In the age of Anonymous, who's trolling whom?
As a grizzled Gen-Xer, I take it on as both duty and pleasure to tease my mostly Millennial writing staff. It’s hard to get a stir out of them. The Me Generation has given birth to the Meh Generation.
As a rule, Millennials hate being stereotyped. (See what I did there?) But I do see a fascinating note of resignation that runs throughout. Anonymous, the headless hacker collective which has claimed responsibility for so many recent exploits—in every sense of the word—is a perfect example.
Members of Anonymous claim to break into computers and release files for the “lulz.” What are lulz, you ask? The term is a corruption of “LOL,” or “laughing out loud.” But no one actually laughs out loud in Internet Relay Chat. Lulz has come to mean a peculiar kind of schadenfreude—a delight in someone else’s dismay, especially if you had a hand in causing it. It’s not quite happiness, but it’ll do.
The hackers of Hollywood Leaks, who are releasing songs, photo shoots, movie scripts, and private photos and videos from members of the media-industrial complex, claim to be the standard-bearers of lulz. They dismiss the more morally-minded efforts of Chanology, LulzSec and OpBart, Anonymous offshoots which targeted the secretive Church of Scientology, the FBI, and the censorious Bay Area Rapid Transit agency.
Why try to change the world when you can just silently smirk?
Hollywood Leaks picked an odd target, though, when they released nude photos of Oakland-based white-girl rapper Kreayshawn, perfectly timed during her star turn on MTV’s Video Music Awards Sunday night. The reason one hacker, Dapper, gave? Kreayshawn made him “mad.”
Congratulations, Dapper: You were the one successfully trolled. While Kreayshawn’s skills may be more lyrical than technical, she’s just as intent on hacking entertainment culture. She identifies herself as a performance artist, not a rapper. Some have even wondered if her whole schtick is an elaborate hoax.
A taunting refrain that runs through Kreayshawn’s work: Oh, am I making you angry? U mad, bro? That’s a staple meme, a visual cliché, of the rage comics popular on Reddit and 4chan, two online haunts of Anonymous.
I don’t know how old Dapper is, but everything about his mannerisms when he chatted online with our reporter, Fruzsina Eördögh, screams Millennial to me. Kreayshawn, born Natassia Gail Zolot, is also solidly Millennial at 21. So this is an intragenerational war.
Kreayshawn wanted a reaction. So did Hollywood Leaks. Everyone wins!
Oversharing doesn’t always pay, as Gizmodo intern Alyssa Bereznak learned. She wrote about her fruitless OKCupid romance with Jon Finkel, a world champion at card game Magic: The Gathering, and got a barrage of online hate for revealing she just couldn’t hang with a Magic player. Finkel, meanwhile, got asked out on dates on Twitter by women around the world.
Meanwhile, members of Reddit, the social news site, are stalking each other. No hacking required! Just by cobbling together all the telltale clues and obscure references dropped in a user’s links and comments, redditors are posting detailed biographies of each other. The truth is out there—they’re just compiling it, in a sort of game of skill and deductive reasoning.
What I like about this is that no matter how quotidian the biographies are, redditors are treating each others’ lives as worth investigating. It’s a populist paparazzi, crowdsourced consensual muckraking. On Reddit, no matter how low your karma, you might just be a celebrity to someone.
Meanwhile, a soulful musical icon of Generation X is hacking herself more effectively than Anonymous ever could. Sinéad O’Connor wants sex, and she wants it now, and she wants it on her blog, and she wants it over Twitter. She wants someone over 44—no wait, 38’s great. With all the details she’s releasing of how, where, and when she wants to do it, is there anything left to expose?
Just don’t try to set up O’Connor with Jon Finkel. The Magic: The Gathering habit? Not a problem. But it turns out he’s too young for her.
Knowing is half the battle. The other half is trying to forget.