Wednesday, 12 January 2011


Anonymous has become more and more notorious in the last three years. Whilst linked to a wide range of protests against Scientology, support for WikiLeaks and freedom of information in general, there have also been hugely misleading reports in the media. Anonymous is not a centralised organisation that can be stamped out from a specific location, there is not even a spokesperson or an enigmatic figure inspiring people into action. There are multiple autonomous groups operating globally and locally who have chosen to use the Internet to communicate and co-ordinate protests and forums always using disposable identities. Using independent cells with broadly common belief in true freedoms, rather than illusory ones under the umbrella of Anonymous people campaign against any suppression of freedom of speech, freedom of expression and freedom of information.

Their tactics range from street marches, placard campaigns, to public sloganeering using post-it notes stuck on walls rather than graffiti, a kind of protesting from the office icebreaker school of thought. They are also hacktivists involved with Operation Payback taking down the websites of organisations opposed to Internet piracy using distributed denial-of-service attacks (DDoS) which flood email or web servers with information to the point of collapse. An ongoing infowar so-called Operation Avenge Assange centres on the controversial publishing of confidential United States information and leaked emails by Julian Assange of WikiLeaks, a media group specialising in top-secret news. When corporations such as Paypal and Visa chose to stop working with WikiLeaks the online systems were hacked by an Anonymous group and taken down. DDos is an illegal activity in some countries from which many Anonymous-ers have been careful to distance themselves. There are things they do that you might totally disagree with whilst other campaigns and tactics that you passionately believe in. 

On one of the websites using the name Anonymous a video streams footage from various Scientology demonstrations whilst overlaid text points out that ‘we are anonymous and so are you.’ This is why the tactics and methods employed are so convincing; we could all choose to be Anonymous, at any time, for any reason. One thing the activists have in common is the use of online monikers and street disguises. Covering up the face can be both alarming and alluring; it’s really difficult to feel neutral about it. People can be frightened of someone wearing a balaclava and in awe of someone covering their face for religious reasons, or the reverse might be the case and it all depends on your own thoughts and feelings. For those Anonymous individuals problematising their identities whilst courting publicity using musketeer masks and devilishly flowing black coats is more than an attempt to avoid the law. It is a way of eschewing the expose-yourself facebook mode of living or the thought that Big Brother is just getting used to the new tools available and to which people give away so much so easily. There does seem to be a twist of a paradox though, for all those secrets Anonymous want to expose, the hidden truth of Scientology and the freedom to know all information, for whatever reason they choose to do it all whilst concealing who they are.


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