The Parade with the Drums is an unlikely literary document; it’s the first children’s book published by the faceless hacktivist collective Anonymous. Why? Who? How? and Is It Any Good? All these questions and more occurred to us, so we contacted publisher @AnonLit on Twitter and arranged for an interview and a review copy.
First, some background.
To commemorate imprisoned hacktivist Jeremy Hammond’s 30th birthday, Anonymous Publications, the heretofore unknown organization (“publishing hacker crew” falls oddly on the ear in this context, although it would be appropriate) which issued the book, organized an initiative to send several hundred of the books to libraries around the country. It’s a fitting tribute: when Hammond was placed in charge of the art program at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York, he had the inmates make Anonymous posters. Prints of those posters are available as inserts on the Hammond/FreeAnons tribute album Hear Us Now, available on Bandcamp.
As we at The Cryptosphere await the arrival of our review copy, we asked AnonLit how a faceless collective could get an ISBN number, why it would bother, and what are the plans for the future, if any, of Anonymous Publications? Should Random House be quivering in their (rich, imported leather) boots? The AP tagline is “Your honest source for creative literary works written in rejection of the empire” so, clearly, they have no intention of being the softball arm of Anonymous. Equally clearly, our editor would like them to re-think their policy on the capitalization of “Empire.”
Here’s what the book actually looks like:
You can view a page by page image set on Imgur.
How does the whole thing work to sell books, when the website, which is simply a sub-page of a web app’s marketing site, prominently displays a link to read the book online?
“The plan is people go to our web presence and acquire the book using Bitcoins. This system lacks efficiency (as that we aren’t scaled to distribute, nor are we signed on with any distributors). This past xmas we did a donation effort and got the book into Ferguson area libraries among other places (this under-edited paste was used to gain donation participants and interest in the book.”
The paste (which does indeed cry out for the hand of an editor; all is [sic]) indicates the book project was originally called Op Democracy Distro (Or Op Democracy; it’s unclear) and then subsequently tied to both Christmas and Hammond’s birthday, presumably for mediagenic reasons.
Greetings, I’m an Anonymous software engineer working with a small cell of
Anons. I have access to a revolutionary supply of children’s books designed
to teach our future that, when they grow up, they need to fight against
injustice in this world to protect their community. This cell is
well funded and we would like to use our assets to ship the book to places
where it does the most good. These gifts are donations; no one has to pay any
money -we got you. All that is needed is a reliable contact willing to handle
receiving the book and then able to pass them out to people in the area who
want them. This is a show of support from Anonymous, and we need your help to
make the last mile happen.
One of the problem’s we’ve all noticed in our society is our media and our
governments sending us the message that free assembly and demonstration can be
met with force. This is not an acceptable message, and to that end, we have
developed this book to counteract such a perversion being contracted into our
Parents will like it, it may help them explain where they go when they leave
there children with a nanny to demonstrate at a protest where police are
expected to be violent. It also will help explain to our young what’s
happening and non-violent demonstrations where police brutality is not expected
and where children can (AND SHOULD) be brought along.
Activists who have no children and are simply will enjoy seeing the work of art
and passing it around as though it were a very expensive pamphlet.
If you are able to assist, here is what needs to be done:
1) Find an address where the books can be shipped. This does not need to be
your own address, it can be a book store, library with a sympathetic staff
member, school, etc. It just has to be safe for you, and trustworthy for
2) Receive the book, take photos, make tweets, and let us know the book got
through w/e the fuck the NSA is doing with our mail systems, and also let
the world know that we’re standing up for them every way we know how.
3) Bring the books right into a demonstration and share. Connect! This is a
massive scale #PdfTribute and we fucking love it!
No one can *buy* this book with USD at the moment. It’s being donated to
locations. If it is sold at a book store, the sales MUST go to a local charity
cause such as the rebuilding of shops in #Ferguson which the city allowed to
just burn away, and possibly even took part in the burning as a sick political
move against the dissidents in Ferguson.
The paste closes with a quotation from Rage Against The Machine’s “Wake Up.”
“How long? Not Long. Cause what you reap is what you sow.”
AnonLit explains that, because of the lack of exposure in the media, because of the limited reach of Bitcoin, and because of the complications of staying anonymous at both ends of a business transaction, sales have stayed quite low. We’d add that telling people they don’t need to pay for things is a pretty great way to ensure that they don’t.
“It’s been hard getting attention, very few Bitcoin sales so far. Bitcoin is a good way of fighting back against corrupt and otherwise unaccountable financial institutions.” AnonyOdinn has written for us several times on using cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin to circumvent the Big Banks.
The book distribution process, with the Bitcoin tie-in, functions like a training exercise, giving people a compelling reason to get into Bitcoin on a microscale, and then use it in a safe and reasonably inexpensive transaction.
“We’ve donated over 300 books so far, and I can assure you that there are plenty (*PLENTY*) more copies in our inventory squirming for companion readers. The trick is finding those readers and coaxing
them into proving it by requesting nominal Bitcoin payments or USD donations to jailed Anons.”
“If we stop relying on [the banks et al] they end up with less tools they can use against us. In the coming months we’ll have our Bitcoin-based merchant app’s source code posted online, with a pair of reusable libraries for other developers to use as they build nice things. The web app is full of internet liberty
and PGP encryption goodness, but the code base is still a mess (it’s in ruby on rails).”
This, presumably, is where the Heroku app comes in, ie the site which hosts the web page dedicated to Anonymous Publications. If they can succeed in creating an easy to use distribution and sales app with end-to-end anonymization, they will have a product that Silicon Valley (and Langley, Virginia) would be very, very interested in.
But Anonymous Publications don’t just have a web page, boxes of books, and an app. They also have an ISBN, the literary equivalent of a social security number, identifying a particular book as unique, and enabling it to be sold in bookstores and online merchants like Amazon. It seemed an odd choice for a group devoted to anonymity.
“Libraries seem to like the ISBNs. Amazon likes them too… but at the moment we’re boycotting Amazon because they’re monsters and side with the Pentagon on issues of war crimes (recall Amazon’s reaction to Wikileaks’ collateral murder release), so Amazon should be closed down rather than relied upon or profited through.” Amazon, you’ll recall, killed WikiLeaks’ account and took their website offline in 2010, a pair of actions that guaranteed Amazon would be on Anonymous’ hit list and indeed, they were hit with one of the largest DDoS attacks ever, for which the Paypal 14 were eventually charged, pled, and sentenced.
“The Plan™ isn’t to distribute the book privately, it’s just to start distributing and see where things go.”
As for OpSec (operational security, ie safe and protective standard operating procedures) which has varied among Anonymous operations from tight to fatally flawed, AnonLit isn’t worried. “No one in Anonymous Publications is officially registered with banks or bureaus or anything like that. There’s no trail back to anyone of importance from a financial organization. That’s intentional, but it also hinders business possibilities. A few times a “proxy director” position has come up that would allow for, say, a Paypal button or Amazon account, but people get nervous when it comes time to create a discrete bank
account to handle Bitcoin to USD transactions.”
“This is an experiment in anonymity as much as it is anything else.”
If it succeeds, Anons both in prison and out of it, as well as anyone anywhere who wishes to engage in commerce or distribution without being personally identified, will have a very useful tool and a proven business model.
Time, as always, will tell, even if the supply chain won’t.
* A note about our model and her back story.