Investigative tech journalist Joseph Menn's (previously) next book is a history of the Cult of the Dead Cow (previously) the legendary hacker/prankster group that is considered to be "America's oldest hacking group."
In a characteristically excellent Reuters story excerpted from the book, Menn reveals for the first time that Democratic presidential nomination hopeful Beto O'Rourke was an early member of the cDc under the handle "Psychedelic Warlord," having run a cDc BBS, contributed weird and sometimes unhinged essays and short stories (textfiles, or t-files) to the group's zines, and even blazed trail by sponsoring the group's first female member.
Many of O'Rourke's t-files are still online: A Feature on MONEY – Today's Monster, a 1987 essay about the end of money and the erasure of class distinctions; 1988's Visions From The Last Crusade, a gory short-story; and 1988's INTERVIEW WITH NEO-NAZI 'AUSDERAU', a transcription of a debate with a fascist which showcases O'Rourke's skillful argumentation.
O'Rourke has admitted that during his tenure with cDc he engaged in low-level hacker crimes like toll-fraud (in order to make free long-distance calls to BBSes) and software piracy.
O'Rourke and his old friends say his stint as a fledgling hacker fed into his subsequent work in El Paso as a software entrepreneur and alternative press publisher, which led in turn to successful long-shot runs at the city council and then Congress, where he unseated an incumbent Democrat.
Politically, O'Rourke has taken some conventional liberal positions, supporting abortion rights and opposing a wall on the Mexican border. But he takes a libertarian view on other issues, faulting excessive regulation and siding with businesses in congressional votes on financial industry oversight and taxes.
His more conservative positions have drawn fire from Democrats who see him as too friendly with Republicans and corporations. His more progressive votes and punk-rock past helped his recent opponent, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, portray O'Rourke as too radical for socially conservative Texas.
But the political balance allows him to appeal to both main strands of political thought in Silicon Valley – a key source of campaign money and cultural influence.
Beto O'Rourke's secret membership in America's oldest hacking group [Joseph Menn/Reuters]