"No, instead, you were risking a thousand self-righteous wanna-be superheroes ripping out your darkest secrets, and then displaying those blackened insides in glass fucking jars, whose curves magnify and enlarge to show the decayed organs' texture!"
You know the story because you've read your history, because it's required by law in this country, and because you're not an idiot. However, for this piece, my editor and I are in agreement that jogging your memory is a necessity for understanding where a concept like the D3 comes from.
In layman's terms, all five human senses had been "hacked." Hack is an ugly word though, it implies that you enter a computer, urgent fingers slithering across a keyboard, hammering some green characters into a command prompt, and stealing some passwords or catching some packets, or, God forbid, downloading the money!
No, what humanity created was something weirder and uglier. If it were a drug, the FDA would not have approved it, not even for testing on rabbits.
Ostensibly, at any time, anybody could piggyback onto any one of your five senses like it was a court-ordered phone tap. And they could record this hack. All you had to put down as collateral was your life. If the link was interrupted by weather or a bad signal or a loss of power, both parties' brains got cooked like curry. This resulted in a lot of smoking corpses. The media initially referred to it as sense-hijack, which was a stupid name, so in a tongue-in-cheek response, the hacker community started calling it was called 6-Jack. You can probably guess why. You'll never be redeemed, Shyamalan. :P
The slang-term caught on, naturally, especially when things went tits-up. This happened very quickly, changing American society, not over the course of generations or even years, but in weeks and months. Why America, specifically America?
It was easy, 6-Jacking. Americans like easy.
If you could disregard the risk of premature dying, that is. But then again, Americans don't give a shit about premature dying. Americans invented Doritos, and they invented space travel (except they didn't), and they made both Russian Roulette and lysergic acid diethylamide hip, man. Just fucking go for it, pussy.
So the loosely-documented origins that I lifted from various message board threads and cached browser histories state that a group of Internet pirates cobbled the code together one particularly hot summer, who knows which one really? Once the hack went live and began to be distributed online by third-party hosts, the griefers, the lurkers, the addicts, the trolls, and the ballsiest of hackers went after the big fish with the biggest things to hide.
Imagine that -- the truest truths, hard evidence, heroic risks. These guys wanted to be heroes and they picked good, visible, tangible targets.
Nobody sides against that. Politicians were torn to shreds. Morally-warped members of the media were exposed as greedy shit-eating liars. CEOs of international corporations and banks shuddered under a tsunami of footage disproving almost everything they said. Deniability was no longer an option.
It was effective, attacking people personally -– attacking their very lives and legacies, and revealing their secrets publicly to the world. It was the modern equivalent of bolting a man into the stocks in town square so kids could huck firecrackers, lemons, and other citrus, at you.
Pirates with the cajones to risk their lives just 6-Jacked people they themselves thought deserved it. They got the footage or the audio or whichever was the most incriminating, and then they leaked it to every public cloud that they could. Amazon's Cloud Drive crashed overnight when word got out that, yeah, this shit was there, it was happening, and it was real, but the thing that chilled people's bones was that this made the associated press obsolete. There was no story that needed to be told, the footage was raw, unfiltered, and with no "agenda" -– and it was there. The evidence was too much for the courts to ignore. Nobody could hide. To the hackers' delight, the masses caught vindication fever.
You couldn't lie. You couldn't speak, you couldn't hear, you couldn't write something down without there being a risk that you were being watched, and watched not simply by a government whose raggedy architecture you'd learned to navigate. No, instead, you were risking a thousand self-righteous wanna-be superheroes ripping out your darkest secrets, and then displaying those blackened insides in glass fucking jars, whose curves magnify and enlarge to show the decayed organs' texture!
There was no deniability. This was a bare-knuckled fist-fight in the middle of a mine-field. Anybody that fought, died -- emphatically. Everybody that could fall, fell -- violently.
