"Anonymous is not the name of an organization. In fact, "organization" is the least appropriate word to describe the phenomenon that is Anonymous. It might be better to call Anonymous a movement, or a trend, or even a philosophy. However, the best ways to describe Anonymous is as a group action, a spontaneous and unified activity performed by like-minded people with no specific starting point. Fans of anime might call Anonymous a "stand-alone complex." -- Will Greenwald, PC Magazine.
Following its involvement with Wikileaks and its complete devastation of HBGary Federal (It's Web site is still down and CEO Aaron Barr resigned yesterday), the anonymity of the movement known as Anonymous has taken a hit. Anonymous is quickly becoming anarchy for the masses. And the masses are just getting started.
While it is impossible to know how many are involved with Anonymous, it seems quite safe to say that its numbers - both those faithful to the core Anonymous philosophies and those with their own agendas - have swelled. And with the swelled numbers, comes a divergence of political and societal beliefs that are now being acted on. In just the past few days, Anonymous hackers have been accused of:
- Taking down the Koch Brother-sponsored Web site Americans for Prosperity.
- Hacking into Westboro Baptist Church's Web site, and taking down its GodHatesFags.com website (a hoax, by the way)
- Threatened to launch an attack on Glenn Beck.
Mind you, not all involved are thrilled with having Anonymous be used by a variety of groups or individuals:
“Leftist leeches, sucking the fun out of Anonymous. Go play pretend-time somewhere else. Build a fort, and play United Nations, or worry about global warming and whatnot. Just stop trying to ride the Anonymous wave please," read one comment at AnonNews.
But such are the inherent dangers of a movement based on a lack of heirarchy and more than a hint of Anarchistic ideals. It becomes an incredibly easy movement to co-opt. Already, "Magnanimous" - which took credit for the Koch Brothers attack - has introduced itself as a "subset" of Anonymous.
Magnanimous group is a subset of Anonymous associated (but unaffiliated as are all Anonymous) with Anons and others who are members of other groups or simply individuals. Where Anonymous may wish to see an outcome, as a subset we can take it further and build that outcome without unnecessarily warping the nature of the larger Anonymous corrective.
At AnonNews, Anonymous has a letter to journalists detailing their beliefs (or lack of them) and making a point about those that will co-opt their brand.
There have been several news articles recently suggesting that Anonymous is taking a very specific political stance regarding the events in Wisconsin. While some Anons are undoubtedly passionate about this issue, it would be a mistake to report that Anonymous is targeting the Koch brothers, or are even uniform in their opinion of collective bargaining rights of public employees at the state level.
Perhaps it might make more sense to you if you simply add a press release here at AnonNews, and see how easy it is to make a pronouncement on behalf of Anonymous?
Please recognize that as Anonymous' brand has aquired legitimacy, opportunists have and will continue to try to tie their personal political agendas to the movement.
Those involved in Anonymous understand opportunists will continue co-opting their brand. Even more than that, it's something they just have to accept to an extent. If the whole endeavor is based on freedom of information, how could they truly object? And who will stand up to try and create a more ideological streamlining of Anonymous?
From a personal standpoint: We are on the cusp of a unique moment. And mind you, I'm a journalist and have been warned away from use of the word "unique." But this fits. It is my belief that what we see today is but a harbinger of things to come.
Because it would defy normal human conditioning to believe that those involved with Anonymous are not flush with confidence that comes with so much notoriety. Attacks will continue, and with that more and more individuals and/or groups will co-opt the Anonymous banner. Left, right and all other flavors of the political spectrum will become involved.
The Pandora's Box of Anonymous has been opened. And while the faithful Anonymous individuals will likely stay true to their beliefs and do what is necessary to distance themselves from groups co-opting their brand, exactly how far can they go to stop it? The whole thing devolving into a hacker vs. hacker civil war seems quite unlikely. And seems to go against the whole philosophy.
So where will it lead? Who knows? It's safe to assume arrests will be made. It's impossible to believe that all involved in Anonymous or copycat groups will manage to keep their fingerprints off their work, or avoid the temptation of going after too large a fish. And any individuals working outside the legal system must know that some of their brothers (and sisters) will fall eventually. But this is not an "organization" that can simply be eradicated.
As for predictions, I have but a couple, albeit based more on instinct than fact. For one, the Anonymous brand will continue to grow. Quickly and consistently. This movement is not one likely to peter out or lose its luster among potential hackers anytime soon. The allure is too strong. The cause too great. The "lulz" too readily accessible.
My main predictions would be these:
- The national U.S. media will be completely useless in explaining the Anonymous phenomenon, especially when it comes to those co-opting the Anonymous name. Any hacking instances in the foreseeable future will be connected to Anonymous, regardless of fact.
- The 2012 U.S. Presidential Election will be unlike anything any one has ever imagined.
For years I have used the line "The Hackers will save us." Now that hackers are beginning to get more involved in our world, I honestly have no idea if any amount of "saving" will take place, or whether they'll just all end up making a mess of the joint. Regardless, Anonymous' overriding philosophy is truly an attractive one:
Simply put, a chaotic, Anonymous storm is gathering.
Let it rain, say I.
Crossposted at William K. Wolfrum Chronicles