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Another day, another announcement from “hacktivist” group Anonymous. This time the group is calling for people to stand up to discrimination after the fatal terrorist bombings in Brussels. Last week Anonymous “declared war” on Donald Trump, before that it was Turkey, the Islamic State, the Klu Klux Klan, and global capitalism.
But here’s the thing, after Anonymous declare war and their new video of an isolated yet familiar Guy Fawkes-masked man speaks to the camera; after social media is satisfied with sharing this new story around the block and the excitement has evaporated – nothing happens. In fact, nothing at all occurs until they next declare war on the current week’s useful fool and their social media cogs start turning again.
Anonymous used to be quirky and cool. Back in 2011, the group started Operation DarkNet which was their campaign against child pornography. In those days, and most probably still today, pornographers were highly effective at using technology to hide themselves, specifically on the Darkweb, and Anonymous used its expertise to put them out of business and bring them to the authorities.
In February of the same year, Anonymous took down the Westboro Baptist Church’s website for its increasingly explicit intolerance of the LGBT community. It followed on from the light cast on the church in Louis Theroux’s documentary, which highlighted Fred Phelps the church’s leader, and his involvement in plaguing young minds with the most intolerant and un-Christian thinking possible.
And most famously, in the beginning of January 2008, Anonymous started “Project Chanology”, which was its attack on the Church of Scientology, a cult which supposedly imprisoned its dissident members. Anonymous launched a bunch of server attacks against Scientology’s websites, and hacktivists shared their explicit information online via the link sharing site Digg. The news went viral, prompting Anonymous to organise and attend protests outside many Scientology events because of the group’s ability to gather momentum and raise awareness.
But it has to be said that Anonymous has chosen its opponents conservatively. The group is yet to “declare war” on the Saudi Arabian government for its abuse of women, ignorance of human rights, or that they directly or indirectly fund the Islamic State.
Nor has Anonymous declared war on North Korea for its ridiculous role in the world’s pantomime, which sees the rogue state threatening the West with nuclear war every time its leader becomes bored. Let’s not forget the state’s use of gulags in which prisoners are starved and forced to work for life, usually because of their illegal political defections.
But Anonymous has declared war on global capitalism, a clear long-term and optimistic campaign – or not. Its “Million Mask March” attempted to bring together a million anti-capitalists to flood the streets and demand reform in the world’s economic system. It was, to the group’s credit, reasonably successful in the sense that protestors in 400 cities took part. Unfortunately for the Million Mask target was some way off, with an estimated 1,000 protestors turning up to the London meet.
But the real trouble for Anonymous was that those masks were created by and bought from a sweat shop in Brazil. Workers in that emerging economy created those masks in dire conditions so daft lefties could parade around the world’s biggest cities to complain about how unfair capitalism is for workers. It’s difficult to get your head around this supreme level of stupidity and continue to take Anonymous as a serious political movement.
Today the organisation is a shadow of its former self, with what feels like a teenage political protest movement which is based primarily on making budget home videos and crying about the injustices of the world.
Anonymous comes across as a group of fat, spotty kids in a bedroom, taking turns on Call of Duty and then filming a new protest video every few days on the latest world issue. It’s dull and the script has been seen before.
There most certainly was a time when citizens should have been concerned about the power that an undemocratic group like Anonymous wielded, particularly when it held some support in society with its supposed “moral compass”. Many people, for example, approved of its latest decision to attack Donald Trump for his ignorance. I do not approve, because as contemptible as Trump remains, he at least is being assessed democratically by his electorate – Anonymous will never face such scrutiny. And so it remains the case that no “virtuous” group can honestly hold a moral handgun to society’s head if it is not seeking election and the scrutiny that comes with it.
So despite the good work that the group has done in the past on issues which many individuals could support, it remains the case that Anonymous’ hacktivism floats in whichever direction its newest leader fancies. And since 2013, that view has been overwhelmingly in favour of squashing the capitalist economic system and more recently on bringing down Republican Presidential nominees.
This group is a has-been, because these hacktivists have become the small kid with the big mouth in P.E that the other children don’t take seriously or want on their team.
In other words, it’s all now about PR rather than action.