At 3:04 this afternoon, I received an email from an online security firm announcing that a hacker by the name of @Anon_Acid had hacked into the voter registration database for Steubenville, Ohio, releasing the personal information of nearly 50,000 Steubenville, Ohio, residents. The incident appeared to be the latest in the ongoing infowar between members of the online hacker collective Anonymous and the community of Steubenville, which many believe has tried to cover up an August 11 rape allegedly involving two football players. (For my thoughts on this tragedy as well as the media's sensationalist coverage of yesterday's YouTube "confessional" video, "Steubenville High rape-joker video is not news," go here.)
There's a couple of problems with this story: One, Steubenville only has 17,000 residents. Two, the Jackson County Board of Elections — the public body overseeing elections for the embattled town of Steubenville — says there was no security breach.
According to Diane Gribble, director of the Jefferson County Board of Elections, the information released by @Anon_Acid was public record. Gribble says, "They didn't hack anything. They just printed a list off" of the election board website.
Gribble also notes that the Board of Elections is taking every precaution to protect their servers from actual hack attacks.
@Anon_Acid's Twitter account has since been suspended, as was a follow-up account. The hacker also released a letter to the people of Steubenville — cue the ominous music:
An open letter to the anonymous victim of the Steubenville gang rape and her parents
Dear Sir, Madam,
Dearest Ms Anonymous,
I wanted to try and reach you to express my support. You are — unfortunately, unwittingly and unwillingly — standing in the eye of a storm. I hope things are as calm as they can be for you right now. I’m very glad that the gathering on Saturday was peaceful and successful and that so many people came to express their support as well.
You are incredibly brave and strong. I cannot imagine the courage and serenity it must take for you to live through this. If you don’t already, I want you to know that you have touched hearts and minds all around the globe, and that is a very special thing.
I want you to know that for every friend you have lost through this experience — or never truly had — there are many more just waiting to be discovered.
Right now, a beautiful young woman appears to be suffering greatly, while those who caused her suffering appear to not be suffering much at all by comparison: being suspended from a football team; being publicly shamed; even being put on trial and possibly incarcerated all seem to be much less in terms of human suffering than the rape and humiliation suffered by her.
Her own wounds are clearly raw and deep, while those of her tormentors are much more subtle. Have you ever read His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman? If not, I suggest that you do. It is the subtle knife that cuts deepest…
This young woman has many bright and beautiful days ahead. With every day that passes, she will grow stronger and her suffering will grow weaker. And with every year that passes the suffering of her tormentors will only grow.
From what I understand, she has little recollection of what happened that night. This is a great gift. Her tormentors can recall their actions very well and they will haunt those boys for a lifetime, in subtle ways.
Their darkest side has been illuminated for all to see. Who knows, which people will recoil in horror at what has been exposed: a perfect partner that will never love them now; a best friend that will never come to be; a family member that will perhaps not be quite as close as they once were.
Who knows when something — a touch, a smell, or walking past a particular place, perhaps — will stir memories of what they did that night. Those memories will likely carry a mixture of pride and defiance for the boys, but also — increasingly — guilt and shame. If and when they have daughters of their own, those boys-turned-men will undoubtedly experience a guilt and shame that eclipses anything you may have felt.
Right now, they are a band of young guys in their prime. They feel invincible. They have much strength to push bad feelings away. But at the very end of life is when their suffering will be greatest: when they are old and worn, alone with their fading memories. I am sure the memory of what they did that night will shine all the more brightly, cutting through the fog like a blade.
This young woman is stronger than her tormentors: she can save herself from her suffering. Those boys are weak and need someone else to save them from theirs: for they cannot even perceive the nature of their suffering yet. I suspect that she can see a little more clearly now. Those boys are still blind and stumbling around in the dark.
One day, that beautiful young woman will be standing on a mountaintop. She will be able to see the tangled patch of thorns she had to scramble through — way back on the path to where she stands — and she will smile.
She will no doubt be a tigress, if and when she has cubs of her own.
You have — fortunately or unfortunately — illuminated the very brightest side of many, many people and brought them together under a common cause. Your own family has perhaps also grown closer and more radiant through this shared experience. Who knows what good things will come to pass because of that.
I hope this makes some sense and brings you some small comfort in this difficult time. I know it may not seem like it right now, but I hope that this might help you — and your daughter — to see that even this very, very dark cloud is tinged with silver.
I wish you all the very best with all my heart, and a bright start into a new year.
We are Anonymous.
We are Legion.
We do not forgive,
we do not forget.