or How I Learned To Continue Worrying and Brace For The Bomb
or The End Is Here
or Earth: Season Finale
or Predictive Programming: A Love Story
or The Human Show
by Matthew August Leddy
There are few moments in history in which the participants knew with certainty their world was about to change for good. Somehow, you and I, dear reader, chose to incarnate into such a time. We already know the world is changing. What frightens me most is that it is changing in the very way I foresaw over half a year ago, just before the proverbial fertilizer hit the ventilator.
It’s pointless to argue about what is truly happening in this very instant when there is a multi-billion dollar disinformation campaign coming from our very own corporatocracy. Every story that does not align with the official narrative is smeared and that smear is repeated endlessly until people regurgitate it ad nauseam, resulting in tragic indifference or hatred toward conspiracy facts. In turn, our collective minds succumb to the social engineering without seeing where it ultimately leads, like self-righteous little sheep shepherded into the abattoir. They have created a scorched-earth strategy towards molding our minds.
My mind, frankly, is tired of being molded when I know now as I knew seven months ago where this all leads. By knowing the destination, the steps along the way are no longer so surprising, although they are still traumatizing. When you realize you’ve seen the movie that you’re now living in, the only question remains, “what’s my role?” I don’t know if I’ve found the answer because the storyline is so grim. The story that is playing out before our very eyes has not yet passed through the dark night of the soul. But covering my eyes will not turn the movie off.
Sure enough, movies are one of the vessels through which the truth of this world came to me. As I learned more occult knowledge, I began to notice the signs and symbols and predictive programming that are displayed in our popular culture, softening our prefrontal cortex into accepting our potential future. Big-budget blockbusters became a treasure trove of symbology that could help me decipher where humanity is being led. The projects of the Nolan brothers, for example, were no longer simply stories about a caped crusader, a war fiasco and robot people. They became a roadmap for a global initiation ritual, a cataclysm that has already been planned and the transhumanist technocracy that will be forced upon us. If you look closely enough, you can see these clues among the work of all the greatest directors. And they all touch on the truth they are not allowed to confess freely: the world is run by a psychopathic secret society that is prepared to sacrifice us all to bring about their new world order.
That, I’m afraid, is the much-meme’d “red pill” that we all have to swallow.
I don’t know if knowing this helps much. I am still unable to single-handedly change the outcome of history if it has already been written for us. Once you accept that the people with the “End Is Near” signs are actually the sane ones, you are left only with a few simple questions to answer. How should I live? How should I die? How can I share the most love before I go? Before the movie ends, what role am I playing? And how can I make my story have a great freakin’ ending?
However this movie goes, I am reminded by the greatest story of all time that after a good life and death always comes resurrection. And that the light never dies.
To infinity, and beyond!
Kafkaesque, a radio thriller
trailer and podcast pilot
A penniless transient takes shelter with an emotionally distraught female friend. One of them has a secret, evil agenda. The question is who? And who will get out alive?
Leddy Set Go Productions
a psychological thriller audio experience
and television pilot proof-of-concept
available on YouTube
and wherever you get your podcasts!
Written and directed by Matthew Leddy.
Starring: Annelisha Dixon, Matthew Leddy, Keith Ewell, Al Gerschutz, Autumn Palen and Chad and Cody Heffelfinger Original video footage, director of photography + poster art: Autumn Palen
This presentation contains some explicit language, drug use and scary moments.
Recommended for mature audiences only.
audio + video:
Pocket Casts: https://pca.st/rxba7p4l
Radio Public: https://radiopublic.com/kafkaesque-a-radio-thriller-8jdNpj
Leddy Set Go Productions:
Getting through the wild whirlwind that has been my 2018, I slipped and somehow managed to neglect my fans, all four of you. In the words of Radiohead, “for a minute there, I lost myself.” But with every apparent death comes a rebirth (see: Jesus) and mine starts with reconnecting with you, dear reader (AKA mom, probably).
2018 has been sort of like a minefield where the mines have their own mines who in turn shoot out lasers toward my naughty bits. Quite unpleasant, if you ask me. I know I’m not the only one who has been tested during this ever-changing year. Chaos, natural disasters, injustices and the rotten core of humanity were on full display, reflecting our own turbulent nature. And that was just the New Year’s party. But I’m a storyteller and I knew these stories could not possibly all end in doom and gloom.
