The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Barrett Brown Does Some Excellent Writing From Jail, Where He Belongs

Posted on | November 12, 2013 | 22 Comments

Barrett Brown in meltdown mode, Sept. 12, 2012

“Thinking himself a sort of one-man Woodward and Bernstein who would heroically expose the Hidden Secrets of the Surveillance State, Brown instead exposed himself as a blundering amateur who got himself in so far over his head that he couldn’t handle the catastrophic result.”
Robert Stacy McCain, “The Kook Who Knew Too Much,” The American Spectator, June 27, 2013

Look, if you melt down on YouTube in a paranoid rage threatening to “destroy” an FBI agent and his family, you belong in jail.

Quod erat demonstrandum.

Some people have accused me of hating Barrett Brown, but that’s like saying I “hate” my 14-year-old when he gets a D on his report card.

No one could deny that Barrett is intelligent and humorous. However, neither can it be denied that Barrett was an arrogant punk, full of irrational resentments and overweening ambition, a narcissistic “famewhore” (thank you, Adrian Chen) who decided that being the public spokesman for an international criminal conspiracy would be his ticket to the wealth and glory he imagined himself to deserve.

Glory days: Barrett Brown interviewed by Michael Isikoff, 2011

So now, the Boy Genius once described by NBC’s Michael Isikoff as “an underground commander in a new kind of warfare” is sitting his ass in jail. Back in January, his lawyer waived Barrett’s right to a speedy trial, evidently with the idea that they could turn “Free Barrett Brown” into a lucrative fundraising franchise, portray the defendant as a First Amendment martyr and somehow score a political victory that would result in Barrett’s acquittal and vindication.

Can this legal equivalent of an Underpants Gnome scheme actually work? We can’t rule out that possibility, but in the meantime, Barrett has spent 14 months in jail — not actually in a federal facility, but in some sort of privately operated rent-a-jail.

There is a profound irony that the guy who spent a year and a half “investigating” the practices of government security contractors like HB Gary is now being held in a private jail run by government contractors. But profound irony isn’t something that Barrett has much opportunity to relish under the circumstances, and his lawyer provided with a genuinely interesting article the erstwhile Boy Genius wrote about jail life and what inmates watch on TV:

There is little to be said about what the English-speaking inmates watch, with one exception. One particular program is viewed religiously not only in our 24-man tank, but also in the two others into which I can peer through windows connecting us across a hall. This particular show appears, oddly enough, on the Oxygen channel, which I seem to recall being Oprah Winfrey’s network for women. . . .
This program on the Oxygen network, though, being of the reality show genre, is called The Bad Girls Club. A flock of tacky twenty-something women are thrown together in a big fancy house in some American city where tacky twenty-something women can easily be assembled, like Miami or Atlanta. Episodes proceed more or less as follows: All of the women venture out together to a prominent local nightclub in a limo. The ride is punctuated by cheers to the effect that they are The Bad Girls. They get to the club, where they quite naturally sit in the VIP section and order bottle service. There follows a jump-cut montage of the girls drinking, dancing, and half-jokingly humping each other. Then a dispute invariably arises out of nothing. For this dispute to be resolved, there must first be performed a sort of ritualized catharsis. First, the woman who wrongly considers herself to be the offended party must address the other women as “y’all fake-ass bitches” on the limo ride home. Upon arrival, at least one or two women must flee crying into the house. Others must huddle together by the pool, smoking and airing their imaginary grievances. One will go back inside to get some more wine coolers and as she walks down the hall: BAM, SOME OTHER CHICK RUNS UP AND JUST FUCKING CLOCKS HER IN THE FACE AND THEN THEY GO DOWN SLAPPING THE SHIT OUT OF EACH OTHER! Until the security guards who are on hand for the purpose pull them apart. Thus the conflict is resolved. I’ve decided not to draw any wider conclusions from this.

Read the whole thing. It’s actually very good, and is the sort of observational cultural commentary that Barrett Brown is good at.

Too bad the arrogant punk couldn’t be content with that kind of work, and instead got himself into this miserable situation.

Well, at least his mom only got probation.



  • Dianna Deeley

    He does write reasonably well. I don’t know that I’d hit his tip-jar, though, unless he managed to amuse me more than the cited article does.

  • robertstacymccain

    Heh. The point is, early in his career, Barrett wrote for some humor sites. But then he started taking himself seriously, and expected others to do the same. As a bullshit artist, he had a certain flair, but you can only go so far as a bullshit artist — unless you luck into a ready-made cluster of chumps.

    OK, so hello, Anonymous! Here, Barrett locates a bunch of geeky True Believer types, and also finds that there is a Mainstream Media machinery eager to embrace the Hero Myth of the “hacktivist collective.” So he sets himself up as the go-between, gets interviewed on TV and quoted in various establishment journalism organs, scores a book deal — he’s about ready to load up the truck and “move to Beverly … Hills, that is” — but bad news, Jethro! At some point between the time Barrett jumped on the Anonymous bandwagon and the time he scored his book deal, the FBI started getting serious about busting these hackers.

    He had a good run, while it lasted, but no stylish bullshit artist should ever make the mistake of believing his own hype.

  • Mm

    I was surprised – I, too, thought it was an engaging piece and the TV viewing habits of inmates was the best part. When I read this, it made sense; contrast and compare with anything written by NR or, most of the time, Osborne. The latter’s FBI piece, for example, is almost incomprehensible.

  • Joe Commenter

    Stacy. Just one correction. His speedy trial rights were not waived until this August. Also. He was apparently moved to a cozy federal correctional institution since this was written.

  • Mm

    Drug addiction contributed to this, don’t you think?

  • Evi L. Bloggerlady

    I suspect BB waived speedy trial to spend as much time as possible in a facility that does not entail this happening to his tail.

    BB is hoping for a sentence/deal of “time served.” And I suspect BB is a snitch for the feds and that may also be why he is where he is.

  • ThomasD

    True of a sort, but in sense that is really nothing more than another symptoms of the boy’s underlying problem.

  • ThomasD

    Being a non-violent offender, and a pretty trouble magnet, BB would likely find himself in special population in any State or Federal prison.

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  • DavidD

    I could’ve done without the Texas-bashing and the amnesty-shilling but, overall, not too bad. Maybe we should leave him there to practice his craft for a while, hmmm?

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