Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Anonymous: Robin Hood of the Information Age or Looming Tyrant?

Is Anonymous a modern Robin Hood stealing information from the rich and giving it to the poor?  [Let me warn you, this is going to be a think-as-I-write post.  Somewhat rambling, raising questions without many answers.]

Or should we be concerned about Anonymous' certainty in their judgment about who deserves to be punished and their willingness to exact that punishment?

Is it ok as long as they reveal government and corporate coverups?  If they temporarily shut down computers at naughty corporate entities as a warning like a parent punishes a child?

Where is the line they shouldn't cross and who will stop them when they do?

Is this civil disobedience or is it like self appointed militia groups who take it on themselves to punish people illegally crossing into the USA?

Are these reckless adolescents (behavior, not age is the criterion here) experimenting with their power?  Why would we come down harder on these folks whose goal, at least now, is openness, than we do on those who experiment with new forms of financial instruments, who experiment with sending troops and weapons into countries across the globe?  The difference is that Anonymous are outsiders shooting their arrows at the those with power.  The reckless businesses whose experiments destroy the earth or feed us harmful chemicals to make a profit are inside the power club.  The insiders are far more powerful and dangerous and one could argue that Anonymous is merely trying to expose that danger.  But what will happen when Anonymous gets inside the power ring? 

The other day I posted a video tape from Anonymous warning Karl Rove that it was watching his computers.  Then after the election Anonymous posted a letter saying they had aborted an attempt by Rove to steal the election by tampering with the Ohio voting machines.  I'm waiting to see how long the mainstream media wait before picking up the story.

Are they trying to find ways to confirm the reports?  Are they waiting for bloggers to do their leg work?   Essentially the evidence I've seen includes how the 2004 Ohio election mysteriously switched from a Kerry lead at 11:13pm after a minute long computer crash into a Bush lead; that there was a similar crash around 11:13pm this year in Ohio;  and Rove's on air meltdown when FOX decided to call Ohio for Obama.  The explanation, supplied by the Anonymous letter is that Rove's operatives couldn't steal the election this time because they (Anonymous) had set up a firewall with a new password.

A Thom Hartmann video in a link I posted added Carl Unger's Boss Rove account of the 2004 Ohio election events to strengthen the evidence.  I got an email today linking an article by Thom Hartman and Sam Sack that puts that evidence in written form and a little more cleanly. 

While looking for the Anonymous video I posted, I also saw there were a lot of other Anonymous videos.  Like this one addressed to Pedophiles.  Its language caught my attention.  I understand that if there is one cause that most people would unite against, it's probably pedophiles.  But let's look at some of the language in the video.

"Pedophiles, we will come for you.  We will find you.
We will shut down your websites and kick you out.
You are not welcome here and we have had enough of you.
Leave our children alone and  and while you are at it  leave the rest of the planet alone.

This is not a threat, this is a promise.
We will hunt you down and exterminate you like cockroaches.
You are the lowest form of life on this planet and it is time for you to be extinguished.
We are the ones that will do this task."

It was the cockroach line that caught my attention.  Why?  This Daily Kos post criticizing Rush Limbaugh for calling President Obama and liberals 'cockroaches" explains:
In 1993-94, Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines was a Rwandan radio station which appealed to the Hutu population, with its combination of bawdy humor, popular Zairean music and racist propaganda against the Tutsi. "It frequently referred to Tutsis as "cockroaches" (example: "You [Tutsis] are cockroaches! We will kill you!"). The station was especially popular among young people, who made up the majority of the Interahamwe militia, which carried out the slaughter. Once the massacres started, RTLM radio actually broadcast the location of groups of fleeing Tutsis, so that the Interahamwe could track them down and machete them.
Repeatedly, announcers at RTLM referred to the Tutsi "cockroaches," reducing them to creatures less than human, disgusting and disease-ridden vermin. "A cockroach gives birth to a cockroach... the history of Rwanda shows us clearly that a Tutsi always stays exactly the same, that he has never changed." Human Beings are hard to kill, hard to hate, hard to eliminate, but the "Invenzi" were Tutsi cockroaches, and needed to be stepped on and crushed. Their elimination from the Earth would actually be a service to humanity.

[As an aside, just as gays don't choose to be gay, I suspect that pedophiles don't choose little children as their sexual turn on.  Are they really cockroaches or are they the victims of whatever programmed their sexual desires?  I can hear everyone saying, but they should never act on those desires.  Of course they shouldn't.  But who amongst you could keep such a pledge?  That's not to say that pedophiles should be allowed to fulfill their desires, but perhaps there's a more humane way to keep them away from their sexual prey.  Just raising a train of thought here.  I don't know the answers, but I think we need new questions on this topic.]

