A Tree Falls In The Forest …

Sabu Masked

Sabu Masked

To paraphrase the old Buddhist koan, “When Sabu shoots himself in the head, alone in the desert, will anyone care?”  What, for that matter, about the copper who turned him?

By now every one’s read at an account of how an influential member of the hacktivest collective Lulzsec was co-opted by American “law enforcement” to incite his fellow members into incriminating behavior for which they may now spend the rest of their natural lives behind bars.

Some of these stories have focused on local interest of individual participants in the drama.  Others have investigated the nature of hacker culture.  Still others on the legal problems presented by the apparently classic “entrapment” strategy used by the FBI.  But to date I have yet to see one discuss at any length the operation here of the deeper psycho/social dynamic that underlies the the self-concept of both Lulzsec and police forces.

This seems very odd to me, almost as if there were a deliberate conspiracy of stupidity to ignore the single most salient point of the whole affair.  Then again, my particular family history could be expected to make me preternaturally sensitive to issues of communal solidarity and order.

Continued at Dystopia Diaries

Latest posts by Liam McGonagle (see all)

19 Comments on "A Tree Falls In The Forest …"

  1. TedHeistman | Mar 12, 2012 at 4:02 pm |

    Isn’t that how “counter terrorism” works?

    • Oneloveinus | Mar 12, 2012 at 5:49 pm |

      “Counter” “counter terrorism” or just the good ole fashioned “counter terrorism”…?…I’m still trying to figure out…who’s the good guy?….bad guy?…. In a sense all three…four…five groups…depicted here are the bad guy…bad guy elite people which one group of bad guys is trying to expose for being bad…..the police bad guys who work for the elite bad guys who are trying to catch the bad guys trying to expose the bad guy elite people…..the bad guy elite people in particular..the bad guy exposing elite people guys…and the bad guy underlings who need the police bad guys to make sure they don’t do anything bad….or…..is everyone here…the good guy?..each fulfilling their own self determination for what they feel is good…..for someone thus making it good for themselves………or is there no good and bad just stupid and stupider……..

    • Liam_McGonagle | Mar 12, 2012 at 6:04 pm |

      It’s definitely how counterTERRORISM is “conducted”.  But I don’t think that it can be said to actually “work”–at least not in the sense of quelling insurrection.

      I guess I just wanted to place a little needed emphasis on the ignorant futility and dehumanising horror attending these policing cock-ups.

      No, it’s not particularly likely to have a great influence police policy, even in the long run.  But it might just possibly provide some useful perspective for budding mythologists.  Every political movement has a mythology, be it establishment or anti-establishment. 

      The establishment, if they have a realistic bone in their bodies, will make serious efforts at dispassionately guaging the winds and making realistic accomodation–that means leaving face-saving space to allow their counterparts to negotiate.  On something reasonably resembling their own terms.

      Assuming that the establishment are deluded fools who actually believe they will be the one regime in all of recorded history to escape the obvious consequences of their follies, they will be consigned to a miserable oblivion, a la those 19th century examples I cited.  That’s tragic in its own way, since they apparently held more than enough bargaining options to avoid a protracted conflict and ignominious decline.

      But there’s no guarantee that the opposition will wise up any faster.  Historical precedent is rather for the creation of a correspondingly cartoonish “counter-myth” that reduces the players into overly simplified set roles that will prove almost equally counter-productive as those of the establishment.  If the mythmakers of the opposition are not wise, they will only end up creating a horrific system of self-perpetuating conflict.

      I’m a little hopeful about this.  I think the hacktivest thing is transparently about more universal, non-tribal themes like knowledge and resource sharing than the nationalist precedents that I cited.  But still I worry.  So I thought I’d write a piece that highlighted the common victimhood of all the players.

      Clearly not all the players are equal in the degree of their victimhood, but in a culture, like ours, revolving around accruate processing of mass volumes of complex information, it will never do to reductively place some in the “sheep” bin and others in the “goat” bin.

      • TedHeistman | Mar 12, 2012 at 6:15 pm |

        What is need are “oblique strategies for ambient journalism”


        The idea is that there are all these people posting stuff for free online and most of these people haver a “communitarian” bias, if not an egalitarian bias.

        So what is needed is for the rich moneyed interests, the Securities traders, the Military Intelligence Strategists, to subtly subvert  and comodify this “ambient” journalism” to its own ends. It needs to be done in an “oblique” way.

        • Liam_McGonagle | Mar 12, 2012 at 6:27 pm |

          Thanks.  Book marked.

          I’ll have to chew on how the establishment may attempt to refine their strategies.  My sense is that their options are kind of limited to pretty crude stuff like these “deterrent” prosecutions or impossibly heavy handed lockouts a la SOPA.  But maybe I’m just not imaginative enough.

          Undoubtedly they will attempt to subvert through propaganda outlets. It seems cost-effective enough on the surface, even for a viciously bottom-line sort of bottom feeder. But regimes have been doing this stuff for thousands of years, and it’s pretty hard to come up something that isn’t transparent bullsh*t to any audience worth trying to convince.

          Maybe there are more devious forms of datamining and virus introduction coming down the pike.  That could be more effective than this 19th century sh*t they pulled off with Sabu.

          • TedHeistman | Mar 12, 2012 at 6:49 pm |

            Well, I have concluded it all comes down to belief in God. Do you want to believe in God, or Gaia, or your fellow Humanity, or Justice, or some thing higher than yourself or do you want to “deify” your ego?

