From Hacktivists To Spammers: Is Anonymous Failing?
Just as most of the world is becoming aware that Anonymous exists, let alone is able to strike a blow against monoliths such as Visa and MasterCard whose businesses rely completely on the integrity of their computer security, the would-be revolutionaries seem to retreat from a strategy of meaningful offence to one of sophomoric annoyance.
After touting the beginning of the Infowar, Operation Payback, under the umbrella of Anonymous, seems to have reverted to the likes of Anonymous’ past antics which amount to little more than cyber-pantyraids. Only days after the unjust arrest of Julian Assange, while Mr. Assange still sits in a jail facing nefarious and seemingly trumped-up charges, what seemed the best hope for a meaningful opposition has chosen a strategy that will only isolate the founder of WikiLeaks and turn public opinion against the most active support he had.
The reason for the proposed Infowar, or cyberwar, is serious. Governments that have been charged by, and empowered by, the people they are to represent to protect their right to freedom of speech, and freedom of the press, have been acting as totalitarian regimes against those that would enlighten the rest of us and provide us with the information about what is being done in our names, with our tax dollars, to our men and women in service, against our best interest, and often in the sole interest of corporations and politicians seeking re-election.
Those in support of these principles were sitting on the moral high-ground. Theirs was not a battle for new territory or resources. There is no desire to take that which does not belong to them. The battle is for their fundamental right of freedom to access and share information.
In the days after the incarceration of Julian Assange, and the denial of his bail, Anonymous issued two statements. The first was a statement outlining it’s “Message, Intentions, and Potential Targets.” The melodramatic messages from Anonymous are reposted here complete with spelling and grammatical errors. Not that I’m perfect, by any stretch of the imagination, but if this was my introduction to the world, as a warrior fighting with weapons of an intellectual nature, I may have spent a little more time on the edit.
“Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.”
- Abraham Lincoln
“He who sacrifices freedom for security deserves neither.”
– Benjamin Franklin
Hello World. We are Anonymous. What you do or do not know about us is irrelevant. We have decided to write to you, the media, and all citizens of the free world at large to inform you of the message, our intentions, potential targets, and our ongoing peaceful campaign for freedom.
“True, This! —
Beneath the rule of men entirely great,
The pen is mightier than the sword. Behold
The arch-enchanters wand! — itself a nothing! —
But taking sorcery from the master-hand
To paralyse the Cæsars, and to strike
The loud earth breathless! — Take away the sword —
States can be saved without it!”
- The Cardinal
Richelieu; Or the Conspiracy by: Edward Bulwer-Lytton
The message is simple: Freedom of Speech. Anonymous is peacefully campaigning for Freedom of Speech everywhere in all forms. Freedom of Speech for: The Internet, for journalism and journalists, and citizens of the world at large. Regardless of what you think or have to say; Anonymous is campaigning for you.
The recent news of our campaigns has been, at best, misinformed. Anonymous is not always the same group of people. The Constitution of the United States is said to be a living document, because it can be edited, amended; changed at the will of the people to suit the peoples’ needs. In that same vein, Anonymous is a living idea. Anonymous is an idea that can be edited, updated, remanded, changed on a whim. We are living consciousness. We are not a terrorist organization as governments, demagogues, and the media would have you believe. At this time Anonymous is a consciousness focused on campaigning peacefully for Freedom of Speech. We ask the world to support us, not for our sake, but for your own. When governments control freedom they control you. The Internet is the last bastion of freedom in this evolving technical world. The Internet is capable of connecting us all. When we are connected we are strong. When we are strong we have power. When we have power we are able to do the impossible. This is why the government is moving on Wikileaks. This is what they fear. They fear our power when we unite. Do not forget this.
“…Now, we must all fear evil men. But there is another kind of evil which we must fear most, and that is the indifference of good men.”
- Monsignor, Boondock Saints
Anonymous’ intentions are very clear. We are not vigilantes, regardless of the sentiment of quoting Boondock Saints, we are people on a campaign for freedom. Anonymous’ intentions are to change the current way the governments of the world and the people view true Freedom of Speech and The Internet. Anonymous is willing, ready, and able to campaign for the freedom for all. We are campaigning right now as you read the news, watch the television, fight with your significant other, love your children, hate your neighbor, criticize the man or woman next to you. We are campaigning. The goal is simple: Win the right to keep the Internet free of any control from any entity, corporation, or government. We will do this until our, proverbial, dying breath. We do this not only for our selves, but for the world and its people at large.
