Geek Gangs

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No Act of Kindness Goes Unpunished

Two days ago, I was poking around and saw the reference at JC’s about this fellow with severe medical problems who wanted to win a digital camera in a giveaway. I checked a few details and assured myself that the person was indeed a regular poster to that forum.

You can see his story and others here. The only other serious tale was someone who was going to have a child soon, was moving away, and wanted a digital camera so he could send baby pictures to relatives.

At that time, I had no idea who the person was who wanted to take baby pictures. It just struck me that a guy about to have his leg amputated with his life in the balance waiting for a liver transplant seemed a little
more deserving than someone without such problems who wanted to send baby pictures to relatives.

The aspiring baby-picture taker didn’t think so. Later that day, we got a message from that person decrying our description of him as “someone who wants to take baby pictures” and saying he wouldn’t visit us anymore.

The Plot Thickens

Poked around some more, and found this here.

To make a long story short, this gentleman has been soliciting a variety of parties to vote for him, and not too happy others are doing the same thing for somebody else.

This article is not going to dwell on the merits or demerits of the individuals involved; you can decide that for yourself.

I rather want to talk about the emergence of geek gangs.

What’s A Geek Gang?

Geek gangs are gangs that exist only in cyberspace.

In many aspects, they are just like regular gangs. They have a hangout and turf (almost always a website). They are generally joined by young men. They give a sense of belonging and empowerment to their members, accompanied by considerable bravado.

They often try to establish symbols to identify each other (note the near obsession with putting [H] just about anywhere they can at hardocp.com). While a strictly hierarchical leadership has not quite emerged yet, you definitely see signs of it in some places.

The major difference between a geek gang and a regular gang is the lack of a physical presence. They can’t use physical force to enforce whatever the gang wants to do. Geek gangs can’t literally beat each other up or worse because they literally don’t exist.

So what does a virtual gang do for kicks? Engage in virtual violence. Most of the time, the violence is limited to virtually fighting each other in violent games. But you can have situations where gangs can go after each other. This is one of them.

What’s happening in this contest is essentially the HardOCP gang is going against the JC gang.

Both sides are trying to exert cyberforce in a variety of ways. Like real gangs, both are trying to find allies among other geek gangs. Unlike real gangs, they are using their mouse muscles to fight clone wars; multiplying electronic phantasms of the gang’s will.

Technology notwithstanding, it’s really interesting to see in both hangouts that the major, if not only reason you see for supporting someone is “he’s one of ours,” just as if he were two feet rather than two hundred or thousand miles away.

The Potential Threat

During the early nineties, I lived in the vicinity of Washington, DC, where, for all practical purposes, certain neighborhoods fell under the control of drug gangs, and the death rate for young men in those neighborhoods during those times approached that of soldiers in war.

Compared to that, the danger from a geek gang is laughable. I’ll take a geek gang over a real one any day.

Nor do I doubt that practically all geek gangs are innocuous and innocent. Certainly don’t mean to imply that the HardOCP or JC gangs are in any way, shape or form evil or harmful or dangerous.

It’s not what we have now, but what we could see develop sometime in the future that’s a little worrying.

If you establish the concept of gangs in cyberspace, eventually, you’re bound to get some gangs with more discipline and less laudable leadership.

If a handful of hackers can paralyze major systems, what could a hundred or a thousand, located all over the world, do? If such a group decided to go after an “enemy” electronically, how much havoc could they wreak?

And finally, it’s not hard at all once you have an organizational structure and financial structure to get the wherewithall to get rid of an enemy quite physically.

Again, no implication at all that the folks I’ve been talking about or 99.9999% of similiar groups would come within a million light years of this. That would be like worrying about Bambi as an international terrorist.

But you don’t worry about the 99.9999% of Quake players who aren’t murderers; you worry about the 0.0001% who are.

Email Ed


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