As I looked at the different YouTube videos available that were billed as messages from Anonymous I wondered how one could tell if a video was really from Anonymous or not.  Or is that the point of Anonymous?  It wouldn't seem to hard to just use an old Anonymous video - the visuals are mostly the same - and learn how to imitate the Anonymous voice.  There's probably an App to make you sound like Anonymous.

I did notice that they all say at the end of each video:
We are anonymous.
We are legion.  
We do not forgive.
We do not forget.  
Expect Us.
My New Testament knowledge is pretty sketchy so I had to look up "We are legion' to find out what exactly it meant.  Most definitions say it means "we are everyone."  But apparently there are many interpretations, such as this one from Religion-Online:
One evident slap at Roman rule in Mark is the story of Jesus healing the demoniac that no one had the strength to subdue. Jesus asks the man’s unclean spirit for its name. "My name is Legion; for we are many," replies the man, using the Latin word for a large unit of Roman troops. The demons beg Jesus not to send them out of the country, but instead into a herd of swine; when he obliges, they promptly rush down a steep bank into the sea. Horsley believes the symbolism is unmistakable: Jesus takes control of the Roman forces who have brutalized people and foretells the army’s demise.
Others emphasize the demonic nature of Legion.

 So, we have Anonymous as Robin Hood, as Rwandan mass murderers, and as a crazy man in a biblical reference.  Probably none of them and maybe all of them are potentially accurate.

Going in a totally different direction, it's been a while since I first realized that  the Second Amendment was anachronistic and if people wanted to fight against a corrupt government, success would be through computer hacking, not through guns.  Anonymous seems to make this case well.

And perhaps we should consider a constitutional amendment to protect people's rights to computers and access to the internet.

In any case, hacking has the potential for serious abuse as well as good. 

And to the extent that Anonymous has major victories, what will stop evil imitators from using their hacking skills for evil?  If the allegations that Rove stole the Ohio vote count, (a big if, that I need more evidence for, but which I don't dismiss either), then it's already happened.

But even more troubling is the thought of what happens to people who gain power and begin to think they are omniscient?  And start picking more cockroach targets? Not just pedophiles?   Targets we might not so readily agree with.  Say iPhone users. 

Spinning out the Anonymous idea even further, what happens if others get inspired to go after organizations they feel are evil?  The Anonymous for Life folks take down Planned Parenthood's website and publish the names of everyone who has gotten abortions from them?  Ford wipes out Toyota's data bases.  UCLA erases every USC sports victory and every USC diploma from the records.  If the US and/or Israel can hack into Iran's nuclear power plants, why can't someone get into power plant computer systems anywhere and shut them down?

Is there a limited number of people capable of carrying off such activities?   And of those with the skills, what percent are prone to use them for evil?  I suspect that the absolute number of people who could potentially pull a lethal computer hack off is pretty big. 

In my mind, civil society works because people voluntarily cooperate.  They cooperate because society allows them enough of what they need that they have a vested interest in keeping things working.  So the way to prevent crimes is to create societies where everyone has a good chance of a decent life.  We can never prevent the stray psychopaths or discontented oddball, but we should be striving for societies where the most people possible have a good chance for a good life.  That's not the direction the US has been headed lately.

I'm for as much information equality as possible.  Too much secrecy, in my mind, is far more dangerous than too much exposure.  To the extent that Anonymous has exposed secrets that never should have been secret, that's good.  To the extent that they might fulfill their Superhero fantasies by stopping the theft of elections, that's probably ok.  But power has a tendency to corrupt.  Some who gain this kind of power, realize how dangerous it is and back off.  But others begin to believe they deserve their power and that they know better than everyone else.

Let's see, do I have any evidence for that?  I believe it to be true, but it falls more in the opinion based on personal experience than on hard evidence.  And I'd come down pretty hard on people's personal experience that comes to conclusions I don't hold.  So, I guess I'm just spinning out ideas here as I ponder the future of Anonymous and their hactivities. 

 There's even a documentary on Anonymous called "We Are Legion:  The Hacktivists". 
You can watch it and decide for yourself.  This is called the old version.  Wired discusses the release of the film and changes from one version to another.


  1. [I would argue that most gay men are exclusively gay in there physical and romantic attractions but most pedophiles are NOT exclusively attracted to children.

    Rather than framing pedophiles as having bad luck being born with such urges I think it would be better to frame them as rapist that would also rape a child as opposed to exclusively raping their fellow adults.]

  2. Anon, Good point. I hadn't considered it when I wrote so I googled. Here's a small part of what was said on Crisis Connection:

    "All Pedophiles are child molesters, but very few child molesters are Pedophiles. Pedophilia is a distinct sexual orientation that involves exclusive attraction to prepubescent children (male or female, generally not both). Child sexual molesters may be sexually attracted to males and/or females and are generally not particular about their age; convenience and easy access are their prime concerns.

    Active Pedophiles are generally single men between the ages of 16 and 35. Child molesters are generally married men, of any age, who are primarily drawn to their own children and step-children."


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