Monday, August 29, 2016

Tangled Web

Anonymous 'Leader' Quits. Is Barrett Brown The Next Julian Assange?

Barrett Brown
Barrett Brown
One of the few public faces of the hacktivists' collective Anonymous has quit the group. It's not much of a surprise. Since the attack on Sony (which most Anonymous activists deny) the group has been in disarray, with various factions taking down each other’s websites, battling over their chat channels, and “doxing” -- revealing each other’s identities online.

Brown had risen to prominence, first as a sympathetic journalist covering the group, then as someone more clearly self-identified with Anonymous (given Anonymous's amorphous structure, self-identification is all it takes to be a part of it.) He wrote articles for "The Guardian" and "The Huffington Post" saying things like this: "Anonymous hacktivists will continue to bring down the hypocrisy and tyranny of those who prefer state to citizen and the status quo to true liberty."

Others in Anonymous, however, objected to Brown taking the limelight. Anonymous activists tend to shun leadership and revealing their true identities: in Anonymous parlance such behavior is known as "namefagging" (the sufix "fag" or "fagging" are used often in various Anonymous designations).

The recent splits have once again shown that decentralized networks eschewing leadership sound OK on paper, but in practice suffer from the usual problems, namely human egos and decision-making by committee. Regardless, there have been plenty of reports that Anonymous' leaderless ethos was a charade anyway. A recent piece in "Technology Review" makes the same point:

In an interview with U.K. tech-news site thinq, Ryan and friends dismissed any notion that the site functions leaderlessly. "There is a hierarchy," said Ryan, singling out a core group of 10 fellow moderators who meet regularly in a private chat channel and, he claimed, effectively decide what sites and causes the group will take aim at next. "All the power ... it's in that channel," he said, insisting further that his only intention in shutting down the network was to break up that power by breaking Anonymous's reliance on AnonOps as a communications venue.

Although as the piece points out, the fluidity and organizational elements aren't necessarily mutually exclusive and can -- and do -- coexist (albeit uneasily).

As I blogged a few weeks ago, the group is also divided about tactics and targets. (Roughly, it's split between those who want to attack political targets and those who just want to cause havoc on the Internet, true to their prankish roots on the 4Chan imageboard.)

But back to Brown. He seems to be styling himself as the next Julian Assange. From Threatpost:

Brown told Threatpost that he and around two dozen Anonymous members are forming a splinter group to focus on efforts to root out what Brown has described as "criminality and corruption" within the U.S. Government, U.S. military, corporations and the media.

He said he planned to focus on Project PM -- an effort to create an umbrella group that will support other organizations that want to expose pro-government and pro-corporate bias in the media.

Looking at the Project PM website, it's a bit of a hodgepodge:

[W]e'd like to improve the distribution of accurate and informative news, couple journalists with scientists in order to make useful information more readily available to the masses, and to help develop undeveloped regions of Africa with as much efficiency as attainable. Since the ultimate goal of Project PM is to best utilize information technology along with our collective knowledge base to better the world in every aspect possible, we plan on increasing the number of sub-projects we undertake as our membership and capabilities expand.
And this video doesn't really clear things up.

But Assange also came from these amorphous roots. He wasn't taken seriously until the Collateral Murder release and then, all of a sudden, he was the most recognizable man in the world. If you read this profile of Brown in "D Magazine," there are clear parallels with Assange: a broken home, interrupted education, a fierce independent streak, a conspiratorial mind, and a clear desire to be in the limelight. They both like to see themselves (in Assange's case, with some justification) as plucky digital outlaws taking on the Internet’s evil corporate and state overlords.

Karen Lancaster says her son developed a capacity for moral outrage at an early age. “He was furious when he was 6 and found out there was no Santa Claus,” she says. “He wasn’t mad about there not being a Santa. He was upset with me. He said, ‘You lied to me. How could you make up such a story?’

Lancaster says her son had severe ADD and that the classroom was torture for him. But he read voraciously on his own, diving into Ayn Rand and Hunter S. Thompson while he was still in middle school.