            If you want to deify your ego, then basically you have to sling some big vampiric sucking web of exploitation and influence. That what the high level players do. Everyone further down the chain of command is expendable, even when they work together.

            So yeah, there are more devious forms and if you want to learn about them study those links I posted to Alex Burns, former editor of Disinformation. And look into his relationship to Micheal Aquino, and try to figure out why he chose to go into “Conter Terrorism” and also Trading just like his mentor and ask yourself where in the web are sites like Disinformation.

      • TedHeistman | Mar 12, 2012 at 6:21 pm |

        Elite Psychopaths aren’t pro-establishment IMO. The establishment is for “authoritarian Personality” types. their the ones who serve it and not elites.

        Elite Psychopaths, “extreme individuals” see “the establsihment” for what it is. A machine. But they don’t “rage against it” they employ the machine for their own ends namely power and riches.

        These powerful elites aren’t neccesarily against destroying institutions. And they aren’t against manipulating anarachists to do it.  

  2. TedHeistman | Mar 12, 2012 at 5:04 pm |



  3. Hadrian999 | Mar 12, 2012 at 6:12 pm |

    I  have been saying for a while that anyone engaged in any kind of activism needs to expect this kind of attack and work out ways to minimize it. things like this go all the way down to local police departments

    • Liam_McGonagle | Mar 12, 2012 at 6:15 pm |

      There’ve been tons of “handbooks” out there to that effect for centuries.

      I’m just kinda/sorta fearful that the ones contemporary activists pick up neglect the unique character of this conflict–which is transnational, overtly class-based and non-tribal.

      • Hadrian999 | Mar 12, 2012 at 6:23 pm |

         a major problem is that the people who are likely to be drawn to activism are also very easy to “turn out” you really have to look at it the same way the government and military conduct counter espionage and not use people who ,through their lifestyle and choices, are too vulnerable to being turned by law enforcement. even then it’s still possible that someone will turn on the group for cash.

      • Jin The Ninja | Mar 12, 2012 at 6:31 pm |

        i totally agree… personally, i think it’s about reading the ‘whole/holistic’ history of activism, and understanding the specific ‘components’ of it, and why it worked (then). like understanding ethnic nationalism in an anti colonial context, or populism vs progressivism in the 1930s union riots. you can’t be singular in your understanding of it. i think the people interested now, are realising that. during the olympics here (north of the border) a lot of anarchists/activists allied with native canadians on protesting not only the games, but also the land rights and environmental issues involved. this kind of trans-cultural exchange is what is needed to really create a multi faceted resistance.

  4. justagirl | Mar 12, 2012 at 7:50 pm |

    hmm that’s a shame.

  5. Hah, he’s wearing a Defcon shirt 🙂

  6. TedHeistman | Mar 13, 2012 at 10:51 am |

    Alex Burns is apparently reading this discussion with interest. He doesn’t seem to want to join the discussion however.

    He expressed to me  that since he is on the record as being skeptical of the George Bush administration’s Global War on Terror, he is still a bonifide counter cultural hipster.

    So my questions to him are:

    Who are the “real” terrorists?
    Why have you made it your life’s mission to “counter” them?
    (I mean seriously 3 advanced degrees on counter terrorism?)
    What role did/does Disinfo play as an intelligence gathering tool, recruiting tool in fighting the “real” terrorists?  

    • Liam_McGonagle | Mar 13, 2012 at 4:06 pm |

      I appreciate the background info, and it’s worth thinking about.But I’m a little wary of jumping the gun too much here myself.  I just don’t see how mere fact of studying information relevant to counter-terrorism must necessarily imply active participation in it.  I’ve studied lots of things I don’t personally advocate.

      I’m totally lost at sea with regard to the Michael Aquino thing, too.  It is a disturbing case, and Aquino does NOT make a totally unambiguous and sympathetic character, no doubt about it.  But again, I’m not sure how exploring the possibility of his innocence with respect to one particular set of crimes stains the character of Burns.There’s a lot of information here, and I am reluctant to draw too firm a conclusion on such slight acquaintance.

      It is also my understanding that many professional writers consider it one pillar of their ethical conduct to avoid the possibility of getting involved in tit-for-tat exchanges on internet forums.  Apart from the circular nature of some of these discussions, some writers consider it an abuse of the priviledge they derive from such prominent placement. 

      I myself often refrain from responding to very good, valid comments to my amateur/irregular postings here for the same reason.  This time I chose to because this article was really just a philosophical conversation starter, or request for information, not a real research driven piece.

      I appreciate the input–great stuff to know.  But I consider myself still a seeker, without having drawn very solid conclusions.

      • TedHeistman | Mar 13, 2012 at 6:33 pm |


        OK. Well to me this link here gives some insight into how disinformation works:


        He just “happened” to review this book, in which his mentor Aquino was engaged in a law suit with the author. He fails to mention that. Basically he just posts a bunch of propoganda about Satanic Ritual Abuse, which is party line stuff from the debunker organization “the False Memory Syndrome Association” which is loaded with pedophiles, who have gone on the record as saying “Sex with Children is “god’s will” and crap like that. All these people from weird cults.

        That’s disinformation. He’s a propogandist pure and simple. And thinking back there’s been some fishy shit too in the Disinformation books. “Everything you know about sex is wrong” for example had a sketchy article about how the presumed sexual innocence of children is socially constructed just like with Victorian Woman, years ago.

        Its pretty fucking sketchy in light of this other stuff I have uncovered. And by the way Aquino was implicated in 4 child abuse cases not just one.

Comments are closed.