Saturday, June 15, 2013

Who Is Anonymous?

Anonymous has always been shrouded in a certain stigma. And as far as public opinion goes, they've always been the "bad boys" of the activist world, often going to lengths many other activist groups won't. They have many times blatantly disobeyed the law in the name of what they believe. They have been called terrorists, and they have been called heroes.

Anonymous (used as a mass noun)
Put simply, Anonymous is a network of "hacktivists" (activist that often use hacking as a means to raise awareness, or show their dislike for a group or organization.) In 2012, Time called Anonymous one of the "100 most influential people" in the world. They are described as "an internet gathering" with "a very loose and decentralized command structure that operates on ideas rather than directives". It is important to note that, although Anonymous is well known for it's hacking activities, not all Anons are hackers, and that their presence is not solely felt on the internet (They often take part in protests where they can be seen- flesh and blood.)

 Anonymous became known for a series of well-publicized hacks and distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks on government, and corporate websites.

 Members of Anonymous (known as "Anons") can be distinguished in public by the wearing of Guy Fawkes masks, like the one popularized in the film "V for Vendetta". The wearing of masks began with 2008's Project Chanology—a series of protests, and hacks targeting the Church of Scientology. The masks served multiple purposes. Firstly, for the protection of Anonymous members. (The Church Of Scientology is well known for targeting, and harassing anyone who openly criticizes them.)  Secondly, it serves as a visual representation of the philosophy of Anonymous- which is, in short, that members of Anonymous represent an idea, not a person- That they are a collective, not an individual. And while an individual may be arrested, killed, or forgotten, an idea cannot.

Brian Kelly writes that three of the group's key characteristics are
              "(1) an unrelenting moral stance on issues and rights, regardless of direct provocation;
               (2) a   physical  presence that accompanies online hacking activity; and
               (3) a distinctive brand."

It seems to be difficult for some to really understand whether or not our intentions as a group are good.
 Quinn Norton of Wired wrote of the group in 2011:

"I will confess up front that I love Anonymous, but not because I think they're the heroes. Like Alan Moore's character V who inspired Anonymous to adopt the Guy Fawkes mask as an icon and fashion item, you're never quite sure if Anonymous is the hero or antihero. The trickster is attracted to change and the need for change, and that's where Anonymous goes. But they are not your personal army – that's Rule 44 – yes, there are rules. And when they do something, it never goes quite as planned. The internet has no neat endings."

There is a lot of imagery associated with the group.

[An image commonly associated with Anonymous is the "man without a head" It represents leaderless organization and anonymity. Other imagery includes the Guy Fawkes masks, ]

Some people love them, others sincerely hate them with a burning passion. And still, many do not know who anonymous is. They see the mask, and assume that they must be up to no good. However, the truth is not that simple. And even the most law loving citizen can have a hard time accusing Anonymous of any wrong. Though they may not agree with the means, they recognize the fact that there is occasionally a situation that the law is incapable of correcting, for a number of reasons.

Many people fear Anonymous, and as a whole they do look rather intimidating. They don't fit the profile many people have about what an activist looks like. Contrary to popular belief, they are not there to do something horrible. And they do work towards the goal of bettering society. But they are also, generally, dressed in dark clothing, wearing masks, and are often hackers, who are not afraid to threaten groups they feel are in the wrong. They are also a group that has successfully hacked Government websites all over the world, and managed to rally large numbers quickly. One can understand the level of intimidation the public feels.

They are called terrorists, because they use the threat of hacking and retaliation against groups, companies, governments, and politicians. They are called bullies because they use intimidation to their advantage.
They are called cowards, for "hiding" behind a mask. They are called philosophers, for knowing that the true value of the mask is in the symbolism it holds. They have been called revolutionists, and it cannot be denied that their mask has been seen on many front-lines all over the world, where revolution is taking place. They are called insane, warped, and hypocritical. But they are also thought of in a more romanticized light, by those who support them. To their supporters they are modern day Robin hoods, vigilantes, defenders of freedom, and watchmen, who stand to defend the very public that often criticizes them.

Whatever you call them, it can not be denied that they have proven to be a powerful force, capable of rallying large numbers for a cause, and working together with great unity. And while many can condemn their activities, few can deny the fact that theirs is a  just cause. They have managed to gather members all over the world, and it is nearly imposable to know how many Anonymous members there really are. But they can be seen in every country, in every city.

 While they may seem off-putting at first glance, you need only speak to them directly to see that they are not as cold and intimidating as they first seem. And they have a certain sense of humor about their persona and image. They are made less intimidating when you consider the fact that it is your rights that they are fighting for. When it comes to Anonymous, you either agree that there are times when a cause is more important then the law, or you condemn them as criminals. At any rate, they are making a difference in a number of causes.

Remember that these are not just masks, they are men and women. They are your fellow man, citizens of your country. They are people like you, only they have seen enough of the lying and deceit that goes on in the Government's innermost circles. They are tired of half-true media, who only cover stories that are convenient, and agree with their own agendas.

I encourage those of you who are frightened of Anonymous, or uncertain of their group, to take the time to consider their cause, and hear their point of view. Do not hear them called terrorists on TV, and assume that you are being told the truth. The biggest mistake people make these days, is to believe whatever media tells them. There is a chance that, after researching them, you may not agree with what Anonymous believes, and that is alright. At least you could say that you didn't take peoples' word for it. But if you do agree, then there is a lot you can do to assist in their cause. And if you happen to meet, or see a member of Anonymous, I suggest that you talk to them, and ask them personally why they are part of Anonymous, and what it is they do. I have always found them to be very willing to talk to the public, and explain their group. 

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