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hackity hack don’t talk back

November 11, 2014

Slightly off topic for a moment, let’s note again the connection of zombies to hackers, recalling specifically “Why Hackers relate to Zombies” but also noting connection to Anonymous-identity and intellectual property infringement (piracy). Pirates and zombies are sort of similar character tropes of “fantasy” fiction and often they are a group enemy, nameless hordes of Hollywood extras in a big attack scene.

In the real world of copyright pirates, the Swedish pirate Peter Sunde, of the site PirateBay, was released from prison and tweeted :

My body just got re-united with my soul and mind, the parts of me that matters and that never can be held hostage.

Now that’s dualist-mind-body talk (p-zombie and false dichotomy) and it could be applied to release from prison in general, but this particular case is about freedom on the internet.

Copyright is fundamentally opposed to the spirit of Anonymous because copyright is about attributing authorship. Michel Foucault explained that author functions as a way of limiting information so as to assign responsibility and liability. As with most Foucaultian subjects, it’s about discipline and punishment.

Speaking of which, currently imprisoned in Texas, Barrett Brown has plead guilty and is approaching his sentencing date (on up to 8.5 years for the crimes he plead to, which is far less than the 100 years he was facing on the original charges). Online advocates encouraged writing a letter for his defense counsel to use in petition for leniency in hopes of a sentence of time-served, now incarcerated over two years.

Brown has been publishing a regular column from prison at D Magazine, “The Barrett Brown Review of Arts and Letters and Jail”. In a recent column he assailed some of Professor Gabriella Coleman’s facts in her new book about Anonymous. Her book is “Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The Many Faces of Anonymous” and Brown responded: “Let Me Just Drop Everything and Respond to Your Libel“. Aside from challenging some facts, Brown notes some of Coleman’s interesting connections including Anonymous and West African mythology:

Coleman is a respected anthropologist who happens to be well-versed in the various strains of internet culture that produced Anonymous, and so she has interesting things to say about trolls, hackers, and gamers. Like the creators of the old Shadowrun role-playing game or William Gibson in his Count Zero — both notable influences on hacker culture — she delights in evoking West African/Caribbean folkloric archetypes to explore the anti-heroes of the information age; Topiary and I, it is explained, are best understood as “tricksters” in the tradition of the Afro-Caribbean figure Anansi, “a spider who sometimes imparts knowledge or wisdom — and sometimes casts doubt or seeds confusion.” This kind of stuff is harmless enough, and at any rate it’s not something one can refute. (“But Professor Coleman, any fool can see that I’m actually a pre-Singularity manifestation of the Slavic forest witch Baba Yaga, whereas my colleague Topiary here is most productively viewed as as pre-post-scarcity version of the Irish folk-prankster Finn Mac Cool, while Sabu is Puss-i-Don, Greek god of snitches.”)

Zombies would fit right into this African mythic universe. And speaking of Gibson’esque Shadowrun-style cyberpunk recall “zombie” in the movie “Johny Mnemonic”.

Also recall that the previous ZombieLaw post used a quote from Prof. Coleman as quoted in Adrian Humphreys’s long article in National Post: “Hacker, creeper, soldier, spy” about the strange story of supposed-Anonymous-affiliate, Matt DeHart accused of child porn seemingly because of anon-activities leading him to a Wikileaks-like file that he surely wishes he hadn’t seen. It’s like the horror movie “The Ring”, you see this file you are targeted by the government (?).

Consider that Brown’s original sin was simply linking to data others had illicitly unveiled and posted. Brown was being a journalist, propagating information. In the government’s eyes, that could be conspiracy (cons-piracy!). We need people like this (and like Bradley Manning and other whistleblowers) who are willing to talk and spread information and shed light into the dark corners. Instead, these cases are a chilling effect on young people who would speak out.

Information wants to be free. That is because costs requires the thinker to return back to the physical world, whereas free connections allow the mind to flourish unchained through symbol space. The mind wants to flow without reference to the body, reading the internet (like any library only much faster) has the power to take the mind away. Costs imposed on getting to the next part of the story are frustrating. We desire flow.

Except, Cory Doctorow has an upcoming book about to publish called: “Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free: Laws for the Internet Age“:

Can small artists still thrive in the Internet era? Can giant record labels avoid alienating their audiences? This is a book about the pitfalls and the opportunities that creative industries (and individuals) are confronting today — about how the old models have failed or found new footing, and about what might soon replace them.

The replacements can’t come soon enough. the war between traditional media and emerging technologies seems set to continue indefinitely. It’s a mostly economic war between big corporate players (see also Cable Wars) but it’s made many young tech innovators into criminals and most of us into zombies, consumers just trying to get through the day, most don’t even realize we are living in a war zone; a war for control of our minds. The Africa-Haitian zombie is a slavery mythos; our minds cannot be free, we are hopeless chained to the information we are presented with. Who controls that information flow?

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