This is the uncut version of a feature I wrote on Anonymous for the relaunch issue of The Bournemouth Rock newspaper – a newspaper distributed across Bournemouth, UK.
You switch on the telly and you hear about how some mysterious group has hacked into Sony’s website and acquired thousands of private user data or perhaps you hear about how this same group has passed the details of animal abusers to the police after tracking them down using nothing but YouTube videos.
This is Anonymous and they have the inconsistent actions of a teenage girl.
To the average citizen, Anonymous is by no means a hot topic. In fact bring them up in general conversation and the most common response you will get is ‘who?’ However to those of us who have spent a worrying amount of time on the internet, Anonymous is notorious. They are the default name of posters on the website and imageboard 4chan. Visit a board on 4chan and you might get quality intense debates. Visit a different board and you might get the most immoral and disgusting content you may ever set your eyes upon.
The whole idea behind the name Anonymous is that they are essentially a collective. No matter how controversial the content is the users can’t be singled out and identified. They can be anyone from your neighbour to your local politician for example. Brian Zaiger is the head administrator of internet humour and satirical wiki – Encyclopedia Dramatica which in itself has thousands of Anonymous users and readers. Zaiger describes Anonymous as “a moniker anyone can hide behind for any variety of reasons”.
The vast majority of Anonymous are indeed, harmless individuals. Yet, the question remains for the Anons who do hack into government websites or threaten the Church of Scientology – who exactly gave them the authority to take matters into their own hands? Anonymous can be a force for the good but it doesn’t mean they should be allowed to be internet vigilantes whenever they want.
“[Anonymous’s] intentions were never to be the good guy or be the bad guy to begin with so in reality it doesn’t matter. They were doing it to laugh at someone else’s expense, because they felt that they need to be brought down a peg.”
Whilst challenging authority adds to Anonymous’ fight for the irrepressible internet, it also seems that they are not defying the highest tiers of the global hierarchy for democracy. They are not saving cats and taking down their abusers because they strongly dislike the concept animal abuse.
Anonymous do it for the simple fact that they can.