Sure enough, from the belly of the whale, I was able to see light. And, just in time, some Japanese fishermen pulled me out of that whale. Because they just legalized whaling in Japan again.
What I discovered upon returning to civilization–back to community and friendship and love– is that the sociopaths of the Earth have their days numbered. The world they want to impose on us is a lie and it is decaying beneath their feet. The only world we will inherit is being built by collaboration, expression, joy, uninhibited creation and truth. I know, I know–crazy stuff.
I write down these bold ideas not as the manifesto of some lunatic–I’m saving that for later–but as the experiencer of grace in a world of lies. Having seen for myself how low some people will go for self-gain, I lost a great deal of faith in mankind. But I was saved by love and brought back to my mission: to create a sustainable new world together. It is, after all, the dawning of the age of Aquarius (Aquarius, Aquarius!)
Once I reconnected with old and new friends sharing a common purpose, we created some cool stuff together, built trust, made memories and helped each other out.
A few examples:
I was the guy who called out “take ninety seven” before clapping that clapper thing on a terrific TV pilot called Dr. Scotty’s Intergalactic Motel and Cafe, which could loosely be described as “Mr. Rogers in space with puppets.” I also got to fondle some of the puppets. With consent, of course.
I brushed up on my slapstick comedy skills to play a dim-witted coke fiend (somehow not a stretch) in a loony indie movie called The Ghost in the Air Conditioner. No further explanation necessary.
I also explored / made up the wildly brazen character of Smoke in my friends’ spec pilot Natushka & Elena, which is completely improvised and ridiculously entertaining.
I offered my free hands and other limbs to director Autumn Palen on the set of Worst Case Scenario, a short film about facing death and being saved by love. Sound familiar?
I returned to Underscore Films to help out with this delightfully silly Santa spot for MeUndies (“Less sexy, Santa! Less sexy!“)…
… followed by an adventurous spec commercial for (insert aviation company here once they hire us). The level of talent, professionalism and ambition on these shoots was inspiring. It reminded me that if I dream big enough, I too can one day grow up to be an airplane.
What else? Oh, yes, I got a job! A tele-screen job, no less, at a wonderfully diverse company.
As I mentioned, I’ve been so busy surfing the sometimes treacherous / sometimes exciting waves of this crazy year that I’ve forgotten to send you selfies of myself with every meal.
While I have enjoyed breaking the vice of device–at least a little–I have resolved to get out of my cocoon in 2019 and share the important things in life–like puppies, new creations and tasteful latte art. But I resolve that most of my sharing shall be in person, with the folks I love.
Finally–he said unpretentiously–I resolve to embody the spirit of revolution and lovingly tear down the matrix we inhabit. Because, if this system is a simulation, it’s totes lame and I’m quite confident we can build a better one. #buildabettersimulation
That’s all for 2018, year of the dog. 2019 will be the year of the pig. May your piggy be healthy, happy and cared for by vegans.
Now it’s your turn. What are you going to create?
My Kafkaesque nightmare with a sociopathic con man
by Matthew Leddy (@LeddySetGo)
There are people who operate in the shadows, whose entire existence is a fabrication; people who trade in dignity for self-gain and are incapable of empathy; people who never signed the social contract. These people are called sociopaths. They may seem almost human at first, sharing in all the social pleasantries of the civilized world. They will smile, pretend to care and even do you a favor or two. Beware. It’s a trap. I learned this the hard way recently by ignoring my wiser instincts and allowing such a person into my life. If you are wise, you won’t make the same mistake and become another cautionary tale.
Let’s say his name is Marion Maniel. Fifty years old. 5’11”. Bald. Pale. Thin. Frail. A bit evil looking. We met back in Mar Vista among some other shady characters of the loose-cannon hippie variety. He referred me to a tenant attorney when my slumlord refused to treat a black mold infestation. He seemed to take an almost unhealthy interest in the case, examining each legal angle of the situation. He pretended to be generous and would often mention how he could get anything for free because so many people owed him favors even as he asked me for favors. He had sob stories about how he had been screwed over. His apartment seemed strange, as though someone had just moved out suddenly. It was none of my business so I didn’t pay it any mind. But the clues were all there.
