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

An engrossing, fascinating report from inside Anonymous, by the scholar who was embedded in the international movement

Here is the ultimate book on the worldwide movement of hackers, pranksters, and activists that operates under the non-name Anonymous, by the writer the Huffington Post says “knows all of Anonymous’ deepest, darkest secrets.”

Half a dozen years ago, anthropologist Gabriella Coleman set out to study the rise of this global phenomenon just as some of its members were turning to political protest and dangerous disruption (before Anonymous shot to fame as a key player in the battles over WikiLeaks, the Arab Spring, and Occupy Wall Street). She ended up becoming so closely connected to Anonymous that the tricky story of her inside-outside status as Anon confidante, interpreter, and erstwhile mouthpiece forms one of the themes of this witty and entirely engrossing book.

The narrative brims with details unearthed from within a notoriously mysterious subculture, whose semi-legendary tricksters – such as Topiary, tflow, Anachaos, and Sabu – emerge as complex, diverse, politically and culturally sophisticated people. Propelled by years of chats and encounters with a multitude of hackers, including imprisoned activist Jeremy Hammond and the double agent who helped put him away, Hector Monsegur, Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy is filled with insights into the meaning of digital activism and little understood facets of culture in the Internet age, including the history of “trolling,” the ethics and metaphysics of hacking, and the origins and manifold meanings of “the lulz.”

Reviews

  • “The U.S. government and its allies have spent years castigating, prosecuting, and jailing members of Anonymous, with the director of the NSA going so far as to warn ominously of the potential of an Anonymous-led power blackout. But Gabriella Coleman’s fascinating history of Anonymous makes clear that almost all of the hacktivism attributed to this global collective has been devoted to exposing wrongdoing, not wreaking destruction, even as she also carefully shows that Anonymous is not a shadowy organization but a loosely knit collection of activists all over the globe, fighting for government and corporate transparency. The NSA’s treatment of Anonymous is disturbing and extreme, and Anonymous’s surprising activist turn is heartening. Essential reading.”
  • “Coleman takes us on a thrilling journey into the uncharted landscape of hackers, trolls, and Anonymous activists who live among us. It’s both a perfect initiation for all those n00bs out there still wondering what a ‘n00b’ is, as well as an important discourse on the role of anarchy online. Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy shares in the rebellious, even mordant humor of the groups it profiles, but never loses its critical perspective. A hilarious, important piece of hidden history that is very hard to put down.”
  • “With a perceptive eye and a principled disposition, Coleman dives into the eclectic world of Anonymous to reveal the humor and political significance of this polarizing network. Following her journey through this maze and reveling in her analysis is both insightful and awe-inspiring. This book will shake up assumptions at the core of academia, industry, law enforcement, and the media. It's a must read!”
  • “Exhaustively researched and devilishly readable, Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy tells the story of Anonymous’s rise from 4chan to taking on governments. If there could be a definitive writer on a movement like Anonymous, Coleman would be it.”
  • “This is the ultimate piece on Anonymous. It’s a notoriously difficult subject to write about, but Gabriella Coleman has succeeded where others have failed, and the result is a masterpiece that is informative, interesting, and funny. A fine example of what an investigative book should be.”

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