The World Series was canceled that fall and we all cheered. Half of the teams' rosters were suspended because of PED use, and we had proof. The US presidential election that year was also canceled when a few choice details about those running were leaked to the public. One candidate ate a hollow-point when he heard a recording of his own sound-jack replayed: him confessing to a priest that it would be entirely compromising if anybody found out that he had forced a girl to get a his illegitimate baby "taken care of" when the candidate was in his twenties. The other candidate, hoping to escape the reach of the signals, went into seclusion in the Appalachian Mountains with his 16 year-old Brazilian mistress and was later killed during an attempted 6-Jack (touch, in that instance, the infamous partial file eventually leaked (as all best things do), as well all are well aware).
That was a rough year for everybody. The American economy only endured because people went into a trance that the media likened to the early 21st century, obsessing over each day's new detail. The irony was that this time, we were doing it to ourselves. And for that reason, the United States wasn't coming out of this one alive.
It was going downhill fast. The endgame was rock-bottom. It was just a matter of getting there, and how long it would take.
Lying, in every possible form, became too big of a risk. The notion that that there was somebody behind your eyes, silent, just chilling out inside your fucking skull was terrifying, no matter what kind of person you were.
A lot of people died. A lot of signals were interrupted. Always on, omnipresent high-fidelity wireless was too much of a part of the societal structure, a veritable fifth appendage that moved faster than our brains could comprehend. Wireless network providers were torn between upping the speed and reliability of their networks to prevent disconnection fatalities and the fact that the data being transferred was completely confidential (and damaging to their very corporations).
They weren't about to hand over control of their networks to the government though, and they couldn't very well shut those things down. The American economy would dissolve, even if the fidelity was reduced a little, we were reliant on our business' rapidity. Control it, ride it out, maybe contain it on a good day. Network carriers needed to earn back some credibility. They pushed the 6-Jacking technology forward into a less volatile direction as a sign of good faith. Semi-cybernetic brains, entirely speculative until then, were bumped up as an R&D priority. Expensive, but attainable. They worked to shield the signals -- sometimes, but not always. Others continued to try to hide themselves and escape the signals in seclusion. The hackers developed work-arounds even faster.
Of course they did. They did it because they could. They considered themselves white knights, and please let our grandchildren's history books show that they had a point. The hackers weren't going to be stopped by any corporate giant -- they'd written the original fucking source code themselves, nobody was going to beat them in there.
Watching these multinational leviathans try to keep up with a billion insomniac piranhas was good sport. Always ten steps ahead, moving at the speed of a silicon hare with a chip on his shoulder, a good hacker always covered his tracks and always gave the finger to the motherfuckers that deserved it the most. There was always a way in and if they couldn't find it, they'd roll the dice and 6-Jack somebody that did.
Most of them were already employed at the larger telcos anyway. A few code jockeys being paid less than most unionized transit workers had become the most powerful members of a new military industrial complex. They were at war, they had their targets, their vendettas, their fantasized notions of justice. Bad time to be anybody with money and secrets.
Bad time to have money.
The fear was put back into humanity. God -- or pantheon of venomous trickster Oni -- was always watching, and he hated you so much that he'd risk his life to catch you in the act. America was created by exiled misfits pushing scattershot religions, so it was fitting that it would be undone by the same kind of people. These hackers just worshiped netcode instead of Puritan chastity. They had their own languages, cultures, sub-cultures, deities, and past-times. They thought they ran the fucking place. In time, their bravado grew, and they viewed themselves as true patriots. That ego would become one with the generation as it grew up, the "Jacks," and would catalyze the creation of the D3's some years later.
Their meekness would give them pause when they saw the consequences. They faltered soon. The hackers invented 6-Jacking, but they could never have invented something as artful as the D3.
There was still an argument to be had back then. People hadn't quite decided what the 6-Jacks meant yet. Was it righteousness? Arrogance? Masochism, suicidal tendencies, or boredom? It was, like any historic fulcrum, misguided anger, looking for somebody to shit on. The talking heads annoyed the hacker mob more than anything in the world -- annoying a hacker was like taunting a hippopotamus, and according to the V.i., hippopotami kill for fun.
