detail from Labels for Hair Ribbons by Manuel Ocampo a delectable selection of oriental appetizers
Wednesday, September 21, 2005

: . Hacking into the New Left Review

Well, not really. But it is possible for non-subscribers to access New Left Review articles online even though most NLR articles are labelled as being "only available to subscribers or for purchase."

All you need to do is to alter the "restricted" article's URL and you'll be able to bypass the sign in/purchase page where non-subscribers are usually directed. How could the NLR site managers have ever missed this? I suspect that they deliberately implanted this systemic flaw/vulnerability to allow more of "the people" to read the journal. After all, how many leftists, even the latte drinking, volvo driving types, can afford to pay the £32/$52 annual personal subscription rate (even with the free Tariq Ali book) or the £2+ to download just one measly article? The NLR has already provided a steep discount to subscribing institutions in the "developing world" (a "mere" £100 as opposed to the usual £195 first world institutional subscription rate) so why not go all the way?

I learned this trick by accident when I was still an active participant in a discussion group devoted to Jose Rizal. I once posted citations as well as links to Benedict Anderson's three NLR articles on Rizal, just to alert the group members to the existence of the articles and knowing full well that the links wouldn't work. To my surprise, the links did work. How? Well, maybe you'd like to read Benedict Anderson's "Nitroglycerine in the Pomegranate," the first of his three NLR articles on Jose Rizal. If you're a non-subscriber and you click on a link to the article, either from the home page or the archive page, you'll be taken to a page with a URL that looks like this:

You'll then be asked to enter a reference number and password or to proceed to another page where you can pay to download the article. However, subscribers trying to access the same article will be taken to a page with a URL that looks slightly different:

You'd think that even if non-subscribers tried the second link they'll still be barred from accessing the article, right? After all, whenever you try to access an article from most e-journals it doesn't really matter what URL you use; what matters is the station you're accessing the article from. The NLR site is different. Simply alter this

to look like this

or (there are usually less
than 10 articles or reviews per issue, hence the 0).

This trick only works starting with NLR 22 or the July-August 2003 issue. Before this, the NLR used a different coding system. Also, this trick only works with the html, and not the pdf, versions of the articles. So, while you may not be able to access Anderson's widely read "Cacique Democracy in the Philippines: Origins and Dreams" (May-June 1988) or his The Rooster's Egg: Pioneering World Folklore in the Philippines (March-April 2000), an article on Isabelo de los Reyes, you will be able to read his In the World-Shadow of Bismarck and Nobel and Jupiter Hill, his two other NLR Rizal articles. You'd also be able to read Franco Moretti (I, II, III) on abstract models for literary history as well as Christopher Prendergasts critique. There's also Fredric Jameson on utopia along with Perry Anderson's response. And there's more like Giovanni Arrighi on imperialism, American style (I, II), Mike Davis on slums, Slavoj Žižek on human rights, and Peter Wollen on Frida Kahlo.

So start reading. As long as this trick works, you'll have nothing to lose at all. Nothing but a few hours of your time and perhaps your intellectual chains.

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