In Search of Heroism: The Mask of Anonymous

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This input will be an attempt to examine and validate the symbolism of Anonymous as the hero. As an Introduction, Anonymous’ symbols are associated with the Guy Fawkes mask and headless suited men, both representing the idea of anonymity:

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The Guy Fawkes mask has been recognized as Anonymous’ signature icon and can be traced back to the times of Project Chanology’s street protests, in which many of its participants disguised themselves with the Guy Fawkes mask.

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By looking Anonymous as a symbol and not a community, examination of campaigns conducted shows attributes related to Internet Freedom, Liberty, and Pro-Human Rights. Validation are quoted based on Anonymous’ operations and/or its outcome.

  • Operation Titstorm:

“No government should have the right to refuse its citizens access to information solely because they perceive it to be unwanted”
— Anonymous email to the Australian press

  • In protest against the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), Anons did it through legal channels alone (no DDoS, no hacking and doxing) by sending  black fax, emails, phone calls, pizzas called to the office.
  • A leak from Edward Snowden, an ex-NSA employee and system administrator confirming the NSA not only has vast capabilities to intercept, store and analyze the digital traces and footprints of citizens and foreigners alike, but in so doing has broken numerous laws and lied to Congress. It confirms that what Anonymous are fighting against is not just a mere illusion.The leak, along with the many others from US soldier Chelsea Manning leads to an eventual targeting of security firms and governments (Coleman, 2013).
  • In wake of Anti-SOPA protests (e.g.Operation Megaupload), Anonymous launched a worldwide protest in regards with the strengthening of intellectual properties at the cost of internet freedom (Norton, 2012).
  • By providing technological assistance to activists on the ground during the Arab Spring, many of Anonymous’ leaks have shed light into the inner schemes of private security companies’ craving for government contracts for surveillance or propaganda.
  • By exposing grave human rights abuses, for instance with OpRohingya in Burma, has gave way to numerous street demonstrations.

The validations above almost proved that the symbol of Anonymous itself is the hero, but Coleman’s finding tells us that, when compared to Green’s opinion, even the symbol of Anonymous is not the hero.

Coleman’s finding:

“Anonymous’ forte is publicity. It can create a PR nightmare for its targets.”

“Unlike peasants, who seek to remain inconspicuous and anonymous, geeks and hackers, even Anonymous, indisputably call attention to themselves via their volatile, usually controversial, legal and transgressive political acts.”

Validation: See Operation BART, Operation Megaupload, Operation Sony, all the campaigns by Anonymous would not be successful if Anonymous did not forge publicity out of the operations themselves.

Green’s argument:

“A hero seeks justice, but does not brag about it nor seeks attention.”

“…a hero is always in the shadows and never in the spotlight and they would not have it any other way.”

Although Anonymous fought for Human Rights as well as liberty, but its appetite for publicity has rendered even the symbol of Anonymous itself not a hero.

And thus the quest to search for the true hero continues…

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Norton, Q (2012). Anonymous Goes After World Governments in Wake of Anti-SOPA Protests. Wired Magazine. [Online] Available at: <http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2012/01/anonymous-internationalist/&gt; [Accessed on 14th January, 2014]

Coleman, G (2013). Anonymous in Context: The Politics and Power behind the Mask. [PDF] The Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI). Available at: <http://www.cigionline.org/sites/default/files/no3_8.pdf> [Accessed on 14th January, 2014]

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