How Anonymous Takes On Powerful Organizations

by Christopher Paul on July 17, 2012

Over at Wired’s Threat Level, Quinn Norton has an interesting look at what motivates Anonymous and how they work to take on the world’s most powerful organizations. It also goes into a bit of history of how they became political:

What first pushed Anonymous in a political direction was the only thing that could have: an attempt to interfere with their lulz. In January 2008, a video leaked out of the Church of Scientology. In it, over the thrum of an action-movie-style soundtrack, Tom Cruise enthused about his total devotion to the doctrines of Scientology. The video flew around the Internet, spawning parodies and commentary. It was epically lulzy, in just the sort of way that made perfect fodder for /b/. But the legendarily litigious church acted to stop the spread of the video, sending legal nastygrams to anyone hosting or sharing it.

The church’s effort to expunge the video so enraged some anons that they set out to destroy the church itself. It’s crucial, though, to understand the oddly contradictory spirit in which this campaign was conducted. Was Anonymous serious about destroying the church? Or was it all a joke? The answer to both questions is yes. The anons took on Project Chanology (as they called their Internet fatwa against Scientology) for the lulz, but they also wanted those lulz to have a real-world effect. And in dedicating themselves to that latter goal, Anonymous began to develop a real political consciousness—along with some new and ingenious methods for taking mass action.

From there, it moved on to IP maximalist organizations like the MPAA and RIAA. Then, detractors of Wikileaks, governments, and “computer security” companies.

It’s an interesting read – if not for the history – but for the psychology of an organization that doesn’t seem to be organized yet is in some very strange way.

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