Hackers Are the 21st Century’s Sexy Pirates

January 20, 2012 § 5 Comments

"Hero Time is Gone," by Lora Zombie

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, / dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix, / […] who journeyed to Denver, who died in Denver, who came back to Denver & waited in vain, who watched over Denver & brooded & loned in Denver and finally went away to find out the Time, & now Denver is lonesome for her heroes  — Alan Ginsberg, “Howl”

Twenty-first century America is sick for heroes. Wars no longer happen on our soil and thanks to television news, their romanticism has seriously waned. Our revolution was long ago, and our dissatisfaction with the nation becomes foggier without a clear outside opponent — what to do when we have seen the enemy and the enemy is us?

We’re so sick for greatness, we lap up any celebrity, modernity’s sad facsimile of the hero, and Tim Tebow’s been controlling our national emotional life.

While Arab protestors risk their lives fighting oppressive regimes, the biggest American protest movement in a generation is portrayed by the media as a bunch of dirty people camping in a park.

When corporations are legally people and money seems to mean a lot more than speech, it can seem impossible to make a dent in the monolith of corporate control. I write emails, I sign petitions, I go to protests, and it mostly seems like it’s doing jack shit.

Well, someone’s doing something…and it’s not exactly legal.

Some background, in case the rock you live under doesn’t have wifi: On Wednesday the internet mobilized to protest the (dangerously vague and logistically flawed) anti-piracy bills SOPA and PIPA (from the House and Senate, respectively), with a widespread blackout. The MPAA, which has been heavily lobbying in support of both bills, disdainfully tweeted its response, noting, “Internet blackout against U.S. law fails to enlist big sites“; little-known website Wikipedia reports that 162 million people viewed its blackout landing page, while an unpopular search engine called “Google” had 4.5 million people sign its online petition against the bills.

A reported 75,000 websites took part in the blackout — including Reddit, Mozilla, Craigslist, GOOD, and Boing Boing, among many others — which had politicians running for the hills. By the end of the day on Wednesday, 18 previously pro-PIPA senators had dropped their support, including seven co-sponsors of the bill, while SOPA co-sponsor Representative Ben Quayle of Arizona changed his stance, along with several other members of the House.

But Thursday saw the feds flexing their muscles, as the Justice Department shut down file-sharing giant Megaupload in what it called in a statement, “among the largest criminal copyright cases ever brought by the United States”, seizing servers and assets (including the personal property of founder Kim Dotcom), and serving arrest warrants for Dotcom and six others associated with the site.

Then the internet got pissed off. Less than 24 hours after the electronic equivalent of a sit-in, things got aggressive. Via a series of direct denial of service attacks, cyber-collective Anonymous — which has been referred to as a group of hacker-activists, or “hacktivists” — brought down the websites for the U.S. Department of Justice, Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), Universal Music, U.S. Copyright Office, and the FBI.

In their words, “WE ARE THE 99% – WE AR#ANONYMOUS – YOU SHOULD HAVE EXPECTED US #Megaupload“.

Now that’s hot. 

"We are Anonymous. We are Legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us." Anaphora is hot.

You may not agree with what they stand for, you may not agree with what they do, you may think they are a bunch of nerdy criminal punks — but still, that’s hot.

Twenty-first century, let me introduce you to your new hero: the hacker.

Hackers are the pirates for the internet generation.

Corporate America may seem to have a stranglehold on our political process, but the internet is democratic — not just in that it’s democratizing publishing and music, or that it’s making information more available, but in that it allows the actions of people without special financial, social, or political capital to have serious and palpable consequences.

Hackers are the new pirates. Figuratively and legally. A popular site was dubbed Pirate Bay, and some of what they do is legally called “pirating.” Unlike actual pirates, however, hackers can take regular showers, maintain dental hygiene, and won’t get scurvy.

Yes, Johnny Depp is sexy as hell in Pirates of the Caribbean, but think about it: do you really think he smells sexy as hell?

Mmm, fish and 30 days of body odor buildup!

Cyber pirates can comb their hair and eat something besides salted, dried meat and the crumbs they find in their beards. They can launch an attack against The Man, then sit down to watch Top Chef with you over takeout Chinese.

Of course, there are modern-day pirates more in the vein of “Arg, matey! Give up your cargo!” but they’re a bunch of unwashed Somali guys with automatic weapons and a lot of emotional baggage. I’ll pass.

I’ll take an online pirate over a maritime one any day. An average citizen fighting The Man and actually having some effect? I think a Facebook friend put it well yesterday when, commenting on the Anonymous takedown of government and corporate websites, she wrote, “illicit sure, but nerd-knights = sexiest.”

