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

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