Getting to Know Your Hacker…An Open Letter to My New Friend

Since hacking is in the news, I’ll give a quick story that involved a bit of my day (I know–I still haven’t made it way back in my email–how dare I?):

About a month ago, I got a gmail alert saying my gmail had been accessed from Morocco. Since I wasn’t in Morocco at the time, I knew it wasn’t me and quickly changed my password. I’m not sure why a person would access my email account, but here’s the upshot: google tracks your web searches. (Go to your dashboard and scroll down and you’ll see the link.)

For reasons too boring, I had to go through this web search history and found this person had been accessing my account since November, 2010, until late June. (Oddly, I would have my own web searches intermixed with those searches–strange juxtapositions that were at times poetic [me looking up translation studies; he looking up how to say words in English].)

So here’s what I know about my hacker: he’s from Morocco, needed a hospital at one point, and is looking for a new apartment. He’s also given to really cheesy Mahgrebian music and does look up English phrases to drop into his email messages. (He favors hotmail.)

And he does have a girlfriend and he’s given to trying to impress her with French poetry. He is likely a university student (looking up a bit on Victor Hugo–did you need to get the summary?), but also likes to listen to French heavy metal (perish the thought!) when the mood strikes. (Surely, your considerations of Hugo’s deft work on the death penalty left you in a dark place…)

With this short bio out of the way, let me turn myself to you: Oh, we’re not, my friend, so different. Who doesn’t like French love poetry, as you searched just a day earlier? (When your girlfriend was using your–or can I still say my?—account, she was given to sites with unicorns, which clearly should be a worrisome sign given your apparent age and quite a juxtaposition with your own, shall we say, less innocent searches?)

On March 18, you ask this question of Google–showing you’re still a bit rough in French, though it’s a gem of a thought:

est ce que faucault est un philosophe

I wish we could have talked more than through our searches: what a great conversation to have! How would you define philosophy? How is Foucault received in Morocco universities? Is this why he may or may not be a philosopher? Did this question result from your recent interest in thinking with bodies and things? Why bodies and things? Is thinking with bodies or things philosophical? Or something else? Would the answer to relate to whether Foucault is or is not a philosopher?

And a day earlier, you found this link to an iPhone app (later he’ll be looking for a new camera and also iPhone accessories): a Foucauldian Term Generator. I can’t but think now that your question about Foucault was perhaps biting: maybe you found it easy to mock his terms and thought: surely he couldn’t be a philosopher…

And so we turn to the question that arrives (does a search ever arrive? What answer could be found for this search?) on March 18:

how we think with bodies and things

Did google–is google a thing that you were thinking with?–favor you with an answer?

And does this relate to the fact that this was a day after searching (in English) for

life lessons

Which was after looking for


Which, in turn, brought you to a site on gaining self-confidence. Can one be self-confident and need to hypnotize oneself? Does not telling oneself to be confident defeat the whole point? And doesn’t it it demonstrate a failed quest at self-confidence that you continued for months to use my online identity? Or am I missing some life’s lesson here? And under hypnosis, are you thinking as a body? As a thing?

I know I’m running this all Memento style, but I like to see how it all began with you; I want to unravel the mystery of a personality that passed through asking about life’s lessons and gaining self-confidence–all to devolve into simple searches for rap in Arabic.

Just a couple of days earlier–why did you pause on this crucial question for two days? Was your existential quest put on hold? and why?–you had started asking about life’s lessons, finding sites like this one. Did you learn anything? Did you learn how to live, finally?

On March 15, a day before, you opened a Facebook account—what questions came to you after entering this social network! (Is this how you met your love? Is this why you needed self-confidence? Or is this her account and I’ve gotten the plot all wrong?)

Some days your searches were poetically simple, such as one in English, on March 14, for “knocking.”

What did you hope to find with that search?

But my friend, I can’t help but mention–I hope our new intimacy allows me to share this–that, at this point, just a couple of weeks after our relationship became a constant refrain in my search history, you seemed to be start an interest in quite superficial erotic sites—the type of thing I can’t help but feel your future love will disapprove.

I must ask, why did you stop searching for video games, which had started just a few days earlier? Did having a girlfriend end one type of viewing and not the other? How strange it should be one, but not the other… And was this a transition from one to the other? And which was thinking with bodies and which with things?

But you weren’t all just late-teen superficiality: a few days earlier, while I was searching Al Jazeera in English, you were looking for its Arabic counterpart–on the same day, my friend. The Arab spring, no doubt, interested us both. But, working in reverse, what led this political interest to devolve later into worries about your own life’s meaning? You are a fascinating friend: you raise your eyes to the political, but this all ends when pornography and video games enter the picture. You never do look up political news again. Was this the day the Arab spring died–all to return to the society of the spectacle?

Finally, there is the day we met through our converging and diverging searches, on Nov. 23, 2010. But only for a moment–a couple of bland searches–and then you left me for four months. I wish I could read your Arabic, so I can understand this relationship much better: you searching one way; I searching for philosophers you are just beginning to understand. I wish you luck with answering those pesky questions about Foucault and also with your new love–had I not changed my password, I would have loved to have seen what had become of you both!–and I find I might even miss you, my silent companion through many months of searches, another fragmented story in a world searching for life’s lessons, and maybe something more. May we all learn how to think with things and bodies rather than about them (perhaps that is all thinking ever is), and may we all learn how to live, finally.

One comment

  1. Thank you very much for sharing your concerned compassionate curiousity about the potentially/actually (?) awful experience of having been hacked. Although you don’t/cannot know (“I’m not sure why a person would access my email account”) am curious about the personal political local/national reasons for anyone to hack into another’s email, given your account of your hacker’s use of your it. Was the hacker not able or not allowed to access e/gmail in his/her own name in his country? Why your/any particular name’s e/gmail? Was it chance or choice – fanship perhaps? Probably there’s no safe way to find out the ‘how come [of] s/he hacked me/you’. How strange. Yet your gentle generous analysis has helped make the weird experience of a stranger posing as our-self seem perhaps just a little less strange…

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