So Anonymous (quintuple slogan: “We are Anonymous, We are legion, We never forgive, We never forget, Expect us.”) is at it again, defacing the DOJ sentencing website (including the above video) and threatening release of Justice Department secrets. Gotta say the production quality on the video is surprisingly good. The voice sounds like a synthesized version of Liam Neeson, which is funny—maybe they’re going for the “moral authority” thing that he’s often been associated with.
I never quite know what to make of Anonymous, though. On the one hand, they’re law-breaking hackers; on the other hand, some of the grievances listed in the video are actually reasonable critiques of the justice system. On the one hand, they’re practicing extortion on a grand scale, threatening destructive information release (they liken their files to atomic bombs) if their policy objectives aren’t met; on the other hand, I think it’s healthy for society to have influential non-governmental actors.
What if the individuals behind Anonymous (that assumes it isn’t some massive artificial intelligence floating around in the cloud somewhere) were to use their many skills and obvious passion to reform society through persuasion rather than extortion? Somebody in the organization has something of a rhetorical gift, if that video is any indication. Surely people so clever could find better ways of using their time. But those better ways wouldn’t be anything like as glorious and high-profile as the cyberterrorism thing.
Late 19th century Europe was the cradle of modern anarcho-terrorist philosophy, justifying violence as the only cry that would be heard by an oppressive state. For the most part, though, all those guys did was blow people up. It’s hard to say that the course of history was really swayed by them. Even Al Qaeda’s 9/11 achieved none of the change its planners had hoped. So who does change society? How is corruption and oppression really brought down?
Gorbachev could reform the Soviet Union because he was an influential insider. Hitler was brought down by a massive war machine, by strategic blunders, by “Aryan” arrogance. Yet influential insiders often perpetuate oppression (Kim Jong Il, anybody?) and massive war machines enforce it. The oppressor’s folly is the freeman’s hope; but foolish freemen cast their freedom away of their own choice.
My suggestion is for Anonymous to find some way to reform society and retain its flair for the dramatic that doesn’t hypocritically mock the rule of law they claim to seek. But I guess they didn’t ask me, did they?