Cult of the Dead Cow & Beto O’Rourke: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

Getty/Cult of the Dead Cow

Beto O’Rourke was a member of the Cult of the Dead Cow, America’s oldest hacking group, according to extracts from a new book about the group and a Reuters report.

In a series of interviews via Reuters, the CDC claimed O’Rourke as a former member, offering up photos of him when he was a younger man. The news agency does note that there’s no evidence O’Rourke ever engaged in illicit activity himself, like hacking into computers.

The agency also notes that O’Rourke has acknowledged the group recently, speaking in Iowa this week saying, “There’s just this profound value in being able to be apart from the system and look at it critically and have fun while you’re doing it. I think of the Cult of the Dead Cow as a great example of that.”

Here’s what you need to know:

1. CDC Describes Itself as a ‘Hacker Think Tank’

In their YouTube “About” section, the CDC’s description reads, “cDc communications is an on-line media consortium/hacker think-tank that created the original e-publication in 1984.”

The official site for CDC redirects users to the Wikipedia page, where the description for the site reads,

Cult of the Dead Cow, also known as cDc or cDc Communications, is a computer hacker and DIY media organization founded in 1984 in Lubbock, Texas. The group maintains a weblog on its site, also titled “Cult of the Dead Cow”. New media are released first through the blog, which also features thoughts and opinions of the group’s members.

To further the cult’s stated goal of “Global Domination Through Media Saturation,” over the years cDc members have granted interviews to major newspapers, print magazines, online news sites, and international television news programs.

2. O’Rourke Has Admitted in the Past to the Crime of Stealing Long-Distance Phonecalls Through Hacking

Per the Reuters report, O’Rourke was largely active with CDC when he was a teenager, and admitted to “stealing”  long-distance service (in the form of telephone calls) “so I wouldn’t run up the phone bill.” He claimed that he gave away control of his personal CDC bulletin board once he went to boarding school, and wasn’t active at all by the time he was a student at Columbia.

Of his involvement with the group, O’Rourke said, “When Dad bought an Apple IIe and a 300-baud modem and I started to get on boards, it was the Facebook of its day. You just wanted to be part of a community.”

O’Rourke also credited his work with the group as a massive influence on how he would begin to think about a number of things. He said, “I understand the democratizing power of the internet, and how transformative it was for me personally, and how it leveraged the extraordinary intelligence of these people all over the country who were sharing ideas and techniques.”

He added, “When you compromise the ability to treat all that equally, it runs counter to the ethics of the groups we were part of. And factually, you can just see that it will harm small-business development and growth. It hampers the ability to share what you are creating, whether it is an essay, a song, a piece of art.”

3. O’Rourke Made a Deal With Reporter Joseph Menn to Give Him an Exclusive if He Waited Until After the 2018 Midterms

In a Twitter thread by Reuters’ Joseph Menn, he revealed how his explosive story came to be. “Two years ago, I started working on a book about the Cult of the Dead Cow and its members’ pioneering work in hacking and security, which continues to this day,” Menn tweeted. “I soon learned there was a sitting Congressman who had been in the group.”

Menn continued in the thread that he soon began to believe that O’Rourke was that congressman, and when he reached out to the CDC and O’Rourke, he made a deal with both: if he waited to reveal his story until after the 2018 midterms (when O’Rourke’s Senate race was done), he would get exclusive information from both.

It’s not clear if O’Rourke is now still in support of this story, given his unexpected presidential run. Menn tweeted, “No one thought he would lose the Senate race & immediately enter onto an even bigger stage, but here we are, and the embargo is up. The book is out soon, O’Rourke is running for president, and people should hear the missing part of his story.”

4. CDC Is Credited for Popularizing the Word ‘Hacktivism’

The Cult of the Dead Cow takes credit for the creation of the term “hacktivism,” per its own accords. The organization claims that the word was claimed by a CDC member named Omega in 1994.

The definition by the site’s standards reads in part,

He used hacktivism to describe hacking for political purposes. Originally it was more of a quip or a joke. But from the first moment I heard Omega use it I knew that it would have profound meaning, not just for the cDc, but for millions of people across the Internet. Almost immediately “hacktivism” spread like wildfire. The word sounded so cool everyone wanted to use it – the trendier-than-thou digerati, on-line news editors, and especially washed-up activists who had just discovered email. Suddenly, everyone became a “hacktivist.” No one had a clue what it meant, but it sounded cool.

5. READ: Manifesto by a Teenage O’Rourke on ‘MONEY, Today’s Monster’

Via the Reuters report, here is a manifesto which was written by a teenage O’Rourke about money, toppling the government, and more. The full text is still online. Via his pseudonym “Psychedelic Warlord,” he wrote,

Money has been a part of your life since the day you were born. It has been in everyone’s life for thousands of years. In fact, you have to go back to the ancient Chinese and Greeks to find the origins of money. Since it has been a part of your life for so long, you probably never thought about life with out it. Well, here’s your chance. Think, a free society with no high, middle, or low classification of it’s people. Think, no more money related murders, suicides, divorces, or theft. Think, no more families living below a set poverty line or children starving to death because of a lack of money. You’re probably telling yourself, “sure, this sounds great, but how would we ever accomplish this?” Well, in this short file, I will explain for you the virtues of a money-less society and the paths we must take to reach them.

To achieve a money-less society (or have a society where money is heavily de-emphasized) a lot of things would have to change, including government as we know it. This is where the anti-money group and the disciples of Anarchy meet. Anarchists profess that under Anarchy (or limited Anarchy), free trade would be established, with no governing body to interfere. Free trade to me, means that we would no longer use a system of money, but I fear we will always have a system of government, one way or another, so we would have to use other means other than totally toppling the government (I don’t think the masses would support such a radical move at this time).

We (as a people) would have to do it more or less non-violently, for if we use violence, we would never have the support of the masses of people that make up our society. Some ways of doing this, would be to slowly take the United States off the world market, and then slowly phase out our own money markets (including Wall Street). This would slowly bring the upper and middle classes of people in America together. By the time money is de-emphasized enough that it is used only for trading with foreign nations, almost all the classes of people in America would be (for all intended purposes) even.

Of course this would be extremely hard to accomplish, and it will probably never happen in our lifetime, or in our far-off descendents life time unless we do something about it ourselves, while we still can. At least we could get the movement started and keep it going in future generations.

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