Quinn Norton’s Review of Parmy Olson’s “We Are Anonymous”

June 13, 2012 § Leave a comment

This morning Quinn Norton published a review of Parmy Olson’s contribution to the growing library of Anonshit. The review is…….not positive. Per Norton, Olson’s account is intellectually, technologically and journalistically lazy — a quality informed/exacerbated by Olson’s willingness to give full credence to a small handful of professed liars.  In short, Olson does it very wrong, and wrong in ways that ultimately render her account meaningless. There are not enough emoticon winces in the world to convey the OUCH.

Some high -(low?)- lights:

Olson’s technical explanations are stilted, forced, and repetitive. Written in the kludgy language of a non-native speaker who is not particularly interested in the language she’s speaking, they are her weakest point in laying out the landscape of Anonymous (or even Lulzsec). A DDoS attack is flooding a target with junk traffic, 15 men trying to get through a revolving door at the same time, and a flood of visitors — all in the space of a single paragraph in chapter 5.

This kind of journalism is fundamentally disrespectful of technical culture. Like British pop stars singing about being African children, it appropriates and discards the culture as if it were an object. It’s where the idea that all hackers are teenage basement dwellers comes from and it’s a frustrating disservice to an increasingly diverse community that often faces not just social alienation, but prosecution from the US government, and sometimes much worse elsewhere.

We’re all on deadlines, and dealing with tighter budgets and more demands in journalism, but after a point, negligence slips over the line into exploitation. We’re getting it wrong and not caring as long as it draws in readers.

From within Anonymous’s sea of voices, all experimenting with new ways of being in the world, the only voices in Olson’s book are those of the small groups of hackers who stole the limelight from a legion, defied their values, and crashed violently into the law. It was a mediagenic story to be sure, but in the end, it turns out to be not the real story of Anonymous, and not a story with any real meaning.

Full review here, it’s worth the read.

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