In her book, Olson notes blogger Adrian Chen from Gawker and his ability to detect nonsense. Chen first lambasted Anonymous in 2010 for its crude assault on an 11-year-old vlogger known as "Jessi Slaughter." Since then — to the dismay of many Anons including Brown, who has repeatedly condemned Gawker's coverage of his campaigns — Chen has kept his microscope up their ass. "Part of what made Anonymous were these outlandish threats, and half of the time they don't pan out," says Chen. "So much of it is trying to find what's real and what's not, but after following them, I realized there was no real reason to be afraid."
NETWORK. It's one thing to zero in on certain players in Anonymous. How one negotiates and interacts with them, however, is another story altogether. The key, according to those with the best access, is to find people who seem somewhat trustworthy, or who are at least willing to humor some occasional inquiries. According to Quinn Norton, a tech industry veteran and ace hacker correspondent for Wired, it's important to "make friends with these people and have them teach you." Norton says that once you have the info, then you can do the vetting. "I believe everything I'm told," she says, facetiously, "and only write what I can verify."
While networking is highly recommended, Norton warns that it's dangerous to trust Anons too much. In a mostly negative review of We Are Anonymous, the Wired writer worries: "To me the problem is that we don't know if the stories people are telling are true, and even though [Olson] says that [in the preface], it's in a book, and it's meant to be believed. Maybe it is all true, but I seriously doubt it. Why would people who lie as a performance art suddenly tell the truth for 400 pages? In an environment where no one signs their names to things, you have to explain why you came to believe the story that you're telling. Parmy took herself out of it, and I don't think that works for covering this."
YANETUT. By now, even the meticulously coiffed clowns on cable news understand the basic premise of Anonymous. Still those caricatures and respectable reporters alike tend to omit important technological aspects in their stories. Norton, who has observed hackers since the 1990s, says coverage has largely suffered as a result. "One of the reasons that tech journalism isn't very good right now is that it's really hard," she says. "There are very few reporters who can tell their editors that they need to take three weeks off to read up on manuals and documents."
Some mention of the operating technology, says Norton, "belongs in every story — even if it's never in the words." She stresses: "If you don't understand the technology, then you could never contextualize these actions correctly. Understanding how this works is the only way you can figure out which is the right story to tell. I feel like I'm delivering bad news to journalists by saying that, but if you were going to do political reporting, you'd have to understand how laws are made."
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