Der Spiegel CitesAndy Ngo’s “Race-Scientist” Editor to Libel Me. As the CEO of Antifa, I really must object

Barrett Brown
17 min readMay 27, 2020
It’s always something with these goddamn barbarians.

Europe’s most widely-circulated news magazine, Der Spiegel, has an article up entitled “The Man Behind the Mask” that I was curious to read since it turns out to be about me. And to judge from the sub-headline, I’ve really let myself go:

Journalist Barrett Brown supported the hacker collective Anonymous and was jailed for it. Today he spreads conspiracy theories.

These two statements do not do each other much credit when considered one right after the other, but the article itself begins with pleasingly high-flown prose that does credit to the majesty of the subject.

The past decade was one of the young men. Many of them were invisible, only a few made it to world fame. But they were powerful and still are today. These young men have grown with and through technology, and as a result have become influential. In the nineties the internet was their playground. Later, it became their weapon. A weapon they used to shake up governments, torpedo corporations or simply expose their ex-girlfriends. One of these young men who owe their rise and later their fall to the net is called Barrett Brown.

If you’re worried that we’re perhaps heading into some boring policy-paper inquiry regarding which governments were shaken up and how this could perhaps be replicated so as to reverse the authoritarian trends of the last five years, I’ve got good news: such articles do not exist. This is a Barrett Brown Personality Assessment, a genre of investigative journalism that, in contrast, has flourished in the past decade.

The most authoritative of these remains the 2018 NPR broadcast in which the nation was asked to ponder, “Is Brown a hero or a villain?” after I’d been neatly summarized as follows: “Barrett Brown is a criminal who has actually helped inspire art — the TV show Mr. Robot”. Since this is technically true, it might as well be relevant: The protagonist of the program in question “is a drug addict who can’t access his own emotions. Sound familiar?” If you agree that it does, then you’ll no doubt be alarmed to learn that the television character “leads a group called fsociety that takes down the world’s largest corporation — erasing everyone’s debt. Chaos erupts.” In case this is too subtle, the headline of the web version reads, “An Anarchist Explains How Hackers Could Cause Global Chaos”; much of the rest deals with the non-profit I founded in 2017 to build a platform for mass civic engagement but which NPR reporter Laura Sydell told the country was a clearinghouse for “recruiting hackers”, prompting a visit from my probation officer that ended when I showed him the emails between Sydell and I that make it abundantly clear she knows this to be false. But then I understand why people might be reluctant to trust me ever since a composite character based largely on my colleague Gregg Housh did a series of things that Sam Esmail made Christian Slater force him to engage in while I was in prison doing normal prison stuff and not bothering anybody in any of these other universes.

“Anonymous ‘Leader’ Quits. Is Barrett Brown the Next Julian Assange?” asked Radio Free Europe, an official organ of the United States government, back in May 2011. “He seems to be styling himself as the next Julian Assange”, author Luke Allnut explains, sort of, before going on to do this himself: it turns out I have “clear parallels with Assange”, of which the first to be listed is “a broken home”.

Let’s return to Der Spiegel, which has done its part to help keep the genre fresh and exciting:

Brown, born in 1981, is actually a freelance journalist. But the impact he was able to achieve as a reporter was obviously not enough for him.

What’s meant here is that I’ve explained that the impact I was able to achieve as a reporter was not enough for me in interviews and documentaries and public lectures over and over again since people first began asking why I gave up on journalism and joined a bandit insurgency in the opening days of the Tunisian revolution, and now the author is presenting this as some sort of proprietary insight.

At the beginning of the decade he allied himself with Anonymous and publicly supported the hacker network and its attacks. He was the face of a movement that wanted to remain anonymous and drew its power from the fact that its members hid behind a mask.

During World War II, Japanese and Allied soldiers deployed to Pacific islands among tribesman with little knowledge of the outside world would observe the locals constructing crude airstrips and speaking into radio receivers they’d made from coconuts and otherwise imitating what they’d determined to be the sole steps required in order to compel a cargo plane to land. More recently, a reporter for Der Spiegel proclaimed that Anonymous derived its power from the wearing of plastic masks.

