Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke waxed nostalgic about his youth in a hacker collective called the Cult of the Dead Cow in a book teaser that is being released just in time to revive interest in his primary run.
Beto O’Rourke, the photogenic son of privilege who entered the crowded Democratic primary field earlier this week, had an alter ego called ‘Psychedelic Warlord’ that hacked long-distance phone services to post on internet bulletin boards as a member of an early hacker collective called the Cult of the Dead Cow, according to a book profiling the group credited with coining the term “hacktivism.”
The Texas politician, long before he ever thought of challenging Ted Cruz in the 2018 Senate race with the hope of flipping a perennially red seat for the Democrats, or instagramming his dental cleaning, was writing short stories about running over children in his car and bovine erotic poetry on the prehistoric equivalent of Facebook.
It’s almost as if someone in the Beto campaign saw the less-than-ecstatic reaction to his announcement and thought, “How can we shake things up?” Reuters reporter Joseph Menn claims to have interviewed O’Rourke during the early days of his Senate candidacy, though his book hasn’t yet been released.
Confirming the story from the campaign trail in Iowa, O’Rourke told reporters the Cult was “not anything that I’m proud of.”
“Thrust your hooves up my analytic passage, Enjoy my fruits,” O’Rourke allegedly wrote in a 1988 poem called The Song of the Cow, which opens with plaintive desperation: “I need a butt-shine, right now / You are holy, o sacred Cow / I thirst for you, Provide Milk.”
Another essay mused on a future without money, or even government – though he didn’t “think the masses would support such a radical move at this time.” As a member of the Cult, he posted his thoughts online on a bulletin board called Taco Land and connected with fellow “misfit teens.”
But O’Rourke is no Julian Assange, Reuters is quick to note, claiming no evidence exists the teenage techie “ever engaged in the edgiest sorts of hacking activity, such as breaking into computers or writing code that enabled others to do so.” Instead, he stole long-distance phone service “so I wouldn’t run up the phone bill,” – a misdemeanor punishable by a fine and rewardable with street cred.
The El Paso enigma also downloaded cracked software, but conveniently “realized his habit wasn’t morally defensible and stopped” before he was old enough to be prosecuted for such acts under Texas law.
O’Rourke was already doing battle with gender barriers before he was through with puberty: at the tender age of 15, he “tried to do something about sexism in the male-dominated world of hacking” by recruiting a friend to join CDC who happened to be female.
The Psychedelic Warlord neatly complements the rest of the founding mythos of Beto the Candidate, which includes a punk rock phase, a drunk driving arrest, and a point at which he just decides to forget all this rebellion and follow in his father’s footsteps to political office.
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