It Pays to Be the Face of Anonymous

Barrett Brown, the "Face" of Anonymous, has had a busy week, promoting the hacktivist collective's extremely-confusing war against the notorious Zetas drug cartel in every outlet from CNN to Gawker. But a six-figure book deal probably helps with the fatigue.

Last month news broke that Brown and fellow Anonymous associate, Gregg Housh, were shopping around a book about their time with the collective. They just sold the book, tentatively titled Anonymous: Tales From Inside The Accidental Cyberwar, to Amazon's new publishing imprint. And Amazon paid dearly for the story: Brown told us the sum was well into the six figures. "It's a lot," he said. (Caveat: Everything Brown says should be taken with a grain of salt. More on that in a second.)

Amazon is an odd choice for Brown, considering it bowed to pressure from Sen. Joe Lieberman and booted Wikileaks off its servers in December, sparking Anonymous ire. But Brown's willing to let bygones be bygones.

"This made it better," Brown said. "The fact that Amazon is now providing money to me and Housh—they're going to help us get our message out."

It Pays to Be the Face of AnonymousS

A spastic freelance writer and admitted heroin addict from Texas with no hacking skill, Brown has become an unlikely internet celebrity via his Anonymous activism. He was the subject of lengthy profile in Dallas Magazine, "How Barrett Brown Helped Bring Down the Tunisian Government." And he was often quoted as an informal spokesman of the group by journalists desperate to find a real name among all the hacker handles, until he had a public falling-out with Anonymous earlier this year.

But now he's returned with a flourish. In a CNN report on Anonymous' Operation Cartel this week he's smoking a cigarette like some 1960s revolutionary: "I've decided to support the operation, which I know will be controversial," he says. "There are lives in the balance."

(It's unclear if Anonymous will welcome his return. A lot of them see him as a famewhore riding Anonymous to, well, lucrative book deals.)

If Brown is as dogged at promoting his book as he is at promoting Anonymous' bullshit anti-drug cartel operation, Amazon shouldn't be worried about making back their hefty advance. All week Brown has been spouting off to CNN, the Guardian and more about Operation Cartel, which was supposedly launched as payback for the Zetas kidnapping an Anonymous member. Even as proof that there had ever been a kidnapping continued to not exist, Brown upped the stakes, claiming that Anonymous had 25,000 stolen government emails they were going to use to expose at least 75 collaborators.

But today, Brown was running around declaring a "truce" with the Zetas. Apparently the cartel wised up and released the prisoner. According to Brown, one of Mexico's most ruthless drug gangs was cowed by Anonymous' hacking prowess—"we had all these names of their members and they knew it." What a perfect ending.

The whole Operation Cartel business was probably bullshit—a lot of sound and fury signifying people's lurid obsession with the boogeymen of Anonymous and the drug cartels. But Brown seems legitimately concerned about his safety in its wake. "Now my weed dealer won't come by because he's afraid of the damned Zetas," he tweeted.

He's also worried about the safety of his book advance if he happens to be offed by a vengeful Zeta, posting a sort of will which described what should be done with the funds in his bank account should he be murdered.

Ten villages in East Africa, preferably Tanzania, are to be chosen with the intent of each village being similar in population and standard of living. The money will be divided into ten parts. A contest will be held whereby would-be participants will provide a 1,000-word treatise on the subject of how a village may best have its standard of living improved with a small amount of funds. The ten winners will be chosen by the triumvirate...

Brown's upcoming Anonymous book might be utter bullshit, but at least it'll be entertaining.