“Truth is treason in the empire of lies.”
- Ron Paul
Pay attention citizens, governments, and the world. Anonymous’ peaceful campaign will focus on any organization, corporation, government, or entity until the Internet is truly free.
Anonymous is doing what many successful campaigns have done in the past; a sit-in. It may be hard to comprehend, but a digital sit-in is our most effective method to show that all of us deserve Freedom of Speech and a free Internet. Our methods may appear, on the outside, to be cruel to those the entities that we are campaigning against, but remember buy supporting censorship they are denying everyone a basic human right. Any person, corporation, government, or miscellaneous entity that stops supporting censorship and starts promoting Freedom of Speech and a free Internet will become our allies. Anonymous, at this time, wants to persuade our counterparts rather than hurt them. We are campaigning for freedom for everyone, even the opposing side.
Do not fear us. Anonymous’ campaign does not intend to harm the individual citizen, any organizations, any websites, or government, that supports true freedom of speech. Anonymous’ past is not our present. We are here for all of you; to campaign for all of you. Where others have made this promise and failed; we make this promise and aim to keep it for everyone.
Anything attributed, credited, or tagged to Anonymous is not always what we do. We arenot always the same consciousness on a yearly, monthly, or even hourly basis. Do not believe everything you hear or read on the news. Anonymous is often credited with actions that are not campaigned for by Anonymous. The true core of Anonymous is here to help the free world for now. Anonymous wishes to represent the truth and ask that you as a citizen, media organization, or government do the same.
(The ‘Question Mark’ turns out to be remarkably apropos)
This release was accompanied by word that those involved in Anonymous had successfully interrupted MasterCard and were pursuing an aggressive battle plan against those organizations that had assisted governments in their censorship of Wikieaks material, as well as those that had assisted governments in their direct attacks on the organization, and its director, by freezing their financial accounts. As this information was beginning to make the newsreels, Anonymous issued yet another statement; a press release dated December 10. (once again, unedited or corrected)
Who is Anonymous
In their most recent public statement, WikiLeaks is the only group of people to identify Anonymous correctly. Anonymous is not a group, but rather an Internet gathering.
Both Anonymous and the media that is covering it are aware of the perceived dissent between individuals in the gathering. This does not, however, mean that the command structure of Anonymous is failing for a simple reason: Anonymous has a very loose and decentralized command structure that operates on ideas rather than directives.
We do not believe that a similar movement exists in the world today and as such we have to learn by trial and error. We are now in the process of better communicating some core values to the individual atoms that comprise Anonymous – we also want to take this opportunity to communicate a message to the media, so that the average Internet Citizen can get to know who we are and what we represent.
Anonymous is not a group of hackers. We are average Interent Citizens ourselves and our motivation is a collective sense of being fed up with all the minor and major injustices we witness every day.
We do not want to steal your personal information or credit card numbers. We also do not seek to attack critical infrastructure of companies such as Mastercard, Visa, PayPal or Amazon. Our current goal is to raise awareness about WikiLeaks and the underhanded methods employed by the above companies to impair WikiLeaks’ ability to function.
What is Operation: Payback
As stated above, the point of Operation: Payback was never to target critical infrastructure of any of the companies or organizations affected. Rather than doing that, we focused on their corporate websites, which is to say, their online “public face”. It is a symbolic action – as blogger and academic Evgeny Morozov put it, a legitimate expression of dissent.
The background to the attacks on PayPal and the calls to attack Amazon.com
Amazon, which was until recently WikiLeaks’ DNS provider, was one of the first companies to drop support for WikiLeaks. On December 9th, BusinessInsider.com reported that Amazon.co.uk were hosting the recently leaked diplomatic cables in e-book form. (Amazon.co.uk has since ceased selling the bundle of the diplomatic cables.)
After this piece of news circulated, parts of Anonymous on Twitter asked for Amazon.com to be targetted. The attack never occured. While it is indeed possible that Anonymous may not have been able to take Amazon.com down in a DDoS attack, this is not the only reason the attack never occured. After the attack was so advertised in the media, we felt that it would affect people such as consumers in a negative way and make them feel threatened by Anonymous. Simply put, attacking a major online retailer when people are buying presents for their loved ones, would be in bad taste.