About that time, Brown also began investigating the possibilities of online networks. This was circa 1995, before the internet as we know it today existed. Back then, bulletin board systems ruled, chat rooms with their own phone numbers for dial-up access with a modem. At 13, Brown found a BBS that changed his life. It enabled him to talk to girls. Years later, he would use the experience as grist for an essay in the New York Press.

According to Brown he'll be on Al-Jazeera on May 19 to " to discuss Anonymous and reveal details of a newly-discovered U.S. surveillance program." It will be interesting to see what he has. (Brown has claimed to have a copy of the Stuxnet virus, which crippled much of Iran's nuclear program.) The troubling question with hacktivist types like Brown and Assange is always how they obtained the information: was it leaked or was it stolen?

Tags: wikileaks,Anonymous

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Anonymous
May 18, 2011 22:16
Wow, that sure was a lot of incompetent dribble. The "disarray" had nothing to do with Sony. The "usual problems" of decentralized networks are nothing compared to the problems in an organization with any sort of hierarchy. "Ryan" is just an ego driven little kid with diarrhea of the mouth. Mr. Alnutt's method of research seems to be skimming the other half-baked media stories on anonymous and throwing them together.

by: Anonymous
May 19, 2011 00:19
"This was circa 1995, before the internet as we know it today existed."

Excuse me, but the Internet back then was pretty much what it is today. Very little development has taken place since then and BBSs were not "chat rooms". Finally, only newfags talk about chat rooms.

by: Barrett Brown from: Dallas
May 19, 2011 08:23
Can you maybe do a better job of explaining how it is that I'm "styling" myself as "the next Assange?" You spend a portion of the article comparing me to Assange, something I've never done, and apparently based on the fact that I'm trying to expose corruption using the internet, and you've headlined the piece, "Is Barrett Brown the Next Assange?" It kind of looks like you yourself are "styling" me the "next Assange." And how exactly did you determine that Assange "seeks the limelight," rather than seeking to draw attention to issues he feels strongly enough about to go up against the U.S. government?
In Response

by: Luke Allnutt
May 19, 2011 09:48
Barrett, surely you're not saying that Assange isn't seeking the limelight? I'm not discounting his other motivations, but it's pretty clear from everything that has ever been written about Assange that he is governed by his fierce ego.
In Response

by: Barrett Brown from: Dallas
May 19, 2011 11:59
No, I'm not saying that he's not seeking the limelight. It's certainly possible. But I don't know that he is. It's very possible that he's outraged by much of what is going on among the various governments and wishes to bring attention to those things and is thus more than happy to use the media as a means by which to do so - but that the media was more interested in analyzing him and then even blaming him for the fact that he's become the subject, rather than those topics he wanted them to cover. Anyone who sticks his head up in order to mobilize people for a cause can be accused of "seeking the limelight," and that person has no way of defending himself from those accusations because it is impossible to prove otherwise. Once the assertion is made, it then becomes a story itself.

At any rate, if you want a story that could be potentially be of even greater significance than the question of whether Barrett Brown thinks himself plucky or enjoys reading his name in the paper, you might look here:
In Response

by: Anonymous from: internet
May 19, 2011 13:46
Oh just shut the hell up, Barrett, none of us care what you have to say. Go egofag somewhere else.
In Response

by: obamanon from: San Diego
May 19, 2011 22:11
Dear Barrett,
I think my iPad has Stuxnet. What do?
In Response

by: Dave Manchester
May 23, 2011 05:55
Barret, what would You expect? RFE/RL (Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty) is an explicit US-funded propaganda arm, and while they have done some actual reporting just as their Asian counterpart has done some decent work supplying free speech tools to certain country's Citizens, none of them should be expected to be without bias.

The standards are similar to the blinkered agendas of the corporate controlled MSM (main stream media), so the standard "journalistic" sloppiness should come as no surprise.

Roll with it, Bro.

