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article imageOp-Ed: The year of the collective – Anonymous in 2013 Special

By Justin King     Dec 28, 2013 in World
Over the past year, the collective that began as an “Internet hate machine” in the 1990s has reached a level of maturity that makes it an actor on the international stage. The collective successfully staged operations in almost every nation on Earth.
The leaderless structure of the organization makes it impossible to combat through traditional intelligence gathering means. The collective, made up of those identifying themselves as Anons, demonstrated over the last year the capability of bringing enormous amounts of pressure to bear on governments and corporations just hours after an inciting event. With just a small amount of prior notice, Anonymous can simultaneously flood the streets of hundreds of cities the world over with protesters just to prove a point. There is no denying that Anonymous wields the ability to shape national and international narratives.
Sign directed to the FBI regarding the statement that they had  dismantled  Anonymous. Displayed dur...
Sign directed to the FBI regarding the statement that they had "dismantled" Anonymous. Displayed during the largest Anonymous operation to date.
Austin P. Berglas, assistant special agent in charge of the FBI's cyber division in New York set the stage by referring to the dismantlement of Anonymous leadership. As if in response, Anonymous launched a series of operations proving that the organization was barely affected by the FBI imprisoning what it thought were the largest players in Anonymous.
The movement is still there, and they're still yacking on Twitter and posting things, but you don't hear about these guys coming forward with those large breaches, it's just not happening, and that's because of the dismantlement of the largest players.
The statement by the FBI demonstrated how little the feds actually understand the collective and how it operates. There is no doubt that by arresting some of those with technical expertise, the FBI dealt a short-lived blow to the collective’s ability to launch major hacking operations. However, the FBI seemingly failed to realize that the collective had already taken large portions of its operations out of cyberspace and on to the streets. It also reflected a US-centered approach to the “problem” of activism. Tossing hacktivists that reside within jurisdiction of the borders of the United States in prison does little to stop an organization that operates with no regard to national borders.
Those associated with Anonymous are from every ethnic, social, economic, national, and ideological background. The organization maintains no hierarchies and has no leaders. There are no subgroups for security services to infiltrate. Every operation Anonymous conducts brings together different individuals for the purpose of the operation, and those individuals decide whether or not to participate in the operation on their own. This hive mentality is a security service’s worst nightmare. There is no effective means to deal a fatal blow to the organization, and trumpeting arrests only turns the arrested into martyrs for the cause. Every arrest seems to create dozens more Anons willing to move to the front lines and become actively involved in operations.
Sign mocking the perception of Anonymous being shackled to computer screens.
Sign mocking the perception of Anonymous being shackled to computer screens.
Operations are conducted for various reasons. Sometimes the operations are in support of the environment, fair trade, privacy, peace, and sometimes they are simply for the “lulz.” Lulz is a corruption of the internet acronym LOL, meaning laugh out loud. Doing something for the lulz is doing it for no other reason than the laughs it will generate.
Anonymous operations in 2013
The #Ops, or operations, are as varied as the participants themselves. Examining some of the successes from the last year shows the reach of the collective and the varied tactics employed.
#OpMillionMaskMarch: An operation that culminated in the November 5th protest that occurred simultaneously in over 470 cities around the world and succeeded in shutting down sections of Washington, DC. Participants used the event to protest various national and international causes, meet other Anons face to face, and most importantly demonstrate that Anonymous is nowhere near “dismantled.”
Million Mask March occupying the steps of the Capitol.
Million Mask March occupying the steps of the Capitol.
#OpSyrianStrom: An intensive campaign that successfully derailed the march to a US war in Syria. Participants conducted a phone and email campaign targeting US politicians and media sources to build opposition against another war in the Middle East. They also employed twitterbombs, a method of tricking Twitter’s system into forcing a chosen topic to trend, to increase public awareness of the issue.
In the interest of full disclosure, the author was directly targeted by this campaign and was anonymously given information leading to the article found here.
#OpHumanAngels: A global campaign designed to simply make people feel better. Participants leave notes of encouragement, hug strangers on the street, and use chalk graffiti to instill a sense of community and hope in people.
#OpMaryville: Anonymous garnered national media attention and massive support for an operation demanding that public officials reopen an alleged rape case in Maryville, Missouri. Participants employed social networks to spread word of the incident to news outlets, politicians, and other activists. The Lt. Governor of the state joined in the call to reopen the case. A special prosecutor was named and the case was reopened.
#OpInform: An international team of bloggers, activists, and citizen journalists run multiple outlets from which they disperse information relevant to the Anonymous collective. The information reaches between four and five million people per year.
The Anonymous operations listed above represent only a fraction of those carried out in 2013, and were chosen to demonstrate the various methods used by the collective to accomplish its goals.
Anonymous in popular culture:
The collective has spawned its own genre of music with artists donning the iconic Guy Fawkes mask during concerts and videos. One of the more popular artists, Steve Grant, filmed his most recent video for the song “The Seventh Seal” in Washington, DC during the Million Mask March. Since it was uploaded, the music video below has averaged 10,000 views per month on YouTube.
The battle to assist Anons imprisoned or accused of a crime has generated an amazing recruitment tool for the collective. When federal authorities attempt to impose draconian sentences on Anons convicted of relatively harmless and always non-violent crimes, the public outcry often becomes deafening. The arrested activists become household names, typically through the efforts of those associated with the #FreeAnons campaign. The most recent examples typically include threats of decades-long sentences for people who simply shared information. Jeremy Hammond and Barrett Brown have both become internet icons this year for their alleged involvement with Anonymous and their subsequent arrests.
Michael Carr being placed in an unmarked vehicle.
Michael Carr being placed in an unmarked vehicle.
Individuals acting alone can often inspire others, and such was the case of Michael Pendleton. Pendleton set out from Tallahassee, Florida on foot in order to make it to the Million Mask March in Washington, DC. Choosing to walk around 850 miles to get to the protest, removed the ability for others considering attending to make excuses about the traveling distance required.
Even most of those that have never heard of the collective or their activities have a mental association between the Guy Fawkes mask and internet activism making the collective part of the international narrative for the foreseeable future.
Anonymous in 2014
Anonymous is a fluid collective. In 2013, Anons were tracking down and exposing pedophiles one day, and stopping a war the next. The Million Mask March operation has evolved into the Million Mask Movement, and promises to keep up the pressure on the streets while the whistleblowers, hackers, and leakers associated with Anonymous continue their activities online.
When asked what could be expected of Anonymous in 2014, Alex Freeman said
More Lulz.
John Fairhurst, organizer of the DC Million Mask March answered the same question
For the next year, in my personal opinion, I think that the world can expect a lot from Anonymous as well as the Million Mask Movement. On the 5th of November we issued a warning to the powers that be; they have apparently not taken heed to this very serious warning. This is a mistake on their part. How many times can you poke the dog before it bites. We are against violence which is absolute, however, we the people are getting sick and tired of what is going on in this world, no one can predict the future. So on that note we make moves and so do they. We are only going ask so many times.
The only things that are certain is that Anonymous is anything but dismantled and that the collective will continue to make headlines for quite some time.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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