The continuing attacks on PayPal are already tested and preferable: while not damaging their ability to process payments, they are successful in slowing their network down just enough for people to notice and thus, we achieve our goal of raising awareness.
In other words, these actions were not about really doing anything, but rather about gaining attention. WikiLeaks is not in need of any PR. WikiLeaks is the focus of every corporate and independent news organization on the planet. The only ones looking for attention seems to be Anonymous. If they are going to take real action, they should take it. If they are going to stand for something other than their own self-promotion, they should stand for it. Self-aggrandizing press releases, littered with quotes to provide credibility for their excuses for lack of action, serve nothing but the stroking of their own egos.
After achieving what they hailed as success by affecting corporate websites without causing any inconvenience to the corporations customers who continue to line the pockets of the very corporations that aided in the governments actions, Anonymous called off any attack on Amazon, one of the first companies to dump WikiLeaks from it’s server, so as not to interfere with people’s holiday shopping. This must be the most ineffectual revolution in history.
Only days after flexing an impressive muscle Anonymous has returned to the posture of beach-bum weightlifter making excuses for avoiding a fight while opting to sit in the sand and work on their tan. Rather than build on the public support that was beginning they have chosen to change their tactic to now assault that very public with annoying false links and purposely mislabeled messages.
Bieber? Seriously? What could have been the beginning of a meaningful, and successful, popular revolt, has degraded into a college prank. The hope that Anonymous had risen above it’s past debacles to become a mature and effective agent for change seems to have gone up in smoke. But, perhaps not all is lost.
By their own admission, Anonymous is a fluid, leaderless, decentralized organization… a gathering. Perhaps some grown-ups will get involved and add not only a backbone, but a strategic agenda centered in the principles Anonymous professes with a renewed commitment, and unwillingness to compromise. Our freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of the Internet is being assailed by governments and the corporations that fund them and Anonymous is concerned about inconveniencing holiday shoppers while they do everything possible to bring attention to themselves under the guise of ‘bringing awareness’ to the already most talked about issue in the media. Give me a break.
Their most recent release shows either immense cowardice, complete lack of strategy, or infiltration of the organization by those that would render it harmless. To switch their attacks from those that have committed the offense to the people that they say they are fighting for is nothing short of ludicrous.
We need Anonymous, or at least we need what Anonymous has the potential of being. So, rather than simply share in my disappointment, join them. Infuse their liquid membership with some heat. Make it boil. Don’t be satisfied with their tepid lack of any real action. Put on your Guy Fawkes mask and take action based on the principles that have been used for window-dressing in this shameless campaign of self-promotion.
A true resistance to the powers that seek to oppress and deny us of our rights is required. Julian Assange is sitting in jail. The simple notoriety of a group that denies it’s ability to affect change and opts for sending out spam is not going to bring about his release. Such actions may cause inconvenience for people, for all of us, but, if a cause is worthwhile, and this one certainly is, those who don’t support it are only protecting themselves and their own comfort and are therefore acting against the interests of all.
‘We didn’t want to fight because we didn’t want to interfere with holiday shopping.’ You’ve gotta be kidding me. ‘Our rights are not important enough to actually interfere with the profits of the very corporations that would deny us our rights.’ Un-fricken-believable. Is this the best we can do? Is this the nature of the new electronic revolutionaries. ‘We’re not hackers, we’re just ordinary citizens.’ What, ordinary citizens only have the gumption to poke their enemy with a stick, claim they blackened it’s eye, and then run away to commence with annoying each other with spam?
Operation Payback is a bust. It has defined itself as a joke. Julian Assange still sits in jail. Our governments are still doing everything they can, with the assistance of private corporations, to deny us our freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Nothing has been accomplished except Anonymous has received more press. A strange goal for a supposed decentralized group calling themselves Anonymous. Someone need to take their tools and actually use them. Send the children to their room and get some meaningful work done.
Perhaps, if Anonymous doesn’t get it’s act together and start focusing on the issues rather than itself, FreeAssange.org will provide us all with a renewed sense of purpose and hope for real change. Perhaps if those with a real sense of resolve, rather than self-promotion, join with one, or join with both, they can help affect a purposeful agenda for meaningful action.