Much of public protest in recent Western society has been typified by a decidedly social character—that is, the social movement—the likes of which has occurred on an unprecedented scale in the 20th century. In Gabriella Colman's 2013 paper “Anonymous in Context: The Power and Politics Behind the Mask”, she identifies the group Anonymous to work within these paradigms while acting entirely outside customary limits on candour. Through their absolute commitment to freedom in the face of tyranny—and lulz in response to dictators and oligarchs—Anonymous is a definite force of good against evil, and their intentions a net positive to the world.
Dr. Coleman explains that in comparison to other major civil rights movements, Anonymous is organic and ruler-less. Some Anons “work independently, while others work in small teams or join a swarm of demonstrators,” and always “the campaign eventually ends” (Coleman, 3). This power-structure, leaderless as it is, makes Anonymous inherently different from all other forms of organization, and unique in how it should be considered. Such a formation is evidenced in Anonymous’ unpredictability, as there is no long term planning, nor planners. In her history of the formation of the group, she highlights not bold leaders directing people to expand the relevance and scope of the organization, but instead a rise and fall in popularity as “existing local, regional, and international causes and events” (12) trigger Anonymous, a vehicle of collective action.
Further, Coleman identifies the source of Anonymous’ power. Through its unpredictability, a wide range of actors ready to engage on its behalf, and its potential for controversy—which the “prevailing journalistic culture of sensationalism” (16), adores—Anonymous is powered by the press. Moreover, Anonymous’ defence of Internet values “such as Free Speech” (3), allows all fans of the Internet as it stands to share a commonality with the movement. As well, frequent media coverage feeds Anonymous new supporters, be them fans of freedom or lulz, and the ease with which one may join Anonymous makes them a viable partner in protest for anyone with an internet connection.
However, what many journalists cannot comprehend is the strange, unparalleled nature of Anonymous. Suddenly awash in a world of octothorpes and misanthropes, the uninitiated do not understand the language and culture with which Anonymous interacts. The reasonable reaction of the mainstream media is to fear this unknown, and to assume the very worst about their goals. In a world so accustomed to secrecy, when one claims openness in their motivations it is customary to assume they have something to hide. Still it is headlines which are the primary of Anonymous' weapons of the geek.
Yet, Anonymous is leaderless, and it will dissolve without the support of countless individuals. Thus the group necessarily resists corruption and malevolent exploitation, and advocates only freedom. Through an absence of...