The Hacker Wars (2014) – Dir. Vivien Lesnik Weisman

Been debating whether or not I should be weighing in on this, especially since the instigator in this case is the normally on-point Vice. If Snowden, the NSA and Anonymous remain on the outer fringes of your consciousness, then The Hacker Wars, in my opinion, is one of the most important films you can watch. And the reason for that is the message that you may take away, intended or not.

We’ll get to that in a second.

Firstly, what do you know about the term troll? Perhaps what you’ve seen on the news regarding online bullying, but as tragic as that is it’s not a definition that can be accurately tied to the term. The Hacker Wars concentrates on three main figures (anti-hero or not) of the information freedom fight, starting off with weev, aka Andrew Auernheimer, a master of ‘trolling’. What comes out of the first part of the documentary is that being a ‘troll’ is mainly about exposing the corruption and misinformation spread out by governments and corporate powers, and it’s something we should be celebrating.

In his own dangerous and playful way, weev exposed AT&T (among others) as having gaping holes when it comes to the security of their clients information, and subsequently the corruption of governmental functions who are able to abuse this data.

In many cases, such as that of weev, the instigators are being put in to prison for trumped up charges, to stop them sharing this information with the public. Whether or not you know it (or even care) these guys are going to prison to defend your basic rights of freedom.

This is where the beginning of the message starts to come through. For all the immaturity, bullshit antics and childish expression of the subjects, these are the people who can make the change. They’re not heroes, they’re the 99%, working class people in the 21st century, and most importantly they’re willing to admit and address their flaws. Holding a mirror up to yourself is all they’re asking their targets to do; deliver on the constant promises of transparency.

With weev in prison The Hacker Wars takes a logical shift to their second main subject, the wonderful Barrett Brown. Seen for a while as the spokesperson of Anonymous, Brown is primarily a journalist who’s never hid behind an identity while using his ability for information processing and communication to share the corruption facts of the United States.

It’s important to remember that Brown’s skills don’t lie in computer hacking, but in understanding mounds of information and finding the meaning that many of us wouldn’t. He founded Project PM, and exposed TrapWire (government CCTV surveillance) as well as the government’s involvement in Occupy Wall Street.

Simply put, without his ability to do the legwork across the data many of us wouldn’t have any access to understanding what hacked email dumps actually mean.

And again, this is important; Brown is a self-confessed drug addict with no priority other than to tell the United States public that they’re being screwed, with the proof to back it up.  With arrest charges of a recommended 105 years sentence tally, Brown plead guilty to some and is currently serving only a five year sentence following what is considered one of the most corrupt trials of late.

Which brings The Hacker Wars to Jeremy Hammond, the hacker found responsible for the Strafor leak, and subsequently moving $700000 from FBi employeed accounts to non-profits on Christmas day. In another brilliant move by the American legal system they denied the request to change judges when it turned out that the sentencing judge’s husband had been a victim of the leak.

An axe to grind or what. Hammond is currently serving ten years.

The beauty with The Hacker Wars is how it collates these events of recent years of hacktivisim and uses them to paint a more in-depth picture of some of the people involved, their circles and even the differing modern-day relationships that exist when your primarily online.

Even if the subjects and pivotal news moments aren’t familiar, they’re given instant credibility for their media presence, influence and most importantly the government’s fear of them.

Director Vivien Lesnik Weisman has done a brilliant job here. Using the most recognisable news reports and arrests as a launching pad she shows the contrast between the mass media perception of who they, what they do and why they do it and the stark reality.

It’s simple, the truth is that the United States government and the NSA are invading your privacy. They’re blowing the US budget on bullshit surveillance and working with large corporations to keep people in check,

And it’s everyday people, flaws and all, banding together that will change that. Media outlets have you believe in the good guys and bad guys, and the billion dollar presidential campaigns have you believe that those instigators of change are elected and operating within the system, elevated to lead the people.

But it just doesn’t operate like that anymore. And that is the main message that we took away from The Hacker Wars.

Check out the trailer for the film below, and the Anonymous write up underneath that, where you can also download it (or look on youtube for a full version) before paying for it.

via Anonymous
Get ready to be shuttled between story lines at lightning speed mirroring the disjointed lives of the protagonists and life on the Internet. The Hacker Wars, a film about the targeting of (h)ac(k)tivists and journalists by the US government. Hacktivists are either terrorists or freedom fighters depending on one’s perspective on who should control information.

Meet “weev,” infamous hacker; Barrett Brown, journalist and propagandist for the hacktivist collective, Anonymous; and Jeremy Hammond, aka Anarchaos, number one on the FBI’s cyber-criminal list. The fourth character is Sabu, the uber-hacker turned FBI informant who ran the FBI’s cyber unit for 9 months and is responsible for many arrests. He is the shadowy protagonist in a high-stakes game of espionage and betrayal in the age of the Internet. Barrett Brown, American journalist, is facing 105 years in prison for publicizing information revealed through Jeremy Hammond’s epic hacks. Hammond himself has just begun a 10-year prison term. Andrew Auernheimer, known by his hacker handle weev embarrasses large corporations. He was sentenced to 41 months for hacking AT&T, but his conviction was just overturned. He vows to continue doing what landed him in prison in the first place.

These hacktivists are the rock stars of the Internet-modern-day folk heroes.

Glenn Greenwald (Snowden Leaks), Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and others explain why these anti-heroes exposing the security surveillance state are essential to a functioning democracy.