Unlike the rest of the staff here, I am not a journalist, no sir, I am not. I am primarily a researcher. And my research recently developed towards hacktivism. So, as many of us do in these circumstances, I put a Google alert on the term “hacktivism.”
Today, I was stunned to see a link from Krypton Radio hit under the alert! Whaaaa??? For my non-Second Life readers, Krypton Radio is the media outlet for JLU, an anti-griefing organization in SL, kind of like Fox news if you will. They fight crime in SL. Kind of like Fox and Friends. Before I say anything more, let me be clear: I am not condoning griefing, during my research I had my fair share of griefing, and griefing sucks if you are on the receiving end. But let’s move on.
Now, what would JLU have anything to do with hacktivism, I wondered… I clicked the link and saw that it was a news report on the recent ban of Masakazu Kojima (Masa), the leader of the notorious griefing group W-Hat. No news to me, I was already given the news by a staff member earlier in the week.
As I looked at how this blog post would ever make it to my alerts, I realized that the post was tagged “Cybercrime, Grid security, griefer, griefer group, Hacktivism, interviews, Justice League Unlimited (JLU), Krypton Radio, League of Heroes, Linden Lab, Linden Research, Masakazu Kojima, Second Life, Woodbury University.” Not only some of these tags do not accurately represent the content of the blog post (therefore is not useful at all in terms of search), but the author had no idea of what hacktivism was. Or… was collapsing the meaning of bunch of terms into griefing for personal interests. Clearly, many people like me, have put an alert on hacktivism, therefore the visibility of the blog post would have increased with this term (kind of like using the term “porn” as a metatag for your website to increase traffic). Or, that the author was implying that the group (JLU) was indeed fighting hacktivists (?!?).
Apart from being a researcher, I am also an educator. One of the classes that I taught over the last decade and a half is Public Speaking and my favorite subject in this class is logical fallacies. Don’t roll your eyes just yet, I have a point. When I teach this topic, I love to bring up examples from politics because politicians love to willfully commit logical fallacies in the hopes of duping the masses to win elections. My job, therefore, is to educate students to be informed citizens armed with critical thinking skills.
It turns out that the anti-griefing personalities and groups are guilty of the very same fallacies:
- Straw figure argument: creating a misrepresentation of an argument and attacking that version (no clear example comes to mind, but I am sure you can think of one)
- Attacking the person rather than the argument (Peter Ludlow is being attacked as a content thief by JLU when in fact he had nothing to do with the actual theft. He just reported it. This is similar to when the National Inquirer found out about the illegitimate child of John Edwards at the brink of elections and went public with it.)
- Guilt or glory by association (whoever hangs out in Baku or with the Woodbury or researches these groups is a griefer by default, like me: “Bakuoglu.” Who knew that I would get more griefed at the hands of Prokovy Neva (Catherine Fitzpatrick) than at the hands of the Goons??? I got google bombed with various irrelevant tags and words inserted on her posts about me. She finally decided to spell my name correctly and cite me with known scholars, such as Henry Jenkins and Biella Coleman, in the hopes that more search engines would pick it up. Bless her heart :P)
- Hasty generalization: Assuming that what is true for one member of a group is true for all. (Masa hasn’t logged onto SL since February and gave up on the sim long time ago, yet he is a major griefer. I interviewed a lot of goons and channers, some have been really nice and others have been downright nasty. But all of them are considered to be grid crashers.)
- And the topic of this blog, my favorite: Semantic fallacy: Subtle shifts in definition in an argument.
Let’s talk a little bit about the actual meaning of hacktivism. “Hacktivism combines the transgressive politics of civil disobedience with the technologies and techniques of computer hackers. It is, as defined by hacktivists themselves, the nonviolent use of illegal or legally ambiguous digital tools in pursuit of political ends.”
Anyone who knows anything about the goons and channers, know that they just do it for the lulz. Crashing sims with flying penises or plastering swastikas just for the heck of it, is rarely a political end. Fighting for transparency or fighting against datamining/surveillance is. We all know that there have been a few instances that these groups have taken to such causes. But this is not the norm, but rather, is the exception.
The term hacking is something else as well. Despite its connotations of “illicit computer break-ins, a hack is defined as an attempt to make use of technology in an original, unorthodox, and inventive way.” From what I have seen, most goons and channers can’t hack their way out of a paper bag. They frequently use other people’s hacks. We’re talking about cultures that emerged from anime sites, folks.
Plastic Duck, on the other hand, was a hacker. It is nice of Krypton Radio to acknowledge this. I would have never thought that they would have anything nice to say about Plastic: “Plastic Duck was also responsible for the discovery and correction of a critical bug in the Linden Lab monetary system which could have destroyed the entire economy. Plastic Duck could have simply exploited the flaw, but instead worked with Linden Lab to identify and correct it before it became a problem.” OK, a bit exaggerated, but that’s what a hacker does.
Coming back to my earlier point: Why would anti-griefer organizations commit these logical fallacies? The obvious reason is that it serves their personal interests. They have built their careers on griefers and the griefing phenomenon. So if the goons don’t exist, or the PN don’t exist, or the Woodbury don’t exist, they don’t exist. There would be no use for JLU. In fact, there is no use for the JLU. They aren’t doing anything that, you, as an individual, can’t do by yourself. They have no extra powers. They themselves get pwnd all the time. It works for them that goons and griefers are labeled as communists, cyberterrorists, hacktivists, and criminals. It gives them self importance. It is because of goons and griefers that Prok can claim to be a virtual world consultant. I am guilty as any: it works for me that the anti-griefing personalities and organizations are labeling these subcultures with grossly exaggerated terms because, then, my research increases in value. It is just too sexy!
While we’re on the subject, I commend Masa for giving an interview to JLU. It shows that she has nothing to hide. She gave me an interview three years ago too. On the other hand, when I e-mailed Kalel Venkman to ask for an interview last week, he sent me six e-mails threatening to sue me because I was working with Peter Ludlow. Apparently, Ludlow is a content thief. He banned the rest of the JLU members from talking to me, saying that I was a liar. He had refused to interview with me three year ago too. I didn’t even know Ludlow then. Which makes me wonder… what does JLU have to hide?
Revised: I am told by a JLU member that Plastic had indeed have his account restored briefly. My bet… But the rest of my argument still stands. Took out that section.