Well, I am almost done reading ‘Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistle blower, Spy: The Many Faces of Anonymous’
Don’t read this book. It’s awful.
A more apt title should be ‘Anonymous and I’, because the book, particularly the first half of it, does not strike me as being about Anonymous per se, but about Gabriella Coleman’s [Biella] relationship with Anonymous. I bring this up first because I recall reading that anthropologists should remove themselves as much as possible when describing the culture they participated in. And the whole damn thing reeks of ‘look what I did’. Biella puts herself into this books wherever she can, as if trying to prove to some higher powers that she is finally hanging out with the cool kids. And very often she does so rather shamefully. Consider the epigraph she inserts on chapter 6:
: There’s one thing which make me a bit bittersweet actually
: Biella is here for college research
: I can’t help feeling that as soon as she’s written her thesis or whatever the project is, she’ll have no further reason to hang out here 😦
: I don’t think she realizes how much she’s contributed to Anonymous
: Even if she doesn’t see herself as part of it necessarily
And just to ring the irony bell while she is at it, this is the same chapter that later goes on to talk about ‘namefagging’. One wonders if Anonymous appreciate this level of back-patting for every anthropologists who waltzes through the door. But what’s worse is that this quote proves absolutely nothing. If you think this is meant to establish something about the character of anonymous, you would wrong. This quote comes on the 177th page of the hardback, and it has already been well-established that at this point Biella is entrenched with the Anons. Of course they are going to say something nice about you. This quote is little more than a verbose form of the tautology ‘Friends are friendly to friends’. Really? You don’t say.
There is another choice example of self-aggrandizement. A little later, Biella even manages to plug an older book:
“I had recently published my book on free software “hackers,” Coding Freedom: The Ethics and Aesthetics of Hacking, and it seemed that these InfoSec word warriors thought I had a narrow understanding of the term, one that omitted their world. But, my understanding of the term is much more nuanced than they realized. My definition includes free software programmers, people who make things, and also people who compromise systems – but that doesn’t mean they have to all be talked about at the same time. My first book was narrowly focused.”
Are you kidding me? First off, I bought a book about Anonymous. I could care less about the semantic arguments you have about your book. Second off, you are wrong in your argument. Words are arbitrary symbols for meaning, and they can mean whatever we want them to mean. But they do not take meaning by the fiat of academics, they take meaning that are mutually agreed on but society as a whole, thought the forces at work in this process are complicated and illusive. You can call a spoon a ‘fork’ if you like. Nothing about the word /spoon/ is more spoon-like than the word /fork/. But when you got a restaurant and insist the server bring you a ‘fork’ so that you can eat your soup, don’t be upset when they bring you an elongated piece of metal that terminates in four prongs. You can call people who make free software ‘hackers’ if you like, but you’re alone in doing so, and you deserve to be called out for your foolishness.
The book seems to want to suggest that it is targeted to a more academic audience, though it strikes me as not knowing how to do so. The book explains the obvious terminology that anyone most lay people would understand, but then drops that horrendous academic jargon that is nothing but ten-dollar idea word filler. On page 19 the book takes a moment to define for the audience what ‘trolling’ is, but later on page 40 it goes right by ‘Deleuzian sensibilities’ as if everyone was stupid enough to have wasted their time reading A thousand Plateaus. Not everyone who picks up a book on Anonymous want to waste their time researching postmodern nonsense.
As a last point, though one I think is very important, I do not think Biella did a lot of research on this book, which further drives home my suspicion that the tome is little more than a memoir dressed up in academic clothing. Certain little details are wrong, and when it comes to books like this which are collection of thousands of little details, you wonder if the whole picture is not corrupted, and not just the individual pixels. The author mentions Slab City, which is in California, not Colorado as the author says. She also mentions how the members of Anonymous used the movie Gayn*ggers from Outer Space as something of an inside joke, naming one of their own associations in a similar fashion. Biella describes the movie as a porno. It isn’t, and I know this because I have seen the movie. It is a parody of a Blaxploitation movie. There is never one pornographic scene in the whole thing. To call it such just demonstrates not only that you didn’t see the movie, but that you didn’t care to do two seconds of research to consult Wikipedia about the nature of the movie. Perhaps she was misinformed by the contacts she made at Anonymous as to the nature of the movie. Well, that would have been an interesting detail to include in your book, and thus she still had no excuse as to not have double checked the information she was getting. I have a very minor journalism job, and I cannot imagine a situation where I would not have researched a bit of information like that.