When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him.
He shouted at the top of his voice,
“What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t
For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!”
Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”
“My name is Legion, for we are many…”
“We want AMERICANS to wake up! We want AMERICANS to read! We want AMERICANS to think, and above all question all things! We want AMERICANS to analyze, criticize, critique and learn to read between the lines, to expose and to deconstruct! We want you to believe in the infinite power of the people! We want you to learn that we're all truly brothers and sisters in humanity regardless of all the artificial barriers that have been set up to separate us!
We, Anonymous, would like to offer you, America, the opportunity to join and support our movement. We are a group that formed on the internet--one that knows no constructs or absolutes, and one that has recently grown exponentially. We would like to introduce an Operation. An Operation that involves Americans getting our Natural Rights and dreams back. Right now, you can help by passing on the Information. Information is Power. Share the Power of the Information with other like-minded individuals. The more people we represent, the more Power we have, both as individuals and as Anonymous. Thank you for your time and your Power…”1.
If we limit ourselves in reading the news of recent years, it may seem that suddenly hackers have decided to unite and perform actions on behalf of some cause. But it is not like that: neither Anonymous, nor LulzSec, nor the others, have been pioneers in that matter, it has not even been the first groups of hacktivists to carry out actions of international repercussion. Hacktivism has existed since the 70s-80s and, although it all began as a simple activity of "geek curiosity", the defense of a cause through the use of hacking, was adhered very soon to the nature of these groups. Those of us, who are in daily contact with the "Deep Web", know the relevance of hacktivist groups in international political protests, and it is increasingly important. Without a doubt, Anonymous is one of the most committed groups of "hackers" worldwide, although according to one of its members, it is "the most powerful organization on Earth."
"The name and nature of Anonymous have been devastated, as if it were a prostitute in an alley, and then exhibited to the public. Allow me to express it in a very simple way: they have made a complete mistake about who and what we are ... We are all and we are nobody ... We are the face of chaos and the heralds of judgment. We laugh at tragedy. We make fun of those who suffer. We ruin the lives of others simply because we can ... A man shows his aggressiveness with a cat, we laugh. Hundreds of people die in an air catastrophe, we laugh. We are the embodiment of a humanity without remorse, without affection, without love and without any sense of morality…"
One of the most striking features of this group is reflected precisely in the macabre humor they handle, "the lulz", as they call them, so important in its beginnings, and that has evolved along with its hacktivism. Lulz is a corruption of L O L, which means "laughing out loud"; laughing at someone else's expense. This makes it an expression inherently superior to other lower moods. Anonymous gets a great lulz making indiscriminate heavy banter. These heavy jokes are always posted on the Internet. The lulz is used by netizens who have witnessed too many times important economic, environmental or social disasters and who, therefore, consider that a state of voluntary and joyful sociopathy regarding the current apocalyptic state of the world, is something colossally hilarious.
Currently the lulz also includes "lighter" jokes, used and enjoyed by many internet nerds around the world. But, initially, it was conceived as something cruel; the trolls like to define it as "laughing at the expense of others' misfortune".
Even, there was a time when spreading chaos through the lulz was the whole purpose of the collective, however, later they became an essential part of the most complex political struggles of our time. But when we analyze the origins of Anonymous, its distinctive mask of Guy Fawkes and its presence in any manifestation of the planet, it is really too absurd to believe it. Because basically, Anonymous germinated as a simple ‘gag’ within the popular forum 4chan, back in the distant year of 2003.
The "very popular" 4chan site, was inspired by the doctrines of the Futaba Channel or 2chan Japanese forum, specifically, an "imageboard" or community where mostly images, made by the visitors, were exchanged. It is practically impossible to determine the day or event that initiated the "trolling" in 4chan, but these "invasions" would continue for many years.
