Larue: Hero or traitor?

Aug 14, 2013 at 5:00 am

It’s fascinating to watch people try to make heads or tails out of Zach Larue. Larue was a Kentucky miner, sharp as a scythe and independent as a coyote. He had an uncommon knack for quarrying, something that made him famous in mining circles. Larue could strike pay dirt while his fellow miners wallowed around in the dark.

But that was long ago, back in 2013, when most of his contemporaries were clinging steadfastly to their right to mine coal, a fossil fuel long past its time. Coal killed 14,000 Americans every year back in those days, and it seemed to be trying its best to kill off the planet altogether. It’s hard to believe people went to the trouble to mine it when so many better energies were right under their noses.

But Zach Larue didn’t work for Big Coal. He worked for Big Data.

By all accounts, he was a data-mining prodigy from an early age. According to a legendary story he tweeted from an undisclosed location (back when locations could still be undisclosed), he developed a taste for spyware as a kid. It all started when he mined his sister’s diary for interesting data, including her proclivity for letting Danny Dodson get to third base. Zach didn’t know what “third base” meant at the time, but he knew it was news he could eventually use.

Before long, he was hacking his mom’s email and logging into his high school’s report-card server to convert his friends’ failing grades to A’s. When he gained access to his parents’ bank account, he bought himself an autographed poster of Nate Silver to hang above his souvenir Julian Assange cryptanalysis rubber hose and his Edward Snowden nesting dolls.

After his parents made him take a job as a bag boy at Kroger, he quickly got bumped upstairs to corporate, where, using only Gmail metadata, he wrote an application that sent coupons for frozen White Castles and Cool Ranch Doritos to people likely to be high on marijuana. It made the company a fortune.

After the Tea Party overturned Obamacare, he taught himself actuarial science, which led to a top job at Humana, helping the company to drop the insurance coverage of customers mere months before they were diagnosed with cancer. His greed hit a nadir when he allowed his corporate overlords to quietly kill his ColonCam iPhone app, which would have allowed users to film their own colonoscopies from the comfort of their homes.

But finally, his conscience began to weigh on him. Anyone judging Larue has to remember that this was a society in decline. The introduction of smart phones and wearable computers had caused people to stop memorizing any information they believed they could look up later. And another disturbing trend had become apparent: the higher someone’s IQ, the less likely he or she would reproduce. So Americans were getting dumber at an alarming rate.

Soon, Larue began to feel guilty for taking advantage of his intellectually challenged neighbors. To make it up to them, he took a job at eHarmony, where he invented the notorious “Hookup Logarithm.” If Americans can’t do anything else anymore, he reasoned, they can at least get laid.

But when 9/11 II struck, he was ready for prime time. He went to work for President Paul’s security apparatus, setting up shop in a secret NSA switching center, mining the metadata of voice, text, email and chat traffic coming into the Western hemisphere. He single-handedly prevented dozens of terrorist attacks while simultaneously eavesdropping on celebrity sexts and leaking politicians’ dick pix onto the Internet for his own amusement.

Disillusioned by the Paul Administration’s corruption and nonstop scandals, Larue launched the now-infamous “We Are All Data” attack. Trying to save America, he inadvertently started The Second Civil War, now in its 12th year.

And now, for his pièce de résistance, he has conquered matter. His new program has rendered ammunition obsolete and prevented any vehicle from going faster than 60 mph. The result is an immediate end to conventional American violence (and, coincidentally, the demise of both the NRA and NASCAR). Yet on we fight, red vs. blue — never mind the human, financial and moral costs. History will judge whether Zach Larue was a hero or a traitor to his country, just as it judged Cato the Younger, Emma Goldman, Daniel Ellsberg and Chen Li. But one thing’s for sure: In the post-Larue world, we are, indeed, all data.