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They appealed his case, seeking to overturn what they, along with many security professionals, deemed a dan- gerous precedent capable of chilling vital future security On Trolls, Tricksters, and the Lulz 25 research; the security industry relies on hackers and research- ers discovering vulnerabilities, using the same methods as criminal hackers, in order to expose weakness and strengthen infrastructure for both private and public good.

Finally, in April — and only after he had served roughly twelve months of a forty-one-month sentence — his case was vacated. But not due to the the CFAA portion of the appeal — instead due to the question of venue. The court determined that New Jersey, where the original case was tried, was not the state where the offense was committed. Tor Ekeland explained the importance of this legal ruling to the Guardian: By taking this information to the media, weev demonstrated an intent beyond mere trolling. Any self-respecting hacker will cry foul in the face of terrible security; taking it to the press — which will generate a huge fuss about it — can be a responsible thing to do.

Of course, to hear weev tell the story, it was clear that he also did it for the lulz. He would giggle whenever Goatse Security was mentioned in news reports about the incident. He imagined millions of people Googling the strange name of the security group, and then recoiling in horror at the sight of a vile "anal supernova" beaming off their screen. Those who view it are forever unable to unsee what they have just seen — unable to forget even the smallest detail, their minds seared by the image as if the gaping maw, adorned with a ring, were a red-hot cattle brand.

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Clearly, weev offended everyone, including law enforcement. The ultimate testament to his incendiary nature is, perhaps, the judge's rather stiff sentence. After all, he was not even party to writing the script. I won't nearly be as nice next time. For weev, such incendiary behavior is par for the course. He has recorded hateful speeches railing against Jews and African Americans — "sermons," as he calls them — which can be viewed on YouTube. They are so hateful that they even disgust other trolls. During the next five months we chatted often. There were some moments that can only be described as strange.

Take, for instance, a conversation that occurred on December 12, But I still managed, barely, to type a response: On Trolls, Tricksters, and the Lulz 27 Then out of the blue, as is often the case with internet chatting — especially with weev — he hopped to another topic while I was in the midst of responding to questions of governance: I know he was a troll and all but, let's face it: I told him I would visit and expressed my sympathies: Regrettably, I never did get a proper answer on the subject of troll governance. I was earnest with him for the most part, but I played along with his self-styled hoaxer role.

At the same time, I couldn't resist calling him out on his bullshit sometimes, even trolling him just a little: Since he was no longer allowed online, our chats came to an end. I footed the bill since he was really, really broke. Although he did teach me a fair bit about trolling, he never used his skills on me. Although weev's bail conditions banned him from using a computer, he still managed to practice his craft, weev, like many trolls, likes to dupe people in order to draw attention to himself. Putting oneself in the limelight feels great, espe- cially if you don't need to pay a PR person to post a fake sex tape.

In May , as summer finally descended on NYC, he excitedly texted me. I did as commanded, and hundreds of news articles popped up on my browser. He had duped the media with an in- person hoax, claiming to be Dominique Strauss-Kahn's neigh- bor immediately after rape charges were leveled against the wealthy French politician and former head of the International Monetary Fund, weev, then utterly destitute, managed to slip his comments into hundreds of newspapers; no journalist bothered to fact-check him: Despite the prosecutor's claims, however, Strauss-Kahn is already meeting his neighbors.

An infamous computer hacker who lives in the corporate apartment building on Broadway claims he has already met the Frenchman — and he is 'an OK guy'. Despite bearing the title "Encyclopedia," it strives neither for neutrality nor objectivity. ED is, indeed, encyclopedic in its detail — but it is also outrageous in tone and riddled with lies. What ED does well and in this way it actually achieves a strange measure of objectivity is display the moral kinetics of trolling.

Is ED's etymologizing of the lulz, a snippet of which is provided below, fact or fable?: This makes it inherently superior to lesser forms of humor. Anonymous gets big lulz from pulling random pranks. The pranks are always posted on the internet. Just as the element of surprise transforms the physical act of love into something beautiful, the anguish of a laughed-at victim transforms lol into lulz, making it longer, girthier, and more pleasurable. The term "lulz" was first coined by Jameth, an original Encyclopedia Dramatica administrator, and the term became very popular on that website.

The nickname originated sometime in early when James his real name, the -th suffix being a pun on his faggotry and his small p3n0r was having a conversation with a lisping homosexual. James was being referred to as Jametb because of the person's speech impediment. In June , James decided to use Jameth as his Livejournal account name. Don't let him fool you — James craves the cock. I never inquired about his lisp. But, at its inception, its demeanor was conceived as cruel — "laughter at the expense or the misfortune of others," is how trolls like to define it.

Lulz is a quintessential example of what folklorists define as argot — specialized and esoteric ter- minology used by a subcultural group. Since argot is so opaque and particular, it functions to enact secrecy or, at minimum, erect some very stiff social boundaries. As an anthropologist, it is tempting, no matter how ridiculous it seems, to view lulz in terms of epistemology — through the social production of knowledge.

At one level, the lulz functions as an epistemic object, stabilizing a set of experiences by making them avail- able for reflection. For decades, there was no term for the lulz, but trolls and hackers nevertheless experienced the distinctive pleasures of pranking. Once a name like "lulz" comes into being, it opens the very practice it names to further reflection by its practitioners. Trolls now pontificate over the meaning of the lulz, employing the term to designate particularly satis- fying acts whether or not they are intentionally done for the lulz and also to diagnose situations lacking in lulz — which, of course, demands reparatory courses of action.

Just what does the term do or signify which no other word can? This is harder to convey. But if we keep in mind that lulz derives from the acronym "lol" laugh out loud , it becomes easier to see that lulz is primarily about humor. Lois are famil- iar to everyone who has ever sent a joke to someone by email. Lulz are unmistakably imbued with danger and mystery, and thus speak foremost to the pleasures of transgression. In practice, lulzy activ- ity defies boundaries but also re-erects them.

There is a divide between people who are merely LOLing on the Internet — without really knowing what the Internet is or where it came from or how it works on the inside — and those who are lulzing i. The lulz are both a form of cultural differentiation and a tool or weapon used to attack, humili- ate, and defame the unwitting normal LOLers — often without them even realizing that an entire culture is aligned against them.

