultimate bad guy in the game is Enderman, a creepy figure the creator of Minecraft admitted to being inspired by Slender Man. Is Minecraft responsible for the stabbings? Again, no, of course not, but yet again every outlet has failed to mention the Slender Man-inspired monster in Minecraft.

The second thing wrong with all this Slender Man coverage: it glosses over the role of the community WHICH NOW INCLUDES THE PRESS in perpetuating the Slender Man myth.

Think of Slender Man as a community art project, where for years now adults, teens and tweens have been fabricating fake news articles, photographs, and even video games and comics, about Slender Man, this all-powerful, all-knowing spectre-monster with long arms (shaped like claws, or tree branches, or tentacles depending on the artist) that mind controls and kills people. When these two Wisconsin girls say they wanted to honor the Slender Man myth, to make him “real” and prove the “skeptics wrong,” it sounds more like they wanted to participate in the community by creating the most credible news article about Slender Man ever. They didn’t want to make him real by doing another photoshop, that’s already been done. So how do you make the most credible news article about Slender Man? You actually go out and make Slender Man happen in a way the news can cover.

Not only that, but these two little girls then gave their best friend the ultimate Slender Man experience by becoming Slender Man for her. It’s sick and it’s twisted, but if we are charging them as mentally fit adults we can’t say they didn’t know the line between reality and fantasy because mentally fit adults do know the line between reality and fantasy. Unless, you have two girls purposefully blurring the line between fantasy and reality in order to contribute to this online community producing Slender Man lore.  Slender Man wipes memories and mind controls, remember, which is convenient for all three girls then, including the one in Ohio who say she doesn’t remember anything after trying to stab her mother.

The Wisconsin girls completely changed the meme and contributed significantly to the Slender Man community/phenomenon with their attempted murder, and by doing so in this way, have completely changed the narrative of Slender Man lore. Slender Man used to just be a fantasy. Now he is a reality. He is a reality because anyone can become a proxy for Slender Man if he or she wishes. This is evident in the stabbing of the 13-year-old girl who tried to stab her mother. Three little girls have now stabbed two people in the name of Slender Man, not in a fan fiction or in a video game, but in very, very real life. Like all things digital these days, these girls got instant feedback for it too.  And not just from online.

The Verge almost got this right, when they quoted psychologist Peter Langman:

Online communities may provide stronger reinforcement than other forms of media, Langman says, because other people are providing feedback. 

Any media outlet that reports on this story and fails to mention that they as an outlet are now contributing to the Slender Man myth, is laughably ignorant and dangerous. The press does not exist in a vacuum. The press cannot blame CreepyPasta and memes but not blame itself or Pew Die Pie.

In fact, the primary driver of the Slender Man myth is no longer Pew Die Pie, Minecraft, CreepyPasta, reddit, 4chan or Something Awful, but the press itself.


Most inappropriate PR pitch ever, connecting John Lennon movie “Genius” with Sandy Hook Elementary shooting

Okay, so I am just cutting and pasting this in full.

Something tells me John Lennon would not approve.



Los Angeles, CA, December 14. Those who murder all have one thing in common, says the producer of new movie on the death of the Beatles’ John Lennon.

Based on initial reports, a masked gunman murdered more than 25 people—including 18 children—at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut on Friday morning. Two guns were found near the shooter, who was discovered dead inside a classroom, according to law enforcement officials and media reports. Witnesses said the shooter was wearing a mask but his identity was still unknown. This is the second deadliest school shooting since the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre claimed the lives of 32 people.

Just two days before the Connecticut shooting, a lone gunman had entered a crowded mall in Portland, Oregon, killing two people and wounding a 15-year-old girl, before taking his own life. In what appeared to be a random rampage, police noted that the killer, Jacob Tyler Roberts, 22, had no significant criminal history. His mother said that she had “no understanding or explanation” for what he did and that it was “so out of his character.” According to a statement issued by the shooter’s high school, “The motive for such a horrific act is likely to remain a mystery to us all.”

Most experts are as baffled as those who knew Roberts. However, Ray Comfort, the producer of a new movie called “Genius,” believes he knows why people are willing to take innocent life. Comfort said, “His friends say that Roberts was a nice guy and that he lost his job and broke up with his girlfriend. No doubt the Connecticut killer suffered some sort of rejection also. But those things have happened to millions and they haven’t gone out and murdered people.” The best-selling author and TV co-host added, “‘Genius’ points to what every murderer has in common, something the ‘experts’ either don’t recognize or avoid talking about. But it’s there.”  In the movie, which is about John Lennon and why he was killed, 15 youths were asked if they would murder for money, and those who said yes all had one thing in common. “Something tragic is happening in our country,” Comfort noted, “and most people don’t know what it is. Those who want to understand why these tragedies are occurring—and are likely to continue to occur—should watch the free movie.”

Nearly 170,000 people have viewed the 34-minute movie since its release on YouTube a week ago. Watch the trailer to see those who would murder for money:

Corporations, Companies, and Supporters of SOPA

If this Pastebin document, created by Anonymous members involved in Operation Hiroshima, is to be believed, the following companies lobbied Congress in support of SOPA.

I smell a boycott… and the weird thing about this list is, how are most of these companies affected by online piracy? Especially all these clothing companies…



ABRO Industries, Inc.

Acushnet Company

Adidas America 

Bose Coporation


CBS Corporation

Chanel USA


Columbia Sportswear

Dolce & Gabbana

Electronic Arts, Inc. (individuals within have voiced opposition?)

Entertainment Software Association

Read the rest of this entry »

Citizens step up as budget cuts kill community centers

Tate Gallery graffiti 1

Image by suvodeb via Flickr

Three teenagers were shot in the last 10 days in Albany Park. While the state slashes funding for various programs, including youth services, the local community is left to pick up the pieces.  Our Lady of Mercy Church, The Albany Park Neighborhood Council and  life-long resident Eric Criniere are leading the pack.

Read the rest of this entry »

A new website: Republicans for Rape

Do you remember Jamie Leigh Jones? She was drugged and brutally gang-raped while working for KBR and then confined to a shipping container after the incident. When I say brutally, I am talking about lacerations in her anus and vagina, and a damaged breast implant. It has taken years  for Jones to get her day in court, because when she signed her KBR contract, the fine print had an arbitration clause that stated all matters would be settled in a secret court. Al Franken set out to fix this problem recently by adding an amendment that gives defense contractor employees the right to sue in case they are raped, thus holding defense contractors responsible for their employees actions.

Maybe because it was Franken, or maybe they were voting along Republican lines, but thirty old white male senators  voted against this amendment. Let the internet shaming begin! A new website sprung up last week titled Republicans for Rape, and has pictures of the senators  (and contact numbers!) who voted against this amendment (including Saxby Chambliss, John McCain and Lindsey Graham). The blog section is updated frequently with hilarious “pro-rape” satire, and even sports a fake letter from Sarah Palin in support of the website. A facebook page was created yesterday, has over 200 followers and the comments on the main page are down-right cackle-worthy:

Rape is the new Republican family value! Thanks, Senator Cornyn!   via Resa Harrison

If we let those liberal heathens take away our God given right to rape, what’s next? via Sean Huze

The conservative right has no moral high ground left after this.

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