Book Review: A Hacker Manifesto (In-Progress)

“Information wants to be free but is everywhere in chains.”

In an interview, Slavoj Zizek points out (page 80 of The Anti-Capitalism Reader):

[A]t the most elementary level, Marx’s concept of exploitation presupposes a certain labor theory of value. If you take this away from Marx, the whole edifice of his model disintegrates. What do we do with this today, given the importance of intellectual labor? Both standard solutions are too easy – to claim that there is still real physical production going on in the Third World, or that today’s programmers are a new proletariat.

In A Hacker Manifesto, McKenzie Wark attempts to tackle this problem, re-interpreting and adapting Marx to our current age. He does it with insight, wit, and poetic flair, but he is not always easy to follow, particularly if you are not already familiar with some Marxian jargon. This book review is also an attempt to help you interpret and understand what the book is trying to say.

It is still unfinished; I am editing it online. It will be marked as “in-progress” until I am done. In fact, right now it is just a series of notes. I have just finished reading the book, but need to think about it, rehash, perhaps re-read, and start all over again.


Need to start a glossary. abstraction, adequacy (special meaning in philosophy), alienation, appropriation, bifurcation, capitalist, class, commodification, commodity, communication, contingent, envelope, expression, flow, hack, hacker class, hacking, history, information, interiority, nature, necessity, object, pastoralist, productive classes, production, recuperation (special meaning in philosophy/Marxism), representation, second nature, spectacle, stock, subject, subjectivity, surplus, telesthesia, third nature, vector, vectoralist, virtuality

A friend lended me A Hacker Manifesto by McKenzie Wark. Already upon opening the book, I noticed something strange. I went to see how many pages it had by turning to the back and looking for page numbers. There are none. But I can tell you it is 389 paragraphs long.

I started turning pages from the front of the book, and saw this:


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Book Review: Revolutionary Rehearsals, edited by Colin Barker

A friend of mine in the ISO recently recommended that I read Revolutionary Rehearsals, edited by Colin Barker. I’m glad I did, as it contains some incredible history that I didn’t know much about, and some intriguing analysis. On the whole, an excellent book.

The book delves into detail about five situations when a country was on the verge of a bottom-up, workers’ revolution to overthrow capitalism (in one case, Stalinism). Each one failed to do so, but the struggles have much to tell us. The authors consider them to be “rehearsals” for real revolutions (hence the title).

A French policeman throwing a tear gas canister at an enormous mass of people

The book contains the following chapters:

1. France 1968: “All power to the imagination”
2. Chile 1972-73: The workers united
3. Portugal 1974-75: Popular power
4. Iran 1979: Long live Revolution!…Long live Islam?
5. Poland 1980-81: The self-limiting revolution
6. Perspectives

Each of the first five chapters is written by a different author and covers a specific struggle. The final chapter provides over-arching analysis and lessons.

The history is great – each historical chapter provides a compact, readable summary of the unfolding of the revolutionary times. Each gave me more information on its specific subject than I’ve found anywhere else. I’ll describe a little bit about each piece of history first.
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YouTube Censors Your World for the CIA

This video was pulled from YouTube for “violation of community guidelines”. Whose community? This man killed himself to get the torturers of an invading force out of Afghanistan. That’s noteworthy, and important, and although I might not agree with his politics, I agree with his anti-imperialism. I want to see this video on YouTube, and no doubt many millions across the world are also interested.

Maximilian Forte at Zero Anthropology has the backstory and larger videos. Ironically, of course, the mujahideen used to be part of the CIA’s community. Had this video been about mujahideen killing Soviet rather than US invaders of Afghanistan, no doubt it would have stayed up on YouTube.

A message from a suicide bomber to the CIA agents he is about to kill

If the video doesn’t play properly, you can get the MP4 of a message from a suicide bomber to the CIA agents he is about to kill.

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My email to the San Francisco Entertainment Commission

This is in response to the proposal to require surveillance cameras, ID scanners, data retention, and super-easy police access to data for all SF clubs.


I attended the Entertainment Commission meeting on April 12th at 6:30pm at City Hall, Room 400. They “continued” (postponed) the issue because the mayor wants to look at it. Not sure whether that’s a good or a bad sign. Many people left, but many stayed and all the comments were against. I imagine that you can still submit comments to the email addresses on their contact page. Email the Commission Aide and ask that it be made part of the Public Communications File and forwarded in real-time to the Commission members.

Also join Save the Rave.

First, the personal:

I like to dance, but it’s difficult for me because I’ll get self-conscious. Having surveillance cameras all over a club makes it damn near impossible unless I get really drunk – hardly an intended consequence, I would imagine.

When picking a venue for my wedding reception, one thing I looked for was an absence of surveillance cameras. I was glad to find an awesome, sizable venue that didn’t have any cameras. I was able to relax, have fun, and dance my ass off. It was a great night. This recent proposal to the San Francisco Entertainment Commission endangers this. It would mean that many venues would be forced to install surveillance equipment. Given its size, no doubt my wedding venue would be one of them. Just one year later, that simple, empowering experience I had might not be possible any longer – at least not in San Francisco, in a venue that size.

However, I don’t want to debate the merits of this proposal or try to plead why it’s a bad idea. It’s obviously a TERRIBLE idea! Shortly after the SFPD is caught illegally entering people’s residences and forging paperwork, this proposal would give the police more power and less accountability, and set up more of a surveillance infrastructure in our fine city. The very nature of the requirements – keep lots of information on the basis of generalized suspicion – flies in the face of Fourth Amendment principles.

The Entertainment Commission is here considering the opposite of what it ought to be doing. It ought to be regulating the club owners’ ability to surveille and keep information on patrons. It should at a minimum regulate video surveillance, ban ID scanning, forbid owners from using automated means to determine the real identity of patrons, and outlaw any kind of blacklist.

The fact that this proposal is before the Commission is itself a travesty. It never should have even gotten this far.


PS For a look at the larger concerns raised by this crazy proposal, see my post on The New Surveillance, The New Blacklist.

A Big Thank-You to the Black American Civil Rights Movement

I recently saw a Jeep with a spare tire cover that said “Every Month is Black History Month”. Hell yeah!

Too often, black history is relegated off into some corner, as if it were separate – segregated, one might say – from the rest of history. When said like that, it’s obvious nonsense, but it’s amazing how we (I speak here of mainstream US society) cut ourselves off from what is, in the end, our own history.

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