Usually, the lulz are inside jokes, but often they are equal opportunity: The price of admission is just a bit of knowledge. LOLers can be drawn into the world of lulz thanks to websites populated by trolls like Encyclopedia Dramatica, 4chan, and Something Awful, which disseminate this knowledge to anyone who cares to look for it.

Those who find it may choose to run away very quickly, or they might become the next generation of trolls. The lulz show how easily and casually trolls can upend our sense of security by invading private spaces and exposing con- fidential information. Targets receive scores of unpaid pizzas at home or have their unlisted phone numbers published, Social Security numbers leaked, private communications posted, credit card numbers doxed, and hard drive contents seeded.

Trolls enjoy desecrating anything remotely sacred, as cultural theorist Whitney Phillips conveys in her astute characteriza- tion of trolls as "agents of cultural digestion [who] scavenge the landscape, re-purpose the most offensive material, then shove the resulting monstrosities into the faces of an unsus- pecting populace. Lulz-oriented actions punc- ture the consensus around our politics and ethics, our social lives, and our aesthetic sensibilities.

Any presumption of our world's inviolability becomes a weapon; trolls invalidate that world by gesturing toward the possibility for Internet geeks to destroy it — to pull the carpet from under us whenever they feel the urge. I came to trolls just as a subset of them was experiencing a crucial transformation: Given the seedy underbelly I have just described, the development was beyond surprising.

However, it was not without historical precedent: I recognized trolls as kin to the tricksters of myth. After all, I am an anthropologist, and tricksters are a time-honored topic of anthropological rumination. To Trick or to Treat? The trickster archetype comes replete with a diverse number of icons and often-delightful tales. Greek and Roman mythol- ogy brought some of these figures into the heart of Western culture: In West African and Caribbean folklores the role falls to Anansi, a spider who sometimes imparts knowledge or wisdom — and sometimes casts doubt or seeds confusion.

Eshu, the god of communication and crossroads, is similarly ambiguous. Known for orchestrating chaotic scenarios that force human decisions, he can be a kind teacher or an agent of destruction. Among indigenous North Americans, Raven initiates change by will or by accident, and Coyote is a selfish beast who will trick any being — human or animal — to satisfy his appetites. The Western conception of the trickster has, since the medieval period, often been delivered in literature. The shapeshifter Loki of Nordic mythology has recently reappeared in Hollywood films, mostly as a bland version of his mythological self, and still serves as a reminder of the capricious, vindictive role the trickster can perform.

Tricksters are united by a few characteristics, such as the burning desire to defy or defile rules, norms, and laws. Often lacking both impulse control and the ability to experience shame, they are outrageous and unfiltered in their speech. Some tricksters are driven by a higher calling, like Loki, who sometimes works for the gods though true to his fearsome nature, he sometimes causes problems for them. Many are propelled by curiosity and voracious appetite. They rarely plan their actions, choosing instead an unbridled spontaneity that translates into a wily unpredictability.

While capricious- ness often underwrites successful trickster exploits, it can also trip trolls up. They can function normatively — when parents offer scary stories to dissuade kids from misbehaving — or critically, allowing norms to be laid bare for folk-philosophical challenge. Lewis Hyde, who has written extensively on the trickster motif, notes that "the origins, live- liness, and durability of cultures require that there be a space for figures whose function is to uncover and disrupt the very things that cultures are based on.

They are provocateurs and saboteurs who dismantle convention while occupying a liminal zone. They are well positioned to impart lessons — regardless of their intent. Their actions need not be accepted, much less endorsed, to extract positive value. We may see them as edify- ing us with liberating or terrifying perspectives, symptomatic of underlying problems that deserve scrutiny, functioning as a positive force toward renewal, or as distorting and confusing On Trolls, Tricksters, and the Lulz 35 shadows.

The trickster becomes one heuristic — certainly not the only or primary one — for understanding the sources, the myriad effects, and especially, the Janus face of morally slippery entities like trolls and Anonymous. The nature of the Internet — a network built on software — makes it ideal for both play and exploitation; 12 it is like a petri dish for pranking. Indeed, hackers and later trolls have been at this sort of behavior for a long time. But it is only recently that some of these activities have attained a more visible, publicly available mythological status.

For example, gathered in the Encyclopedia Dramatica are copious links to cases of historical techno-tricksterism. By exploring these lineages we can better understand what makes Anonymous — both the trolls and activists — distinctive among a broader pantheon of technological tricksters. A Brief Natural History of Internet Trickster dom Or, a Genealogy of a Lack of Morals weev is a troll's troll — a rare standout in a field that mostly spawns so many garden varieties. Troll ancestry boasts a rather eclectic and varied cast of char- acters.

Trolling was common in the hacker underground — a place for subversive hackers who thrived in the s and s, seeking out forbidden knowledge by rummaging around, uninvited, in other people's computers. But even they have to thank their direct ancestors, the phone phreaks, for the aesthetics of audacity. Fusing technological spelunking with mischief, phone phreaks illegally entered the telephone system by re-creating the audio frequencies used by the system to route calls.

They did it to learn and explore, to be sure. But the thrill of transgression was equally integral to the joy of phreaking. Over the tel- ephone wires, from near and far, people who couldn't see each other would meet to chat, gossip, share technological tidbits, and plan and execute pranks. Naturally, most of these pranks involved phone calls. While most of them were lighthearted, a few exhibited a fearsome bite. Phil Lapsley, a historian of phreaks, recounts an infamous hoax where phreaks exploited a rare bug in the phone system to reroute all calls made to residents of Santa Barbara, California, to a phony emergency worker who would warn: It was largely replaced by the exploration of computer net- works, giving rise to the hacker underground, which peaked in the s.

Although many of these underground hackers acquired, circulated, and produced technical knowledge — scouting for security vulnerabilities and edifying technical curiosities — they were also connoisseurs of forbidden fruit. Thus, it is no wonder that their actions expanded from strictly technical engagements and into ones that included mockery, spectacle, and transgression. They quickly distinguished their politics and ethics from the university hackers of MIT, Carnegie Mellon, and Stanford; these hackers, who in the s stayed up all night to access their beloved computers otherwise tied up for official use during the day, have been chronicled majestically by journalist Steven Levy.