Men like Julian Assange or Edward Snowden gave the resistance from the net a face because they made government secrets public and proved mass surveillance and human rights violations of the US government. Brown was the face of a hacker movement dedicated to anarchy, the fight against everything that even tasted of power.

This is certainly a unique take on what separates me from Assange and Snowden, so let’s try to come back to it a bit later. As to whether Anonymous itself was inherently dedicated to anarchism or perceived as such, here’s a picture of Polish members of parliament in the act of either signaling their allegiance to the Anarchist International and preparing for ritual suicide, or alternatively saluting Anonymous for its key role in marshalling the successful opposition to SOPA legislation using democratic traditions of civil disobediance and protest. All we can know for sure is that they gained the power to introduce legislation by wearing plastic masks.

But none of this matters because the reporter has suddenly decided on a new and wholly incompatible definition of Anonymous that will be made available to us in the very next sentence, for no doubt our thirst for slapdash feature writing pseudo-analysis has yet to be fully quenched:

Anonymous was supposed to be a movement open to all those who had the technology to do so. Their last major action was a while back, but over the past decade anonymous members have regularly made front pages and been featured in news programs. The collective, a loose association of hackers, crippled websites, mostly for political reasons. Their targets in the past included the Church of Scientology, but also the credit card company Master Card [sic], the media conglomerate Sony and the government of Zimbabwe.

Whether it was comprised of anarchist vanguard revolutionaries or just hackers or everyone with a modem or some sort of thing where they’re all in a shared dream, we may safely assume that the point has been made, and anyway it’s time to explain what it is that whoever these people turn out to be might very well firmly believe in and why this may or may not be the case:

The distinctive mark of Anonymous is a mask of the English officer Guy Fawkes, a Catholic who, together with co-conspirators, tried to blow up the English parliament in 1605. The symbol contains two messages. First: the powerful are the enemy. Second: we are all equal because we hide behind the same mask — there is no leader. Hackers and net activists rejected hierarchies and propagated anarchy and egalitarianism.

What actually happened was that a group of five people operating in a chat channel called #Marblecake, having recruited thousands of volunteers from the video they made declaring a campaign against Scientology, and having decided the best way to make use of them would be to organize a wave of protests outside of Church branch locations around the world, had Gregg Housh check around online to see whether there was any particular type of mask that was widely available enough to serve as a makeshift uniform in addition to the chief and original function of protecting protesters’ identities from Scientologists. Warner Bros. had manufactured untold numbers of Guy Fawkes masks for the release of V for Vendetta, and so this was what was selected. But I’m sure we’re all grateful to the Chevalair Ramsay here for this more edifying version, particularly if we’re anthropologists.

In the end, they failed at what they actually wanted to fight: The desire for power of men.

You can only hide behind a mask so long before the sensation of sheer, uncontested power becomes so overwhelming that you lose sight of the arbitrary goal that’s been attributed to you after the fact by a random freelancer.

Julian Assange is a good symbol of this: once a celebrated whistleblower, his companions also describe him as a narcissist with star airs and graces, and his platform Wikileaks as a stooge for Russia.

I’ll simply interject here that Assange’s own companions do not actually describe Wikileaks “as a stooge for Russia” and that reporter Alexandra Rojkov will prove incapable of actually citing any such person saying any such thing if she ever finds herself in some alternate universe where Der Spiegel’s editors would think to check.

But Assange is not the only net activist caught up in his ego. Less well-known, but no less significant, is the story of Barrett Brown.

It turns out that the story of Barrett Brown is so well-known that there are several contradictory versions for us to choose from Der Spiegel alone. One 2014 update is headlined “Barrett Brown doesn’t have to go to prison after all”; perhaps there was some confusion due to the just-released second season of House of Cards, wherein another character modeled after Gregg Housh — the hacker Gavin — demands that “all Barrett Brown’s charges are dropped” as part of a deal to assist the Kevin Spacey faction with some black ops. Not that I’d ever seriously accuse a major outlet of confusing a fictional variation on our adventures with reality, as that hasn’t happened for several paragraphs.

