In a moment of stumbling prose during the 2016 Presidential debates, Donald Trump managed to perpetuate a universe of stale hacker stereotypes.
Attempting to explain away the now notorious hack of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), Trump embraced the myth of hackers as shadow beings, preternaturally capable of being anyone, anywhere, at any time. The hacker, Trump proclaimed, could have been “someone sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds,” a nod to the myth of hacker as misfit.
In fits and spurts in the years since, Trump has insisted the hack could have been the product of “someone living in New Jersey,” China, or begrudgingly, Russia. But his favored explanation has long been that the hack never happened at all, and was, in fact, a collective delusion.
With the passage of time, next to everything Trump claimed about the hack wound up being fake news.
The idea that there was no hack was injected into the media bloodstream thanks to a false claim that the DNC had attacked itself, a conspiracy theory birthed in the deepest bowels of the internet. Despite being reliant on fabricated data, the claim was uncritically parroted by many journalists throughout 2017 before worming its way into the brain of the President himself.
Ultimately, the theory was exposed as being little more than fluff and nonsense perpetuated, we now know, by a loose collective of internet trolls pretending to be anonymous intelligence experts. This being the post-truth era, the claim is still widely circulated today on Twitter, 8chan, and elsewhere.
A year later, the public learned the hacker involved was neither mythical nor obese, but a Russian intelligence officer working for Putin’s GRU. The hacker spent years posing as a Romanian hacker named Guccifer 2.0, who told reporters he was just an ordinary “freedom fighter”. His blog from the era remains on the internet, frozen in time like a dragonfly in amber.
In time, the public learned that “Guccifer 2.0” wasn’t a particularly competent hacker. He was undone by a failure to adhere to the most rudimentary of security practices, ultimately exposing a Russian intelligence IP address while using WordPress and Twitter. He wasn’t just a random artist engaging in free expression, as Vladamir Putin had previously suggested: he was a hired gun.
Several years later, the state-employed hacker is now one of 11 individuals indicted for a comprehensive, and at times sloppy, effort to disrupt the democratic process of a foreign adversary- a truth that still hasn’t filtered down to the countless souls intent on not hearing it.
So, at the end of the day, the intermittently obese, nonexistent, and at times downright mythical hacker was, just an ordinary, mistake-prone schmoe doing what he was told.