Presidential candidate Robert “Beto’:O’Rourke has confirmed he participated in the controversial hacker group “Cult of the Dead Cow,” at least while he was a teen.
“His background in hacking circles has repeatedly informed his strategy as he explored and subverted established procedures in technology, the media and government,” according to Joseph Menn, who interviewed the 2020 hopeful while O’Rourke was still running for U.S. Senate. O’Rourke may not have participated in breaking into computers, as no evidence has surfaced to that effect, according to Menn’s Friday article in Reuters.
Menn wrote that at least 12 members of the “Cult of the Dead Cow” hacker group have come forward about O’Rourke’s membership, “Members of the group have protected O’Rourke’s secret for decades, reluctant to compromise his political viability.”
“The hugely influential Cult of the Dead Cow, jokingly named after an abandoned Texas slaughterhouse, is notorious for releasing tools that allowed ordinary people to hack computers running Microsoft’s Windows,” Menn explained.
“There’s just this profound value in being able to be apart from the system and look at it critically and have fun while you’re doing it,” O’Rourke told Menn in the exclusive interview during which he called CDC “a great example of that.”
O’Rourke recalled his teen years in the 1980s to Menn, when he began getting on message boards using his dad’s computer, “You just wanted to be part of a community.”
The 2020 hopeful started his own board at the time called TacoLand which focused mostly on punk music. He connected with “Swamp Rat,” Kevin Wheeler, the creator of a board called Demon Roach Underground. The two connected over searching for video games removed of digital rights protections so they could play for free and write and share profane stories.
Wheeler was one of two hackers who founded the Cult of the Dead Cow group.
Instead of hiding certain controversial posts, the group posted a warning, saying, “Warning: This site may contain explicit descriptions of or advocate one or more of the following: adultery, murder, morbid violence, bad grammar, deviant sexual conduct in violent contexts, or the consumption of alcohol and illegal drugs.”
O’Rourke told Menn that his participation in the group helped inform his thinking. He also posted his CDC writing under the name “Psychedelic Warlord.” His writings include talk of eliminating government and the lack of support at the time to do so and a short piece that imagined speeding a car into two small children. Part of it read, “As I neared the young ones, I put all my weight on my right foot, keeping the accelerator pedal on the floor until I heard the crashing of the two children on the hood, and then the sharp cry of pain from one of the two.”