4chan was founded by "moot", a young New Yorker, then 15 years old. His real name is "unknown", however he has been interviewed by great media such as The Wall Street Journal and Time. As we briefly mentioned, 4chan is a series of forums essentially "Anonymous", where basically anything is posted or discussed. The truth is, that is not very different from Reddit or Pastebin: the site is composed, like any of its own style, of "threads" ", where users discuss different topics, (from presidential elections to sex toys made of gelatin) and has an approximate 25-30 million active consumers every month on average.
The forum, despite the morbidity often generated by its repeated mentions, has nothing "spectacular" in its interface, and for beginners, or neophytes, it can be difficult to navigate through the multiple threads to visualize content. It looks like an old Internet page that was stranded in the year of 1995. However, there are two things that differentiate 4chan from other similar forums: the ability to post any message without the need to create an account or have an alias within the site, and the other, that threads of discussion have a relatively a short life, which means users rarely find the same things. All the above, derives in the following question: Why was 4chan so important in the creation of a group of hackers as the "Anons", if it was only a common web?
Firstly, 4chan is the beginning (and end) of countless "memes" which are the basis of the "vital mainstream" for our daily leisure. Second, related to memes, 4chan is responsible for a vast number of hoaxes, bullying chains, trolleys, and any type of "prank" originating on the Internet at least during the last 10 years. And third, Anonymous, the collective's uprising, was inspired a lot, thanks to the ability of 4chan to send anonymous messages, and its convening force to organize any kind of tumult.
In case it has not been clear enough, among the most famous threads 4chan has given to the Internet are (briefly):
Celebgate / The Fappening: Dozens of "nude pics" of Hollywood celebrities appeared first in 4chan before spreading in torrents or in various download sites and social networks.
NudePICs: Related to the previous point, there is a good amount of photos of people, mostly women, showing their attributes in compromising situations, and under the most bizarre imagined contexts, such as gore or soft / hard porn, ( or revenge porn unfortunately).
CyberBulling / Racism: The campaigns orchestrated in this forum, simply go beyond any aspect of existing bullying, as there are cases, where it is believed the victims reach suicide, due to the level of harassment they suffer. (Example: Jessi Slaughter case).
Spamming: Many of the spam chains, fake mails and mail bombers have had their origin in the forum distributing massively, considerably expanding the black market of spam, and computer viruses.
Viralizations / Trending Topics / Leaks: In 4chan have emerged multiple trends, and the site is well-known for creating artificial TT’s on Twitter. They are even specialists in running massive “styles” through the network. An “illustrious” example was, when fans of Justin Bieber were asked to cut their skin, to show their immeasurable love for the pop singer.
Assassinations: As the topics you can find are diverse and there is no explicit censorship, threads have been documented, in which users of the forum talk about committing crimes with certain "particularities", verifying they actually happened. A famous case in Mexico, was the murder of a "hacker", which was learned hours later, it had been published a kind of "ultimatum" in the Latin 4chan, known as "Hispachan". A user threw a death threat to the person in the forum, and later, another murdered him. Although there is no certainty of the crime, the messages of this type in 4chan generate a huge controversy, because of the terrifying coincidence that exists between the published, and the events that actually happen.
4chan is composed of several boards or subforums, each one with diverse and "harmless" themes (anime, technology, fashion, politics, etc.) although the really interesting boards, and from which all the aforementioned items come out, are “/ b /” and “/ pol /” that contain (or have contained) a remarkable list of perpetrated misdeeds, and with enormous echo in the annals of the history of the Internet, as we have emphasized2.
Despite the grotesque 4chan may seem to us, many people think there are great reasons to endure the existence of the forum. The radical anonymity it possesses, and the entire freedom to express itself, are seen by many, as the perfect qualities of a safe site, to bring to the surface any kind of theme or idea without fear of retaliation.
4chan represents today something that was hiding in reality, for many decades: a combination of rebels, provocateurs and antisocial, intoxicated extraordinarily creative people, incontinent guys heartless and intelligent. The forum reminds us with nostalgia, of other subcultures that flourished and died in the early days of the Internet, such as The Church of the Subgenius, Paranoia.com or The Asylum. Only thing is, apparently the motivations of these guys of 4chan, are nothing but sick fun, "procrastination", leisure or "do it for the lulz".
