Sunday, December 13, 2015

Review: Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The many faces of Anonymous

As promised yesterday.  Keep in mind that this review is coming from an acknowledged idiot so your mileage may vary...

I picked this book up quite awhile ago and have been working on it off and on since.  And when I say awhile ago I mean probably a year since I did an intro post on back in March:

Hacker, Hoaxer...  - This has been a hard one to get into.  I have started it a couple times and can only make it a couple pages each time.  The author is a sociologist or anthropologist  or something like that.  She obviously wants to do the "Gorillas in the Mist" thing and walk among and be accepted by Anonymous and so only about 20 pages or so in her sympathy for them is glaringly obvious and a little off-putting.  The reviews are good and I am interested in the subject so I will keep trying.  (BTW way to expensive for a Kindle book.  Check it out from the library if you can.  I think I got it on sale or as a present because I never would have paid $14.55 for it)

Nothing really changed from that point with the exception after she got into the HBGary attack the reading got a easier - still it's not a book I would recommend unless you are really, really, interested in this subject.  It's not that it's a bad book, it just (in my opinion) is not really aimed at general audiences.  It's really more a paean to Anonymous and their achievements.  

That may be my biggest problem with the book.  Coleman (who I follow on twitter and find to be engaging, and intelligent) really seems to have abandoned any sort of academic objectivity.  She is wholly in the Anonymous camp and in my reading there is very little that they did that she disagreed with.  In her telling of the HBGary hack Anonymous would have foregone the release of their emails if their demands (firing some employees) had been met.  They weren't and so the documents were release.  In the real world that's called extortion.  Coleman views it as a social good.  The same type of logic applies to the paypal attacks, the Sony hacks etc.  Everything can be justified.  This uncritical (or barely critical) acceptance compromises the story compromises the book.  (I should note that this applies to not only Anonymous as a whole but individual members; Weev is admired as a "troll's troll", Sabu is her buddy up until his arrest is revealed. and so on)

Long story short if you sympathize with Anonymous and their various tactics and causes you will probably enjoy this book.  If you find either questionable you won't.  

(BTW the comment above regarding price applies to almost all e-books unless it is some sort of technical book I need for work.  Don't count that as an aspersion on Coleman's work)

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