On Trolls, Tricksters, and the Lulz 37 Many underground hackers were puckish in their pranking and hacking pursuits. They were mischief-makers and merry wanderers of the network. There was, however, a cohort of underground hackers who more closely resembled the Loki archetype in their network jaunts and haunts. So terrifying was this troll's reign that every time I utter u4ea to one of his contemporaries, their demeanor black- ens and proceedings assume an unmatched seriousness.

According to a former member whom I chatted with online, the "paramilitary wing" of BoW, called "Hagis" short for "Hackers against Geeks in Snowsuits" , went on cruel hacking and pranking campaigns against targets ranging from corporations, law-abiding white hat hackers, and infosecurity gurus, to basically anyone else who got in their line of fire. To take one example, in the late s Hagis went ballistic during a multi-year feud with a white hat hacker named Jay Dyson. First they went after his Internet service provider, deleting all their files and knocking them offline for two weeks.

Later, they deleted files on Dyson's business website. For good measure, they harassed his wife with threatening messages, informing her, via her hacked email account, that "All the Dyson family will pay for the mistakes of Big Jay. Once, they defaced the Greenpeace website and posted what today might be consid- ered a classically lulzy message meant to publicize the ordeal of an arrested phone phreak and hacker named Kevin Mitnick: Barely anything has been written about this famous troll — and for a good reason.

Trolling in the s followed a different vector toward anonymity, as well. Outside of these elite, hidden hacker wars, ordinary users got their first bitter taste of trolling on Usenet, the seminal mega-message board. Technical subject matter was complemented by groups devoted to sex, humor, recipes, and naturally anti-Scientology. Usenet and other mailing lists are also where the term "troll" first came into common usage. It referred to people who did not contribute positively to discussions, who argued for the sake of arguing, or who were simply disruptive jerks inten- tionally or not.

List users frequently admonished others to "stop feeding the trolls," a refrain still commonly seen today on mailing lists, message boards, and website comment sections. But Usenet also bred and fed the spectacular breed of troll who would intentionally sabotage conversations — leaving both list members and, especially, list administrators, exasper- ated. There is no better example than Netochka Nezvanova, named after the titular character in Dostoevsky's failed first attempt at a novel. Appropriately, the name means "name- less nobody.

The universes are the body. The Internet is the skin. This is my Inter Body. I am Soft Wear. When I am alone, I want you to enter inside me, I wish to wear you. Upon reading this, you might like find yourself, as I did, digging her imaginative, Deleuzian sensibilities — unless you were on one of the mailing lists she demolished. Her character disrupted so frequently, with such adroitness, and on so many disparate lists and news groups, that different list administra- tors banded together on a dedicated list of their own, with the sole purpose of dealing with the trail of destruction she left behind.

At my own current home university, McGill, she participated in a mailing list about Max, a visual program- ming language for music, audio, and media, but was booted in after threatening to sue particular list members. Here is a portion of the rationale for banning her: Second, after "she" was thrown off the McGill list, "she" intiated [sic] what could best be described as a terror cam- paign that included spam to anyone who posted to the Max list, denial of service attacks, and threatening and slander- ous email sent to random individuals at McGill.

I didn't see any point to subjecting myself and my co-workers to this type of harrassment [sic]. However, it turns out that many of these acts are felonies. If this behavior recommences, the victims of the behavior can pursue legal remedies, and I would strongly suggest they do so. In reaction, someone on the list cried foul: But trolls like Netochka forced a debate, still with us today, about the limits of such speech: Or should lists avoid censoring speech, no matter how objectionable, so that the Internet might be a place where free speech reigns unconditionally?

Of particular note — as we trace our trolling lineage through time — is the development of 4chan, an imageboard modeled on a popular Japanese imageboard called Futaba Channel, also known as 2chan "chan" is short for "channel". It is here, perhaps more than anywhere else, where the popu- list type of trolling that is well known today first emerged.

Naturally, it was on this board where the collective idea and identity of Anonymous emerged.

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Unlike Usenet, no one on 4chan is in the least bit disturbed by the uncivil speech that ricochets across the board every second of the day. In many respects, the board is explicitly conceived of as a say- anything zone: Since it launched in , 4chan has become an immensely popular, iconic, and opprobrious imageboard.

Composed of over sixty at the time if this writing topic-based forums ranging from anime to health and fitness, it is both the source of many of the Internet's most beloved cultural artifacts such as Lolcats memes , and one of its most wretched hives of scum and villainy. It is where trolling once flourished. I suggest water, then burping. Nearly every category of person, from old-timers to new-timers, is labelled a "fag. We will see the suffix many times in this book. For insiders, it is the normal state of affairs, and one of the board's defining and appealing qualities.

On 4chan, participants are strongly discouraged from iden- tifying themselves, and most post under the default name "Anonymous," as in the example above. Technically, 4chan On Trolls, Tricksters, and the Lulz 43 keeps logs of IP addresses and doesn't do anything to keep visitors from being identified.

Unless users cloak their IP addresses before connecting, the site's founder, owner, and system administrator — Chris Poole, aka "moot" — has full access to them. He has even given them over to law enforce- ment to comply with legitimate investigations. This policy is widely known among users. But, in at least a practical sense and at least between its users as peers , the board functions anonymously; except for rare exceptions, and the occasional instance where a subject of discussion must be identified using a photograph with a time stamp, users interact with no con- sistent nicknames or usernames.

Posts are pushed off the front page very quickly — to be deleted from the server when they reach page 14 — only surviving as long as users remain inter- ested in the subject. It "lowers personal responsibility and encourages experimentation," as media scholar Lee Knuttila put it. It must be noted, however, that there is also an outpouring of com- passionate and empathetic advice, especially for those looking for relationship help, or when someone discovers a video of a cat being tortured.

But this aspect is rarely featured in the news. All this occurs with the knowledge of impermanence. In contrast to mailing lists or many other kinds of online boards, there is no official archive. If a thread is not "bumped" back to the top by a time reply, it dies and evaporates. In this environment, it is difficult for a person to accrue status or reputation — much less fame. Aesthetically, the more extreme a piece of content is, the better, for it ensures the interest of participants, and motivates replies to threads keeping them alive.


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In particularly novel cases, an extreme piece of content can even circulate beyond the board — to distant lands like the message board community, reddit, or bodybuilding. Remember, lolcats got their start on 4chan. Trolls, in particular, focus on the collective pursuit of epic wins — just one form of content among many. To be clear, 4chan houses many trolls, but many participants steer clear of trolling activity. Still others avoid activity altogether — they are there as spectators or lurkers. It is almost impossible to pinpoint a day or event when troll- ing on 4chan was born.