Brown’s role in Anonymous was contradictory: on the one hand, he stressed that the movement had no leader, so no one could speak for the group. On the other hand, he willingly gave interviews to journalists. For a time, Brown acted as an unofficial spokesperson for the collective. He publicly rejected any form of domination, but at the same time he acted as if he himself ruled over the hackers.

That’s the first time I’ve seen anyone suggest such a thing, but in the reporter’s defense, most everything from here consists of rewordings of other articles such that one must also blame the reporters whose work she’s paraphrasing, the key exception being the three instances where she cites something specific enough for us to check on what it is and determine that it’s been thoroughly misrepresented, as we’ll see.

Where no one rules by virtue of his office or origin, the strongest always prevails. In most cases, these are young men — just like the ones who had joined together in Anonymous. The hackers were always looking for new, more indiscriminate targets. They soon stopped using their power for good, and started using it for what they thought was good.

What a twist it would have been had it turned out that what they thought was good was merely what they thought was good the whole time!

In winter 2011, Anonymous activists attacked the US company Stratfor. Stratfor is an information service to which the US Department of Defense, among others, subscribed. Anonymous released tens of thousands of credit card details of Stratfor customers and used the stolen information to make donations to aid organizations.

Fun fact: the federal government’s own discovery files from the prosecution of my old colleague, Jeremy Hammond, show quite plainly that the Stratfor breach had begun at least several days before it was passed on to Hammond and others in the Antisec hacker crew by Hector “Sabu” Monsegur — Antisec’s de facto leader who’d been identified and turned by the FBI the previous July, when he was issued a bureau laptop and ongoing orders over the course of an undercover “law enforcement” operation that continued until Monsegur’s status was made known by the FBI itself on March 6, 2012 in a Fox News exclusive that came out about an hour after I was first raided. Hammond is still in prison over it, because the US government has him and Chelsea Manning in permanent detention at a Virginia Bureau of Prisons facility until they talk to a grand jury about Wikileaks, which neither will.

But the victims were not only those who had received payment data from official agencies.

This would appear from the context to refer to customers whose credit card info was stolen from a private firm they’d given payment data to, as Rojkov herself had managed to correctly explain a paragraph back before inexplicably providing this entirely different account that seems to have been just sort of thrown together from other elements of the larger story. Now might be a good time to remind everyone that outlets like Der Spiegel have highly-paid editors and that they’re the very same class of people who decide the vast majority of what citizens of highly complex post-industrial national powers are told about the life-and-death matters their governments take a hand in, and that you yourself either understand why this is significant and must ultimately be brought to widespread attention and decisively corrected, or you’re part of a problem that has manifested with such things as the Iraq War or the ongoing genocide in Yemen.

Journalists and private individuals were also victims of the hack. Anonymous, which actually wanted to oppose the arbitrariness of the powerful, suddenly abused its power itself. And like many powerful people, the collective found it difficult to admit its mistake. In a statement after the hack, Barrett Brown criticized the media in particular: Allegedly they ignored the true goal of the hack, the honorable fight against the authorities.

The statement in question, which was distributed by Wikileaks, actually noted the “true goal” of the hack to have been “to obtain the 2.7 million e-mails that exist on the firm’s servers” — which it was from the standpoint of those of us not operating on behalf of the FBI and Stratfor. I also stated in the very first sentence that the misuse of customer credit card numbers “should be scrutinized and criticized as necessary”, and I meant it even before it turned out that such scrutiny would necessarily come to rest upon the FBI. Those emails went to Wikileaks, which eventually made them public. As Der Spiegel itself noted in 2014 in one of the several prior articles that contradict this one but which all must be regarded as simultaneously true lest we conclude that there’s something fundamentally wrong with the press, those emails “also documented internal discussions on assassinations, discrediting journalists and weakening foreign governments”. Among the things documented soon afterwards as volunteers began looking through the contents was Stratfor’s work on behalf of Dow Chemical conducting surveillance against advocates of those killed and maimed in the Union Carbide disaster in Bhopal that killed thousands and injured at least half a million others. That’s pretty impressive for something Der Spiegel has now gone back to terming an “information service”, and whose principal executives are all former State Department, CIA, and FBI officials.

