The New Fourth Estate: Anonymous, Wikileaks, and –archy


http://c4ss.org/content/16677
The New Fourth Estate: Anonymous, Wikileaks, and –archy

“When people talk of the freedom of writing, speaking, or thinking, I cannot choose but laugh. No such thing ever existed. No such thing now exists; but I hope it will exist. But it must be hundreds of years after you and I shall write and speak no more.”

- John Adams

SUMMARY:

As government and industry collude, the interests of the powerful trample the rights of the multitude. Technology has granted invasive new eyes and ears to government agencies, spurning the right to privacy. Felicitously, the individual has also been empowered with two new tools to check the corporate state: hacktivism and leaks. The press has been captured by a handful of news corporations that are generally uncritical of government and fail to expose corporate injustice. The techno-libertarian culture has birthed the do-it-yourself fourth estate—usurping the illegitimate media and furnishing a viable alternative to the cartelized press. Two entities, Wikileaks and Anonymous, have emerged under this banner. This inquiry seeks to understand their history, methods, and to ascertain whether use of the discrete figurehead is efficacious.

Introduction

The press is the chief democratic instrument of freedom.”
– Alexis de Tocqueville

The wellspring of liberty runs dry without the free flow of information. The Egyptian government shut down their Internet on January 28, 2011, just after the Associated Press published video of a protestor being shot by riot police. [1] This came as a shock to the global community; censorship of such magnitude is only rivaled by nations like North Korea (where subjects have no internet access). A global trend of authoritarianism is emerging, and the West is not immune (and perhaps even leading the charge).

In Radical Priorities, Noam Chomsky and C.P. Otero wrote:

“The totalitarian system of thought control is far less effective than the democratic one, since the official doctrine parroted by the intellectuals at the service of the state is readily identifiable as pure propaganda, and this helps free the mind.” In contrast, “the democratic system seeks to determine and limit the entire spectrum of thought by leaving the fundamental assumptions unexpressed. They are presupposed but not asserted.”

Noam Chomsky tersely put it this way in in Chronicles of Dissent: “The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum.”

The media cartel is adept at this technique. In 1983 in the US, 50 companies shared 90% of the market. Today, that number is six, with a majority of control in the hands of General Electric, News Corporation, Disney, Viacom, Time Warner and CBS. [2]

In the United States, the Occupy and Tea Party movements agitate for distinct types of social change, yet both rally under the banner of protecting civil liberties in the face of state-corporate intrusion. In the last two years, several such controversial pieces of legislation have been put forward.

Several rounds of Internet censorship (on behalf of the media industry and intelligence agencies) have been subject to public scrutiny, including:

SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act, which targets sites that host copywritten material, was defeated by a coalition of web giants, including Wikipedia, Google and Reddit. [3] Nevertheless, a rash of other bills has been proposed, including the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), the Protect IP Act (PIPA), and the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA).

All of these protect intellectual “property” and media industry “earnings.” More threateningly, the bills augment the authority of government intelligence agencies over the formerly free Internet.

Carl Levin and John McCain sponsored, and Obama signed off on, the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). American Civil Liberties Union decried the bill as “an extraordinary expansion and statutory bolstering of authority for the military to pick up and imprison without charge or trial civilians, including American citizens, anywhere in the world.” [4]

The Trespass Bill (H.R. 347) was passed by 388-3, which criminalized First Amendment activity in given proximity to any individual protected by the Secret Service (including Republican Presidential candidates), even if the protestors are unaware that the area is designated off-limits. It is widely speculated that this bill was passed in anticipation of the G8 / NATO Summit in Chicago on May 19, 2012. In light of massive protest mobilization, the NATO meeting has since been moved to Camp David. [5]

President Obama campaigned as an anti-war candidate of the left. Since his election, he has upheld the Bush imperialism protocol. Obama’s trigger-happy drone strikes, refusal to close Guantanamo Bay, crackdown on non-violent protestors and journalists, banking sector bailouts and violation of the War Powers Act in Libya have tarnished his messianic image.

Tireless freedom crusader and civil liberties lawyer Glenn Greenwald wrote:

“One of the most consequential aspects of the Obama legacy is that he has transformed what was once known as ‘right-wing shredding of the Constitution’ into bipartisan consensus. When one of the two major parties supports a certain policy and the other party pretends to oppose it — as happened with these radical War on Terror policies during the Bush years — then public opinion is divisive on the question, sharply split.”

But once the policy becomes the hallmark of both political parties, then public opinion becomes robust in support of it. That’s because people assume that if both political parties support a certain policy that it must be wise, and because policies that enjoy the status of bipartisan consensus are removed from the realm of mainstream challenge.

That’s what Barack Obama has done to these Bush/Cheney policies: he has shielded and entrenched them as standard U.S. policy for at least a generation, and (by leading his supporters to embrace these policies as their own) has done so with far more success than any GOP President ever could have dreamed of achieving.” [6]

During the Arab Spring and Occupy protests, citizens’ voices were hushed and ignored while their bodies were bludgeoned and imprisoned. When votes are not counted, or do not count, bitterness toward the breached social contract festers. People seek other outlets of expression and political influence. The mainstream media have failed to check both government and the corporation, and another nascent mechanism of accountability has arisen from the ashes.

Anonymous

Founded on the ideal of extreme transparency, and abhorrent of censorship, the hacktivist group Anonymous deftly acquires and exposes private but socially-valuable information online.

