Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy

  • by Gabriella Coleman
  • Narrated by Tavia Gilbert
  • 13 hrs and 39 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Here is the ultimate book on the worldwide movement of hackers, pranksters, and activists that operates under the non-name Anonymous, by the writer the Huffington Post says "knows all of [Anonymous's] deepest, darkest secrets."
Half a dozen years ago, anthropologist Gabriella Coleman set out to study the rise of this global phenomenon just as some of its members were turning to political protest and dangerous disruption. She ended up becoming so closely connected to Anonymous that the tricky story of her inside-outside status as Anon confidante, interpreter, and erstwhile mouthpiece forms one of the themes of this witty and entirely engrossing book. The narrative brims with details unearthed from within a notoriously mysterious subculture, whose semi-legendary tricksters - such as Topiary, tflow, Anachaos, and Sabu - emerge as complex, diverse, politically and culturally sophisticated people. Propelled by years of chats and encounters with a multitude of hackers, Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy is filled with insights into the meaning of digital activism and little-understood facets of culture in the Internet age.

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What the Critics Say

"A consistently fascinating ethnography...An intensive, potent profile of contemporary digital activism at its most unsettling - and most effective." (Kirkus)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

A Bit like Listening to a Police Scanner

​Disclosure: I still had an hour or two to go, but I just can't... For most of the book, I've been trying to hold on for the good part. So in this review, I'm going to try to warn off others who might share my tastes, while leaving open the possibility that others may see things differently. Okay? Here goes...​​

First of all, the book is rife with things that I guess all fall under the rubric of cyber addresses. If I were reading, I'd breeze past them. In an audio book, they all have to be read aloud. Maybe these strings of numbers and symbols are meaningful to some people. To me it was like someone reading serial numbers off the back of discarded electronics.

Maybe there aren't as many as it seems (hundreds? maybe thousands?), but I felt like I was frequently checking out, waiting for the natural language to start again. The reader does a good job getting through them without much delay, but she's still got to read them and it takes time.

Then as a story I couldn't really care about these people and I did try. It's most definitely not Mr. Robot or the hacking subplot in House of Cards, which are probably totally unrealistic. What do I know?... except that they kept my attention.

We rarely find out what personally motivates these people we hear from, so it was really hard for me to identify with them, to love them or to despise them. (I do fear them. Many times in drafting this review, I've written and deleted confessions that I fear these people will come after me for having written any kind of honest review at all. I guess in the end I have to trust they really do value freedom of expression.) We learn that some are motivated by lols, and that the prankster is a recurrent mythical character, but why should these particular people be so motivated by mayhem? For another example, some of the hackers go ballistic when one of their group gives an interview and makes himself sound more important than he is... but WHY? Who cares? The world is full of blowhards. But what in these people's characters, experiences, histories makes this error so grievous? Is it the same motivation for each of them or are there idiosyncratic motivations? Unless I missed something, which is entirely possible, we never really learn that sort of thing. I'm not sure the author even knows.

Finally, there's a lot of rather tedious recounting of rudderless IR chats. It's the nature of leaderless organizations to be rudderless, I get it, but that doesn't make for interesting reading/listening ... not for me anyway.

Maybe the meaty anthropological analysis came right at the end, but for many hours it's like... well, in a lot of ways it's like listening to a police scanner. It's mostly just "stuff", especially if you aren't in-the-know already, and you hope something exciting will happen, but there's no guarantee.

I'm sure this book would appeal to some people, just like listening to a police scanner appeals to some people, but I just couldn't wait until I was liberated to go listen to something else.
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- J. E. JORDAN

Hard to Endure.

This is a great book. The stories and play by play is great. What makes it hard to listen to is her voice.
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- Ash T.

Book Details

  • Release Date: 01-31-2017
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio