(Vanzetti’s Ghost) Of course I can only ever give my personal opinion about this subject, a subject which is changing all the time. I’ll try not to abstract too much and speak from my personal experience and observations of anonymous…
It’s like this. I didn’t find the Anonymous IRC (internet relay chat) server until after “participants” in Operation Payback had taken down websites like Mastercard, Paypal and others. I had known about known about Anonymous before that but seeking them out had never really appealed to me until I saw them in the news for “defending wikileaks”. It took a while before I was able to navigate to their IRC, but once I was able to, I started looking around and realized a bunch of things…
What I thought I knew about Anonymous was fairly wrong:
The more I hung around the more I learned about what was actually going on. For the most part Anonymous really is non-hiearchical. At least, as horizontal as the anarchist movement ever is. Also while it may have this reputation, it is not a group of “hackers”alone. Sure there are hackers involved but there are also “everyday internet citizens”, writers, graphic designers, translators, and people with many other skills. Sure there’s the 14 year olds the news talks about but theres also some 60 some year olds if you believe them… My point being that any attempt to generalize about Anonymous is a failure, because whatever can carry that name is so diverse that it really defies stereotyping a lot of the time…
Anonymous =/= 4chan, People growing up/are already grown up:
Having navigated over to 4chan before and seeing some of the previous actions claimed by “Anonymous” I admittedly had a little trepidation going into this. But what I found assuaged my doubts. If there was a time when “Anonymous” was a synonym for 4chan that time has passed. But at the same time it was born out of that. From what I’ve seen it looks like Anonymous, or really those calling themselves Anonymous have matured a lot. Even over the past month or two I’ve seen tone and level of thought in the server change visibly for the better. Sure Anonymous may seem immature to some with their culture of “for the lulz” i.e. trying be funny whenever you do something. Where do some cross the line, that’s up to individuals to decide. The point is though, it would be a mistake to take the actions, opinions and ideas of a few in Anonymous to speak for the whole. There really are no leaders or spokespeople in this.
I’ve always been more interested in computers than most people but certainly I am not as skilled with them as a lot of people. There was a point after reading way too many obscure theoretical texts I was ready to abandon technology and the internet all-together. A rash decision. Then I stumbled across Wikileaks. I went to the Pittsburgh G20 protests and subscribed to the comm twitter. Out of breath after running around the city,receiving detailed tweet-updates (on where the march was, where the police were, who the police were looking for and more) in text message form, I came face to face with reality. Anyone who’s eyes have been open for the past few years, and really in the past few months really cannot deny the possible role of the internet, technology, and more specifically of Anonymous in social struggles.
Reasons why more Anarchists should get involved with Anon:
1)Anonymous is anarchist in form, the people involved are amenable to the idea if not already there:
Despite the trashy journalism put out by some mainstream outlets about Anonymous, theres no “secret” power structure in the group. Although some people complain the people running the IRC server are the “leaders” that’s not true. How do things get done in the group? Anyone with an idea for a project or “operation” can start a channel on the server, gather people there and if enough people like the idea, boom, that’s an Op(eration). For those familiar, imagine a crimethinc where people actually plan and execute actions under the name. There’s also the international nature of the thing, the ability for anyone so inclined to hop on the server and start a channel. I’ll let the words of some people I interviewed speak for themselves:
from an interview with an Italian anon participant in Operation Italy
I think things should change radically, at this point the world runs too much on money and power. They raise generations with false goals that makes them slaves of the system.
from two other interviews I did with anons
Anon1: “We do NOT want to throw over governments, that is not our prime intention. But if that MUST happen in order to set people free, we WILL support it.”
Anon2: “I see it [civil disobedience] as justified when your own government is already breaking established laws and policies. This is not to say that I suddenly condone murder or anything extravagant, but sometimes, as is the case here frequently, it becomes necessary in the course of an operation to violate some to make a point, catch media attention towards a cause, and further our goals”
And while the aims, press releases, and interviews of some “members” of anonymous may be more liberal and less radical, that does not mean there are no signs of revolutionary thought present even in those who aren’t explicitly anarchist.
2) The immediate necessity of working with others for solidarity’s sake:
It’s not so much a “The Enemy of my enemy is my friend” type thing as much as a practical thing. There’s a great piece of writing by David Graeber which deals with this subject in the context of the anti-globalization movement. To use his idea, two people can work together without the same ideology if their short and medium term goals line up, even if the long term goals differ. There’s a great history of anarchists showing solidarity to other struggles, the social insertionism idea, and there’s some criticism of this. But really I think it benefits us (anarchists) by acknowledging our common cause with other movements and people. We can’t be too puritanical about our ideas without risking total isolation, irrelavance and inefficacy. Not to say we compromise what we believe. What I mean, if there’s a good reason for us to work with others in such a way that we don’t sacrifice our way of doing things, I see no reason not to participate.
3)At best there is direct action happening, at worst the internet “protests” support the real life ones and teach us skills for the future:
Of course online action will never replace real life action. But we’re seeing more and more the insane potential of this online field of struggle (like that google exec who using a facebook and a sudonym helped organize in Egypt). here are a few different tactics and benefits that come to mind when I think of the things Anonymous has done
But yes, Anonymous came into the spotlight recently over a DDOS (distributed denial of service) protest against corporations who pulled funding for Wikileaks. DDOS works like this… Imagine clicking the refresh button on your browser thousands of times until the website is too overloaded with requests to work. This is the denial of service. Members of anonymous all get together and do this at the same time using a program called “Low Orbit Ion Cannon” or LOIC. To sum up, the distributed part being different computers working together, the denial of service part being the overloading the website with requests… The media and public for the most part know nothing about DDOS, and so classify it sensationally as hacking, but it isn’t. A more adept terminology would be direct action. There is still a discussion on when and where to use this form of direct action, and many are edging towards a more symbolic way because of recent repression against DDoS’ers (you can get up to 10 years in jail in some places I hear). Still though, when mastercard’s payment processing system went out during the DDOS on their site, they surely lost money. A strategic DDOS as part of a boycott, or a counter-information strategy makes sense.
A defacement is when someone changes the physical appearance of a website. This was done recently multiple times to pretty deserving targets in my opinion. The appeal of a defacement is obvious. Replace a message on a website you disagree with with your message, also gumming up the works of the site at the same time. For example, here is a confrontation one member of anon had with a member of the westboro baptist church. By the end of the video, the WBC website was defaced.
Faxing Dial Up Info to Countries Like Libya and Egypt, interviews, working the media…
One other type of action being undertaken that’s worth mentioning is the effort to fax dial up numbers and information to countries like Libya. The idea is that people can subvert internet blackouts caused by the government by using dial up modems. Once on the internet they can show the world what’s going on in places where there are little to no foreign journalists…
I, like many anarchists, am very suspicious of relying on the mainstream media to communicate anything worthwhile. Anonymous is great because not only do they do well with traditional media, they also show the possibilities of social media and the internet for communication. This really dawned on me when I happened to get an interview with an Egyptian protester in the Anonymous’ chat room for #opegypt…
So the possibilities are still very open, especially the possibilities for non-hackers to get involved and see some benefit to their actions. And of course it’s unavoidable those involved will learn at least a little something about computers and other topics, and this is great.
4) Anonymous is not a static thing: its open to change, has already changed and will continue to do so:
Anonymous has its pros and cons like any group, movement or social force. Sure there are assholes who call themselves anonymous, and maybe some of the operations are a bit reformist for my taste… But that doesn’t mean we can just abandon the whole thing because it doesn’t fit into our perfect conception of what a movement should. More anarchists
becoming involved with Anon is mutually beneficial. There are skills, ideas, jokes, even (the 4channers would hate me for this) morals and goals we could exchange. E.g. Anarchists could learn to take themselves less seriously and there are those in anonymous who could definitely benefit from exposure to our ideas.
Anonymous is a young movement. The participants and the movement itself are very young and we definitely haven’t seen the final shape anonymous will take yet.
5) Last but not least, a new anarchist group within Anonymous has formed… Introducing Anonymous (A)narchist Action or A(A)A
Anonymous Anarchist Action or A(A)A is a recently started explicitly anarchist tendency within anonymous. Here is a statement from those involved:
In the last few years, Anonymous has gained increasing notoriety for its action against websites, agencies and organizations that promote censorship and control. It has helped spread information and supported protestors demanding freedoms and rights.
But the popularity of the movement, the attention it brings along, and the structure it has engendered threaten to push Anonymous away from the decentralized, collective movement it has been. As decisions become more centralized and newcomers jump on the bandwagon, Anonymous risks becoming yet another ineffective reformist group, fueled by well-meaning rethoric but subject to third party interests and paralyzed by its fear of authority.
This is why we, as members of Anonymous and anarchists, have decided to start an autonomous group to help spread the ideas of anarchism, anti-capitalism, anti-racism and self-organization within it. We want to provide the skills, tools and experience of direct action in the streets, and take advantage of the new resources and techniques of hacktivism.
Please join us in irc.anonops.ru (#anarchism) for discussion, information or support.
A(A)A is fairly new and there hasn’t been a chance to do too much recruiting. Anyone interested (anarchists and non-radicals alike) is encouraged to log on to the Anonymous IRC server at irc.anonops.ru and go to channel #anarchism. As said in the picture the weekly meeting is sunday at 20gmt and there are varying amount of people in the channel at other times…
This is by no means an exhaustive list of the possibilities involving Anonymous, the internet, anarchism and a social force. It should be more than enough reason for anarchists to check out Anonymous at the very least. A lot of things happening with them are great, and with the beginning of A(A)A there is the possibility to explore the role of technology and the internet in social struggles in our way, an anti-authoritarian way…
P.S. A super abridged guide to getting onto IRC with anonymous
Since many people don’t seem to understand this simple task I figured I’d lay it out here.
1)either install an IRC client on your computer or use one that’s web-based like mibbit. You can log onto the same chat using either irc.anonops.ru or irc.anonops.in as the server.
2)pick a username and register it. the command for this is “/nick yournickhere” to change your nickname and “/msg nickserv register pass fakeemail” to register your nickname.
3) if you’re new and you want to check out the chat its recommended to hide your ip some way (or multiple ways). this guide being distributed answers a lot of questions about how to preserve your anonymity online. One easy way to hide your ip on irc chat is to go to channel #vhost and follow the instructions there to setup how your ip looks to others on the chat.
4)You’re good! look around in the different channel (i.e. #OpIran, #Opbahrain, #hispano, etc…) each channel has a different purpose and each specific project or operation has its own channel. Figure the rest out yourself…=P