Anonymous (or the individual Anon) breaks into websites, databases, email and Twitter accounts (or anything with a username and password). The Anon then vandalizes and/or appropriates private information that they feel should be publicly available. The Anons also organize to collectively to deliberatively target and crash websites offensive to the cause of liberty.

Anonymous is a reversal of Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon—instead of a prison with a central omniscient tower, each Hacktivist cell scrutinizes the tower itself. The watchers become the watched; corporate governments do not like this.

Anonymous is a leaderless organization, coordinated online over chat rooms and forums. It started on the image forum 4chan, known also as the “bowels of the internet,” for its exceedingly offensive humor (the verb is “to troll.”)

The primary tool of the trade is the Distributed Denial of Service attack (DDoS), where computer users request large amounts of data from a website simultaneously, overwhelming it and causing it to crash. If caught, DDoS attacks have a maximum sentence of 10 years in jail.

Anonymous has developed a piece of open-source software called the Low Orbit Ion Cannon (LOIC), which any Anon can download and contribute to the operation without any requisite hacking savvy whatsoever. The name is derived from a weapon proposal from Nikola Tesla, for a “death ray” device that fires ionized particles. [7]

The LOIC allows Anons to volunteer their bandwidth to DDoS without even being at the computer, uniting with others in an automated “bot-net.” This devastating collective weapon explains Anonymous’ ability to incapacitate heavily fortified government websites.

“Anonymous is the first internet-based, anarchic super-consciousness. Anonymous is a group, in the sense that a flock of birds is a group. How do you know they’re a group? Because they’re travelling in the same direction. At any given moment, more birds could join, leave, and peel off in another direction entirely.” – Chris Landers [8]

Inside the Internet Hate Machine

“Fox News had in 2007 dubbed 4chan the ‘Internet hate machine’—a barb embraced, if ironically, by Anonymous, which responded with a grim parody video claiming to be ‘the face of chaos,’ ‘harbingers of judgment’ those who ‘laugh at the face of tragedy.’” [9]

According to anthropologist, NYU professor and Anonymous liaison Gabriella Coleman, the demographic of Anonymous is rather hard to verify. She embarked on a study of the group in 2008 (when it came onto the international scene) by spending time on 4chan and interviewing them in their Internet Relay Chatrooms (IRC). She found that the group is largely composed of liberal anarchists, vigilante libertarians, geeks, activists, bored teenagers and professional computer scientists with a unifying commitment to freedom of information.

“The group’s organizing principle—anonymity—makes it impossible to tell how many people are involved. Participation is fluid, and Anonymous includes hard-core hackers as well as people who contribute by editing videos, penning manifestos, or publicizing actions. Then there are myriad sympathizers who may not spend hours in chat rooms but will heed commands to join DDoS attacks and repost messages sent by Anonymous Twitter accounts, acting as both mercenary army and street team.” [10]

The group has a strong anti-ego and anti-celebrity ethic, chastising those who speak on behalf of the organization or seek too much time in the spotlight. They use deliberative consensus and polling within their chat-rooms and forums. The size waxes and wanes, but one forum alone has over 30,000 users, and they’re mostly concentrated in North America, Australia and Latin America and Europe.

The hacktivists communicate with the public in their characteristic video style, featuring dramatic oratory often filtered through an anonymizing computer voice over video of “V” from the film “V for Vendetta.” This formulaic call-to-arms has been recycled by many involved in the Occupy movement.

As a rhetorical sample, a partial transcript of the poetic and incisive Anonymous video, “The Bankers Are The Problem

“The bankers manufacture recessions and depressions to exert a greater control over social and political structures. The bankers create and finance the wars on both sides of the conflict. The bankers control the policies and control the media and the education system that is operated to maintain ignorance in the public, so that they can be shorn like sheep. The bankers launder the drug money, and ensure that drugs remain illegal. The bankers are the problem.”

The Crusade

Anonymous’ first unifying incident began as an attack on the Church of Scientology, in “Project Chanology.” The Guy Fawkes mask that is iconographic of Occupy actually began with this action. (This uniform mask of anonymity is not new—the Guerilla Girls of the 1980s pioneered the technique). [11] Hotly debated at first, Anonymous ultimately decided to manifest in person at Scientology headquarters around the world. The largest demonstration took place on February 10, 2008, involving over 7,000 people in 100 cities. [12]

Along with the Church’s controversial financial practices, this demonstration was precipitated in January 2008, when the organization attempted to remove from the web an insider-only motivational video of Tom Cruise blathering manically. This process of scandalous overreaction has come to be known as the Streisand Effect (after Barbara Streisand attempted to censor internet photos of her lavish estate and unwittingly made it a bigger deal that it would have been otherwise).

Anonymous and Scientology have had strained relations ever since the hacktivist collective was declared a “cyberterrorist group,” that was perpetrating “religious hate crimes” against the Church. Anonymous has resolved to “expel the church from the Internet,” and has called into question the legitimacy of its tax-exempt status. [13] Disturbingly, Germany is considering banning the religion entirely. [14] In an “epic troll” in 2009, a group of Anons executed Operation Slickpubes, in which a streaker slathered in Vaseline and pubic hair terrorized the New York City headquarters of the Church of Scientology.

This animosity toward Scientology is hardly political, almost a form of scapegoating, but it fortified the cohesion within Anonymous and created the capacity to mobilize in the real world.

