My Hacker, My Source, My Snitch

Gabriella Coleman on Medium:

1-cK4e7bfrzUe7dH0SpWBRggFor six years I have been studying the protest ensemble Anonymous. Some challenges come with the job. By definition, Anonymous is a faceless collective. As many participants in this milieu conceal their identities carefully, it was impossible to tell who lay behind the mask.

Nevertheless, since most Anons engaged with each other using pseudonymous nicknames, I interacted with a stable cast of characters on the chat channels where I did the great bulk of my ethnographic research on Anonymous. People developed reputations, and their personalities and linguistic idiosyncrasies shone through their text-based conversations.

But Sabu was unique.

Even before his name, picture, and the details of his life were splattered on a FOX news article/website on March 6, 2012 — the day the bombshell news was released that this charismatic figure was working as an informant for the FBI — Hector Monsegur, better known as “Sabu,” clearly stood out. Both on Twitter and during chat conversations, Sabu exuded a sort of defiant and revolutionary attitude. His calls for people to rise up were routinely directed towards his “brothers” and “sisters.” He would liberally pepper his conversation with the word “nigger”; and while the term is popular among Internet trolls, Sabu used it without even a trace of irony or knowing political incorrectness. Rather than a rich, alienated, white, basement-dwelling teen, Sabu sounded like a street-hardened brother. Was it possible that his alienation and anger were borne not of middle-class anomie, but instead of poverty and racial marginalization?

The answer turned out to be a definitive yes.

Read the rest here.