NYR iOS app Android app More

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
Cole Stryker

GET UPDATES FROM Cole Stryker
 

How to Write a Book About Anonymous

Posted: 09/14/11 03:16 PM ET

When I first posted a link to my new book's Amazon page on the website 4chan, the first response was, "Kindly kill yourself immediately." The discussion descended into unprintable threats and accusations from there.

It wasn't unexpected. 4chan, a notorious online gathering place for pranksters, and the pseudo-politically minded "hacktivist" group called Anonymous that was born on the site, regularly antagonize those who discuss their subculture. An in-group which has, up until recently, been shrouded in mystery.

Lots of people visit 4chan -- more than 12 million a month. It's a breeding ground for viral content populated largely by bored nerds seeking a cheap thrill. And they don't like it when people talk about 4chan outside of the site.

Up until recently, journalists who have commented on the site have been routinely targeted. In 2011, every major media outlet is covering the Anonymous movement, so it's difficult for the hivemind to pin down any single commentator.

But as of this writing, mine is the only one book about the site and the antisocial group of computer geeks that orbits around it, so naturally I'm a fun whipping boy. I've received hundreds of negative comments on my various social network accounts, ranging from insults, ("Cole Stryker is a lying hipster douchefag") to veiled threats (One guy posted my parents' home address and wrote, "Won't Mr. and Mrs. Stryker be so proud when the full fury of Anon bears down on them?")

Anonymous, at least the hardened veterans who hang out on /b/ (the site's anarchic epicenter), who've been around since before the group began to skew towards political protests, don't like it when journalists attempt to explain their subculture, partially because media attention attracts new users who haven't been exposed to the site's impenetrable slang and unofficial "rules, and thus muck up the site with their noobish ways.

Many 4chan users pride themselves on being a part of a mysterious subculture of merciless badasses who don't take kindly to strangers. They've cribbed a line from Chuck Palahniuk's Fight Club, "The first rule of /b/ is don't talk about /b/. The second rule of /b/ is don't talk about /b/."

"Are you scared?" asks everyone, when they find out that I've written about the group.

Not really. Anonymous is actually pretty ineffectual when you don't give them the tools they need to engage in "life-ruining tactics," also known as data mining or social engineering. There are no nude pics of me being passed around on 4chan because there are no nude pics of me anywhere.

If you don't give Anon a foothold, they won't be able to do much apart from sending SPAM to your inbox and pizza deliveries to your door. So far, I've received a single $90 pizza that included extra of every available topping. But this doesn't hurt me, it only inconveniences the poor pizza delivery guy who gets turned away.

The more press Epic Win generates, the more likely it is to garner negative Amazon reviews, perhaps the only weapon Anonymous can use to cause me appreciable damage. If Anons want to hit me where it hurts, they'll continue slamming the book. But an even more crushing blow would be to ignore it entirely, something I don't think even they are capable of doing. U mad, bros?