Fomenting Revolution

Anonymous was instrumental in inciting and supporting the Arab Spring. In the town of Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia, 190 miles south of Tunis, a twenty-six year old vegetable cart peddler named Mohamed Bouazizi lit himself ablaze.

Bouazizi was responding to an incident of police misconduct, where an officer confiscated his cart, fined him, slapped him and insulted his deceased father. He appealed to the local court but was not given an audience. This acute incident, coupled with structural economic disenfranchisement drove him over the edge. On December 17, 2010, Bouazizi stood outside the provincial headquarters of Sidi Bouzid and unceremoniously immolated himself.

The Internet exploded with #SidiBouzid and anti-Ben Ali rhetoric. [15] The Tunisian government responded by deleting dissenters’ Facebook accounts. This time, another hashtag suffused through Tunisian social media: #Anonymous.

The collective launched #OpTunisia and organized to bring down seven of the Tunisian government’s official websites, including those of the Ministry of Industry and stock exchange.[16] The entity also published a “cyber war survival guide,” sharing information from Wikileaks about Ben Ali’s corruption, and how to outsmart riot police and access proxy cites for Facebook and Twitter.

The Ali government responded with “phishing” operations to steal passwords of dissenters in order to spy on them. This Orwellian tactic backfired, and the tweets kept coming. The Ali regime crumbled when protest reached a critical mass and pressure from the international community mounted. He stepped down on January 14, 2011. Egypt, standing in solidarity with the Tunisians, began a movement of their own (which also involved Anonymous). [17]

Anonymous is extremely active, partially because affinity groups are autonomous and not bogged down in bureaucratic sludge.

The leading Anonymous scholar Gabriella Coleman writes:

“Political operations often come together haphazardly. Often lacking an overarching strategy, Anonymous operates tactically, along the lines proposed by the French Jesuit thinker Michel de Certeau. ‘Because it does not have a place, a tactic depends on time—it is always on the watch for opportunities that must be seized ‘on the wing,’’ he writes in The Practice of Everyday Life (1980). ‘Whatever it wins, it does not keep. It must constantly manipulate events in order to turn them into ‘opportunities.’ The weak must continually turn to their own ends forces alien to them.”

This approach could easily devolve into unfocused operations that dissipate the group’s collective strength. But acting “on the wing” leverages Anonymous’s fluid structure, giving Anons an advantage, however temporary, over traditional institutions—corporations, states, political parties—that function according to unified plans. De Certeau pointedly distinguishes this as strategy, which ‘postulates a place that can be delimited as its own and serve as the base from which relations with an exteriority composed of targets or threats … can be managed.’ Anonymous is not bound to any such place, and therefore does not harbor what de Certeau calls ‘a Cartesian attitude.’”

This superfluidity has proved fertile ground for collective action, including: hacking the Vatican Website (twice), #OpEgypt (where they helped people get back on the internet using the “dark net” and third party proxies), outing members of child porn rings, and BART cell phone retaliation. They also hacked Ayatollah Khameini’s official website, hacked Monsanto in the name of environmental protection and food rights, and they provided hacking tutorials and secure drop boxes during the Syrian revolts where protestors deposited information anonymously.

Anonymous has mirrored peer-to-peer websites like The Pirate Bay, and they regularly unlock software like Norton Antivirus and upload it for free. Anonymous shut down the website of “Americans for Prosperity,” the PAC funded by the infamous Koch Brothers, in support of striking workers in Wisconsin during what they called Operation KochBlock. [18]


Avenge Assange

Beginning on February 2010, Julian Assange came under fire for publishing a trove of 250,000 secret United States diplomatic cables dating back to 1966. On December 2, Bank of America, Amazon, PayPal, Visa, MasterCard and the Swiss bank PostFinance froze Wikileaks’ donation accounts. Wikileaks was crippled.

On December 8, MasterCard and Visa’s websites were taken offline with a coordinated DDoS attack, orchestrated by Anonymous in ‘Operation Avenge Assange.” This began the fruitful relationship between WikiLeaks and Anonymous.

Next came Operation HBGary. Coleman writes:

“In February Aaron Barr, CEO of the HBGary security firm, claimed to have ‘pwned’ Anonymous, discovering the real identities of top operatives. In response, Anons commandeered Barr’s Twitter account and used it to spew 140-character racial slurs while following the accounts of Justin Bieber, Gay Pride, and Hitler. They hacked HBGary servers and downloaded 70,000 emails and deleted files, wiped out Barr’s iPhone and iPad, then published the company’s data alongside Barr’s private communications for good measure.”

Most remarkably, Anonymous unearthed a document entitled ‘The WikiLeaks Threat,’ which outlined how HBGary Federal (a subsidiary dealing with federal contracts) and other security companies might undermine WikiLeaks by submitting fake documents to the site. There was also evidence of plans to ruin the careers of WikiLeaks supporters, among them Salon.com writer Glenn Greenwald.