The hacks started coming in from around the world, not just the US. It all was focused on America, targeted like a fat kid on the playground, rich with old money and a wet nose. Knock him down, kick his ribs, watch him squirm and fight back with weepy squeals. The desperation in America’s eyes was delicious. For the first time in a long time, the world stage was host to a snuff film, and there was no question that, yeah, we knew this might be it.
So when America fought all the harder, the spectacle only grew. Yes, other governments were shaken up by the 6-Jack but none on the same level as the US. There was enough agility and awareness in the leading members of the European Union and cohesion between the larger telcos, particularly in Europe and Asia, that the 6-Jacking was more trouble than it was worth. Besides, if you were a pirate living in Sweden, it was more fun to provoke the parasites living on America’s diseased carcass than it was to attack your country's government that legitimately recognized your movement as a political party.
America was a child on a tantrum. Nobody came to her aid. She had nothing to offer. She was bratty and everybody knew her economy could shit the bed at any second, so there wasn't any money on the table. What's that going to do to a country? What's that going to do to a country like America? What's it going to do to a country with an ego as big as America? It blows a fuse. It breaks. It was no surprise that there was a divide within the country, sides with their own interpretation of what was going on.
The country is being judged by God himself! It's a sign of a Technopocalypse! We brought it upon ourselves, and we must learn from our mistakes! It’s your fault! It’s all your fucking fault!
The United States were carved, at gunpoint, into five micro-nations: The Kingdom, The Republic of the Western Sierras, Texas & the Sooners, The New Confederacy, and The Commonwealth of Atlantic America and The Eastern Beltway (more commonly referred to simply as "Blue England" because it was full of snobby little shits that simultaneously hated and loved each other). They all had focused opinions on how to govern themselves, and in a stroke of genius, this schism was executed without a single shot fired. The mental exhaustion was so omnipresent by then that going our separate ways was, for once, the path of least resistance. There was so much fear, uncertainty, and pent-up mistrust that the new local governments rose to power, albeit meager power, and handed down simple marching orders to their regions. Everybody chose sides, either returning home to where they grew up or deciding which new micro-nation they identified the most with. We all watched armies move into position, then watched walls go up (both physical and digital), then watched the weapons be loaded and aimed.
And then nothing.
Just that simple. The Diffused States of America were born.
It was really quiet. We were all trampled, longing for time to recover from the trauma the divided nation had to mourn.
Ours were countries with wandering minds. Young, free, and content. But not happy -- a mood we wallowed in without empathy. A large amount of the telecommunications infrastructure fell into disrepair, and the technology scared the shit out of most people anyway, so most didn't care. The V.i., the Virtual infrastructure that would end up governing and regulating data the world over, was still decades away. Darren Pent had conceived of the concept around the time of the Schism, but his financial backers balked –- he had to raise the money himself.
Nobody felt sorry for us, the Diffused States. By then, other nations around the world reported what was happening to the US in total disgust. They laughed, mocked, and offered no sympathy. They did the only logical thing: they amputated America from the global stage. We were lower caste now. We weren't winners. We weren't scrappy underdogs. We weren't leaders, we weren't admirable, or even enviable. We'd always been told, as Americans, that we'd eventually be left behind, that promises of the Space-Age would eventually fail. Natural resources would eventually be exhausted, and the blessing of Manifest Destiny would fade, eroding our platform on the world stage. Initiative and inspiration were replaced with bloated false-pride. All of the emo, nihilistic punk-rockers were pretty much correct in their description of the dust-bowl America became. Maybe they all should have been more extreme in our fear. Instead, they howl prophecies and watched it all turn to ash.
What we needed was some new rock 'n roll. It was close. The D3. They were indeed coming.
-- @Alex Crumb (originally published 5/25/11)