There is no such thing as bad publicity except your own obituary.
Brendan Behan
Irish author & dramatist (1923 - 1964)

(attributed to Henry Ford who has a bio titled this)
"Never Complain. Never Explain"

Keep up the Good Work.

In Response

by: Anonymous from: The Internet
May 27, 2011 03:49
Barret Brown is an attention-whoring ego tripper who no longer has the right to associate himself with Anonymous. It's not about the individual. It's about the faceless unified collective.
In Response

by: anon_ from: The Internet
June 01, 2011 05:23
Barrett Brown has an equal right to speak freely as you do to remain anononymous. Anonymous supports freedom of speech, yes?

by: Mewbarak from: Prison
May 19, 2011 14:15
So... Much... Faggotry

by: Tommy Davis from: Clearwater
May 19, 2011 14:29
This article is complete rubbish. It is time for the internets to know that I, Tommy Davis, am the leader of Anonymous. Barrett has done well deflecting attention away from me but it is time for the truth to be known.

You see, Scientology has been waning. David Miscavige and I realized that we had to do something to make Scientology popular again. So, we placed a couple of operative into a fairly small and unknown collective known as Anonymous, leaked a tape of Tom acting loony (sorry about that Tom, but you know that getting thrown under the bus was part of the deal) and then directed our Anonymous plants to incite Anonymous into action. The Message to Scientology? Produced by Golden Era Productions, prove me wrong! It worked too... crap was so cash.

Anyway, here we are, several years later and Scientology is all over the press. Any press is good press, amirite? You'll notice that I've been kind of out of the limelight the last few years and that is because running Anonymous is a 24/7 job, let me tell you.

Anyway, thanks for your contributions Barrett. I've got the con (no pun intended).

I am Anonymous.
I am legion.
I do not forgive.
I do not forget.
Expect me.

by: Mewbarak
May 19, 2011 15:46
Isn't Paul Fetch the leader of anonymous anyway??

by: Another Anon from: US
May 19, 2011 16:48
Barrett Brown doesn't have the leadership skills or finesse to even discuss Julian Assange much less talk about being in the same league. His motives are even more suspect. Assange, although in the limelight (much not of his own doing), does have ideals and morals and sees the greater good. Brown has always made it clear that he's in it for the fame. Keep going your drugs, Barrett!

by: beanbagfrog from: New York
May 21, 2011 18:26
Barrett -- these commenters are unnecessarily hurtful. Do what you can with what you have.

All roads lead to the British royals. I wish people would stop tossing Obama together with Echelon. What the Republicans have planned for 2013 dwarfs anything the President is capable of.

by: Scoops!™ from: USA
May 21, 2011 19:04
Oh, HE is the leader, eh? So funny. If you only knew the truth...

by: Zanzikahn from: Figure it out..
May 22, 2011 17:31
Ok, so i have read the article along with the first page of comments and replies... Sure, you can all bash Mr. brown, object to the elleged statements, or even show your utter and most ignorant beliefs into what Anonymous really is.

How can one lead the leaderless? How is one man trying to be another, yet do it from his own point of view? We are legion, we are a process of elimination. Anonymous is not depicted by particular people, but an entity in which balance holds truth.

Regardless of history, of llimelights, activists, leaders, founders; Anonymous is much more. Anonymous has far surpassed the guidance and has sprouted to individual thought. One may deny it, one may embrace it, we all are anonymous. We all are the very thought in which it manifested. One cannot claim authority over it, nor can one control the chaos.

For now, let me say that whether he is limelighting or genuine, an idea is an idea, and should always be heard, for even with a stupid ideas, smart innovations and construction can ensure. Inspiration can come in many forms, and to discriminate against a thought is to yourself be ignorant to the possibilities.

Follow your own and worry not in the face of justice.
In Response

by: Wabit Wabit from: UNKNOWN
May 23, 2011 13:15
Well said

About This Blog

Written by Luke Allnutt, Tangled Web focuses on the smart ways people in closed societies are using social media, mobile phones, and the Internet to circumvent their governments and the efforts of less-than-democratic governments to control the web. 
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