The term ‘whistleblower’ orginates from, of all places, Cap’n Crunch.
Specfically it’s a reference to the toy whistles ‘prizes’ that came with each box. Computer Programer John Draper realised that when these whistles were blown they would emit a noise at a frequency of 2600 hertz. This frequency was also coincidentally the same frequency as the signal used by AT&T phone lines to indicate an available phone line. By blowing the whistle into the phone line they could redirect and connect calls, for free.
The first ever ‘hack’.
Phone lines caught onto what was happening eventually and adapted around the whistle by developing new technology. But developments in computer technology and the rise of the internet have been consistently paralleled by growths and changes in hacker culture. They outgrew the use of telepone lines completely, the role and goal of the culture changed. Where once hacking was a game now it is a political act, activism has become hacktivism.
However, one key notion that has carried over since the birth of hacker culture is the ‘anarchic structure’. The whistle hack operated on redirecting the call from the phone bank, decentralising the power structure. There is no clearer example of hacktivism than the now infamous Anonymous, a organisation that has a figurehead but no leader, it promotes equality by dispensing all information freely. Anyone can join and contribute, an economy of free information will be created.
A leaderless organisation is based around freedom of information and equality is a good sounding idea, in theory. However, I think it is ultimately a non-functional one.
Anonymous’ decentralised, leaderless, network means there is no individual or body setting an agenda. This means that Anonymous’ issues are as varied as their members. If any issue is an issue, then everything is an issue. Allow me to use a little but of The Incredibles logic here, because if everything is an issue, then nothing is.
Hacktivism is becoming more prominent, with sites like Wikileaks and individuals like Edward Snowden defining it. But Hacktivism can only do so much. When those same principles are applied outside of the internet, where they eventually have to be to achieve change, they fail. There’s no better example than Occupy Wall Street. Their protests were massive, they made news, and they were a leaderless organisation.
But what did they stand for?
What did they achieve?
Hacktivism is the future of whistleblowing, the future of political protest. But it has to grow if they want to achieve something. All effective political protests had a leader, a figurehead that defines them and represents their narrative and values.
Hacktivists need one too otherwise they’ll end up like the Cap’n Crunch Whistle. The system will adapt around them and they’ll be left with nothing to do but make useless noise, like this:
5 thoughts on “Whistle Register Activism”
Cool post on this week’s topic. I like that you asked real questions surrounding Anonymous and how successful they will be in the future. I do think not having a face to the organisation does make it more efficient to cover any issue that does arise.
While researching further I found a cool podcast on Anonymous, if you get a chance you should check it out! https://www.theguardian.com/technology/audio/2014/nov/12/anonymous-gabriella-coleman-tech-weekly-podcast
I love the research you have done for this, it was great to learn about the history of the first hack and how you presented your knowledge on this post. You have written it well and from a different perspective to the others I have read.
Hacking has evolved so much since it was first coined and it is so interesting to hear about how it has allowed for the freedom of information in our world, aka ‘Anonymous’. Anonymous works toward equality yet you also mentioned it is non-functional. Do you think it has the potential to become a functional organisation? If so, how?
You have also provided some great examples of what hacktivism has stood for and what they have achieved, fantastic post!!
The soundcloud as your original remediation this week is also very creative.
First up, I’d like to say, wow! I really like your writing style and this was truly an interesting blog post to read. With that being said, let’s get into it!
I completely agree with your sentiment that, while hackers and hacktivists possess a competitive edge and thus have vast amounts of untapped power to instigate change online, this power does not always translate into the real world. This is an interesting concept, especially in a time when our lives are becoming more and more dependent upon the internet and virtual world for normal societal functioning.
Moreover, I also agree with your proposal that this lack of ability to create long lasting change is attributable to a lack of central leadership. Although as we know the distributed network is the most durable of all the network configurations, it would seem that its lack of a central node is ultimately one of its key limitations. Your exploration of ‘anonymous’ was particularly interesting, giving me a chilling, even ominous vibe, especially considering you wrap up your post with the shrill whistle on your SoundCloud. Awesome!
When I was researching into hacker culture, I came across an interesting article about the transmission of culture through linguistics and the slang that is commonly used in hacker subgroups. You can check it out if you like: http://catb.org/jargon/html/introduction.html
Keep crushin’ brotha!
Hi there Josh, you’ve got a super engaging blog post here! You’ve clearly done a lot of research and your knowledge is extremely well articulated. Starting off with the history of hacking was a great idea – especially because it’s an unexpected beginning and a little known fact (to me, at least). I had never thought about the effect that the lack of central leadership could have on Anonymous until now. I wonder why they use the Guy Fawkes mask as a central authority figure if there is actually no one holding that position. (I understand it’s obviously to maintain their anonymity, but why use this one specific mask? Something to think about.) If you’re interested, I found this short video about Anonymous’ top 10 cyber ‘attacks’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-3kx-QajvnQ Some I had already heard about and others I knew of but didn’t know they were connected to Anonymous! I don’t have any constructive criticism to offer because you’ve done such a great job with this post. You had my full attention from the beginning right through to the end. Your remediation is so simple but it has been worked into the post really effectively! Great work.
Hey, Prior to reading your post I had little to no information/ personal knowledge regarding the origins of ‘whistleblowing’ and hacking. However, after reading you’re highly informative and really well-written blog post I definitely learnt a lot more! I found this article which I found quite interesting, it relates to the recent controversy of hackers infiltrating popular games, Fortnite and GTA. Have a read if you would like: https://arstechnica.com/gaming/2018/10/fortnite-gta-v-hackers-face-legal-action-for-online-cheating/