Several months passed. I moved. I didn’t hear from him and I was quite relieved by that. After crashing with friends for two months, I finally landed on a sweet sublet through the Facebook marketplace. It was a quaint but ample enough studio apartment in the heart of Silverlake for under $900. The renter, who lived in New York, wanted to keep his rent controlled apartment so he was happy to sublet it without making a profit, even though his lease forbade it. I settled in nicely and enjoyed four months living alone for the first time ever. And then the call came.
It was Marion on the phone. He needed help. He was in a desperate situation. He needed a temporary place to stay. He would be so grateful for any help. I told him I would call him back. After all, I was with my godfather and I hated the undue pressure. But even my godfather was fooled by his theatrics over the speakerphone. He legitimately felt bad for the guy. I thought about my friends who had given me a crashing pad when I needed one. Perhaps this was my chance to pay it forward. I picked up the phone and called Marion back. This is the part of the movie when you should be yelling at the screen, “don’t do it! You fool!” And, so, I did.
Marion arrived later that evening. I made it clear that this was to be a temporary arrangement. He crashed on the couch. I went to work full time. And he remained on the couch. More of his belongings arrived suddenly. Two weeks passed and I gave him some helpful tips to find temporary shelter. In his uniquely vague way, he danced around and evaded the subject. I tried not to stress about it. I have always believed in the best of people. We all need a helping hand sometimes.
A month passed and my birthday was fast approaching. I threw a party to raise funds for Monday Night Mission, a local organization that feeds the homeless living on Skid Row. I didn’t feel right making a guy homeless at the same time so I allowed Marion to stay on until then. I asked him to DJ at my party and he obliged. Of course, he was a DJ. He loved to tell tales of all the big money shows he had performed and how successful he was. And yet, here he remained. Still on my couch.
My birthday came and went. And the red flags flew at full mast. He would threaten his phone company. He would consume anything that could be consumed. My belongings had become his belongings. My space had become his space. His parasitic tentacles were now firmly lodged into the apartment, leeching off of my naive compassion. I had enabled a freeloader and I had to cut the cord.
My first step was to voice my position and establish clear boundaries. I told him that I wanted my privacy back. I told him he could spend the night there while he looked for a new place to stay during the day. My apartment could no longer be a crashing pad. No sooner had I made this request than I fell ill with a cold and needed bed rest. I locked the main door, the one for which I never gave Marion a key. He was out of the house and I was grateful. Until he returned and proceeded to attempt to enter the structure by any means necessary. I was half asleep but could see an arm struggling through a hole in the screen window. I heard him make a phone call. He said something about a thirty day rule and left the property. This could not go on.
That evening, before he returned again, I texted him my final position: I would put him up in a hostel for a couple of nights and give him some cash to facilitate his transition. I said this would be the healthiest thing for both of us. Moments later, he appeared at the door again. I invited him in to discuss my proposal. That’s when he revealed his true sociopathic colors. He said he would not leave and had now gained status as a legal tenant under California law for residing at my dwelling for over thirty days. This was his sixtieth day, to be precise, and he had no plans to ever leave. Nor could I make him.
I stopped trying to reason with the unreasonable. Anything I had to say was met with shameless gaslighting from the trespasser. If you are fuzzy on that term, gaslighting refers to using persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying in attempts to destabilize the target and delegitimize the target’s belief. This is business as usual for a sociopath.
As Marion started tampering with the door lock, I took my energy elsewhere: the police, the DA, my councilman’s office, the city attorney’s office and even the press. None were inclined to help me. The police would not evict him. The only DIY advice that made any sense was to lock this bloodsucker out and leave the burden of proof on him. And so I did.
I finally had my chance a few evenings later when the perpetrator was out of the house. I locked the main door. I left two copies of a formal letter at the entrance: one for him and another for the LAPD. I CC’d several city agencies and sent it via email to all parties. He was no longer welcome in my residence, it said. He was to leave immediately and tell me where to send his belongings. This was me formally cutting the cord. This should have been the end of it.