As soon as someone declares himself to be the leader or acts as such, he himself becomes the target of the attack.

As it happens, the FBI itself documented via its own search warrants that it began pursuing me six months before Stratfor occurred, in regards to Palantir and its partners HBGary Federal and Endgame Systems and the various illicit secret programs I was involved in exposing and researching from February 2011 onwards. You can read about this on Wikileaks, which today hosts both the Stratfor and HBGary emails and summarizes my connection to both. Or you can go through this 2011 Der Spiegel article that summarizes my findings from a few days prior on the Romas/COIN program that brought together Apple, Google, and soon-to-be disgraced HBGary CEO Aaron Barr. I’m not credited by name, nor is my work on this easily discoverable since author Konrad Lischka has accidentally linked not to my Guardian piece announcing all this, but rather to another Guardian piece on an entirely different HBGary-linked secret project that my volunteers and I had investigated earlier that year, the automated social network bot technology known then as “persona management”, after its initial discovery by an editor at Raw Story. Hey, remember this?

Men like Julian Assange or Edward Snowden gave the resistance from the net a face because they made government secrets public and proved mass surveillance and human rights violations of the US government. Brown was the face of a hacker movement dedicated to anarchy, the fight against everything that even tasted of power.

If you want to know how haphazard is the manner in which our civilization deems certain people to be competent to explain things to everyone else, Google my name and spend three seconds looking at the results, and then think about the fact that this proved to be beyond the capabilities of Rojkov. This is all the more troubling given her elevation to Pope of Journalism:

But he was not a martyr. The only German journalist who was allowed to visit Brown in prison describes him as a weird, disagreeable person.

Why a single German’s paraphrased impression should have any bearing on whether or not someone should be considered a “martyr” is left to the imagination of everyone aside from the editor that considered all this publishable. But it doesn’t matter anyway since the reporter alluded to, Jan Ludwig, does not seem to have described me in any sort of manner that could make this claim appear true, much less relevant to the question. Indeed, there’s little in his article that doesn’t contradict the one under discussion: “Until he was arrested, Brown worked as a journalist and author. When Edward Snowden was still earning his money in Hawaii, Brown was already doing research on government surveillance… Since [the Manning arrest] America has been at war with all those who reveal or investigate secret information. Like Barrett Brown.”

This, seriously, is the reporter Der Spiegel has cited on why all must be aware that Barrett Brown is no martyr, and certainly not a legitimate whistleblower like Edward Snowden who’s put out proof of government surveillance.

But then whether I’m a martyr isn’t just attributable to how Ludwig described my personality and whether or not the author can be relied upon to convey this. She rests her case, reasonably enough, with a summary of how I spend my time:

After Brown was released from prison at the end of 2016, he distributed crude videos, conspiracy theories and apparently harassed women on Twitter.

I hadn’t had a chance to see this line or much else aside from the bizarre subtitle about my spreading of “conspiracy theories” when I first reached out to ask for examples and guidance:

Upon getting a translated and paywall-liberated copy, I again undertook the formality of asking for evidence to support a claim that would end my career to the extent it was believed.

Here’s a key excerpt from David Gilmore’s Daily Dot article on the incident in question, which has the advantage of actually showing what was claimed, and by who, and about what:

Details, details!

Soon, “Now he spreads conspiracy theories” was replaced in the subtitle with “Now he distributes crude videos”, and the line from which both derive was changed to the following:

After Brown’s release in late 2016, he distributed crude videos, a woman accused him on Twitter of harassing other women, which he denies.

Would it have killed these Hun grifters to throw an “and” in there? I mean Jesus Christ.

