I know that most people don’t care about language, or even about cultural minorities for that matter, but it really pisses me off when I go onto a web forum and people are having a conversation about hackers and hacker culture, and then someone breaks in and starts trolling by using the HOLLYWOOD definition of hacker.
The word hacker has been in use a heck of a long time. It was imported into the computer science community somewhere in the 1950’s (yes, the word was already old 60 years ago). Somewhere during the 1980’s and 1990’s, Hollywood started making “Hacker” movies, and that is where many people get their meaning of the word.
If no one persisted in using the traditional meaning, then there would be no argument. However, Hackers still exist and have a thriving culture. That culture is quite often under attack by people who don’t even realize they are attacking it.
Words have meaning. When those words are actively being used, it is not good to warp the meaning (especially to something so exactly opposite). It is not good to target a subculture you know nothing about.
It is not fair that people are losing jobs, and in some cases ending up on terrorist watch lists and coming under legal scrutiny, just because their culture has been twisted to the extreme in the media.
When I got halfway through writing this, I almost stopped and deleted half of it because I was like “Wow, this sounds like I am comparing it to racism or religious discrimination…” But before I could hit delete, I realized that is actually a very apt comparison.
A subculture of people who have existed for a very long time are being maligned and their public image is being warped by the media. It is taking place to the extent that people are hurt socially and financially by the image that the media portrays. People lose jobs because their bosses find out that they are a “Hacker,” but they have no clue what that means.
People are passed over for promotions that they deserve, simply because the next person in line has never been labeled a Hacker, but they have.
People get subjected to police harassment and their equipment stolen (I think the official term is confiscated) because they are suspected of being up to no good when no crime has been committed.
All because Hollywood decided to take our words and twist their meanings.
Our modern world was put together by Hackers. Hackers created the software you are using to read this page. Hackers created the software that the web server is using to display this page. Hackers created the foundations for the software is running your computer.
What about the technology that holds together the internet? Hackers did that too.
The tech that runs your favorite video games? Yeap, that was hackers too.
Hackers are not criminals. They are people who like to play with things and create things and learn about things. Hacker culture believes in learning, and sharing what you learn. It believes in community and unity.
The “everyone for themselves, win at all costs, damn the consequences, damn the law,” image that you see in Hollywood Movies is just that: A movie.
I would love to find a way to educate people. I would love to find a way to get people to use words the way they were intended. I know though that I do not have near the cultural influence that a movie start or a film director has. For now, I will have to content myself with an occasional rant on the subject. I will have to content myself with educating the people around me on the subject.
After all, just because you can’t do everything, there is no excuse for doing nothing.