But by , the name Anonymous was being used by participants to engage in trolling raids. These invasions would continue for many years, even after Anonymous was routinely deployed for activist purposes. For instance, in Anonymous sought to "ruin" a preteen girl named Jessi Slaughter after her homemade video mon- ologues, which had gained some notoriety on tween gossip site StickyDrama, were posted on 4chan.

Anonymous was stirred to action by Slaughter's brazen boasts — she claimed in one video that she would "pop a glock in your mouth and make a brain slushie" — and published her phone number, address, and Twitter username, inundating her with hateful emails and threatening prank calls, circulating photoshopped images of her and satiric remixes of her videos. When her father recorded his own rant, claiming to have "backtraced" her tormenters and reported them to the "cyber police," he also became an object of ridicule. Slaughter, described by Ibl tards as a "lulzcow On the other, when compared to most other arenas where trolls are bred — like weev's GNAA — 4chan is a mecca of populist trolling.

By populist, I simply mean that 4chan membership is available to anyone willing to cross these boundaries, put in the time to learn the argot, and of course stomach the gore. The etiquette and techniques that 4chan users employ are only superficially elitist. A former student of mine offered me the following insight. Exceptionally smart, he was also a troll — or a "goon" to be more precise, since that's what they call themselves on Something Awful, his website of choice at the time: Anyone can participate in 4chan, and Internet fame isn't possible in the same way it is on SA because everyone is literally anonymous.

Whatever unfolds on the board — a joke, a long conversation, or a three-day trolling campaign — anonymity is essential to 4chan; one might call anonymity both its ground rule and its dominant cultural aspect — a core principle inherited by Anonymous, even in its pseudonymous, material extension as hordes of Guy Fawkes-mask wearers. In contrast to weev's egoistic acts of trolling, 4chan's Anonymous "Internet Hate Machine" collective action absolves individuals of responsibility in the conventional sense, but not in a collective sense.

Absent of any individual recognition, each activity is ascribed to a collective nom de plume, a reincar- nation of Netochka Nezvanova. On 4chan, participants will also shame those seeking fame and attention, calling them "namefags. The entity became, in certain respects, famous.

However, while the trolling exploits of, on the one hand, Anonymous and 4chan users, and on the other hand, weev, are connected by their tactical approaches, they are also foils of each other. Regardless of how far and wide the fame of Anonymous spreads, personal identity and the indi- vidual remain subordinate to a focus on the epic win — and, especially, the lulz. Understanding its uptake is crucial to our knowledge of how Anonymous, as an activist group, came to be. It is very possible that the unsavory nature of Anonymous's early trolling activities motivated collectiv- ity as a security feature; participants probably had a desire to participate, to receive payment in lulz, without the risk of being identified and socially stigmatized.

To understand these motivations, and the powerful significance of an individual's willingness to subsume his or her identity, we will briefly ruminate on the culture of fame-seeking — of individualistic celebrity — itself. Defying Individual Celebrity through Collective Celebrity Fame-seeking pervades practically every sphere of American life today, from the mass media, which hires Hollywood celebrities as news anchors, to the micro-media platforms that afford endless opportunities for narcissism and self- inflation; from the halls of academia, where superstar profes- sors command high salaries, to sports arenas, where players rake in obscene salaries.

Fame-seeking behavior reinforces what anthropologist David Graeber, building on the seminal work of C. Macpherson, identifies as "possessive indi- vidualism," defined as "those deeply internalized habits of thinking and feeling" whereby we view "everything around [us] primarily as actual or potential commercial property. This ethic thrived organically on 4chan because it could be executed in such an unadulterated form.

During a lecture for my class, a former Anonymous troll and current activ- ist explained the crucial role of 4chan in cementing what he designates as "the primary ideal of Anonymous": The posts on 4chan have no names or any identifiable markers attached to them. The only thing you are able to judge a post by is its content and nothing else. This elimina- tion of the persona, and by extension everything associated with it, such as leadership, representation, and status, is the primary ideal of Anonymous, emphasis added This Anon, who was lecturing anonymously on Skype to my ten enraptured students, immediately offered a series of astute qualifications about this primary ideal: Individuals jockeyed and jostled for power.

Nevertheless, the taboo against fame-seeking was so well entrenched on 4chan, and was so valued for its success, that it largely prevented, with only a few exceptions, these inter- nal struggles for status from spilling over into public quests for personal fame. Later, we will see its greatest failure in the micro-ecologies of hacker teams like AntiSec and LulzSec, analogous to rock stars in their ability to amass fame and recognition, and — not surprisingly — to spark the ire of some Anons, even while being admired for their lulzy and political antics.

Once Anonymous left 4chan to engage in activism, the anti- celebrity-seeking ideal became "more nuanced Attempts to put these principles into practice also resulted in missteps, particularly in the emergence of small teams with concentrations of power. But despite the fragmentation into teams and cabals, the overarching ideals remained in play.

Adherence meant "that anybody [could] call themselves Anonymous and rightfully claim the name," as the lecturer explained. This freedom to take the name and experiment with it is precisely what enabled Anonymous to become the wily hydra it is today. But if we peek behind the ideal — the notion that Anonymous is everyone's property, an identity commons, so to speak — we see a much more complicated reality.

And it was here, on this nuanced point, that this Anon ended his micro-lecture. I believe my students were both mesmerized and shocked that someone from Anonymous could be so smart and eloquent; I explained to them that Anonymous can be understood as what anthro- pologist Chris Kelty has jokingly called, contra the subaltern, the "superaltern": Most of us are humor-driven. So it should be no surprise that we often contend with other Anon-claiming groups we find out of favor, such as.

We cannot deny them the name.

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But the important thing to take away from this talk is that nowhere in the Anonymous ideal was it ever stipulated that Anonymous must stand together with or even like other Anonymous. In fact, animosity and down- right wars between Anonymous-claiming entities is right in line with the original internet-based projects carried out by cultural Anons. It is here that we might comprehend the complexity of Anonymous.