A small crew of AnonOps hackers had started with retaliatory trolling and had ended up exposing what seemed to be a conspiracy so damning that members of Congress called for an investigative committee to be established. Given that these were private firms, the evidence obtained by AnonOps could never have been procured through legal channels such as a Freedom of Information Act request.” [19]

Anonymous had entered the major league. Since then, governments have persecuted Anonymous, beginning in December 2010 when Dutch police arrested a 16-year old for cyber-attacks against Visa, MasterCard and Paypal. [20] In January 2011, British authorities arrested five males aged between 15 and 26 on suspicion of participating in Anonymous DDOS attacks. [21]

On June 13, 2011, Turkish officials arrested 32 individuals that were allegedly involved in DDoS attacks on Turkish government websites. This attack was in response to a new Turkish mandate on Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to implement a system of filters that was seen as censorship. [22]

The two most recent rashes of arrests are also the most egregious. In July 2011, over twenty Anonymous suspects had their homes raided were arrested in a coordinated action by the US, UK, and Netherlands. [23]

On February 28, 2012, Interpol released 25 warrants for the arrest of Anonymous suspects. The suspects, ages 17 to 40, were all arrested. [24] These arrests have had little effect on the collective, though, which temporarily took down the websites of the CIA, Department of Justice, FBI, NASA, and MI6 on April 15 of 2012. [25]

Legal persecution of hacktivists is nuanced and without precedent. Advocates of Anonymous, like attorney Jay Leiderman, argue that DDoS attacks are protected speech, or “digital sit-ins”:

“There’s no such thing as a DDoS attack. A DDoS is a protest, it’s a digital sit-it. It is no different than physically occupying a space. It’s not a crime, it’s speech. Nothing was malicious, there was no malware, no Trojans. This was merely a digital sit-in. It is no different from occupying the Woolworth’s lunch counter in the civil rights era.” [26]

Wikileaks

“In an age of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.”

-George Orwell

An Australian computer programmer named Julian Assange founded WikiLeaks in 2006. The organization publishes insider leaks and original source material, serving as an historical record and journalistic resource. It has been described as “an uncensorable system for untraceable mass document leaking.” [27] Assange has received numerous civil libertarian and journalistic awards, and was even nominated for the Nobel Peace prize. [28]

WikiLeaks is best known for its Collateral Murder video leak, thanks to U.S. Army private Bradley Manning. The video depicted an Apache helicopter mowing down suspected insurgents, journalists, and two children. One officer was heard saying that the unarmed victim “shouldn’t have brought his kids to a battle.” The footage illustrated how the use of drones and long-range weapons dissociates the solider from the horror of war.

Several of Wikileaks’ more notable disclosures took place in 2010. That year saw the release of 400,000 documents mostly relating to the Iraq War, what the Pentagon called “the largest leak of classified documents in history.”[29] These included a deliberate Bush administration policy of ignoring human rights violations by the Iraqi police, thousands of Iraqi civilian deaths that the Pentagon suppressed, Hilary Clinton’s 2009 authorization of spying activities on United Nations diplomats, and the joint efforts of Obama administration and GOP leaders to kill the investigative probe into Bush administration and C.I.A. torture practices. WikiLeaks also exposed a communiqué from Yemen’s president assuring US officials that Yemen would continue telling its citizens that U.S. military airstrikes were being carried out by Yemen. [30]

On April 25, 2011, the Guantánamo Bay Files were released. These 779 secret documents revealed that over 150 probably innocent Afghans and Pakistanis, including farmers and chefs are being held without charge. The oldest detainee is 98-year-old Mohammed Sadiq, and the youngest is 14-year-old Naqib Ullah. [31]

Also uncovered was a post-waterboard interview with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who allegedly stated that if Osama Bin Laden were to be captured or killed, an al-Qaeda sleeper cell would detonate a weapon of mass destruction in Europe, promising a “nuclear hellstorm.” He had been waterboarded 183 times—in retrospect, perhaps his Intel was corrupted by the lack of oxygen. [32]

On February 27, 2012, Wikileaks released five million emails from Texas-headquartered private intelligence company Stratfor. This was Wikileaks’ first attack on what political scientist Stacy Herbert terms the “DIC: Data Industrial Complex,” the pseudo-private system of global espionage. The leak revealed Stratfor’s close government ties, questionable interview methods (bribery, blackmail, seduction), and over 4,000 emails concerning Julian Assange himself. [33]

As an insurance policy, a 1.4 GB password-protected file has been uploaded to Wikileaks. Assange called it a “thermonuclear weapon.” The decryption password is to be released should Assange be harmed. The Swedish company Banhof hosts Wikileaks’ data in a former nuclear bunker, under the aegis of the country’s liberal free speech laws. Even still, leakers are strongly encouraged to use the Tor, an application popular among Arab Spring journalists, which routes signals such that the user is anonymized.

Storm clouds

“The people don’t want war, but they can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. This is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and for exposing the country to danger. It works the same in every country.”

- Hermann Goering

The mainstream media, government officials, and conservative political commentators have denounced Wikileaks as a “cyberterrorist” organization. Some even recommend that Assange and Bradley Manning be tried for treason and executed. [34]

On March 16, 2009, the Australian government placed Wikileaks on a blacklist of websites to be censored (it was later removed from the list in November 2011). [35]

In December 2010, the White House Office of Management and Budget sent a memo forbidding all unauthorized federal government employees and contractors from accessing the classified documents made publicly available on WikiLeaks. [36]

Diane Feinstein incited the Espionage Act in the persecution of Assange, a “threat to national security,” potentially leaking vital information to the “enemy” (there is a problem when the enemy is the “voting” public). Joe Biden assessed that Wikileaks had put American lives in danger. [37] Thomas Friedman declared Wikileaks one of the two major threats to a Pax Americana, next to the ascendant China. [38]

Despite these claims, Wikileaks employs a team that reviews all documents prior to release, redacts sensitive and unnecessary information, and several independent studies have found no harm has been done to military or diplomatic personnel. [39] Law Professor Ben Saul has stated publically that Assange “is the target of a global smear campaign to demonize him as a criminal or as a terrorist, without any legal basis.” [40]

The Supreme Court has ruled to protect the distribution of illegally gained information provided the publishers themselves did not break any laws in acquiring it. [41] This is how Anonymous and Wikileaks operate symbiotically; Anonymous acquires information and Wikileaks publishes it.

