Except he wasn’t.
The unofficial, self-proclaimed “leader of Anonymous” Barrett Brown was sentenced to 63 months in federal prison Wednesday. He faced more than a century in prison for a masochistic fistful charges, which included linking to leaked Stratfor documents that revealed a connection between the government and social network surveillance. But they dropped that charge, so what Brown is actually, really doing time for, as per his plea deal entered several months ago, is making videotaped threats against investigators working on his case, as though he were some kind of spoiled, two-bit mobster.
Do you remember this video?
“We don’t play all our hands like they do.” Proceeds to reveal his one and only, desperate hand.
Or did you forget that he wanted to “look into” federal agent Robert Smith’s kids while you were tripping over yourselves just to defend some hollow “hero” – an incompetent writer whose mediocre works you never bothered to read in the first place?
My biggest problem with the narrative on Twitter and in other places is the image the public now wants to give Brown, of being a persecuted journalist, a martyr of satire, a fighter for digital freedom, and as Assange would put it, a crusher of bastards with his own “Hunter S. Thompson style.” My instinct is that none of you, or perhaps very few, have actually read his work. It is weak writing and his arguments are often either so short sighted that they can’t seriously be considered, or so conspiratorial that they could never be verified, and yet they are self-centered as if the whole world was out to get, exclusively, him. Notice, however, that I said “arguments.” Brown rarely used facts, and when he did, he used them editorially, to support a broader argument rather than focusing on an event or change. So he wants to be a journalist, but he doesn’t want to do the work of journalism, and he doesn’t want to be Anonymous, in spite of claiming to lead the group, and he doesn’t want to be pinned with any crimes, but he wants to be seen as a martyr.
So before we get started, I would just like to point to my favorite line in Brown’s delusional, self-aggrandizing Wednesday address to U.S. District Judge Sam Lindsay, and then we’ll move on. Read on, as he uses his own spit as lube for the colossal ass-fucking he is about to take from the legal system. Brown neither stands by his actions, nor does he accept responsibility for them. Hilariously, Brown drops “logic bombs” in the hopes the court will excuse his behavior on the premise that law enforcement agencies do illegal shit, too. It’s a bold move, Cotton. Let’s see if it pays off.
First I will speak of regret. Like nearly all federal defendants, I hope to convince Your Honor that I sincerely regret some of the things that I have done. I don’t think anyone doubts that I regret quite a bit about my life including some of the things that brought me here today. Your Honor has the Acceptance of Responsibility document that my counsel submitted to you. Every word of it was sincere. The videos were idiotic, and although I made them in a manic state brought on by sudden withdrawal from Paxil and Suboxone, and while distraught over the threats to prosecute my mother, that’s still me in those YouTube clips talking nonsense about how the FBI would never take me alive. Likewise, I didn’t have the right to hide my files from the FBI during a lawful investigation, and I would’ve had a better chance of protecting my contacts in foreign countries if I had pursued the matter in the courts after the raid, rather than stupidly trying to hide those laptops in the kitchen cabinet as my mother and I did that morning. And with regard to the accessory after the fact charge relating to my efforts to redact sensitive emails after the Stratfor hack, I’ve explained to Your Honor that I do not want to be a hypocrite. If I criticize the government for breaking the law but then break the law myself in an effort to reveal their wrongdoing, I should expect to be punished just as I’ve called for the criminals at government-linked firms, like HBGary and Palantir, to be punished. When we start fighting crime by any means necessary, we become guilty of the same hypocrisy as law enforcement agencies throughout history that break the rules to get the villains, and so become villains themselves.
So here we go. Brown was incompetent in two areas: journalism and activism.
First of all, Brown’s writing sucked. He writes like he speaks: in long, unintelligible sentences. One would think that after using the comma so regularly, Brown might notice the period next to it, but it seems like he is allergic to the period. I constantly read that he wrote for Vanity Fair and The Onion. First of all, you don’t have to be particularly talented to write for The Onion’s online section, which is notoriously banal. And everything I’ve ever read by him sounds trite and juvenile, and everything just seems artlessly thrown together. I don’t see talent. I see someone trying to take a shortcut to stardom, and failing miserably at it. And I love it.
Mediocrity aside, Brown lost the way after he made the conscious decision (a time when he said he began to “care about people”) and broke the sacred rules of journalism by getting too involved in his fake internet movement, Anonymous. He misinterpreted Hunter S. Thompson’s hypersubjective style of news coverage to mean, “Go completely fucking sideways, connect hackers to stolen credit cards, and make threats against federal agents,” one man who really, really hopes you slip up and say the wrong thing, because he’s watching you. And he probably has watched Barrett since his time in Anonymous, where the two probably met, unbeknownst to Brown. Thompson, whose drug habits and speech patterns Brown likes to imitate, never got so involved in the Hell’s Angels that he became one of them, and he wrote the iconic book of their era. So he can do drugs like him and talk like him, but he can’t claim to be able to inject himself harmlessly into a narrative and yet he can’t write a decent story, either.
Secondly, Thompson didn’t just have attorneys, he deferred to them. Thompson never went on a video camera and said a bunch of crazy shit while coming down off anything, much less some synthetic opiate designed to get you off the junk because you were too weak to do it alone. You know who uses suboxone? Junkies who live in trailer parks and low-income neighborhoods, who can’t kick the habit because they’re surrounded by losers just like themselves. Losers like Anonymous, staffed by the feds and populated by 19-year-olds too stupid to know the difference between what’s good, and what reeks of try-hard fame-whoring.
And thirdly, the monstrous irony that I’m surprised no one has brought up yet, is that Brown blames suboxone, which is designed to help addicts be more normal, for supposedly causing this social media spinout. (and here’s the kicker!) When all along it was Anonymous, who are nobody’s friends – who I tried to tell Brown are composed of countless FBI agents – the group of people he thought he was helping are what ultimately brought him down. But all Brown could think to do in court Wednesday was blame suboxone for causing him to make threats. He should know better than anyone that suboxone doesn’t make you get antsy and violent. It mellows you out. You feel like you’re on pain pills, only you are not. So the courts didn’t buy it. But why would he think that they would?
Well, that is because Brown’s failure to maintain objectivity was, unfortunately, not his first problem. His stupidity runs deeper than one might think. His delusions of grandeur are probably the strongest and saddest characteristic of his that I immediately picked up on when we first spoke on the phone in May 2011. I could sense anger and hostility, immediately in his tone of voice when I asked him if he’d considered the possibility that federal agents also hang out in AnonOps IRC (which, didn’t Project PM reveal that they do?). And like some kind of Anonymous gatekeeper, Barrett told me, “You’re not Anonymous, sweetheart.” And said I couldn’t join. Not that I wanted to, but Barrett Brown told me on the phone that I could not join a leaderless movement, a group that literally anyone can join simply by declining to reveal their identity. And he said it in all seriousness, as if I were an immediate threat to what power he believed he might have in Anonymous, just because I asked questions that might run contrary to his plans of someday getting (and losing) a book deal through Amazon.
So, please, give me a fucking break on the #FreeBB and all that shit. Barrett Brown is a shit-stain on the digital underpinning of this new, hybrid society we’re building, and we don’t need some hillbilly bootlicker like him speaking for us on important matters of digital freedom. And if you don’t like what I have to say, then go copy-and-paste a link to some credit card numbers on IRC and enjoy your own hero’s welcome. We’ll be waiting for you with open arms, here at the chronicle.su on a free and open internet, which Brown did absolutely nothing to help create, and neither do you.