Hi. I’m Hacking. Not Hacking Cough. Not Hack’s License. Those are common mistakes. I’m just Hacking. My full name, really, is, “Using Illicit Means to Access Private Information With a Computer,” but I go by Hacking for short.
I’d like to nominate myself for an award. I dunno - the Nobel? Time’s Person of the Year – or, umm - Phenomenon of the Year? I know it’s only July – but, when you think about it? This year’s been all about me.
First things first. Hacking is delivering a serious blow to the Murdoch media empire. See – I’m powerful, and they played with me the wrong way. Sure, it started off small, Hacking the voicemail of celebrities and princes. But then they started Hacking the voicemails a murdered adolescent, families of the war dead, perhaps even 9/11 victims?
Hey – I’m just Hacking. I do what I’m told. It’s not my fault that I came back to bite them. But am I, Hacking, having a major impact on the British government and media establishment? You can bet your voicemail on it!
That one’s pretty obvious. Hacking is bad – I’m a violation of rights - when targeting individuals. But I’m still perceived as p r e t t y c o o l when done institutionally.
Take Wikileaks. I hang out with them constantly.
See, the thing about our Information Age is that information on its own, just raw, isn’t always valuable. But I’m the guy who makes it valuable, because with me, whatever you’ve got is Ill Gotten Booty. I mean, as Hacking, I don’t just change our perceptions, I change our perceptions of our perceptions – a stunt that not many of us can pull.
Yeah, yeah – I know. There are people out there who quibble that because Private Bradley Manning was on the inside, what he did wasn’t Hacking. It was Leaking. Frankly, I know Leaking and the guy’s a bit of a bore. Everything’s always “Deep Throat” this, and “Pentagon Papers” that. And I’m like, Get over it, dude. It was the ‘70’s.
Granted, the Hacking Manning did was easy – I mean, I own a thumb-drive kind of easy - but it was still Hacking. He achieved access way above his pay-grade; that information didn’t fall within the purview of his job. In fact, I doubt he even understood most of it. Unlike, say, the Associate Director of the FBI during Watergate. Or Daniel Ellsberg. Trust me: I hear it from Leaking all the *&^$ing time.
But Wikihacks? I agree: it lacks a certain je ne sais quoi. It lacks… romance. There’s no way Julian Assange would like it. It makes him sound like a goth European teen, and not the Great Albino Hope for Democracy he likes to think he is.
Anyway, I digressed. Take Wikileaks.
In the case of what Manning hacked, situation reports and from Afghanistan and Iraq – the information was striking only for its banality. Honestly, it wasn’t anything beyond what a routine reader of The New York Times or Washington Post (or The Guardian or the Times of London, or Der Spiegel, etc) had been reading about for nearly a decade.
And the State Department memos? Most of those – except in very few cases - confirmed conventional wisdom and the basic competence of the US diplomatic corps.
See – the information was suddenly really, really valuable, because it was Ill Gotten Booty. That was all me. Hacking. And, news outlets like The New York Times and The Guardian and The Washington Post – who already knew it most of it was banal? They still gave me gloriously huge front pages!
That’s because as Hacking, I changed perception. You can’t tell, but I’ve just taken a small bow.
Now, that Julian Assange? These days, he’s taking retroactive credit for the Arab Spring, by releasing all those State Department memos.
The argument is that Tunisians didn’t need Wikileaks to tell them that their government was run by a bunch of corrupt thugs; and a Tunisian fruit vendor didn’t need Wikileaks to tell him that he was the victim of police brutality. But the very fact that Wikileaks released all that hacked information? That was the spark. The people of Tunisia were suddenly so embarrassed that now the rest of the world knew how their government was run, they rose up and threw off the yoke of oppression! And that sparked Egypt, and Libya, and Bahrain, and Syria. Etc.
Frankly, I’m Hacking – I do this for a living – and I’m not sure I buy it. Think of how naïve and sensitive an entire nation would have to be. They have a crappy government for more than two decades, in a region in which they’re surrounded by crappy governments for more than two decades – and suddenly, they essentially blush so hard that they stage a revolution? Vanity’s a bitch, but I’ve never seen her that pissed off. And she’s not that naive.
But for the fact that people are even thinking that? That’s me. That’s Hacking.
I didn’t just change Perception, with the Ill Gotten Booty of cables released from the US Embassy in Tunis. I changed Perception of Perception: the alleged impact of that banal information that suddenly became valuable because of Hacking is perceived to be so huge, that people actually believe it set off a wave of revolutions and protests bringing down stagnant regimes and changing the face of the Middle East?
Again, I take a bow.
One last thing - so I don’t have to hear it later from Leaking. With me? With Hacking? It’s all about the Ends Justify the Means. Julian Assange takes credit for the Arab Spring after the fact, even though he set out to embarrass the US government.
With Leaking? Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers? FBI Associate Director Mark Felt? Each set out ahead of time to right a very specific instance of corruption or systemic failure. They knew what it was because of proprietary information they had for working inside the system. They wanted to fix it, and they did.
They weren’t just throwing stones at a system they perceived to be bad – like that goth European teen trying to outsmart the Windows OS with a worm. Because everyone uses Windows, it must be bad! And they weren’t document dumping State Department memos because, if they’re secret, State must be up to no good - in absolutely every instance!
Truth be told, most of the time, I’m not much more than a vandal. Julian Assange and Bradley Manning like to throw stones, simply because they figured out how to pick up a rock.
Leaking, that old bastard, is going the way of vinyl records. They’re still out there, but the only real interest in them is from collectors. Raw, stolen and hacked information is seen as far more valuable than that which comes with the context, care - and dare I say principle? - that Leaking provides.
So yes - I’m Hacking. I’m the one having the impact.
And that’s why I deserve an award. The Nobel, maybe. Phenomenon of the Year? And thank you - I’m taking one last bow.