America, I’m here to tell you these are the kind of heroes women can get behind. Or on top of. You get my drift.

And when I say “women,” I don’t just mean the geeky teen with a 4chan account, or the accountant that was goth in high school.

The women who think hackers are sexy are not just classic geeks. They probably don’t code. They don’t play World of Warcraft online, don’t have Deviant Art pages or cats named Spot. Sure, maybe they can quote Buffy or have twitter handles like “YouHadMeAtHelo” or “WhoWatchestheWatchmen”, but they also play sports, and wear perfume, and go to parties. They read Glamour, they read The New Yorker, they read comic books, they read Nabokov, they read cereal boxes. They are many and variable, and they think internet activism is hot.

The hacker-hero is a new breed of coder, a bad boy without that annoying drug habit.

This is not the computer nerd from most 90s movies. I’m not talking about some overweight white guy in glasses whose ass has fused with his desk chair and who seems to live solely in the dark, like a mole rat. That guy does the protagonist’s bidding while taking sad sidelong glances at the impossibly hot female lead.

I’m talking about Justin Long in Live Free or Die Hard, a hacker with a quick wit and a tongue to match, nerdy-sexy a la Adam Brody’s The O.C. character, Seth Cohen, whose explosive popularity suddenly made “geek chic” a thing in the mid ’00s.

You just said something witty, didn't you?

I’m talking about Lisbeth Salander, a hacker with chopped black hair and a nipple ring, not so much antisocial as asocial, silent but vicious.

Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander in David Fincher's English-language remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Noomi Rapace in the original Swedish film version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Yeah, I'm equal opportunity Stieg Larsson.

I’m talking about a hacker that can cut you, but probably won’t because we’re baking pies tonight and we’ll need the knives later.

Also, this hacker isn’t necessarily male. She doesn’t have to be Sandra Bullock in The Net; I’m picturing a sexy young black woman with a short afro and a neck tattoo, or a pale white girl with dark, pixie-cut hair and an affinity for jewelry with animals on it. I’ll take a femme-y hacker, with a side of Guy Fawkes mask — to go.

Hackers: the new pirates, only cleaner, better educated, and less likely to kill you in the morning.

Good night, Westley. Sleep well. I'll most likely kill you in the morning. (Well, okay, I'd like to break off a piece of this pirate...)

This isn’t the perpetual-friend-zone guy helping you take down that compromising picture your ex uploaded to the internet; this is the guy you’re taking the pictures for.

And as for me, I like to think of my imaginary hacker boyfriend looking like Matthew McNulty.

The Man with the Dragon Neck-Tattoo...Who's Mine So Don't Touch Him or I'll Cut You

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

January 10, 2012 § 5 Comments

I’m one of those people — you know the type, people who pick out grammar and spelling errors constantly. In ads, signs, published writing, other people’s speech. Mostly I keep these observations to myself, since I have enough other qualities to explain why I’m single, but every once in a while, an error comes up again and again until I find myself spontaneously shouting in an aisle of Safeway. Alone.

No, this time I’m not talking about the need to use possessives with gerunds, or who vs. whom (though I read an interview with Rachel McAdams in Glamour a week or so ago, and she continually used whom correctly and now I have incredible respect for her — I may put too much emphasis on people’s ability to speak properly as evidence of their character worth).

I’m talking about the word “ironic.” Nathan Fillion knows what I’m talking about.

Rick Castle: Thank you.

Kate Beckett: For what?

Rick Castle: For using “irony” correctly. Ever since that Alanis Morissette song, people use it when they actually mean “coincidence.” It drives me nuts!

People call things “ironic” all the time, usually when something unexpected or coincidental happens. Identifying irony sounds both smart and flip, and in our “I’m too cool to care” society, saying “That’s ironic” in a droll tone works just as well as heavy-lidded eyes or a cigarette for getting you cool points. Most of the things people claim as “ironic,” however, aren’t. Really aren’t. There are several kinds of irony, but the kind that’s driving Castle crazy is situational irony. Other types include verbal irony, which constitutes saying the opposite of what you mean (similar to sarcasm) and dramatic irony (also called tragic irony), in which the audience of a play/book/movie knows something the character doesn’t, as in, “Romeo! Don’t kill yourself! Juliet’s just pretending to be dead. Oh — he drank the poison. Whoops.”

Situational irony occurs when something that happens is the exact opposite of what you expect. This reversal, in which expectations are upset, is important. If Sally refuses to go in the ocean because she’s afraid of getting killed by a shark, then gets mauled by a seagull on the beach and dies from those injuries, that would be irony. A variation on this kind of irony occurs when an action has the opposite effect it is meant to have. Let’s say I decide that I’m going to improve my health by eating better and, to this end, eat an (antioxidant-rich!) pomegranate, only it turns out I’m allergic to pomegranate and I die. That would be ironic. (Also, if a story involves someone dying, apparently I’m more likely to find it ironic.)

