There was plenty of collateral damage in Anthony Weiner’s weiner scandal — from the women he engaged to his own career. But what about about the hacker community, which was wrongly fingered in his campaign of lies?
In attempting to lie his way out of Weinergate, Anthony Weiner embarked on a deceitful crusade predicated on a smear campaign—albeit one against a faceless target: hackers.
Immediately after inadvertently posting a picture of his crotch on Twitter, Weiner began unspooling a narrative that framed him as the butt of a joke played by malicious hackers. He claimed that his Twitter account had been compromised, and tweeted “FB hacked” to signify that his Facebook had also been commandeered in an elaborate conspiracy.
From there Weiner embarked on media tour of lies in which he embellished his accusations against the alleged hackers.
“The weiner gags never get old, I guess,” he emailed Politico, saying it was “obvious” his Twitter account had been hacked. He consented to an MSNBC interview with Luke Russert in which he insisted that the crotch shot photo was the work of hackers but refused to say that it was not his body, going as far as to suggest that the photo was “manipulated.”
Given the fact that there’s nothing in the photo other than crotch and upper thigh, this suggestion amounted to the allegation that someone had photo-bombed an erection onto what could be Weiner’s nether regions—which begged the question, What is a photo of your nether regions doing in the the hands of a hacker?
Beneath all this was an underlying assumption: Hackers are evil. Weiner’s machinations presented a worldview in which hackers act capriciously, without reason, harming indiscriminately their innocent victims whose private data they prey upon and compromise for no other reason than to toy with their targets.
In reality this couldn’t be further from the truth. As hacker culture has ascended in influence over the last year, hackers have positioned themselves as enemies of corrupt institutions, not of individuals. Its most famous group, Anonymous, has made the most news for taking a serious geopolitical stance and targeting the sites of governments that threaten personal liberties, such as Egypt, Iran and Zimbabwe. They’ve also defended WikiLeaks with their hacks, on the principle that it provides safe harbor for individuals to stand up to corrupt institutions.
Even the hack on Ashton Kutcher’s Twitter at the TED talk in March briefly hijacked Kutcher’s celebrity to send a message championing the little guy: “Ashton, you’ve been Punk’d,” the hackers’ tweet said. “This account is not secure. Dude, where’s my SSL?”
Then: “P.S. This is for those young protesters around the world who deserve not to have their Facebook & Twitter accounts hacked like this. #SSL.”
Sure, there are plenty of identity thefts each year, and malicious information hacks like the one that exposed personal information of users on the PlayStation network in April. But for for Every LulzSec hack like the one that recently exposed home addresses of users in the Sony Pictures database, there’s a more newsworthy hack on government corruption like Operation India, launched just yesterday by Anonymous.
Weiner seemed so confident that blaming his indiscretions on hackers would be a panacea that he even felt comfortable enough to laugh the whole thing off with a penis pun: “I’m not sure this rises—no pun intended—to that level.”
But Weiner should have known that in attempting to laugh off his scandal by deriding his alleged hackers, he was only condescending to his constituents and mocking representative office. The digital bogey man he attempted to divine for his own defense is a fallacy. This month it was Weiner, consummate good guy, playing the part of evil and the hackers acting on the side of good—and the media left to tell the difference.
In the information age, the truth is damned hard to suppress. When weighing the public’s judgement, Weiner would do well to remember Anonymous’s creed: “We do not forget. We do not forgive. Expect us.”