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TUCoPS :: Cyber Culture :: letter.txt

Erik Bloodaxe's letter to Wired mag

To Whom It May Concern:

I am writing this under the assumption that the editorial staff at
Wired will "forget" to print it in the upcoming issue, so I am
also posting it on every relevant newsgroup and online discussion forum
that I can think of.

When I first read your piece "Gang War In Cyberspace" I nearly choked on
my own stomach bile.  The whole tone of this piece was so far removed from
reality that I found myself questioning what color the sky must be
in Wired's universe.  Not that I've come to expect any better from Wired.
Your magazine, which could have had the potential to actually do something,
has become a parody...a politically correct art-school project that
consistently falls short of telling the whole story or making a solid point.
(Just another example of Kapor-Kash that ends up letting everyone down.)

I did however expect more from Josh Quittner.

I find it interesting that so much emphasis can be placed on an issue of
supposed racial slurs as the focus of an imaginary "gang war," especially
so many years after the fact.

It's also interesting to me that people keep overlooking the fact that one of
the first few members of our own little Legion of Doom was black (Paul
Muad'dib.)  Maybe if he had not died a few years back that wouldn't be
so quickly forgotten.  (Not that it makes a BIT of difference what color
a hacker is as long as he or she has a brain and a modem, or these days
at least a modem.)

I also find it interesting that a magazine can so easily implicate someone
as the originator of the so-called "fighting words" that allegedly sparked
this online-battle, without even giving a second thought as to the damage
that this may do to the person so named.  One would think that a magazine
would have more journalistic integrity than that (but then again, this IS
Wired, and political correctness sells magazines and satisfies advertisers.)
Thankfully, I'll only have to endure one month of the "Gee Chris, did you
know you were a racist redneck?" phone calls.

It's further odd that someone characterized as so sensitive to insults
allegedly uttered on a party-line could have kept the company he did.
Strangely enough, Quittner left out all mention of the MOD member who called
himself "SuperNigger."  Surely, John Lee must have taken umbrage to an
upper-middle class man of Hebrew descent so shamefully mocking him and
his entire race, wouldn't he?   Certainly he wouldn't associate in any way
with someone like that...especially be in the same group with, hang out with,
and work on hacking projects with, would he?

Please, of course he would, and he did.  (And perhaps he still does...)

The whole "racial issue" was a NON-ISSUE.  However, such things make
exciting copy and garner many column inches so keep being rehashed.  In
fact, several years back when the issue first came up, the statement was
cited as being either "Hang up, you nigger," or "Hey, SuperNigger," but
no one was sure which was actually said.  Funny how the wording changes
to fit the slant of the "journalist" over time, isn't it?

I wish I could say for certain which was actually spoken, but alas, I was not
privy to such things.  Despite the hobby I supposedly so enjoyed according
to Quittner, "doing conference bridges," I abhorred the things.  We used to
refer to them as "Multi-Loser Youps" (multi-user loops) and called their
denizens "Bridge Bunnies."  The bridge referred to in the story was
popularized by the callers of the 5A BBS in Houston, Texas.  (A bulletin board,
that I never even got the chance to call, as I had recently been raided by
the Secret Service and had no computer.)  Many people from Texas did call
the BBS, however, and subsequently used the bridge, but so did people from
Florida, Arizona, Michigan, New York and Louisiana.  And as numbers do in the
underground, word of a new place to hang out caused it to propagate rapidly.

To make any implications that such things were strictly a New York versus Texas
issue is ludicrous, and again simply goes to show that a "journalist" was
looking for more points to add to his (or her) particular angle.

This is not to say that I did not have problems with any of the people
who were in MOD.  At the time I still harbored strong feelings towards
Phiber Optik for the NYNEX-Infopath swindle, but that was about it.
And that was YEARS ago.  (Even I don't harbor a grudge that long.)
Even the dozen or so annoying phone calls I received in late 1990 and
early 1991 did little to evoke "a declaration of war."  Like many people,
I know how to forward my calls, or unplug the phone.  Amazing how technology
works, isn't it?

Those prank calls also had about as much to do with the formation of Comsec as
bubble-gum had to do with the discovery of nuclear fission.  (I'm sure if you
really put some brain power to it, and consulted Robert Anton Wilson,
you could find some relationships.)  At the risk of sounding glib, we
could have cared less about hackers at Comsec.  If there were no hackers,
or computer criminals, there would be no need for computer security
consultants.  Besides, hackers account for so little in the real picture
of computer crime, that their existence is more annoyance than something
to actually fear.

However, when those same hackers crossed the line and began tapping our
phone lines, we were more than glad to go after them.  This is one of my only
rules of action:  do whatever you want to anyone else, but mess with me and
my livelihood and I will devote every ounce of my being to paying you back.
That is exactly what we did.

This is not to say that we were the only people from the computer underground
who went to various law enforcement agencies with information about
MOD and their antics.  In fact, the number of hackers who did was staggering,
especially when you consider the usual anarchy of the underground.  None of
these other people ever get mentioned and those of us at Comsec always take
the lead role as the "narks," but we were far from alone.  MOD managed to
alienate the vast majority of the computer underground, and people reacted.

All in all, both in this piece, and in the book itself, "MOD, The Gang That
Ruled Cyberspace," Quittner has managed to paint a far too apologetic piece
about a group of people who cared so very little about the networks they
played in and the people who live there.  In the last 15 years that I've
been skulking around online, people in the community have always tended
to treat each other and the computers systems they voyeured with a great deal
of care and respect.  MOD was one of the first true examples of a groupthink
exercise in hacker sociopathy.  Selling long distance codes, selling credit
card numbers, destroying systems and harassing innocent people is not
acceptable behavior among ANY group, even the computer underground.

There have always been ego flares and group rivalries in the underground, and
there always will be.  The Legion of Doom itself was FOUNDED because of a
spat between its founder (Lex Luthor) and members of a group called The Knights
of Shadow.  These rivalries keep things interesting, and keep the community
moving forward, always seeking the newest bit of information in a series
of healthy one-upsmanship.  MOD was different.  They took things too far
against everyone, not just against two people in Texas.

I certainly don't condemn everyone in the group.  I don't even know
a number of them (electronically or otherwise.)  I honestly believe
that Mark Abene (Phiber) and Paul Stira (Scorpion) got royally screwed while
the group's two biggest criminals, Julio Fernandez (Outlaw) and Allen Wilson
(Wing), rolled over on everyone else and walked away free and clear.  This is
repulsive when you find out that Wing in particular has gone on to be
implicated in more damage to the Internet (as Posse and ILF) than anyone in
the history of the computing.  This I find truly disgusting, and hope that
the Secret Service are proud of themselves.

Imagine if I wrote a piece about the terrible treatment of a poor prisoner
in Wisconsin who was bludgeoned to death by other inmates while guards
looked away.  Imagine if I tried to explain the fact that poor Jeff Dahmer was
provoked to murder and cannibalism by the mocking of adolescent boys who teased
and called him a faggot.  How would you feel if I tried to convince you that we
should look upon him with pity and think of him as a misunderstood political
prisoner?  You would probably feel about how I do about Quittner's story.

'Hacker' can just as easily be applied to "journalists" too, and with this
piece Quittner has joined the Hack Journalist Hall of Fame, taking his
place right next to Richard Sandza.

Quittner did get a few things right.  I do have a big cat named Spud, I do
work at a computer company and I do sell fantastic t-shirts.  Buy some.

With Love,

Chris Goggans
aka Erik Bloodaxe 

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