The story of Jacob Applebaum resignation from TOR following multiple accusations of sexual assault is a disturbing one. It’s an all-too-familiar story; his behaviour appears to have been common knowledge for years, but he was powerful enough that nobody was willing to call him out publicly. Then once a critical mass of victims were willing to share their stories, it opened the floodgates. How he was able to get away with so much for so long is one of those questions it’s hard not to ask.
There are important differences, but there are also strong parallels with Requires Hate in the SFF community. Both are examples of manipulative sociopaths surrounded by sycophants, and both are examples of the values of a non-mainstream subculture serving to enable an abuser.
Violet Blue pulls no punches, blaming a hero-worshipping culture for enabling abuse, and is prepared to name and shame some of the people who continued to write fawning media pieces even as his character and behaviour was becoming widely known.
Maybe they knew, or maybe they didn’t care enough to vet him, but CCC and Assange and Snowden gave him power and that needs to be part of this conversation, because we need look no further for proof that hero worship and the cult of belief is pure poison. He convinced people to trust him with secrets, like docs, and threatened the unthinkable if cornered. Jake also benefited greatly — and I can’t stress this enough — from journalists who did not check their facts, reporters who bought into his bullshit persecuted-hacker narrative, and blogs like Boing Boing who breathlessly starfucked his appropriated hacks and docs and reprehensible behavior into credibility.
This didn’t happen because we’re broken as a hacker culture, or because we’re hackers and thus too undeveloped to comprehend empathy. People like Jake can be found in other places; priests and churches, Hollywood, the porn industry, and more. Wherever power imbalances, hero worship, and secret-keepers intersect. People like Jake are found in hacker culture, too, and it’s past time for hacker culture to deal with it.
And, of course, the music industry is hardly immune. Violet’s line about the effect of seeing people praise the work of a known abuser has on their victims cuts rather close to home. Do we single out the likes of Gary Glitter and Rolf Harris and ignore or play down the behaviour of others purely because the latter’s music is considered more worthy?