Assange’s right-hand man, Daniel Domscheit-Berg, defected on September 28, 2010. He cited lack of transparency, hierarchy and Assange’s domineering attitude as causes for his departure. [42] Several other employees have also resigned for similar reasons. In January of 2011, Icelandic minister Birgitta Jónsdóttir ended her formerly close relationship with the organization. [43] (Note: Wikileaks exposed documents on the Icelandic bank Kaupthing, which were instrumental in the country’s sweeping financial reforms. The country, like Sweden, also has liberal speech laws and has granted asylum to Wikileaks in the past).

Causing the most uproar, but ironically the issue of least importance in terms of Wikileaks’ democratic utility, is the allegation of Assange’s sexual crime(s).

In August 2012, two Swedish women began prosecuting Assange for sexual misconduct. The women were not initially seeking to bring these charges against him, but merely to track Assange down and persuade him to get tested for sexually transmitted diseases. The case was dropped the day after the announcement, and shortly thereafter taken up by Swedish Director of Public Prosecutions Marianne Ny. She ordered that Assange be subject to official interrogation. Quotations of the precise allegations can be read in the the endnotes. [44]

The timing is conspicuous, and the charges tenuous. However, whether Assange is guilty or innocent falls outside the scope of this paper. The bottom line: this type of fiasco illustrates the disadvantage of using fallible, discrete figureheads in a subversive organization such as Wikileaks.

Orderly Anarchy

There are certainly merits to leadership. A figurehead, coordinator or spokesperson can direct an enterprise and broadcast a unified message to the public. People associate iconic individuals with movements and ideas—hence symbols like Che Guevara, Marylin Monroe, and Ronald Reagan; these individuals embody a larger message.

A leader can make executive decisions and guide the group in the “right” direction. However, this argument is tenuous. The wisdom of crowds is more democratic than executive rule and better reflects the sentiment of the people, so the more the merrier when dealing with public issues like the liberation of the press.

Leadership also comes at a cost. Leaders can turn on their followers. Opponents easily demonize or blame the leader. Leaders are discrete bodies that can be extradited, thrown in jail, or otherwise neutralized. If the dynamic leader is suddenly incapacitated, the movement risks death. The centralization of power is a Tower of Babel; the more instrumental the vanguard, the greater the risk of internal hemorrhage when something goes wrong. The survivability of any system is increased with safeguards, contingency plans, and divestment of powers.

Anonymous’ guerilla tactic of hacking, data dumping and viral information flow protects the mass when any individual could be singled out as a criminal—like a protest or a riot. Furthermore, Anonymous is less bogged down in bureaucracy, needn’t wait for approval from above, and is consequently more prolific.

The clearest benefit of Anonymous’ lack of explicit, fixed leadership is the decapitation phenomenon; cut off the head of a Hydra and two grow back. The press coverage of Anon arrests rallies more to the cause, whereas Wikileaks was irreparably tarnished after the widespread, derisive smear campaign against Assange (though his associates’ polemic may have been called-for).

Anonymous needn’t worry about that. Under a leaderless system, personality clashes and egotism do not get in the way. To this point, Anonymous heartily took the advice of Samuel Johnson: “He who makes a beast of himself takes away the pain of being a man.”

They have trolled so offensively that it would be challenging for the “Internet Hate Machine” to top itself. But it doesn’t matter anyway. No one person is singularly responsible for the deliberately inflammatory rhetoric—much like how a firing squad of ten men will only have nine bullets—distribution of blame (or often, responsibility and credit).

Dozens of Anons have been arrested (and their solidarity is impressive) yet the movement does not stumble. Wikileaks’ operations have seriously faltered since Assange was put under house arrest in January of 2011 (though he has been given a television show on Russia Today).

This distribution of responsibility is also the strength of other such anarchic movements. According to political analyst and trend forecaster Gerald Celente:

“The very weakness that the people think of the Occupy movement, not having a leader, not having one message, is, in fact, its very strength. For example, take WikiLeaks, big news and doing a lot of important information combing. But it died because they cut the head of the leader off.”

The prominence of a leader is not binary; there are shades of gray. The Zapatista leader Subcommandante Marcos is an example of this middle ground. His true identity is veiled by a ski mask but he serves in a leadership role. The militant philosopher is a charismatic, witty and poetic character. He is received as a rock star throughout Mexico. Marcos is an ingenious blend between the Guy Fawkes-mask wearing Anons and the very bold-faced Julian Assange; disguised but atomized, individual but collective:

“Marcos, the quintessential anti-leader, insists that his black mask is a mirror, so that ‘Marcos is gay in San Francisco, black in South Africa, an Asian in Europe, a Chicano in San Ysidro, an anarchist in Spain, a Palestinian in Israel, a Mayan Indian in the streets of San Cristobal, a Jew in Germany, a Gypsy in Poland, a Mohawk in Quebec, a pacifist in Bosnia, a single woman on the Metro at 10 p.m., a peasant without land, a gang member in the slums, an unemployed worker, an unhappy student and, of course, a Zapatista in the mountains.’ In other words, he is simply us: we are the leader we’ve been looking for.” — Naomi Klein

The insufferable Thomas Friedman wrote an Op-Ed in the New York Times comparing Wikileaks to the ascendant Chinese superpower:

“The world system is currently being challenged by two new forces: a rising superpower, called China, and a rising collection of super-empowered individuals, as represented by the WikiLeakers, among others. What globalization, technological integration and the general flattening of the world have done is to super-empower individuals to such a degree that they can actually challenge any hierarchy — from a global bank to a nation state — as individuals.