Alas, Marion returned within minutes and began viciously breaking and entering. I filmed the whole thing. He was able to break open a side window attached to an unused door and began unlocking the door as I yelled at him to stop. I should note at this point that I purchased pepper spray a few days prior, at the height of my fear and uncertainty about living with an unstable sociopath. As he continued advancing, shoving a couch with the opening door and ignoring my cries, you know damn well I used that pepper spray for fear of my life.
This is the Kafkaesque part of the story. I called the police. And so did he. Guess who got charged with a crime that night? Indeed, the police gave me the choice to simply allow the con man back into my home and they would make no arrests. I politely but firmly refused. That’s what this was all about, after all. Possession. So I was arrested. They said he was to be mentally evaluated. My neighbor locked my doors for me.
I was booked downtown with a felony charge—assault with a chemical agent. I was bailed out by family the next morning and driven back home. Maybe it was finally over. Maybe this nightmare could end here. Whatever legal ramifications, at least I might finally have my home and my life back. As I soon discovered, I was wrong. Marion Maniel had returned to my apartment, broken back in and was back on the couch, like a hyena ready to pounce. Had the police even taken him in? “How is he still here while I am facing serious legal charges for acting in self defense?,” I wondered. My head was reeling.
My uncle advised me to pack a bag and get the hell out of there. All of a sudden, I was the one facing homelessness and uncertainty while Marion enjoyed his third month of rent-free squatting. I had to come clean with the renter. I told him I was ending my sublease and why. He was surprisingly patient and understanding despite the legal burden of eviction he now faced because I allowed compassion to blind me. My family retrieved my belongings and served the con man restraining order hearing papers on my behalf. This was his MO and he was winning.
As I tried to get my life back on track while awaiting my arraignment, I pondered a few questions. Why does California law protect a con man over a legitimate tenant in this scenario? What could I have done differently to get rid of the perp and keep my apartment? How come the city refused to help a citizen requesting help? How can he keep getting away with this?
Thanks to the generosity of family and a little bit of luck, I did receive the legal help I needed to get my felony charges diminished and dismissed. At the very least, my future as a criminal was disappearing from view. Meanwhile, the property management company was going to sue the renter unless he could remove the squatter. He had to calculate whether it would be cheaper to counter-sue or accept the credit hit he would get for having an eviction on his record. The waves of destruction created by one man’s greed rippled beyond my expectations.
Finally, the restraining order hearing date arrived and I faced Marion in court. He looked like the devil in a shiny black suit and red brimmed glasses. As it turns out, the suit wasn’t even his but belonged to the renter, one of the few items left behind in the closet. I told the judge my story. She was not convinced that it warranted a restraining order, especially since I had left the property. She allowed the defendant to respond. And he lied with all the confidence and comfort of the devil himself. He professed that he had done one hundred hours of consulting work for me prior to his arrival and that I owed him money and—before he could get much further, the judge cut him off and said she was denying the restraining order against him. I was left aghast but also curious about what other lies he had prepared to tell about me. This willful deceit made me feel ill all over again. A sociopath will play whatever role he needs to play to get what he wants.
I knew the end was near. He may have won temporarily. He may have found the right legal loophole to be a criminal with legal protection. But at least I didn’t have to see him anymore. His days as an un-incarcerated shyster were numbered. That’s when some new information landed on my lap. The court computers revealed he had quite a history: charges of reckless and drunk driving, larceny, a lawsuit against him by a storage facility and, finally, indisputable proof that he had played this scheme before.
I went to visit my chiropractor and he asked me why I was tense. So I told him the story in brief. His jaw dropped. He told me that another patient of his had fallen for the same trick by the same guy. We corroborated facts and I discovered that she was the woman whose apartment Marion had been squatting in when I first met him. He had rented the room but never paid, then claimed tenancy and lied that they had been a couple. She was forced to move out while he played the eviction game there just as he is playing now at my place. And he knows just enough to get away with it, no matter how many people get hurt along the way.