Also ironic: the fact that in a post about the misuse of “irony” as a term, I will probably make some mistake as to explaining it and misuse the term myself. F#&$ing Muphry’s Law.  (That’s right, Muphry’s, not Murphy’s. Check it out.)

Sometimes irony is mean.

The world is full of ironic things — but it’s even more full of non-ironic things.

It’s like rain on your wedding day

It’s a free ride when you’ve already paid

It’s the good advice that you just didn’t take

We can mostly blame Alanis Morissette for Americans’ current complete misunderstanding of what irony means. Her 1995 single “Ironic” lists a series of situations while intermittently interjecting the refrain, “Isn’t it ironic? Don’t ya think?” For anyone who’s been listening to the lyrics, the answer is a resounding “No”.

Rain on your wedding day? Bad luck.

A free ride when you’ve already paid? Bad timing.

Good advice that you just didn’t take? Bad decision-making.

Calling a song “Ironic” and then filling the lyrics with things that aren’t ironic? Now that’s irony.

Still, in case you’re still having difficulty distinguishing between coincidence and the literary term used in conversation more than any other (don’t worry, denouement, I love you, even if other people think you sound like a sneeze), let’s look at an example of a situation that is not, I repeat not ironic. When I was a teenager, I did a lot of musical theater, which led to my having very colorful friends.

I wish.

One night, a bunch of us were hanging out at my house, just sitting around (or more accurately, sitting on each other — theater people aren’t known for their physical boundaries, and hormone-drenched teenagers even less so). There was talk about watching a movie. My friend D had some bootleg DVDs from China that his aunt, a flight attendant on international routes, had procured for him, including the first Pirates of the Caribbean and Finding Nemo. This was summer 2003 and both of these movies had only just come out in theaters and were definitely not available on legitimate DVD.

We elected to watch Pirates. The Pirates DVD, however, looked like an eight-year-old had videotaped the screen in a movie theater with his cell phone (well, this was 2003, so I guess it couldn’t have been a cell phone camera, but you catch my drift).

Every time I see this image at a theater, I think, "Why is David Boreanaz in a movie theater with a hand cam?"

Having determined not to watch what appeared to be a grainy postmodern art piece about the alienating effect of mainstream entertainment, we replaced the Pirates DVD with Finding Nemo and then proceeded to ignore the movie entirely.

In the midst of a pillow fight/loud argument/spontaneous a cappella Grease sing-along, our choreographer (who, in an instance of homophonic glory, was named Corey) showed up with her boyfriend, whom we hadn’t previously met. Corey was older than the rest of us, post-collegiate, probably 22 or 23, and her boyfriend was even older than her — i.e. a real adult with, we were about to learn, a job.

They walk in, look at us, then look at the TV. Corey says, “This is my boyfriend, ____. He works for Pixar.” We’re watching a bootleg Pixar movie and someone from Pixar shows up in my living room? Now I’m afraid I’m going to have a Truman Show moment when I realize that my life is a sitcom.

Was this situation unfortunate? Yes. Was it unexpected? You bet your ass. Was it ironic? No. What was ironic was the fact that Mr. Pixar didn’t give a shit about our pirated movie (not to be confused with our Pirates movie).

Cheeky bastard.

American Family Association Angry Over Home Depot’s “Gay Agenda”

January 6, 2012 § Leave a comment

The American Family Association (AFA), a non-profit founded in 1977 that calls itself a Christian “pro-family” organization, continues a boycott against home improvement store Home Depot in reaction to what the AFA calls Home Depot’s “corporate support” of the “homosexual agenda” (1).

The boycotters’ petition labels Home Depot’s pro-diversity, anti-discrimination policies, as stated on their website, and the company’s support for LGBT political causes, like the Human Rights Campaign, “lascivious” and “disturbing” (2).

Thomas Buchanan, who signed the petition, said, “It goes against nature. Construction and manual labor are at the core of masculinity. Using lumber and power tools to convert people to into gays? It’s sneaky and horrifying!”*

“It was my worst nightmare,”* said Buddy Crantop, father and resident of Atlanta, Georgia, where Home Depot is based. “When I found out, I thought, ‘I take my son to Home Depot almost every weekend. Here I thought I was teaching him to be a man, but I’ve been letting the gays get to him!’ ” Crantop shudders. “I can’t even walk in the door [to Home Depot] anymore; all those pipes look so phallic to me now.”*

Originally launched in July 2010, the boycott gained publicity through LGBT and Christian fundamentalist news sources in June of this year when two AFA representatives gave a presentation of their grievances at the Home Depot annual shareholders’ meeting in Atlanta (3).

