Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The Many Faces of Anonymous

Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The Many Faces of Anonymous

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by Gabriella Coleman
     
 

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Here is the definitive book on the worldwide movement of hackers, pranksters, and activists that operates under the name Anonymous, by the woman the Chronicle of Higher Education calls “the leading interpreter of digital insurgency” and the Huffington Post says “knows all of Anonymous’ deepest, darkest secrets.” Half a

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Overview

Here is the definitive book on the worldwide movement of hackers, pranksters, and activists that operates under the name Anonymous, by the woman the Chronicle of Higher Education calls “the leading interpreter of digital insurgency” and the Huffington Post says “knows all of Anonymous’ deepest, darkest secrets.” Half a dozen years ago, anthropologist Gabriella Coleman set out to study the rise of this global collective just as some of its adherents were turning to political protest and disruption (before Anonymous shot to fame as a key player in the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street). She ended up becoming so closely connected to Anonymous that some Anons claimed her as “their scholar.” Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy brims with detail from inside a mysterious subculture, including chats with imprisoned hacker Jeremy Hammond and the hacker who helped put him away, Hector “Sabu” Monsegur. It’s a beautifully written book, with fascinating insights into the meaning of digital activism and little understood facets of culture in the Internet age, such as the histories of “trolling” and “the lulz.”

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
09/22/2014
In this eye-opening ethnography, cultural anthropologist Coleman (Coding Freedom) constructs a fascinating picture of the many facets of the Internet collective known as Anonymous, from tricksters and trolls to social crusaders and information warriors. She pulls back the curtain to reveal feuding factions, evolving purposes, scatological humor, and a healthy dose of bizarre in-jokes. In particular, she looks at how they’ve taken on corporations, governments, even Scientology, and come out on top almost every time. Her writing style is as irreverent and occasionally as profane as her subjects, drawing the reader in with a casual amiability, as if sharing the wild stories of impossible and unreliable acquaintances. Interviews, chat logs, leaked documents, and personal recollections help construct one of the most accessible and most illuminating profiles possible of a group that, by its very creed, can’t easily be defined or categorized. This all-access pass into the dark and wild corners of the Internet is timely, informative, and also frightening. (Nov.)
Library Journal
11/15/2014
Author and cultural anthropologist Coleman (Wolfe Chair in Scientific and Technological Literacy, McGill Univ., Canada; Coding Freedom) presents a rare look inside the complex, decentralized cabal that is the hacker group Anonymous. Using Internet chat-channel conversations and interviews with hackers, the author examines the group's rise and activities. Noteworthy of this cultural investigation are the antileader and antihierarchy norms, explored as a cultural anthropologist would—through the group's varied direct hacking actions and the unique vocabulary of Internet hacker chat rooms ("trolling," "the lulz," etc.). Many of Anonymous's exploits are detailed here, including Denial of Service (DoS) attacks on payment processing corporations in the wake of WikiLeaks, the technical attacks that defaced Tunisian government websites, and actions taken against the Church of Scientology. What truly resonates in this book is the process by which a leaderless but effective technical and social group plans, deploys, and then disperses. VERDICT Recommended for enthusiasts of Internet culture, this book is an accessible entry-level resource for untangling the many threads of Anonymous.—Jim Hahn, Univ. Lib., Univ. of Illinois, Urbana
Kirkus Reviews
2014-10-08
A fresh perspective on the covert, crusading Internet activist group Anonymous. Coleman (Scientific and Technological Literacy/McGill Univ.; Coding Freedom: The Ethics and Aesthetics of Hacking, 2012), a cultural anthropologist and Internet authority, spent several increasingly immersive years researching the calculated tactics of the global Anonymous collective. She tracks the hacktivist association's anarchic history from its nascent disruptive publicity stunts and trolled online raids through the "4chan" public chat-boards in 2003, executed in the spirit of "lulz" (public schadenfreude). Though the group's later, more pointed, collaborative machinations would attract the aggressive attention of the FBI, writes Coleman, their activities were still partly implemented in the same roguish, mischievous spirit. Though her treatment is permeated with buzzwords, initialisms and computer jargon, even Internet neophytes will find Coleman's text to be a consistently fascinating ethnography, as she folds the politics of hacking and website breaching techniques into intriguing stories from the stealth campaigns of microcosmic networks like AnonOps and LulzSec ("a crew of renegade hackers who broke away from Anonymous and double as traveling minstrels"), among others. The author examines the ways the Anonymous collective seeks justice (or, at the very least, a mean-spirited chuckle) through the seizure and release of digitized, classified information or by challenging corporate conglomerates, as demonstrated by the Wikileaks-Chelsea Manning scandal and an early, synchronized attack on Scientology, both of which Coleman generously references. The author is particularly enthusiastic about Anonymous' interior motivations and provides pages of interviews with infamous, incendiary trollers, snitches and hackers, verbatim bickering chat-room dialogue, and leaked documents. For such a frenzied collective defying easy categorization, Coleman's diligent and often sensationalistic spadework does great justice in representing the plight of these "misfits of activism" and their vigilante mischief. An intensive, potent profile of contemporary digital activism at its most unsettling—and most effective.
From the Publisher
Named to Kirkus Reviews' Best Books of 2014

