Patrice Riemens on Mon, 21 Jul 2014 08:28:31 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Ippolita Collective, In the Facebook Aquarium Part Two,

Ippolita Collective, In the Facebook Aquarium Part Two

Anonymous, or out-of-the-box activism (section 8, continued)

Viewed from out the media, the reaction of the church of Scientology, just
as that of all Anonymous' (many) casualties afterwards, was to portray the
members of the group as monomaniac computer fanatics and cyber-terrorists,
or in one word: (dangerous) hackers. It is not easy to define Anonymous in
terms of ideology, but one aspect cannot escape notice: what boils up from
all the Anonymous nodes is a very peculiar interpretation of freedom of
expression, which is adamantly refered to as 'non-negotiable' [71]. As can
be seen with the /OpBart/ operation, Anonymous often appears when
censorship appears too [72]. Anonymous' and Wikileaks' paths crossed again
between December 6 and 10, 2010 during /Operation Avange Assange (aka
Operation Payback/), when several DDoS attacks were mounted, many
successful, against a twelve-some banks and financial institutions which
had blocked monetary transfers in favor of Wikileaks [73x].

To uncover the enemy's misdeeds while keeping a mask on, defy opacity
through transparence while remaining anonymous, attack powerful actors
(churches, armies, governments, banks) by way of interventions pairing
technical competences with spectacular mass media engagement, and to adopt
a truly warrior attitude, whether in the form of open warfare or sabotage
actions - these are the features Anonymous and Wikileaks share in common.
But the similarities stop here. Unlike Wikileaks, one cannot identify
Anonymous with one really existing person because it is not a SPO [###*],
but always operates as a (fluctuating) collective. In theory, anybody can
be part of Anonymous, whereas passing on a top secret piece of information
to Wikileaks does not result in identification of the person doing it.
Anonymous in its turn, is made up of a great many individuals, networks,
and (separate) operations.

Can The Pirate Bay, Wikileaks and Anonymous be considered as different
manifestations of the same hacker spirit? It is clear that the 'Petri
dish' where Anonymous stems from is, at least partially, connected to the
high-level world of hackerdom, as can be seen the participation of various
Anonymous groups to a number of operations conducted by Lulzsec [74]. The
hacker motto /just for fun/ finds its expression in the Lulz spirit, which
is a transformation of the acronym LOL (/Laughing Out Loud/) used in
on-line chats. The //b//canal random/ of the picture showcase 4chan [75]
surely is part and parcel of those who defined themselves as the first
members of Anonymous, for the simple reason that the major part of its
contents were posted anonymously. a number of people, arrested during the
successive waves of repression that hit Anonymous, were users of 4chan. In
case you feel no affinity whatsoever nor any curiosity about mangas,
Japanese animus, video games, TV series, outlandish acronyms, black humor,
randy pre-porn, LOLcats (photoshopped feline pets, usually with some
'funny' legend), publicity jamming,  etc., 4chan is definitely not for
you. You might think you've just been dumped in a cage filled with maniacs
with an annoying soft spot for horror and the surreal, a meeting point for
youngsters talking gobbledygook. And in case you are gifted with a
paranoid imagination your conclusion will be clear: dangerous
cyber-terrorists at work!

Mass media have focused on Anonymous hacking operations, but actually
there have been many simultaneous (types of) Anonymous interventions, on
different networks. There have also been public demonstrations of the more
traditional ('in real life') kind, where Anonymous activists would wear
Guy Fawkes masks. With the politicization of real life actions, Lulz
on-line attacks have become less numerous, and the group went more
political. This until groups appeared within Anonymous which openly called
themselves anarchists, the A(A)A for Anon Anarchist Action, for instance.
But what kind of anarchism are we talking about here? Is it the
anarcho-capitalist variety, bent on the total triumph of the free market,
and of all-out privatization facilitated by a liberating technology, or is
it anarchy understood as an anti-authoritarian practice and the struggle
for a society made up of 'free and equals', where competition takes a step
back in favor of mutual help and solidarity? For sure, there are members
of Anonymous who are active within (genuinely) anarchist organizations,
but there are among them also who espouse liberal (capitalist) or even
libertarian tendencies. The fact that journalists hailed 4chan as the
Web's most anarchist site should raise some doubt - and more questions.
Moot's (young New Yorker Christopher Poole's nick) positions provide a
good benchmark for evaluation. Poole has declared himself in favor of
total opacity, and absolute anonymity on-line, which gives to each and
everyone the opportunity to choose for 'bad behavior' without offending,
without disturbing, and especially, without getting caught and punished
for conduct deemed to be on the wrong side of the law. Hence Pool is
(surely) not going to bear with Facebook's radical transparency. But that
is a bit unsubstantial for claiming the subversive anarchist label.
Canvas, a site accessible through a Facebook account, demonstrates the
evolution of a showcase format that allows for modification of on-line
images [76]. This is an innovative system for the creation of on-line
content, and we will come back on it in our concluding remarks. But again,
no way this can be taken as a revolutionary or political hacking project
of anarchist, anti-authoritarian nature. On the contrary, it is a project
funded by venture capital, without in any way diverging from the
advertisements-based business model already successfully operated by
Google, Facebook, and all other Web 2.0 actors extracting profits from
online sociality.

(to be continued)
Next time: online sociality, politics, democracy, anarchism, the work: the
conclusion of this section - and the end of Part II!

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
[71] An Anonymous member copy-pasted the motto from a famous sentence in a
George W Bush' speech where he told his audience in justification of the
'total war against terrorism', "the American way of life is
[72] Check out this Youtube clip:
[###*] Single Person Organisation, aka UPO (Unique Personality
Organisation) Thesis 6 of Geert Lovink & Patrice Riemens 'Twelve Theses on
[74] It was group of hackers which decreed in May/June 2010 'Ten Days of
Lulz'. It hits the most varied of targets (FBI, Sony, Fox TV, Twitter) and
published logins and passwords of lambda users - 'just to show we could do
it'. The Lulz pirate vessel left deep traces in the web ocean, and the
torrent of its operations and of the affected sites can still be
downloaded from various mirror sites.
[75] 4chan Showcase was started in 2003 by Christopher Poole (then 15
years old, he managed to stay anonymous till 2008) takes its inspiration
from similar Japanese sites. Begin 2011 Showcase had sometimes the totally
astonishing number of one and half million plus unique visitors a day.
[76]  Canvas' former site at is no longer reachable, whereas this new site appears to no
longer need formal FB usership identification (-transl)

Translated by Patrice Riemens
This translation project is supported and facilitated by:
The Institute of Network Cultures, Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences
The Antenna Foundation, Nijmegen
( - Dutch site)
( - english site under construction)
Casa Nostra, Vogogna-Ossola, Italy

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