Part 1 of 14
Spotting the flaw
It probably is common to develop elaborate ops to take down a site. I’m sure there are plenty of obstacles to overcome to do that. I don’t know what they are. But I do know that coding a website is a pain in the ass. You have to think about all the dumbass things you would really rather not think about in order to prevent problems.
So I can see how hacking is an elaborate endeavor. However, human plans aren’t as elaborate as computer code. It’s because we ignore the most unlikely scenarios that computers don’t know to ignore. Our plans don’t require the command “do continue breathing while working on the op” like a computer does.
The flaw is assuming that Jester is a computer, or that solving computer problems are exactly like solving human problems. They aren’t.
If you tell a person to do something vague, they’ll start guessing what you want. Sometimes they guess right. Sometimes they guess what you really should have asked for. Sometimes they guess horribly, mind-blowingly wrong. Computers don’t guess.
They also don’t forget what you said 20 minutes ago. If the plan is too complex, people will leave out the half that doesn’t sound fun, easy, or comprehensible.
There’s a reason why people don’t have elaborate plans. It’s because they don’t work. And there’s a reason why Rube Goldberg machines are funny. It’s because people intuitively know how absurd it is to have 300 steps to pop a balloon.
It’s a miracle when those things work at all.
Fixing the flaw
Jester’s ops are remarkably elegant and simple. There’s a beautiful Zen quality to his work. It’s poetic.
So if I need to assign credit for an op to Jester, I would look first for how Zen-like it is. If it isn’t Zen, it isn’t Jester. That’s not something you can just turn off after you have it. Zen masters make mistakes, but they make Zen influenced mistakes. Trolling himself and then deleting his own account isn’t Zen.
Deleting his own account to encourage a troll doesn’t sound Zen at first glance, but Zen is never single layered.
He thought he would get something out of it. (Not rocket science) He says that it was a bad idea, but being wrong doesn’t mean there wasn’t a reason. It also doesn’t mean his reasoning wasn’t Zen. It means it backfired.
I think he wanted to show that he took the troll seriously. That would make the troll cocky enough to pwn himself. Or make someone else cocky enough to stick his neck out. He consistently uses that strategy and usually it works. Reusing an effective plan is Zen.
I think he underestimated the amount of chaos that would ensue. That sounds Zen to me. When you understand simplicity, you err towards simplicity.
The context has changed. Anonymous hasn’t given public ransom demands before. Change in context requires reassessment of strategy. Is there a more convincing way to remove all doubt that he believed the story and takes less effort than deactivating an account?
Maybe, maybe not.
Maybe he was looking for information about the culture of his supporters and detractors. Maybe he wanted to explore some profound truth about the human condition. Maybe he was just bored and watching people scurry around in chaos amuses him. That sounds Zen. Sadistic, but still Zen.
It isn’t always rainbows and kittens. Sometimes it’s an old dude smacking you with a stick to force an insight.
He could have said that this was a stupid idea to make people more comfortable, or to keep them occupied with thinking how dumb he is, rather than anticipating his next move. That sounds pretty Zen, and not at all out of character.
It could also be that he is, in fact, a human being. It could have been a whim. Sometimes things sound like a good idea at the time for no apparent reason. I’m going with the first option – he wanted to show the troll he was taking it seriously and thought it would turn out better than it did.
That’s pretty much exactly what he said. Sometimes you have to take people at their word when it makes the most sense and takes less effort than all the other options. Even brilliant strategists are kinda lazy once in a while.
(That’s what makes them brilliant. Dumbasses slog through the swamp; geniuses find the shortcut)
It sounds like a dumb idea to deactivate the accounts, but you can’t know exactly how dumb an idea is until after it beats the crap out of you. And some things sound like a dumbass move in the beginning but become incredibly beautiful after they work.
Like relativity theory or quantum mechanics.
The Elusive Counterexample
If he wanted money, he would just ask for it. He posts about Wounded Warriors relatively often. He posted something about getting them to sell wrist bands with his name and doxed identities. People are willing to buy them.
If he wanted people to donate, he could have just said “Hey guys, I’m working on an expensive project. Does anyone want to help out? You can donate to my bitcoin wallet. Plz RT” Using average nonprofit donation rates and amounts, he’d get about $30,000 from one 20-tweet campaign.
That’s the Zen way for Jester to get money. He doesn’t need to jump through hoops. He doesn’t need gimmicks or guerilla marketing. He doesn’t need flash because he has substance.
People use gimmicks because they’re scared. He’s not scared. They use gimmicks because they can’t think of anything better. He can think of something better. And people use gimmicks because it’s impossible to break through apathy of the modern world without something big. He’s already broken through.
People love him, his work, and would be willing to spare a few dollars if they thought it would help him take out more jihadists. His people would have donated. They would have retweeted. Some might have even started fundraising drives of their own.
If he really needed money, he would have just asked. His world would not collapse. He’s not that neurotic.
But he hasn’t asked. He’s stated clearly that he doesn’t ask. The Zen thing is to stay consistent.
Take home message
- Computers aren’t people and people aren’t computers
- There’s no Zen switch – once you have it, you don’t lose it without major life changes
- Giving people the benefit of the doubt makes confusing acts easier to understand
- Sometimes Zen looks pretty stupid before it fully unfolds into something beautiful
- However, even Zen masters make mistakes
- You don’t need gimmicks if you have substance and resources