As for the super-empowered individuals — some are constructive, some are destructive. I read many WikiLeaks and learned some useful things. But their release also raises some troubling questions. I don’t want to live in a country where they throw whistle-blowers in jail. That’s China. But I also don’t want to live in a country where any individual feels entitled to just dump out all the internal communications of a government or a bank in a way that undermines the ability to have private, confidential communications that are vital to the functioning of any society. That’s anarchy.” [45]

His sense of the magnitude of individual empowerment is accurate, but his conclusion is flawed; in the realm of communications, anarchy (absence of a ruler) is what humanity should be striving for. Government confidentiality is not vital to the functioning of society. In fact, secrecy undermines the public good. Too often the term “matter of national security” has merely been code for “cover-up.”

“The very word ‘secrecy’ is repugnant in a free and open society. […] We decided long ago that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted concealment of pertinent facts far outweighed the dangers that are cited to justify it. […] And there is very grave danger that an announced need for increased security will be seized upon by those anxious to expand its meaning to the very limits of official censorship and concealment.” -John F. Kennedy

But even if secrecy could be justified, these two organizations do little to jeopardize national security—the “enemy” employs the world’s most expert hackers—Wikileaks or Anonymous are nowhere near as sophisticated. [46]

Wikileaks and Anonymous work on behalf of the constituency. Leakers voluntarily give Wikileaks the documents that they feel the world should know about. Anonymous uses a deliberative form of democracy to launch an inquiry, like the Freedom of Information Act, into issues of social relevance.

People have a right to privacy, but the state has no such right to secrecy, especially when its own constituency launches the inquiry. Confidential communications are protected from government by the 4th Amendment. If the activities of an individual do not warrant widespread social concern, they will not be exposed by Anonymous (for lack of interest). The danger of vital political information going undisclosed far outweighs the potential for citizens to spy on their neighbors.

CONCLUSION

Regardless of whether Anonymous and Wikileaks survive in the face of the opposition, both of these crowd-sourced models have already been reproduced. The cat is out of the bag—Openleaks, Ruleaks (Russia) and Lulzsec are examples of such copycats. The fluid, spontaneous and international participatory political relations of the web are effectively digitizing the public sphere. This anarchistic structure is emblematic of the age, one of disillusionment with disingenuous representatives and figureheads.

“There is no army that can stop an idea whose time has come.”

- Victor Hugo

36 responses to “The New Fourth Estate: Anonymous, Wikileaks, and –archy

  1. Noam Chomsky (cited positively in this post) has been one of the main friends of totalitarianism in the “intellectual” world, he calls himself an “anarchist” but it is of the anti large scale private property (Black Flag) sort and he has given aid-and-comfort to every Marxist (Red Flag) regime in conflict with the West over the last several decades. Nor is Chomsky just in bed with the communal “anarchists” and the Marxists – he also connected with old Nazi holocaust denial types. Still I doubt that “The Anti Chomsky Reader” is well read in “Occupy” circles. “But Chomsky is a Jew” – born a Jew my dears, so was George Soros (and Karl Marx, and the most famous leader of the Spanish Inquisition and many other famous Jew haters), it does not mean anything (other than, perhaps, giving the intense desire to “kill the Jew in themselves”, by supporting the enemies of Jews generally).

    As for the “Occupy” internationally (“Occupy Oakland” and so on – I did wonder where the Mr Van Jones STORM people went, but no doubt there are lots of groups, I suppose one could could how many Marxists there are active in it, in active cooperation with both commual “anarchists” and anti semitic Nazi types (both sorts of “Black Flag” people). But I find it boring – although I am amused by the pretense than they are against (rather than for) totalitarianism.

    Lastly on bankers. I fully support the demand for an end to banker bailouts (both open and hidden). But I wonder how many “Occupy” people (both the nice ones in Britain – or the nasty ones in the United States and other places) uhderstand that this would mean much HIGHER interest rates not the LOWER (or no) interest rates you have been taught to expect. Interest rates should be much higher – lending should be from REAL SAVINGS, not credit bubbles.

    Still, last night on the way back from Luton airport (“were you wafted here from paradise?” – “no – from Luton airport”) I looked at copy of “Evening Standard” newspaper.

    Lots of stuff (letters and so on) about the need for more “infrastructure” spending (i.e CORPORATE WELFARE) whilst also lots of “anti corporate” stuff about the need for a “living wage” (i.e. higher unemployment). A horrible mixture of stuffn(someone called Sam Leith was even ranting on about “golf club Nazis”, what on Earth is a “gulf club Nazi”? all the people I know who play golf are very nice) – but all bad.

    There was also an article from Mr David Cameron about the need to keep “the spirit of the games alive” (I could not bring myself to read the article).