There is a singular subject and idea animating its spirit, and participants attempt to present this in a united front. For the media, it is tempting to buy into this brand- ing wholesale — to present Anonymous as its values and its packaging. But the reality of the group's composition, in all its varied hues and tones, is impossible to present in any single sketch, even if Anonymous uses a single name.

Its member- ship comprises too many different networks and working groups, each of which is at varying odds with one another in varying moments. The very nature of this collective of col- lectives means that the accumulation of too much power and prestige — especially at a single point in virtual space — is not only taboo but also functionally difficult.

This ethic carried over to the activist incarnation of Anonymous. Collectivity is growing its market share: This is often entirely lost on the mainstream media, which can't — or won't — write a story that does not normalize the conversion of an individual into a celebrity or leader, complete with individual heroism or tragic moral fail- ings.

This, of course, is not the proclivity of journalism and journalists alone. Most of Western philosophy, and in turn, much of Western culture more generally, has posited the self — the individual — as the site of epistemic inquiry. It is hard to shake millenia of philosophical thinking on a topic — intellectual thinking that is also cultural common sense. It is for this reason that Anonymous, whether in its trolling or activist incarnations, acted as a jujitsu-like force of trickery, its machinations incommensurable with the driving logic of the mainstream corporate media and dominant sensibilities of the self.

It drove journalists a bit batty — which I got to witness first hand as I brokered, a bit trickster-like myself, between Anonymous and the media. I often helped the media cross the deep chasm in baby steps, as they tried to locate a leader, or at least a character, who might satisfy the implicit demands of their craft. It is perhaps due to this very resistance to journalistic convention — to the desire to discover, reveal, or outright create a celebrity leader — that journalists were compelled to cover Anonymous.

The hunt for a spokesperson, a leader, a representative, was in vain — at least, until the state entered the fray and began arresting hackers. But, for the most part, media outlets were offered few easy characters around which to spin a story. What began as a network of trolls has become, for the most part, a force for good in the world. The emergence of On Trolls, Tricksters, and the Lulz 51 Anonymous from one of the seediest places on the Internet is a tale of wonder, of hope, and of playful illusions.

Is it really possible that these ideals of collectivity and group identifi- cation, forged as they were in the hellish, terrifying fires of trolling, could transcend such an originary condition? Did the cesspool of 4chan really crystallize into one of the most politically active, morally fascinating, and subversively salient activist groups operating today? But if we were to single out one event most respon- sible for this, it would be the leaking onto the Internet of a Scientology video featuring Tom Cruise, Scientology's celeb- rity of celebrities.

The phenomenon is named after Barbra Streisand's attempt in to bar, via a multimillion-dollar lawsuit, aerial photographs of her Malibu home from being published. The photographer was only trying to document coastal erosion. Before the lawsuit, the image of her home had been viewed online only six times, but after the case went public, more than , people visited the site. The Tom Cruise Scientology video was subject to a similar dynamic; its circulation was unstoppable.

In the video, Tom Cruise epitomizes Scientology's narcis- sistic worldview: As Tom Cruise cackled to himself in the video, the Internet community cackled — albeit for very different reasons — with him. The video initially reached the Internet not through the efforts of Anonymous, but through fittingly enough an anon- ymous leak. The video was originally slated to appear on NBC to coincide with the release of Tom Cruise's unauthorized biography, but at the last minute the network got cold feet.

However, critics of Scientology worked swiftly to ensure that the video found its way onto the web. Former Scientologist Patty Moher, working alongside longtime critic Patricia Greenway, FedExed a copy to Mark Bunker, who uploaded a video and sent a link to investigative journalist Mark Ebner, who in turn sent it to other news sources. Gawker, Radar, and other sites picked it up on January 13, , linking to a video Bunker had posted — he thought — with password protection.

On January 15, Gawker republished the video with a short, punchy description fit for millions of eyeballs: Gawker ended its article boldly: On January 15, at 7: I'm talking about "hacking" or "taking down" the official Scientology website. It's time to use our resources to do something we believe is right.

Talk amongst one another, find a better place to plan it and then carry out what can and must be done. Nevertheless, this seemed to be the post that spurred the largest number of trolls into action. They were well aware that targeting the Church of Scientology might be invoking Tom Cruise's blockbuster movie series "mission impossible": Project Chanology 57 File: Scientology's site is already under heavy bombardment, it's loading quite slowly.

But this is just the tip of the iceberg, the first assault in many to follow. We're winning a minor victory, but without the united support of the chans, Scientology will brush off this attack - and it will be doomed to nothing more than an entry in ED. Join the legion against Scientology, help in its demise, in its long awaited doom!

For decades this tyrrany has existed, corrupting the minds of the weak- although hilarious, it's rather pathetic. We must destroy this evil, and replace it with a greater one - CHANOLOGY For when we are victorious, the chans will stand united in a new chapter of anonymous existence and batshit insanity, we will have begun our world take over. If we can destroy Scientology, we can destroy whatever we like! The world will be but our play thing. Do the right thing, 4chan, become not just a part of this war, become an epic part of it. The largest of the chans, you hold the key of manpower, what the legion is in desperate need of.

No Scifags allowed in this thread. For very short periods of time between January 15th and the 23rd, Scientology websites were hacked and DDoS'ed to remove them from the Internet. The Dianetics telephone hotline was completely bombarded with prank calls. All-black pieces of paper were faxed to every fax number we could get our hands on. And the "secrets" of their religion were blasted all over the Internet. I also personally scanned my bare ass and faxed it to them. Watching this epic raid take shape in real time, it was easy for me to understand why the geeks and hackers making up the ranks of Anonymous targeted Scientology: One year earlier, I had been living in Edmonton, one of Canada's coldest cities in what felt like the furthest reaches of North America, culling and collating material in the world-class Scientology archive assembled by Stephen Kent, a sociology professor at the University of Alberta.

I was there to research an epic battle between geeks and the Church of Scientology that began in the early s and spanned two decades, starting after the Church of Scientology targeted its critics, especially those who leaked secret scripture. Humorously dubbed "Internet vs. Scientology," the battle was waged both offline and online between netizens — wholly com- mitted to free speech — and the Church of Scientology — wholly committed to stamping it out by using any means necessary legal or illegal to censor criticism and prevent leaked docu- ments from circulating online.

