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

“Essential reading.” – Glenn Greenwald
“Nuanced and compelling.” – Astra Taylor, Bookforum

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 charts her own conceptual course, breaking with the standard narratives, particularly the click-baity cautionary tales about the dangers of Anonymous. Her book offers its share of warnings, but ones more nuanced, compelling, and empathetic than the typical hand-wringing about online mobs and the conundrum of virtual vigilante justice. Coleman is no cheerleader...But she also doesn’t wag her finger from some imagined high ground.”
  • “In Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy, Coleman reveals the group in all its complexity ... this in-depth account might leave readers in awe of the sheer scope of the group and how much they have achieved while shunning the traditional trappings of leaders, hierarchy and individual fame-seeking.”
  • “a long-awaited and compelling study of the activist collective… Anyone interested in Anonymous, or the shape of protest in the age of the internet, will find abundant new details and smart insight here.”
  • “Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy penetrate[s] the chaotic, ad hoc, contradictory world of the Anons… What Gabriella Coleman has done, with a fine eye and a storyteller’s talent, is to untangle the hairball just enough to get a sense of its topology, its power and its limits — if not its direction. That is anyone’s guess.”
  • “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.”
  • “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!”
  • “Anyone hoping to understand this mostly hidden world will find [Coleman's] book crucial and even prescient.”
  • “[Coleman's] painstaking research takes the reader right into the heart of the group, where she begins explaining the history of the broad movement of hackers known to the outside world as Anonymous…. without doubt one of the biggest authorities in the world on the subject of Anonymous"”
  • “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.”
  • “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.”
  • “[An] eye-opening ethnography...This all-access pass into the dark and wild corners of the Internet is timely, informative, and also frightening.”
  • “Named to Kirkus Reviews' Best Books of 2014”

Blog

  • Former Anonymous member Barrett Brown sentenced to 63 months for 'merely linking to hacked material'

    Yesterday morning, journalist and former Anonymous member Barrett Brown was sentenced to 63 months in prison and fines of $890,000, having already been detained for 31 months on charges for “merely linking to hacked material.” This sentence was issued in spite of what swathes of journalists, as well as Brown himself have called “a dangerous precedent,” the implication being that journalists who use hacked material may be similarly indicted. Read Brown’s statement following his sentencing below:


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  • All ebooks are 90% off until Jan 1st!



    For just seven days from today, through to Jan 1st, all of Verso’s ebooks will be discounted by 90% – with many starting at just $1 or £1...

    Every single Verso book is the product of thousands of hours of labor and love – from the author to editors, typesetters, proofreaders and beyond – all of whom need to be paid. So why would we sell them for so little?

    Verso is the first book publisher to sell its titles independently of format – so that you no longer have to choose between print and digital – and we’re hoping that you’ll try out a few more books, and consider buying the print version of any that you like. Buying directly from Verso is the best way to support our authors and independent publishing. 

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  • Wtf is Eleni Haifa? A New Essay by Paul Mason

    Paul Mason follows in the footsteps of Virginia Woolf in search of fictional character in the age of social media.



    I get on a train and there, eventually, is Eleni Haifa: about 22, massive hair and 5 ft tall.

    She is either Italian, Jewish, Arab, Turkish, Kurdish or Greek. She has olive skin and is wearing high heels with gold tips, a white jacket, oyster coloured skirt and carrying two iPhones, one in a black case and one red.

    She has one iPhone in each hand and is transferring something from one to another by typing using her thumbs. But not the tips of her thumbs because her nails are so long – and polished – that she has to use the pads of her thumbs to type, very fast. She puts one down – the one playing her music - and then goes to Facebook on the other: to her profile, where the picture is some kind of cartoon. She flips to What’sApp – I can tell it’s What’sApp from the green message boxes. Between Clapham Junction and Waterloo she spends her switching between What’s App and Facebook. She’s been on the train at least from Richmond.

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Upcoming Events

  • January 30, 2015

    Brooklyn, NY

    Verso Books

    Encryption Workshop with Tommy Collison

    Participants will learn about the Tor browser, OTR instant messaging encryption, PGP e-mail encryption, and hard-drive encryption.

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