As of this writing, the City Attorney has dropped my charges. I have reached out to Mayor Garcetti and some friends in high places to caution against this individual. This has taken a toll on me, sure. But I have a new place and I will survive. Marion Maniel, however, needs to be in prison to protect other good people from falling for his evil ways. If he was looking for someone to bring him down, he found him in me. The law cuts both ways and, soon enough, it will cut him down, too. We all know the quote about the arc of history bending toward justice. I couldn’t agree more. But don’t forget a quote just as relevant to our world today and heed its warning:
“The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”
-Keiser Soze, sociopath
played by Kevin Spacey, sociopath
from The Usual Suspects, 1995
Directed by Bryan Singer, sociopath
About a decade ago, some college friends and I shot this short film that I wrote while studying cinema, Shakespeare and theater in Miami (and abroad). I was lucky enough to get some talented professional actors on board. Due to some delays in post-production, this little film has not seen the light of day until now. Better a decade late than never! Big love and thanks to everyone who made it possible! #Sonnet116 #NSFW
Sonnet 116 is a short film shot in Miami, Florida, about a troubled marriage on the edge of doom. Can a love sonnet and a bit of luck turn things around? How far would you go for your love?
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no; it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests, and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.
Leddy Set Go Productions
written, directed and produced by Matthew August Leddy
director of photography – Clark Splichal
edited by Alyson Bruno
sound design and music by Eric Fuhrmann
Jim – Chris Vicchiollo
Susan – Sandy Ives
Bruce – Brandon Morris
Zoe – Stacy Schwartz
Hobo – Robert Strain
Key Grip – Chris Dukes
Grip – Diana Matos
Grip – Koen Thiry
Production Assistant – Deborah Acosta
Production Assistant – Geraldine Alvarez
University of Miami
City of Miami, Florida
New Theatre, Inc. (Coral Gables, Florida)
Michael Blake Heitzler
Youssouf A Coulibaly
Our goal at Leddy Set Go Productions is to break down the barriers of the establishment film world to create fun, compelling work and make an impact with like-minded artists. Here is a small sample of the work we have already created together, along with some shameless self-promotion by our head honcho. Please reach out to us to help you with your next production, to hire any of our talented artists or just to say, “hey!” If you’re here, you’re already part of our community. Thanks a bunch! Mil gracias!
In the pursuit of self-actualization, a man must sacrifice his body, his time and his love before he can see clearly. Actualize! is a short film featuring a score by Danny Elfman, produced by Leddy Set Go Productions for the Film Independent Rabbit & Rogue challenge, allowing filmmakers to create a story inspired by compositions in Elfman’s Rabbit & Rogue ballet, previously unused in film. This unique opportunity allowed friends from Leddy Set Go Productions to weave a fantastical story about our human potential and the sacrifices needed to self-actualize. Enjoy it in glorious 4K!
Enjoy our production stills and please subscribe to our channels for more original creative content coming soon!
Trigger Alert: This article contains political material and may trigger election PTSD.
Well, it’s been a year since the Democrats won Drumpf the election. Since I wasted a good chunk o’ time supporting the guy who would have actually beaten ol’ Donny Boy, according to every poll, I thought it might be suitable to reflect on this anniversary of horrors. But, before I even could, I made the mistake of opining via electronic mail… and opening up old wounds… and this reflection literally wrote itself.
You see, a while back, just before the 2016 presidential election, I had invited a professional colleague to a screening of a little documentary series I made called “Journey For Bernie: Road Trip to the DNC.” Pretty self-explanatory. It chronicled some young activists going to Philadelphia in the vain hope that this Jewish socialist geezer from Vermont might get the Democratic nomination. You know how well that worked out.
The response to my invitation read:
Good luck with it. At this moment I don’t think I could stomach a movie about the guy who first called Hillary unqualified. Sorry. Hate Bernie.
Fair enough. I didn’t really want to let politics divide us through email. That’s what Facebook is for. So, naturally, I did like Frozen and let it go.
And then all the corruption got exposed.
And, finally, one day, like a freakin’ genius, I didn’t let it go:
I found this comment hurtful, seeing as how it’s now proven that Bernie and supporters like me were robbed in last year’s primary and that’s why we have President Pumpkin-face (instead of healthcare for all and a green new deal). For me, arts and politics go together. If you are a fan of corruption and neo-liberalism and you hate Bernie, then you hate me and working people. For me, it’s important that I support people and causes that share my values. Godspeed.
Donna Brazile’s bombshell about the DNC and Hillary Clinton, explained – Vox
Smart move, knucklehead. Why don’t you just open up pandora’s box while you’re at it?
