“Why has this particular set of signifiers stuck? For starters, the visuals simply look cool—headless-suit-guy and the Fawkes mask are both stark, simple, and vaguely ominous in a way that’s compelling. The suit-man juxtaposed against the U.N. map is also a cleverly subversive, and ironic, appropriation and exploitation of paranoia about Big Brother-style faceless power. Particularly when paired with Anonymous’ over-the-top rhetoric, it suggests that the most powerful entity on earth isn’t a corporation or a totalitarian regime: It’s something so amorphous that the person next to you on the subway could be part of it. And the Fawkes mask, with its hard-to-read expression and mild air of menace, extends that idea into the public sphere; at a time when privacy seems under threat, it’s a tool for mixing free expression with personal secrecy—which might be one of the few propositions that participants in the Anonymous phenomenon agree upon.”
Anonymous, in the simplest terms, can be called a hacktivist collective. Anyone can participate in Anonymous operations (commonly referred to as op, ops or raids). Within Anonymous, there is no leadership; it’s anarchy.
Anonymous originated on the image board site 4chan and began as a loose network of internet trolls. An example of one of the earliest projects associated with Anonymous is the Rickrolling meme. While anonymous was originally a group just for lulz, they made the jump into political activism when protests against the Church of Scientology were created. These protests were not only in cyberspace. People actually congregated in person for protests. It was at these protests that Anonymous became associated with the Guy Fawkes mask. At this point, Anonymous had fully entered the political, and their ops escalated to include involvement in the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings, the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict, the Aaron Swartz case, and a plethora of other movements (including Occupy Wall Street and doxing of members of the Westboro Baptist Church).
Anonymous represents a new kind of political consciousness unbound by the idea of citizenship. The strictly social network status of Anonymous combined with their international operations and lack of leadership makes them a unique collective, the likes of which have never been seen before. To investigate the collective further, we have chosen to look at three different Anonymous Ops.
2. The Arab Spring (Tunisia and Egypt)
3. Aaron Swartz
Lechner and Boli: Chapters 29 (review from Tuesday), 44, 45
Inda and Rosaldo: Chapter 15
Israel: Article and Video
Aaron Swartz: Article
Arab Spring: The Arab Spring and the Internet: Research Roundup
Aaron Swartz: Has Aaron Swartz’s Death made him an internet ‘martyr’?