There were numerous contingencies converged to awaken the trolls, of the unpleasant underworld of 4chan. But if we have to isolate a single fact as the main responsible for this to happen, it would be the acclaimed "Project Chanology", an operation executed against the Church of Scientology in 2008, whose campaign and consequences finally led to the birth of Anonymous as a hacktivist combo. An unprecedented crusade, which aimed only to be a normal and casual trolley, against a chosen victim, ultimately resulting in a whole history of great global coverage and bringing us as a consequence, the final confirmation of the group.
And of course, we must not forget: birth of the Anons ...was also thanks to Tom Cruise (that's right, the protagonist of Mission Impossible).
Birth of the 'Moralfags'
“…But Anonymous was never particularly focused. Raids could be devastating or funny, but either way they came and went quickly, the net's own little tornado system. Anonymous was never anyone's personal army, and never stayed on any one topic for very long.
It took Tom Cruise to change all that and give Anonymous a political consciousness. Specifically, Tom Cruise as cringe-worthy Scientologist.
A video of a disturbingly manic Cruise leaked out of Scientology in January 2008, and the notably litigious church tried to force hosting services and Gawker to take it down with legal nastygrams.
But the video contained some truly epic lulz, and Anonymous wouldn't let it die. The church's effort to kill it off so enraged Anons they decided to destroy the church itself. By enraged, I mean a pissy kind of laughing and spitting at once. For Anonymous being mad meant wanting to troll the church very hard, but it was never to get serious, because getting serious for Anons meant losing.
To accomplish this op (short for operation), Anons created Project Chanology, which arguably marked both the birth of political consciousness for Anonymous, and the development of its methods of taking mass action.
Destroying the church was going to be aggro funny, as well as require a lot of dancing. Many have wondered since then, were they serious about destroying the church, or was it all a joke?
The answer is yes, and understanding that is vital to understanding Anonymous.
There's no proof that the people that started Project Chanology had any personal beefs against the Church of Scientology beyond their secondhand annoyance at the Church's litigious history and attempted suppression of speech. But probably most importantly, the Church was rampantly guilty of feeding the trolls But Project Chanology was the perfect way for the people who did have a history with Scientology to jump under the wing of the haughty and lulzy collective. Scientology had pursued its detractors with mean spirited ruthlessness, delving into critic's personal lives, following them with investigators and ruining their reputations.
Anonymous didn't care. Call them rapists, and they'd laughingly tell you they were child rapists. Accuse them of any crime, and they could point to worse on /b/. Anonymity and the 'words will never hurt me' ethic that arose out of the aesthetic of extremes on 4chan made them immune to the Church's arsenal.
But some existing Anons, and the ones that came in from the community of Scientology detractors, really cared about winning this one. They wanted to be the good guys and Scientology to play the bad guys. The Church, they reasoned, hurt people, took their money, and lied to them under the guise of being caretakers and teachers.
Anonymous claimed to do all those bad things too, but didn't really, and would never promise to take care of you and teach you, but sometimes did anyway.
As Coleman put it in her study, they were the perfect nemeses. But Anons caring about doing the right thing is about morality, and morality, at least straight morality, is not the lulz. Many veterans saw this as a corruption of the purity of Anonymous – the cancer that was killing /b/.
On February 10, 2008, the "moralfags" took the whole thing to a new level. They set up meeting times and places in cities around the world, bought masks and made signs.
Anons left the internet by the thousands and showed up in front of church locations and Scientology centers around the world, many wearing their new Guy Fawkes masks, V for Vendetta movie merchandise sold by Warner Brothers, to obscure their identities.
They played music and walked around with signs that both accused Scientology of crimes and referenced obscure internet memes. They met each other in meat space for the first time. They partied with their own in front of aghast Scientologists in more than 90 cities.
For the first time, the internet had shown up on the real street, en masse.
And yes, they brought Long Cat...