    It is all hopeless, quite hopeless.

  2. There’s no doubt certain people want him out of the way, let’s face the
    reality of facts, for instance! I think the saying goes, he knows to much!

  3. On Julian A. – it is often forgotten that the Swedish prosecutor who wants him is a leftist. One branch of the left (the feminist ideology types – whose idea appears to be “yes does not mean yes”, even though the prosecutor is male) seem to be determined to attack another leftist (but of a different faction).

    However, the boys and girls of the British left seem determined to blame the CIA (and so on) for Julian’s problems – shutting their eyes to the actions of their fellow leftists in Sweden.

    If someone like Mike Baker (CIA of the old school) wanted Julian dead – he would be dead.

  4. So true Paul Marks. Galloway was also banned by the NUS and De Montfort University over Assange rape comments.

  5. Ho, my god! These lefty woman in power are very dangerous indeed, worse
    than men, Goose could be cooked.

  6. Where’s IanB gone?. I miss his common sense. Has he had an accident or just given up in despair?.

  7. Yes – the first time in my life I ever felt a pang of sympathy for George Galloway. Consentual sexual intercourse is NOT rape.

    I know I might be expected laugh at different gangs of leftists attacking each other – but I do not find it amusing. Irational persecution is not funny.

    Mr Ecks – I think that Ian B. is busy making preperations to economically survive comming down the road.

    In this he is more sensible than the rest of us.

  8. Voldemort au Venut

    Anonymous seem like a bunch of self-righteous adolescents Who Know What’s Best for the World, so not very different to people like Obama, Hillary Clinton, et al.

    “Diane Feinstein incited the Espionage Act …”

    She’s a busy little bee, Diane. She’s no fan of the First or Second amendments either. It’s lucky, I suppose, there weren’t more like her when the United States was founded.

    But I won’t say anything that Mr Gabb will have to point out he doesn’t agree with.

    Btw, I’ve been wondering about Mr Gabb’s book on free speech. Does he point out in it that there’s a group in the U.K. he’s scared of offending not simply in propria persona, but by proxy too? That fact would seem to have great bearing on free speech, but the paradox may be that he didn’t feel free to discuss it.

    Paul Marks wrote:

    Noam Chomsky etc etc etc etc etc

    Do we need to revise that line about death and taxes being the only certainties in life? Paul depositing blogorrhoea on every post made at the L.A. seems pretty inevitable too.

    he also connected with old Nazi holocaust denial types

    Chomsky is not “connected” with “holocaust denial types”. Chomsky has supported their right to free speech, not their views. Smearing people like that is a typical leftist tactic, and not one a genuine libertarian would imitate. Not that I like Chomsky: he’s another tedious, deceitful windbag.

  9. As usual “Voldemort” – what you write is not accurate.

    I would ask you to read the chapter on this in “The Anti Chomsky Reader”.

  10. Rape “Frame” some have said, not without due justification!

  11. Interesting, here in England confidential information is leaked all the time,
    no one ever goes to prison, data protection commissioner a joke. You can
    find out anything about anyone in UK now, that’s why there’s so much
    identity fraud in the country, government knows everything about
    everyone and they tell everybody else.

  12. OMN. I remember reading about that case, claimed he was a “Spy” do you
    think he was framed by the P.T.B. intersting to know your veiws.!

  13. Voldemort au Vent

    Paul Marks wrote:

    As usual “Voldemort” – what you write is not accurate.

    I would ask you to read the chapter on this in “The Anti Chomsky Reader”.

    It’s not up to me to prove a negative, Paul, or to hunt down books I’m not interested in. You’re smearing Chomsky: quote something from him that proves he’s “connected with” holocaust deniers, as opposed to supporting their right to free speech. Which I presume you yourself do, in public, anyway.

  14. I repeat what I have already said. If you are too lazy to read one chapter in a book – then I see no reason to bother with you,.

    By the way Sean – if you must launch personal attacks on me, then think up a better fake name. “Voldemort” is silly.

  15. Voldemort, no one knows what to do with these holocaust deniers, are they
    all thick or subnormal for instance, limited intelligence to say the least. I
    knew about this when I nine I just don’t know how anyone can deny this,
    it’s obserd. (CONCLUSIVE)

    • Karl, this is not a place for provoking sceptical doubts regarding the holocaust. We defend the right of people to say whatever they like about it without legal sanctions, and also disapprove of most alternative sanctions – but do not welcome such discussions here.

  16. Is sean hiding under the name of Voldemort?

  17. I think you’re right paul, if the C.I.A. wanted him dead, he would be as dead
    as duck, we can also rule out IRA, what about british intelligence and
    the brolly brigade could they be involved? Mind you he’s not out the woods
    if they are determined to get him. hope for his sake it’s not mosat.

  18. That was quick sean, I agree what you say on that point, yes of course people
    should be able to say what they like, I just can’t comprehend why anyone
    would want to deny it, when everybody knows it was true, it’s a bit like
    putting forward an argument the “Moon” does not exist.

  19. Well if you say so Sean.

    Anyway – the prolem (well one of the many problems) with Chomsky is not that he says “Mr So and So says terrible things – but I defend his right to say them”, he denies that they say X, Y, Z,. Nor is it just me living in the past – as Chomsky and co are busy pushing for another six million to go down the drain.

    Karl – the Bradley Manning case does show cruelity (at least I think it does).

    It was an open and shut case – the private has not even denied his guilt.