Predictably enough, the wrath was unleashed and a battle was afoot.
Their response read:
Your support of a supremely unqualified candidate is what installed an equally unqualified candidate into the White House. Sanders and Trump are equally the same entity: inexperienced and divisive disrupters who appeal to the uninformed. If you had actually read the comments by Brazil [sic] you would know nothing illegal took place. In fact, the DNC had been bankrupted by Obama’s 2016 campaign and was one life support. Who should the DNC fund — a life long respected Democrat or a life long Independent and self proclaimed Socialist who never would’ve survived the Trump rhetoric and whose only preceding accomplishment was to rename a post office?
And for the record, before you accuse someone of being a “fan” of corruption, you need to check your facts. Also, I don’t “hate” BS nor do I hate you. That’s an illogical assumption. I don’t respect BS and I think his political stances are superficial and unrealistic.
Good luck with your career.
Smooth move, Ex-Lax.
Just be cool.
Don’t let it trigger you.
For the remainder of this exchange, the names of our two warriors have been replaced with their respective pejorative term.
BERNIE BRO: “Hate Bernie.” Your contemptuous words. Doubling down on the blame and defensiveness is not a way to bridge the gap or heal the wounds. And you care not that HRC bought the DNC long before she was the nominee. That is corruption. That is not democracy. This is why we can’t have nice things.
HILLBOT: Please stop
BERNIE BRO: Gladly. I was merely responding to your last message where you denied your own words.
A simple apology would have sufficed.
I won’t respond again.
… time elapsed…
HILLBOT: Look, I know you Trump people love to have the last word but you are simply not owed an apology. Please, as I have said before stop.
BERNIE BRO: This is silly. I’m sorry I started an argument. I apologize. We’re all upset about a lot of things.
HILLBOT: Yes, you should apologize. Only Fox News is following this story. Let’s keep our eye on the relevant ball and that is Trump.
Again, good luck and be well!
BERNIE BRO: NPR is reporting it. It’s news. http://www.npr.org/2017/11/03/561976645/clinton-campaign-had-additional-signed-agreement-with-dnc-in-2015
HILLBOT: Honestly, given that Brazil [sic] herself today ridiculed the Trumphole for saying the primary was “rigged” I have to think the BS camp is roiling over nothing. I wish you guys could get over it and join forces in a united effort to bring this regime down. We, on the “other”side have dealt with the misogyny of the political world.
BERNIE BRO: Now you stop. Ridiculous, HILLBOT. I’m not arguing verified facts with you. Stay in your bubble if you want. I went to Philadelphia. I saw it with my own eyes. I made a documentary and you insulted Bernie when I invited you. It revealed suppression of a people’s movement and outright corruption. I’m trying to fix that. But you won’t even acknowledge the truth. That’s why I got upset and that’s why I wrote you, to no avail. You can’t fix a problem if you don’t acknowledge its existence. Goodbye.
HILLBOT: I never insulted your “Bernie.” I never met him, nor do I care to. I don’t respect him. If I wanted to insult someone it would be his intransigent supporters who didn’t vote in the election because their guy lost. Those illogical sycophants decided they were going to make a statement and either not vote or vote for Trump. And here we are.
Your insistence on creating your own false narrative is insulting to me. The Bernie movement was nothing more than a passing fad, lacking substance You are more like zealous fans except that fans don’t insist that everyone root for their “team.” What’s really annoying is yesterday you all felt vindicated and were shouting your empty message to the world. Guess what, the entire news cycle missed this story except Fox News, which brings me to my original point that BS fans are essentially like Trump supporters.
… and that concludes our discourse.
All in all, I would say that we’ve made a lot of progress.
Welcome to Led Talks, hosted by Matthew Leddy. Today’s special guest, sure to be a regular, is George Leddy, professor of environmental sciences. Tune in here for more links and info related to our podcast soon and check out http://www.Facebook.com/LeddySetGo
A n00b’s perspective on DefCon 25
When’s the last time you checked the news without seeing a story about hackers hacking someone’s personal information, a major studio’s intellectual property or, you know, an election? The concept of hacking is so ubiquitous in our popular culture, evident everywhere from celebrities’ leaked scandals to the media’s daily finger-pointing political tirades to Hollywood’s budding cyber-punk thriller genre. Ultimately, our society seems to understand hacking and the very concept of internet security about as well as we understand electricity: we know it exists but we would probably be hard-pressed to explain how it works. After an immersive weekend at DefCon in Las Vegas, however, even the greenest noob will have their eyes opened to just how vulnerable we all are, what we can do to make a hacker’s life more difficult and why the hacker is essential to keep the safety of the modern world in check.
