Adrian Chen Rescued an Eleven-Year-Old Girl From Dangerous Activists
I wrote about net propaganda. He wrote about me. I went to prison. Now he writes about net propaganda.
The first thing one learns upon becoming a subject of press interest is that there’s actually very little one can generally do in the face of inaccurate or even malicious press coverage.
In 2012, for instance, when I was languishing in a federal jail unit under a gag order and facing 100 years worth of trumped-up federal charges that had been universally denounced as retaliation for my work exposing illicit, government-linked surveillance and propaganda efforts, then-Gawker contributor Adrian Chen attended a fundraiser intended to raise money for both me and hacker Jeremy Hammond. Chen subsequently wrote a rather strange article in which he denounced me as a “real asshole” and referred to me as having “once starting a bogus ‘war’ with the Zetas drug cartel for attention,” referring to an Anonymous operation that, as widely reported at the time, was started by Mexican Anons whom I later assisted in relaying developments to the American press well after it had already started. Perhaps Chen had forgotten that he’d previously admitted to me that, in his words, “I’m not saying that you made it up”, “I don’t think you’re the person who originally made it up,” “you might believe it,” and so on and so forth — and that I recorded the call in question. More likely he simply doesn’t care; Chen was never constrained by facts at Gawker, and given that the editor who ran his 2013 piece in which he libels an imprisoned journalist without even pretending to provide evidence is none other that John Cook, who went on to become The Intercept’s first editor, it’s pretty clear what the score is in the current press environment. And if his longtime employers at The New Yorker were really bothered about these sorts of ethical discrepancies, they presumably wouldn’t have spent several years running articles by a guy who a few years back denounced Anonymous in a book review without seeing fit to disclose that he’d once tried to buy stolen documents from a couple of its more prominent hackers, and even placed a shoe upon his own head at their request in a vastly pathetic attempt to get those documents — documents which, to add injury to insult, turned out not to have ever existed. I don’t think Chen was the one who originally made them up, mind you; he might have believed in them.
Adrian Chen has now written for The New Yorker, The Nation, New York Magazine, and The New York Times. His sole Nation piece is a review of a book about Anonymous which he considers too positive because it references things like its early and forceful support for the democratic revolution in Tunisia, or the thwarting of Team Themis and crowd-sourced investigation into the remaining HBGary emails. He focuses instead on what’s really important about Anonymous, such as the story he wrote for Gawker “about how Anonymous had harassed an 11-year-old girl into police protection ‘for the lulz’ after she had recorded a YouTube video that annoyed them. Even as Anonymous has evolved into its current do-gooder phase, the mischief and deviance of lulz remains an important cultural lodestar.”
Now, if we do something that The Nation’s editor didn’t bother to do and actually read the article Chen describes as so crucial to our full understanding, we may be surprised to find that Chen has lied, and that his very own account does not say anything about Anonymous, but rather attributes this important event to “the internet” (As in the title, “How the Internet Beat Up an 11-Year-Old Girl”), and again “the internet” (“ But sometimes the Internet beats up on an 11-year-old girl, posting her address, phone number and making her cry. Bad.”) and then proceeds into similarly affecting prose in which he lists various other responsible parties, including Tumblr, 4chan.org, its “random board” /b/, and Boing Boing. The activist strain of Anonymous under discussion had long before migrated to the IRC networks where Chen would pay us such frequent visits in the months after he wrote this post — and was always referred to as Anonymous, and not by 4chan or any other term, in Gawker itself, and by Chen.
So it turns out that Anonymous was not at all involved in this girl’s public humiliation, unlike Chen himself: “Here is the video you may have seen of 11 year-old Jessi Slaughter (not her real name) and her dad freaking out,” he announces, and then, after we are done watching a girl freak out and perhaps sending it to our friends, Chen resumes his duties as master of ceremonies, if not of prose: “It’s funny! But we’re left wondering, what happened?” Thereafter he helpfully provides a list of various memes that have emerged from the incident surrounding the girl whom Chen calls an “unfortunate microcelebrity among Internet tween scenesters”.
This isn’t the only bizarre fabrication in Chen’s The Nation piece. But it’s one more fabrication than I should have had to dig up in an article that ran in one of America’s oldest and most prestigious magazines, especially given that the end result is to cast those of us who were facing sentencing over our involvement with Anonymous as the sort of people who engage in the mockery of young girls — people like Chen.