The time has come for us to unite, the time has come for us to stand up and fight! You are Anonymous! We are in the information era.
We are Anonymous,
We are Legion,
We do not forget,
We do not forgive, Expect us.
(This was the end of the first broadcast video Anonymous launched against the Church of Scientology)
"Streisand is in all its glory," joked an anon. The so-called "Streisand Effect" is a recognized Internet phenomenon whereby the attempt to censor information, gets the opposite effect: more people want to see it, regardless of the reason, and therefore, it acquires greater diffusion. The phenomenon is named after Barbara Streisand's 2004 attempt to ban, through a multi-million dollar lawsuit, the publication of aerial photographs of her manor in Malibu. The photographer was only trying to document the erosion produced in that area of the California coast. Before the filing of the lawsuit, the image of the house had only been seen six times by the Web, but after the case was made public, the site had more than half a million visits. The video of Scientology recorded by Tom Cruise was subjected to a similar dynamic; his circulation became unstoppable. In that video, Tom Cruise personifies the vision (?) of the world, Scientology has:
"Being a scientologist is ... when you see an accident, it is not as if someone else did it. You know you have to do something because you're the only one who can really help…".
The trolls (along with almost everyone else) considered the video a pathetic (if not pitiful) attempt to give credibility to that pseudoscience, through the intervention of a famous one. While in the video, Tom Cruise laughed delighted with himself, the Internet community laughed also, but of him.
"Let me explain it this way: if Tom Cruise jumping on Oprah's couch recorded an 8 on the "scary” scale, this is a 10." Was posted in a short and shocking description of the video for millions of viewers.
The protests that began almost isolated on the Internet, took a huge international impact in a few days. But in spite of everything, the anons, did not count on the reaction of the church, which behaves in a way, somewhat “bad” with critics, opponents and anyone, who dares to take up arms against them.
Before anyone could say "Ave, Xenu" (Xenu is the miserable, ruinous extraterrestrial lord of the galaxy, at least according to the scientological version of the story) the crossfire started. Demands, persecutions, investigations, dissemination by scientologists of false information about hacktivists, etcetera. But the anons were not "frightened". They had something very important in their favor. A power that the Church of Scientology, did not know and that would be able to shake the very foundations of the radicalization of messages and rebellions forever: social networks.
The united mass of anons trolls collaborated through chat rooms participating in various ultra-coordinated forms. The Scientology websites were hacked and subjected to Denial of Service attacks, in order to get them out of the Internet. The Dianetics telephone hotline received an overwhelming barrage of false calls. And the "secrets" of this religion exploded all over the Internet.
"I also scanned my naked ass personally and sent it to them by fax. Because, fuck it, “said someone. A movement in the network called "Chanology" was created with the aim of attacking the church on a large scale, and above all, to avoid at all costs that the video of "Tom Cruise deranged," being removed from the Internet. The battle was fought both inside and outside the network: the video unexpectedly sparked a debate whether Anons should take the streets to protest against the Church of Scientology, or remain glued to its delirious roots and continue with the lulz, and their incursions only into the network. In this way the "Anonymous" began to take their actions differently, no matter if they were lulz or not.
And overalls, to be aware of the enormous power they were able to wield.
To be continue…
2 Massive hacking to PayPal, Amazon or Facebook accounts since 2008. In October of 2008, Anonymous managed CNN to publish in the articles section, sent by the citizens, some fake news: Steve Jobs suffered a heart attack. The media believed it and this caused Apple's actions to fall precipitously. Assault on the personal mail of Sarah Palin, candidate for Republican vice president in US. elections. Time magazine opened an electronic voting to choose the most influential people of 2008. Surprisingly, "moot" won. His initials, along with the next 20 people, formed the phrase "Marblecake, also, the game" (anal penetration, the game), a 4chan joke. In July 2008, the swastika symbol became one of the most consulted words on Google, as a request from 4chan users. 4chan instituted May 20th as the "Porn Day", which consists of flooding Youtube with pornography. And a very long etcetera ...