I had arrived with a cultural hypothesis: This is not only because they are different, but because they are so precisely different. They are mirror images of each other, the perfect foils. The prose functions like a rusted first generation robot that has lurched into a corner and, finding itself unable to turn around, continues plodding forward while monotonously droning: Reading these maxims in , 1 knew that any hacker or geek who laid eyes on them would be simultaneously entertained and offended.

Where Scientology is shrouded in secrecy, steeped in dogma, and dependent on the deployment of pseudo science and faux technology to control people, hacking lives in the light of inquisitive tinkering and exploration enables, and is enabled by, science and technology. Hackers dedicate their lives and pour their souls into creating and programming the world's most sophisticated machines. They are quintessential craftsman — motivated by a desire for excellence — but they abhor the idea of a single "correct technology.

You get the picture. A religion which claims a privileged access to science and technology, to the extent of declaring themselves "the only group on Earth that has a workable technology which handles the basic rules of life itself and brings order out of chaos," 3 is deeply offensive to hackers whose only demand on technology is that it should, at minimum, actually do something — a task they leave not to some transcendent discovery of truth but, instead, to their personal ingenuity in discovering solutions to technical problems, with the help of shared tips, swapped ideas, and reams of borrowed code.

So it made a lot of sense that Anonymous, composed of geeks and hackers, would rise against Scientology. But some- thing was unclear: Even if I was pretty certain these were not deliberate acts of activ- ism, a political spirit was clearly wafting through IRC. People were undeniably, and royally, pissed off that Scientology dared to censor a video on "their" Internet — especially such a hilarious one. Anons were phone-pranking the Dianetics hotline and sending scores of unpaid pizza to Church centers, sharing their exploits in real time across 4chan.

At first any political aim seemed incidental. And then, weeks later, one particular act of "ultracoordinated mother fuckery" gave way to an earnest — though still, undoubtedly, irreverent — activist endeavor. As Chanology grew in popularity, its bustling IRC channels xenu and target became unsuitable working environments for the publicity stunts and outreach to which it aspired. Soon after, it grew to include eight members who worked one evening until daybreak to create what still qualifies as Anonymous's best-known work of art.

Eventually, the team grew in size, press became chaotic and members split off yet again. They called themselves marblecake, after one of their own found inspiration in the baked item he was eating. If the Tom Cruise video struck a chord both humorous and hyperbolic, this team harmonized to create an ironic video whose tone embodied a trickster-like ambiguity: Much to everyone's surprise, the video catapulted Anonymous onto a new plane of existence. In the video, a drab corporate glass building stands against a backdrop of ominously racing dark clouds.

A speech begins which, while delivered by a robotic voice, is poetic and inspirational: For the good of your followers, for the good of mankind, and for our own enjoyment, we shall proceed to expel you from the Internet, and systematically dismantle the Church of Scientology in its present form. We recognize you as a serious opponent, and do not expect our campaign to be completed in a short time frame.

However, you will not prevail forever against the angry masses of the body politic. Your choice of methods, your hypocrisy, and the general lawlessness of your organization have sounded its death knell. You have nowhere to hide, because we are everywhere. You have no recourse in attack, because for each of us that falls, ten more will take his place. We are cognizant of the many who may decry our methods as parallel to those of the Church of Scientology, those who espouse the obvious truth that your organization will use the actions of Anonymous as an example of the persecution of which you have, for so long, warned your followers — this is acceptable to Anonymous.

In fact, it is encouraged. This poetic imagery of a rising-up was rhetoric — but it was so compelling, so enticing as a lulzy direction, that it entrapped the Anonymous trolls into a commitment to the systematic dismantling of Scientology. They got caught up — like so many tricksters before them — in their own trickster trap.

Anonymous, in its sudden commit- ment to a lulzy politics, gave birth to the reviled "moralfags" and "leaderfags. The accidental train of events went like this: The video unexpectedly sparked a debate as to whether Anons should hit the streets to protest the Church or remain faithful to their madcap roots in raids and lulz. The timing helped make the decision for them, tipping things in favor of street demonstra- tions.

Gregg Housh, one of the video's editors and an original member of marblecake, explained it as follows during an interview: It seemed to be great timing, the right video at the right moment. One Anon on IRC captured the full spectrum — legal, illegal, lulzy, serious — that these hordes of trolls were increasingly inhabiting or wanting to inhabit between mid-January and the first street protest her pseudonym has been changed: Keep in mind this is a war of attrition.

On January 24, , Anonymous announced that February 10 would be a day of protest. A few days after this initial call to action, Scientology critic Mark Bunker seized the high octane moment to push for the use of legal tactics alone. Like the trickster of communication and crossroads, Eshu, he reached out to the trolls in a video holy Xenu! His message was to simmer the hell down, rein in the lulz, and please, please refrain from anything straight-up illegal.

On a lengthy post to a forum on whyweprotest. Only a few years later, new activist networks would arise that embraced militant, illegal digital tactics like the DDoS, not for trolling but for political dissent. Nevertheless, enough of them shifted gears and darted down the path of activism; Bunker's arguments nudged Anonymous toward the use of mostly legal tactics for its first major demonstrations. The cake of marble, beavering away largely in secret a cohort of outsiders knew of its existence , was aware that the great majority of potential participants were likely protest neophytes.

If these Internet nerds, geeks, hackers, and trolls showed up en masse to protest without any prior activist experience, it would almost certainly be a recipe for ruin. They delivered a crash course on the mechanics, challenges, and components of peaceful protest in a video called "Code of Conduct. No detail is overlooked: Since marblecake knew that Scientologists would use all available means — including high-definition photos — to identify and subsequently harass protesters, one rule exhorted participants to cover their faces, but noted, in a statement that now appears ironic, that there was no need to use masks: This will prevent your identification from videos taken by hostiles, other protesters, or security.

Use scarves, hats, and sunglasses. Masks are not necessary, and donning them in the context of a public demonstration is forbidden in some jurisdictions. By then, the Guy Fawkes mask was a pop cultural icon thanks to the Hollywood blockbuster V for Vendetta. The movie portrays a lone anarchist's fight against a dystopian, Orwellian state.

The mask had also appeared previously on 4chan, worn by a beloved meme character with a penchant for failure — Epic Fail Guy. Well known, easy to purchase, and imbued with an undeniable symbolic energy — both on account of its history and its more recent iteration — the Guy Fawkes mask became the mask de jour to deter the prying eyes of Scientology. After, it would function as Anonymous 's signature icon. The day's events straddled the line between serious politi- cal protest and carnivalesque shenanigans.

