Two years ago, the New Yorker's Mattathias Schwartz documented the brutal massacre Jamaican security forces undertook when they entered the notorious slum Tivoli Gardens to arrest—at the insistence of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency—drug kingpin and local hero Christopher "Dudus" Coke in 2010. They didn't find Coke, but they managed to kill 73 civilians in what the Jamaicans claimed was a pitched street battle with Coke's partisans. After it was all over, they found six guns.
Perhaps yesterday's Sarah Palin email hack reminded you of that brilliant engrossing story the New York Times ran back in July about 4chan, the juvenile message board community of hackers, trolls and sundry internet misanthropes that pulled it off? The writer hung out with that molestation victim who wrote the nasty fake blog about that thirteen-year-old MySpace hoax suicide case and got his identity stolen by a hacker with a Rolls Royce named Weev. Well, we found the writer, Matt Schwartz*, on the internet to engage in a brief exchange on hackers, trolls, and why the Lulz Generation hates Sarah Palin. He even gets Weev to weigh in on how he might have done it better! A full interview after the jump.SCHWARTZ: A few random thoughts: 1. The question of whether the email of public servants is public or private is an interesting question. Public servants now have reason to behave as if every email might be read aloud in court. This standard might not actually be in the public interest, in the long run. It might make it harder for public servants to do their job. 2. It appears Palin used passwords that were too weak, and didn't change them often enough. Passwords should not be real words. they should include at least three digits and at least one non-alphanumeric character. Example: foo&&b@x7978. That's what a strong password should look like. 3. Weev's take: i wish they'd done it properly screenshots? should have archived the mailspool and waited a few days for the logs to go away i figure someone is going to get seriously v& for this maybe not the person who actually did it but someone MOE: Uh, v&? SCHWARTZ: What? oh. I dunno. That's what he said. I'm guessing it means "fucked by the national intelligence establishment." If you run that please be clear that he is NOT taking credit. MOE: Pareene wrote that the /b/ hacker didn't really seem to know what he was looking for and should have probably figured that out before sharing the password with the world. Do you think this sort of demonstrates the limitations of 4chan, like, ideologically? This was maybe their chance to get mainstream attention for doing something with a potential public interest. SCHWARTZ: All this demonstrates is that 4chan knows how to break into peoples' email accounts. 4chan has no coherent ideology ... it's more like a series of memes/trends. It might have some sort of ideology but for the fact that it doesn't have a memory. It erases itself multiple times a day. Moot can't afford to archive stuff. Server space is too expensive. So it's really hard for people to follow 4chan for a long period of time. There's no institutional memory. People drop in and drop out. It's like a mosh pit. But I do thinks it's significant that you can have 4chan and other anonymous people breaking national news. MOE: I guess Sarah Palin is the ultimate meme generation politician. SCHWARTZ: What do you mean? MOE: Her absurdity lends itself naturally to Lulz. Her averageness. Her momness. To the kid who doesn't remember Ollie North or Reagan or hear in her rhetoric the echoes of the destructive Reagan-era "culture wars", she is just a clueless lady with a funny accent and a bunch of fucked up kids. And like, of course her password is something stupid, you know? SCHWARTZ: I guess you're right. She doesn't make me that angry, either. Nor am i especially interested in why she makes others angry. I was already angry. I've been angry for a long time MOE: Right, and if she doesn't make us that angry, she is definitely not making 4chan angry. SCHWARTZ: It's interesting that all these pols use Yahoo! Or that Palin does. She writes pretty long emails. Very different from say, [former Philadelphia mayor and federal probe subject] John Street. The Alaskan government seems to have a rather vital textual culture. It has yet to succumb to the shorthand of the handheld thumbwriting favored by John Street, Eliot Spitzer, etc. What her email tells me is: "I am a mom. I write real, substantial, long, single-paragraph email with sincere expressions of my feelings." MOE: Yeah, and those are just the earnest, near universally relatable sort of positive qualities 4chan CAN'T STAND.