Anonymous 3.0: Self Inflicted Wound
How strange it is for some of us to have seen Anonymous become a household name. Our generation is unique in the way that we were the first to grow up with the internet and use it in highly social contexts, so it shouldn’t exactly be a surprise that we’ve developed a culture around it, which is incredibly robust. The next generations after us will have parents which monitor their online lives in the same way they’d watch us playing in the street. Our people didn’t have that; we were all internet orphans. As such, many of us were able to develop online skillsets and personalities which we almost certainly would not have otherwise. Most importantly for this context, we created online communities which were obscured from public view and inaccessible to a mainstream audience.
If you’re an anon and these concepts are familiar to you, you’ve enjoyed the following perks- being privy to information early; being the first to see new meme and jokes; having an extensive repertoire of media of interest; being desensitized to vulgar and offensive imagery; knowing common tricks and special places. Your friends likely could not keep up with you in any of these things.
This is what used to make you an anon, and the people like us would congregate in places like 4chan imageboards and Something Awful forums. The more devious, chaos driven yet capable anons would frequently use /i/ boards and IRC chats to plan pranks, raids and other actions. If you were an anon at the time but didn’t participate in internet raids, chances are you still knew they were going on just from being around other internet communities. Even so, they were small and insular, even though the amount of people who would qualify to participate in them grew to hundreds of thousands.
The largest turning point in our collective history was the start of Project Chanology. It is still a completely unique event in the way that it was both an activist type action, but also comprised of ONLY actual life-long internet citizens. At the very beginning, it was an idea which had started on one chan forum (which one exactly has been highly contested). When it spread to the other chans, and to their /i/ boards, and to the anon IRC networks, and to the wikis, it had instantly done what no single raid or event had done- completely united Anonymous. Every chan was running threads, within those chans every relevant forum had picked it up, Encyclopedia Dramatica and Something Awful staff had joined in the promotion, and we all collectively waged a massive scale internet war. It was the only time the Chans had ever united, let alone with neighboring more developed forums like the Style Project forum, all centralizing around Partyvan: our flagship /i/nsurgent hangout.
The history of Chanology from that point is much more obvious and noted elsewhere: the shift from internet only to IRL protests and the like. It is worth mentioning that those first sets of protests, still to this date, are by far the largest and most effective protests Anonymous has ever staged. Furthermore they are the only instance of a global protest action, taking place simultaneously in every major city with no central organization or leaders, in the history of the world. That’s a big fucking deal, and our target has never recovered. Chanology was the big bang for modern Anonymous.
There was a problem which came of this, for us the internet citizen. Our protests during the first year were effective in spreading information, and our actions against the Church of Scientology were absolutely crippling and hysterical. But as more anons learned of the various evils of the target, there was a very strong moral shift toward becoming the protagonist in the story. We had attracted other people to our cause who were not natively from the birthplaces of the movement. Operations became less about hurting the cult and more about caring for the victims of it. To many classic anons, that was sacrilege. We had prided ourselves on the ability to balance between doing something because it was right, and doing that same thing because it was wrong. Moralfags vs LuLzfags.
Critical Error, anons disowned the movement, for a wide variety of reasons: It drew too many newfags to our parent sites, diluting the culture. It got too much publicity, casting light on some of our private tactics. It drew law enforcement attention, making our hosts uneasy. There were no new jokes and it took a lot of work, so it was boring. Here we see the first evidence of the self-inflicted wound. Anons began an exodus, leaving the ratio of old school internet people to new concerned citizens staggeringly low. The individual anon cells, organized by city, had no choice but to market towards the general populace. Attendance plummeted, while prank actions and internet backup dwindled.
That could have all been stopped. The wonderful thing about Anonymous is that anybody can take charge and propose new things. Anybody can use the name and therefore conduct private ops more akin to what other anons want to see. The only thing Anonymous 2.0 needed to stay part of its parent cultures was the participation of Anonymous 1.0, which has since retired. Some cells and small pockets of Anonymous were able to hold on to the original ideals, and keep the composition of internet citizens. NYC Anon is incredibly proud to be one of them, but we alone couldn’t stop what happened next.
The threat of Scientology had abated, but the infrastructure of war and information dissemination remained, along with Chanology’s huge user base of semi-anons, concerned citizens, moralfags, activists, and an actual anon peppered in here or there. When other issues arose in late 2009, such as the Iran protests and Freedom of Information sub-movement, there was no stopping a second influx of non-anons and their random “world saving” operations. At this point, there was no chance of getting Anonymous 1.0 support. Entire new projects would launch, and people would say “This is Anonymous. We are the internet come to fuck with you”. But there were no jokes, no lulz, and consequently no pranks and assorted other pains. Every single one of those projects, which had the audacity to launch in our name, were never launched from the actual Anonymous community.
2010 saw the launch of Project Payback, another unsupported project. If memory serves, there actually were a few recruitment threads on /b/ when the Wikileaks operations took place. But regardless, the entire Project was run on an infrastructure so far removed from the original Anonymous and contained so few actual internet citizens that, when members of NYC Anon would enter the IRC rooms, we would find our tactics and ideas to be received as revolutionary and advanced. That is an absolute disgrace. We expect to be amongst our peers when we involve ourselves with actions being conducted by those who would represent us internet citizens. Any anon should. Project Payback would eventually transform into AnonOps, and LuLzSec, and all of their various offshoots. And the situation has not improved.
The self-inflicted wound is that the internet citizens allow what is now Anonymous 3.0, a copy of a copy of original Anonymous, to act as anons; to represent the denizens of the internet while containing so few of them. At any time we could involve ourselves in their actions, troll out the undesirables, ridicule the conspiracy theorists, and demand that operations and goals reflect our culture. This has happened because hacktivist neo-anons keep needing new targets, they need to keep their infrastructure of war alive. They refuse to let targets get picked organically. If there is uproar caused by an event which deserves the actions of all of Anonymous, the parent forums of Anonymous can just as easily unite again. Easier, as the infrastructure and methods to do so are now present. Every new target and every new bid proposed by these non-anons is just a result of boredom and personal ideologies which have no place in Anonymous.
The uniting of actual Anonymous could indeed happen again. Whether or not they will chose to use the battered and bastardized name and symbols which have since been befouled, we won’t know. But, for us who have been here through all incarnations of Anonymous, we have to hope that they will. Maybe the villain which Anonymous will rise up and strike out against is this runaway clone of itself.Anonymous