Why did so many people show up? During an informal chat, one long-time Anon and member of marblecake reasoned to me correctly, I Project Chanology 65 think that "hearing [about] the first reports of east Australian protests on February 10, , really set things in motion. Had those not materialized I figure the turnout elsewhere wouldn't have been as important. In London the crowd swelled to six hundred, and this success was matched in North America, where protesters hit the streets in small cities across the heartland and in major metropolitan centers like Los Angeles, where a whopping one thousand people turned out.

Six months after a local Fox News station labeled Anonymous "the Internet Hate Machine," they had legions of followers in the streets — not just geeks and hackers hammering at their keyboards — who were seizing on the group's name, its ethic of anonymity, and assorted concomitant iconography.


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That evening, men and women in Guy Fawkes masks and black suits with signs announcing "We Are the Internet" could be seen on cable news shows around the world. While this may have been the first time Anons demonstrated in large numbers in the streets, previous trolling campaigns had a quasi-activist flair. For instance, in Anonymous targeted right-wing radio personality Hal Turner, not only for lulz and revenge but also because he was a "racist. Hal Turner countered by publishing the numbers of the prank callers, prompting Anonymous to hit hard at the heart of his radio empire, trolling and hacking the heck out of him.

The following blog post, published by an Anonymous participant before the second round of raids, conveys the undeniable political sensibility compelling the action: Hal Turner is, in short a Nazi [sic]. A Nazi with his own radio show. As the Fox News below [sic] clip of him advocating the murder of a US judge shows, he isn't exactly someone to feel sorry for. In the weeks and months following the first street demonstrations, Chanology continued to protest Scientology's relentless legal and extralegal crackdown on critics and those who dared to disclose or circulate internal documents.

As one protester explained to me during a street demonstration in Ireland: How did such a chaotic ensem- ble organize themselves? And could the lulz still thrive when seeking justice? Why and How We Protest Every time I reflect on the constitution and perseverance of Chanology, it strikes me as a minor miracle in the annals of political resistance. To be sure, a subset of trolling like the Hal Turner raids struck a political chord, but the energy behind these early raids tended to dissipate after a few days or weeks.

Chanology was sustained in an environment not exactly con- ducive to long-term deliberate political organizing; it behooves us to consider the social dynamics behind Chanology's success, especially in light of the many tensions — for instance, between lulz-driven action and moral goals — which bedeviled it from the start. Project Chanology 67 To begin with, the formation of a sustained political will was secured by the widespread media coverage of the February street demonstrations.

From the first day, people in Guy Fawkes masks were all over the news. Hundreds of photos and dozens of homemade videos from local protests were shared through IRC and popular social media sites like Digg, Myspace, Yahoo! For many Anons, the external representations validated Project Chanology and Anonymous. This dynamic of success and amplification repeated many times in the organization's history.

Also significant were ulterior motives: Some stayed, others returned to their dark corners of the Internet and contested this incipient political sensibility, sometimes deriding their peers as "moralfags" and redoubling their trolling — even targeting Chanology itself as a source of lulz. Take, for instance, the following proposal — a call to reclaim Anonymous from the moralfags in order to resurrect the Internet Hate Machine — proposed on Chanology's very active virtual town square, the web forum Enturbulation.

Fellow brothers and sisters, Six months ago we started on a jihad to ensure that our internets would be free of faggotry. A call to arms went out and we answered it as legion. Today, when looking back at our naive efforts it is obvious that what is ours by right has been stolen from us. Our name, our memes and our efforts have been hijacked by people who do not understand and do not realize that our strength came from being diverse, uncaring and unre- lenting.

While normally this would not be an issue those who have stayed in the trenches protecting our ideals are now at an impasse. Bring back the lulz, bring back the hate machine, do not let some rather forceful detractors sway you. We started this to ensure our internets were free from tyranny and while I agree there are fights ahead that maybe [sic] more important to this end, this is the first one. Where we mold the newfags into hardened trolls and ensure that when the man comes to claim what is rightfully free we are all well versed in ensuring that cannot happen.

Over the coming weeks you will see some old faces raid your channels, your boards, your IRCs to ensure that Anonymous retains what is ours. Reclaim Chanology once and for all, burn anything that opposes us to the ground. On the IRC channels dedicated to political organizing, a small but rather vocal minority offered technical aid for political gain while also insisting on lulzy action, including horrific forms of trolling. Among these trolls, a single individual, named CPU not his real name , stood out.

Widely considered a talented hacker, he freely offered technical advice. But he was also a fierce critic of the moralfags and would clamor for vicious forms of trolling. Internethatemachine is for those sick of the moralfags and the lovefags am i rite lol? We should just hit a random forum for the lulz. Anyone remember the emetophobia raids? Trusting your instincts is very important in this book. Nov 02, Connor M rated it it was amazing. A great book with a very interesting topic. Dec 27, Nicole Otting rated it really liked it.

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This book kept me interested the whole time. Ben Ripley is admitted into spy school and immediately encounters danger on his very first night. As a reader it makes you wonder who's behind all the mayhem and just when you think you know the answer, another twist comes up. The only thing I didn't care for was the 5 or 6 cuss words throughout the story. Granted they are minor words and if this was simply for me, I wouldn't think anything of it but I will definitely have to notify the parents of my This book kept me interested the whole time. Granted they are minor words and if this was simply for me, I wouldn't think anything of it but I will definitely have to notify the parents of my fifth graders in case they are interested.

This story would be perfect for so many of my kiddos! View all 4 comments. Dec 30, Lenni Jones rated it it was amazing Shelves: This is the first book I've ever read by Stuart Gibbs, and he's now my favorite author. This book was so funny, I just had to read more. Reading this a second time was still just as fun, even if I remembered what would happen. I even got my DAD hooked on this book. I love this book like you would not believe, and I love how funny it is.

I laughed even when I wasn't reading it because I was thinking of something from it. Mar 23, Colona Public Library rated it really liked it Shelves: This was such a great book for that weird age group of kids that have no interest in reading anything. Stuart Gibbs made this book very exciting. Ben Ripley is a loner and outcast at his middle school, one day when he comes home from school a man is waiting for him in the living room.