Company executives reacted to the presentation cooly. Home Depot Chairman Frank Blake thanked the AFA representatives — AFA Executive Vice President Buddy Smith and Randy Sharp, AFA’s director of special projects — for their participation in the meeting but rejected their analysis of Home Depot’s corporate values by reiterating the company’s support for diversity (4).

Several shareholders present at the meeting report that Blake muttered, “[Expletive] off, fundie freaks,”* under his breath after sarcastically thanking Smith and Sharp, but upon being asked to corroborate this alleged statement, a Home Depot spokesperson gave no comment. (Note: this spokesperson simply laughed before hanging up the phone on this article’s author*.)

OneNewsNow.org, the website of the American Family News Network (AFFN), which is owned and operated by the AFA and which purports to bring “news of the challenges facing Christians in today’s society,” reported Sharp’s perspective on the shareholders’ meeting (5)(Note: It has come to the editors’ attention that the AFFN website is titled “One News Now,” not “One New Snow.” The editors regret this article’s previous error in capitalization and have corrected it.) 

” ‘We presented to the shareholders and to the chairman and the board of directors over 470,000 signature petitions asking them to remain neutral in the culture war, specifically when it addresses gay marriage and homosexual activist groups,’ Sharp tells OneNewsNow.” (6, emphasis added)

Established at the Treaty of Paris in 1815, Switzerland’s position of neutrality in foreign wars drew considerable attention during World War II — particularly the country’s legal distinction between political refugees (those under personal threat due to their political activities) eligible for asylum in Switzerland, and those in danger due to race, ethnicity, or religion  (of special note: Jews) disqualified from asylum (7, pp. 107, 111). Since then, neutrality has been universally acknowledged as the most heroic stance in any war, and the preferable one.

“Though not ideal, as they are not American, in this case the Swiss serve as an example to be emulated,”* Sharp noted, when I broached the comparison of Switzerland to AFA. “During World War II, neutrality included discriminating against an undesirable group of people who would not submit to God’s plan, and Home Depot’s neutrality in the culture war would include the same positive byproduct.”*

Despite Home Depot’s cool response in June, the AFA continues to focus on their campaign against the home improvement giant.

” ‘AFA focuses primarily on one boycott at a time,’ Randy Sharp, the AFA’s director of special projects, said in an interview. ‘A successful boycott can take two or three years.’ ” (via Aol’s DailyFinance.com)

The AFA believes Home Depot to be taking sides in the “culture war” between “God’s People” and “The Gays” by advocating workplace diversity, working to eliminate discrimination in the workplace, and participating in activities such as the Transgender Day of Remembrance, which honors transgendered people killed in hate crimes (8).

A report released in June 2011 by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs “showed a 13% increase [in 2010] over 2009 in violent crimes committed against people because of their perceived or actual sexual orientation, gender identity or status as HIV positive” (9). This violence included 27 homicides, with the majority of the victims being transgendered women, especially those from racial minorities.

On 19 December, a 17-year-old from Ventura California was sentenced to 21 years in prison for shooting a gay classmate twice in the head in their junior high classroom in 2008, when the victim was 15 and the perpetrator was 14. The shooter in this “execution-style” killing was convicted of voluntary manslaughter and use of a firearm (10).

Rather than the victims of hate crimes, however, the AFA believes LGBT Americans to be the perpetrators.

The AFA’s Director of Analysis for Government and Policy, Bryan Fischer, has identified gay activists as the “Number one perpetrators of hate crimes in America” (10).

The Southern Poverty Law Center, founded in 1971 by civil rights lawyers in Montgomery, Alabama, has labeled the AFA itself a “hate group.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center recently analyzed 14 years of federal hate crime statistics, from 1994 to 2008; the resulting report, published 22 November 2010, “found that homosexuals, or those perceived to be gay, are more than twice as likely to be attacked in a violent hate crime as Jews or blacks; more than four times as likely as Muslims; and 14 times as likely as Latinos.” Indeed, the report concludes that “Gays and lesbians are far more likely to be victims of a violent hate crime than any other minority group in the United States” (11).

Fischer’s comments suggest that what constitutes a “hate crime” is up for debate.

* Note from The Snarkist: Any quote or opinion followed by an asterisk is fabricated/fake/made up. The person quoted never said this — indeed, the named individual may not exist — and such constructed “quotes” are used for effect. However, all quotes and information cited by a number are accurate to previous reporting from other news (or “news”) sources. Click each number for the relevant link.

Where Am I?

You are currently viewing the archives for January, 2012 at The Snarkist.