“Easily the best book on Anonymous.”
—Julian Assange

“The US government and its allies have spent years castigating, prosecuting, and jailing members of Anonymous, with the director of the NSA going so far as to warn ominously of the potential of an Anonymous-led power blackout. But Gabriella Coleman’s fascinating history of Anonymous makes clear that almost all of the hacktivism attributed to this global collective has been devoted to exposing wrongdoing, not wreaking destruction, even as she also carefully shows that Anonymous is not a shadowy organization but a loosely knit collection of activists all over the globe, fighting for government and corporate transparency. The NSA’s treatment of Anonymous is disturbing and extreme, and Anonymous’s surprising activist turn is heartening. Essential reading.”
—Glenn Greenwald, author of No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the Surveillance State

“An engrossing, accessible, and intelligent study illuminating the ambiguities of Anonymous and its implications for the future of online political activism.”
Times Literary Supplement

“Coleman charts her own conceptual course, breaking with the standard narratives, particularly the click-baity cautionary tales about the dangers of Anonymous. Her book offers its share of warnings, but ones more nuanced, compelling, and empathetic than the typical hand-wringing about online mobs and the conundrum of virtual vigilante justice. Coleman is no cheerleader...But she also doesn’t wag her finger from some imagined high ground.” 
—Astra Taylor, Bookforum

“This is the ultimate piece on Anonymous. It’s a notoriously difficult subject to write about, but Gabriella Coleman has succeeded where others have failed, and the result is a masterpiece that is informative, interesting, and funny. A fine example of what an investigative book should be.”
—Mustafa Al-Bassam, alias “tflow,” former member of LulzSec

“In Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy, Coleman reveals the group in all its complexity ... this in-depth account might leave readers in awe of the sheer scope of the group and how much they have achieved while shunning the traditional trappings of leaders, hierarchy and individual fame-seeking.”
 —Financial Times

“Anyone hoping to understand this mostly hidden world will find [Coleman's] book crucial and even prescient.”
 —Boston Globe

“Meticulously researched, eminently readable.”  
 —Maclean's Magazine

“Coleman takes us on a thrilling journey into the uncharted landscape of hackers, trolls, and Anonymous activists who live among us. It’s both a perfect initiation for all those n00bs out there still wondering what a ‘n00b’ is, as well as an important discourse on the role of anarchy online. Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy shares in the rebellious, even mordant humor of the groups it profiles, but never loses its critical perspective. A hilarious, important piece of hidden history that is very hard to put down.”
—Douglas Rushkoff, author of Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now

“With a perceptive eye and a principled disposition, Coleman dives into the eclectic world of Anonymous to reveal the humor and political significance of this polarizing network. Following her journey through this maze and reveling in her analysis is both insightful and awe-inspiring. This book will shake up assumptions at the core of academia, industry, law enforcement, and the media. It’s a must read!”
—danah boyd, author of It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens

“Exhaustively researched and devilishly readable, Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy tells the story of Anonymous’s rise from 4chan to taking on governments. If there could be a definitive writer on a movement like Anonymous, Coleman would be it.”
—Molly Crabapple, artist and author of the forthcoming Drawing Blood

“[An] eye-opening ethnography ... This all-access pass into the dark and wild corners of the Internet is timely, informative, and also frightening.”
Publishers Weekly

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781781685839
Publisher:
Verso Books
Publication date:
11/04/2014
Pages:
464
Sales rank:
183,776
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.70(d)

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