Certain to thrill 4chan readers, hackers and others on the Internet’s fringe, but may struggle to hold the interest of...



A detailed account of the hacker collective Anonymous and its splinter group, LulzSec.

In 2008, the website Gawker published a leaked video of a wild-eyed Tom Cruise cheerleading for Scientology, a video the Church of Scientology had been trying to suppress. The church retaliated by issuing a copyright violation against YouTube, where the video had eventually ended up. When the news reached 4chan—a site originally for discussion of Japanese anime that spread to include other Internet subcultures—a user posted a suggestion to one of its message boards: Hack the Scientology website. “It’s time to use our resources to do something we believe is right,” the post read. The idea quickly gained traction, and a handful of users banded together to lead a nebulous group of hackers and Internet activists collectively known as Anonymous. They not only took down the Scientology website, but went on to attack other targets, including the anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church and the Tunisian government. Eventually, a faction of Anonymous split off on its own, called LulzSec; rather than attacking oppressors of free expression, they attacked companies just for the sake of publicly embarrassing them for laughs, or “lulz” (a play on LOL, the internet abbreviation for “laugh(ing) out loud”). The events that Forbes London bureau chief Olson describes are captivating, such as the story of how Jennifer Emick, a former Anonymous supporter and “middle-aged mom from Michigan,” managed to track down and identify Hector Monsegur, one of Anonymous’ chief hackers. However, the book is choked by jargon (though Olson provides a much-needed glossary) and lengthy, tiresome descriptions of the group’s juvenile and petty squabbling, infighting and back-stabbing. The attention lavished on the minutiae of these relationships diminishes the impact of the narrative.

Certain to thrill 4chan readers, hackers and others on the Internet’s fringe, but may struggle to hold the interest of casual readers.

Pub Date: June 5, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-316-21354-7

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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