The vibe at DefCon is exciting but curious. This year, 25,000 people from across the globe descended upon Caesar’s Palace in sin city to find trust within a subculture that inherently trusts no one. After linking up with far more experienced folks in this community, I was briefed on some basic Defcon guidelines. To start, the 3-2-1 rule is important to get the most out of the experience: three hours of sleep, two meals and one shower per day. Because even hackers are not robots. In honor of the 25th anniversary of DefCon, our badges imitated the design of the very first one, back before each human willingly carried a vulnerable personal information transmitter on their person at all times. I was also briefed on another important suggestion: prioritize a good conversation over a scheduled presentation that will end up streaming online anyway. This is how you build relationships within the community. Also, don’t photograph anybody without their permission. Not everybody wants to be seen here. As my Egyptian-Texan roommate taught me how to secure my phone from hackers, the personal information of the blissfully ignorant was projected onto the “wall of sheep.” Somebody described the conference as the internet personified. It sure felt like it.
This was all new territory for me. As I visited the lock-picking village and saw that even a child could break a lock, the world felt suddenly precarious and limitless. If something can be locked, it can be unlocked. It all comes down to that. And it was evident when a man demonstrated how he hacked and shot a supposedly “smart gun” designed to be accessed only by its owner. It was apparent when another man demonstrated how to hack into a POS system only to nefariously install and play Doom. It was evident at the car hacking village, the tamper-evident village, the hardware hacking village, the bio-hacking village, the social engineering village and, naturally, the voting machine hacking village. Did I mention there was a voting machine hacking village? All the machines were hacked over the course of the conference. If it can be locked, it can be unlocked.
Another important guideline to adhere to at Defcon is to avoid talking about things you know nothing about, a guideline I’m trying carefully to follow now. Besides appearing like a fool, you may also find out within moments that the person with whom you are speaking may well be the inventor of the thing you claim to know so much about. As I chatted with a new friend about the software behind the voting machines, I soon found out he was behind that software. As I discussed our government’s vulnerability against cyber attacks, another new friend shared his exploits working for and exposing Uncle Sam’s most embarrassing insecurities. As I showed off my new Defcon t-shirt, the guy drinking bourbon with me told me he designed it. Indeed, every guy and girl at Defcon brought a wealth of information and ninja skills with them. It felt a good kind of dangerous.
By the closing ceremonies, I felt like I had taken the red pill and was ready to see how deep the rabbit hole goes. For four days, I had casually chatted with some of the people responsible for the security of the very systems our civilization depends on. I had also spoken to folks who would gladly penetrate those systems just to see if they could. Often, it was the same person. Once you see the world through the lens of security, there is no escaping it. Everything you love is protected with a lock. And if it can be locked, it can be unlocked.
The spirit of Defcon was to challenge the mind, break the locks, “hack all the things” and unite the rebels through one of the last bastions of freedom: the internet. I couldn’t qualify all hackers any better than I could qualify all humans. I’m sure there are some who would joyfully upload malware and cause mayhem throughout the globe. I’m also certain that some would happily penetrate and expose the sins of the elite to take down the establishment with the help of Mr. Robot. I’m sure all of these characters exist. The true spirit of the hacker, however, goes back to that kid at the lock-picking village, amazed that she was able to break a lock. The true spirit of hacking is discovery. And I think (and hope) that bodes well for humanity.
As I return to my life in the matrix—to keep that metaphor going—I can see right through the false veneer. If you’ve ever snuck into a party where you don’t belong, figured out a gate code or broken into your house when you forgot the keys, you very well might have the spirit of a hacker. The next Defcon will be in Beijing. Perhaps we ought to hack our way into it.
I would like to thank all the organizers and characters present at Defcon 25. If you should get the sudden urge to hack me, feel free. My address is:
1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington DC 20500
one cup of coffee
thanks for your support!