He claims he works for the CIA and is recruiting him for a special spy school. Ben has always been gifted in math, and the CIA want to prep him to join them when he graduates spy school. Once there he was to use hi This was such a great book for that weird age group of kids that have no interest in reading anything. Once there he was to use his wits to survive the surprise tests that the professors challenge them with. Did I mention that someone might be trying to kill him too?

Assassins broke into the school and try to kidnap him for information that Ben doesn't have. Any kid or adult will enjoy this book. I plan on reading the next books in this series. Apr 23, John Kim rated it it was amazing. One of the best series books I've ever read. This book was so exciting. I really recommend it to fantasy and mystery crime lovers. I am reading the second book right now. Feb 07, Benjie rated it really liked it. This book is about a 12 years old boy name ben Ripley.

He had an invitation to go to the CIA for school called spy school. His parents thought that his on a science school but his really in spy school. He met friends and also enemies that tried to kick him out of the school. One night an assassin tried to kill him and he reported it to the principal but the principal can't do anything because they don't have evidence from the assassin.

Ben likes a girl from the spy school and the girl is helping This book is about a 12 years old boy name ben Ripley. Ben likes a girl from the spy school and the girl is helping ben to find who the assassin was. They play a game which is a paintball with the students in the school Spy school. They have to find the bomb and make sure it doesn't explode because the whole school is gonna explode if they dont find it and cancel the bomb.

I think this book is good because every chapter is interesting and it makes you want to keep reading the book. I like this book because it has words that i dont understand but i like it because its challenging. I like this book because it feels like your in the book. I think its good because its intense. Oct 25, Emily Ann rated it liked it. Looks at this book "You've been on my shelf for awhile. I was actually surprised by it! Let's break it down shall we? I didn't think this book would be great. I didn't think this book would be awful.

Turns out that's exactly what this book was. I enjoyed the main characters sass quite a lot, and foun Actual rating: I enjoyed the main characters sass quite a lot, and found my self laughing at I didn't however like the side characters, I felt they were weird and needed to be devolped more. Other than that it was pretty good! Sorry for the short review, its late and I need to sleep. B Who would like it? Young boys who hate to read on most days: Dec 19, Kate rated it really liked it Shelves: Ben Ripley was a normal kid until he got transferred to St.

Smithen's Science Academy for Boys and Girls -in the middle of the school year. Shortly after he got in, he almost got assassinated in the middle of the night and the headmaster,as well as the CIA, figure out there is a mole in the school. It is up to Ben to find the mole before it is to late. After I made it though first few chapters of "Spy Ben Ripley was a normal kid until he got transferred to St. After I made it though first few chapters of "Spy School", I was sitting on the edge of my seat and my fingers were gripping the book tightly.

I would definitely recommend this book to year olds. I am really excited to read the next book in the series: Dec 26, Andrew D rated it it was amazing Shelves: That just shows how amazing this book is, this book has everything you could ever want in a great book, both adventure and comedy. I would recommend this book to anyone and everyone. Spy School is a book about this ordinary guy named Ben Ripley being accepted in to a spy training academy. Now anyone would think that would be awesome Read the whole story to figure out how Ben gets himself out of a big mistake.

Dec 14, Jason F rated it really liked it. Spy School is about Ben Ripley a nobody at his school. He gets sent to a spy school who knows where. The first week was rough. I Spy School is about Ben Ripley a nobody at his school. I recommend this book to people that like action, adventure, and mystery. Sep 19, Kat Canavan rated it did not like it. I didn't like this book.

The main character Ben does nothing! He sits around fibbing that he has talent! For a spy book I was expecting more action, less randomness. I would not recommend this book to anybody, and I have no idea why it is a nutmeg! Feb 01, Kimberly rated it really liked it Shelves: Read with my kiddo who enjoyed the humor and adventure. There is some mild language but it's in context, doesn't detract from the story, is not excessive, and - quite frankly - made my son giggle to hear me read it out loud. Great book for reluctant readers. Jan 17, Gerda Fiske rated it it was amazing. This book has so many action packed and hilarious scenes!

I couldn't put it down! Oct 12, Alex Van Veld rated it it was amazing. If you love spies this is the book for you! Oct 14, Giteeka rated it it was amazing Shelves: I really liked the book a lot. The thrill in the mystery part is so good, I couldn't put the book down. I also couldn't stop laughing at some parts. Sep 01, Mary rated it it was amazing. Developed characters, entertaining plot, and memorable dialogue.

I loooooooooved this book! This reminded me of the Gallagher Girl series, but a boy version and better written all around!! Ben Ripley was a normal well adjusted twelve-year-old. He went to a public middle school, hung out with his friends, and played sports. Until, that is, he met Alexander Hale, vice president of a CIA spy school, where wannabe spies learn the skills they need in the field. Ben, on the other hand, is clueless of this plan, but when someone tries to kill him, he quickly catches on. I loved his innocence, and his dialogues and actions all matched his personality.

Erica was even better. Speaking of Alexander, he was so good at making himself look good, even when he is a really bad spy. The last few lines in the book really hit that subject right on. Murphy,the coughmolecough was someone who I trusted at first, but as the story went on, everything clicked in my head. Zoe was one of my favorite characters. The principal was stupid. Along with the inspector in The Wizard of Dark Street, I am quite disappointed with the lack of authority in my recent reads ; In the end, I think this is something that not only I would recommend, I would like to own for myself!

Jan 05, Braeden rated it really liked it. Ripley is gifted at math but other than that he is a normal kid. He is recruited by a James Bond look alike and is left wondering what is so special about him. As he arrives at spy school, he is thrown in to a tactical situation. He is forced into combat and has to use his wits to get him away from the threat, only to find out it was his first exam at spy school, and he was given a D -.

He soon meets Murray Hill, a fellow student and Erika Hale a descendant of the greatest spies of America trying to prove her worth. Ben was hypnotized by Erika. Erika is focused on finding the double agent so she can become a real spy and carry on the tradition. Erika reluctantly pairs up with Ben, doing whatever she can to find the mole. The drive and skills of Erika and having to lug around Ben make this book great.

The ending to the book is unexpected and there is never a dull moment. It was very well written through Ben Ripley and he maintains the same personality throughout the book which keeps it more realistic. It also makes the book unique and interesting because his point of view not always interpreted as other people would.