The last time Der Spiegel announced my downfall was in 2012. “He still speaks for Anonymous — hardly anyone listens to him anymore,” Carolin Wiedemann wrote then, two months after the FBI raided me with a search warrant listing Palantir partners HBGary and Endgame Systems along with Project PM’s website as subjects for search, and a month after early Project PM participant Michael Hastings published that search warrant in Buzzfeed. We may leave it to Rojkov and Wiedemann to sort out which one of their two polar opposite Der Spiegel claims of whether I spoke for Anonymous is the correct one.

Incidentally, the person Der Spiegel now cites as having accused me of “harassing women” is Quillette editor Claire Lehmann, a close associate of Thiel Capital CEO Eric Weinstein and regular defender of Thiel himself. Here is her “accusation”, made a few minutes after I asked for information on a still-obscure Thiel employee, Riva Tez.

Lehmann may be best known for accusing an Associated Press reporter of ties to Antifa because he once stood next to a protester who was wearing a certain sort of glove, and of publishing similar material by people like Andy Ngo, as detailed by the Columbia Journalism Review in this article entitled “Right-wing publications launder an anti-journalist smear campaign”. Lehmann is somewhat less well-known for her history of advocating the “human biodiversity movement”. If you’re wondering what the “human biodiversity movement” is and why Lehmann’s old posts on it have since been deleted, Donna Minkowitz may perhaps offer an answer: it’s “a euphemistic name for a campaign to advance scientific racism launched in 1996 by Steve Sailer, a blogger for the white supremacist website VDare.”

I will say this just once to the German outlet Der Spiegel and its German editors and German publishers and German advertisers: This affair can end in any number of ways, but it will not end with me publicly abandoning the subject before a German has been fired.

As I’ve informed the board of directors of my non-profit, Pursuance, I’m shutting down the project until such time as I have any reason to believe that it will prove any less vulnerable to the whims and incompetence of the Western press corps than did Project PM, which was eventually denounced as a “criminal organization” by the DOJ as the FBI investigated dozens of people for nothing more than contributing to the wiki I maintained detailing misconduct by the military-intelligence community in both their public and privatized forms, or because they donated $50 to my legal fund.

Between this, my banning from Twitter that makes much of my work impossible, and effective ongoing suspensions from Facebook for undisclosed reasons on the eve of the publication of my memoirs that includes material on both firms; the $800,000 judgment the DOJ has actively been collecting from my publishers on behalf of Stratfor over its defrauding of its own customers in cooperation with the FBI; the bomb threat over my work and subsequent Dallas police cover-up and press silence after my public fight with cop union president Mike Mata and Dallas Morning News editor Mike Wilson over the Botham Jean shooting; and the Tarrant County DA office’s recent surveillance of my Facebook page and comments made by its users over my role in publicizing Arlington PD bodycam footage of their officers watching Treshun Martin bleed to death in a parking lot — plus much else that has proven less newsworthy than whether I can “access my motions” — I simply don’t see a viable way forward for any project associated with me until such time as the difficulties we already faced in creating a secure framework for large-scale civic engagement and crowd-sourced journalism are not further compounded by amoral mediocre yuppie media trash.

The good news is that the problem of a press corps that protects each other from the consequences of their failures as if they were cops is actually quite close to being solved, at least insofar as it impacts me and the 2700 individuals and entities that have signed up to participate in Pursuance. After having been the subject of several hundred articles between 2011 and 2019, I had a remarkably steep drop-off in notoriety that began about a year ago, around the time I resumed my traditional career focus on media criticism, now with the advantage of having several hundred articles on hand regarding a subject on which I am the world’s premier expert, and on which the actual truth is in fact quite well documented, in part via FBI surveillance entered into the record by the DOJ, which has been kind enough to act as my notary public over the years.

Speaking of discovery files, here we have months of correspondence between FBI cooperator Hector “Sabu” Monsegur and New York Times/The Nation/New Yorker contributor Adrian Chen, compiled and verified by the same DOJ that it suddenly occurs to me forgot to indict him for trying to purchase stolen emails I was prosecuted for linking to in a chat room used by my volunteers.

Pursuance will resume its work later this year, funded via libel suits.