    So he should have been tried and off to the Glasshouse in short order. A few years white washing lumps of coal – then an dishonourable discharge from the army.

    Instead he has been stuck in detention for ages – it has been cruel. I have even been told he is in Langley (I do not know if that is true) – the Agency is civilian, it should have nothing to do with them.

    Even if he “added names to the wall” (the wall being the first thing a visiter is shown at Langley), and I do NOT think he did, it is still not a CIA matter – a soldier, is a soldier, is a soldier. He should have been in the military justice system (and that alone) from day one.

  20. They must have a tough justice system there, under the military justice
    system here he probably would have got away it, these civilian justice
    systems do what they like, law unto themselves, mind you in the UK they
    tend not to prosecute military, we have had a few cases at this court, where
    they have walked for murder with a slap on the wrist, I suppose one can
    conclude he was in the wrong place at the wrong time! what’s the epitaph.
    “Poor Bradley Manning”. Of course he may deny XYZ, but in the scheme
    of things everything is weighed against him by those who have resources to
    prove otherwise.

  21. I loath the Federal “justice” system – not that the British one is much better.

    However, no army would be likely to let off someone who leaked cables.

    In wartime such a soldier might well be shot.

    However, the last formal declaration of war was in 1942 – against Italy.

    A legal point that Ron Paul is fond of making.

  22. They still are, spying still carries the “Death Penalty,” in many areas, either
    officially or unofficially, point of fact.

  23. Voldemort au Vent

    No, I am not Mr Gabb. Paul is projecting his own lunacy onto others again. That is, if we assume he’s being sincere in his accusation — I don’t think he is.

    Nor am I seeking to deny any holocaust: Mr Gabb’s worries are groundless. But he is again demonstrating why we have lost free speech in the UK. Fear is a potent censor.

    What I am pointing out that Chomsky doesn’t deny anything either. Given that Chomsky has many enemies, there will be surely be something on the web demonstrating his “connection” to the group Paul describes. And Paul, being fully conversant with the topic, should be able to provide a link to that demonstration. So, Paul: over to you.

    I do not support Chomsky’s politics. But as far as I can see he is sincere in his support for free speech, even for those he disagrees with.

  24. Well. Voldemort, we are in danger of loosing more than free speech, in the
    UK, the very essence of freedom is being aroded, My point is this people
    have the right to deny the holocaust, by from my own position I find such
    arguments stupid, like the ones that suggest the earth is flat and you’ll
    fall off if you sail over the horizon.

  25. “Voldemort”.

    Either the chapter or do not read the chapter.

    I am not going to force you to read it. Or to read anything else.

    By the way – on “lunacy”, it is not me who believes that I am an evil wizard from a children’s story.

  26. Karl – I agree.

    And if Noam Chomsky just said “people have the right to say these terrible things” I would agree with him. Sadly he denies that his friends say the things they say.

    There is also the basic point that saying “Mr so and so should have the right to say such and such” is not the same as being friends and allies with them – going to conferences with them, citeing them in favourable terms (and on and on).

    Chomsky is an equal opportunity offender – he plays wth the Red Flag people as well as the Black Flag ones.

    For example, first denying that the murder of millions of people by Pol Pot and the other Cambodian Marxists was takining place, then pretending that it was the Americans fault, then saying that Pol Pot and co were not really Marxists at all (and that he had never supported them).

    Chiomsky could not even tell the same lies – he kept changing his lies. I suppose it takes a good memory to be a good liar – but Chomsky does not need to be any good, his adoring fans will accept anything he says (and accept something totally different from him the next time).

    If this is one of the “leading public intellectuals” Western culture is in terrible trouble, Especially as his fans tend to be from the “intellectual elite”.

  27. Julie near Chicago

    Paul–What’s worse is that the young are inveigled into becoming a part of his fan base.

    (Although that’s partly one of the results of your own point. –Although again, come to think of it, how can you become one of the “Brave Young Rebels” by conforming with eager servility to the Party Line of the ‘Old Rebels Still Suffering Suppurating Sores”?)

  28. Has anyone got any further information on the new law regarding OAP’s
    rolled out today, police have now been given powers to withdraw driving
    licences on the spot, without court appearance, Another blatant robbery
    of our civil rights, when in gods name will it end. Why was this not
    debated before being put on the statute book. Came in force today in
    the east of england.

  29. Yes Julie – and people like me are part of the problem, my default states are (as you know) either despair or anger. Neither attractive to the young.

    For example, I listened to a young man on the train (here in Britain) two days ago (he was talking so lound I did not have much option but to listen to him). He was back from a trip to the United States (to see Comrade Barack being sworn in again) and had Barack Obama’s name as a tatoo (yes he had the man’s name put into his flesh).

    He went on and on about how Barack Obama was a great thing for “our people” (he was black – but I have heard similar B.S. from white people) – he did not even understand how RACIST he was being – as there was not one word (in an hour on the train) about the policies of Barack Obama (just his skin colour).

    “Paul one gets street gang members everywhere”.

    That was not the case – the young man was a Civil Servant (worked in the Cabinet Office and so on) and one of his “networking” friends (he talked a lot about “networking” and “outcomes” – classic modern “speak”) has raised 1.2 million for Barack’s campaign.

    I could have talked to him – but I would have been attacking stuff he has been taught all his life (and which his job “people join the public sector to help people” – that is another direct quote from the boy genius) and it would have been been rude – as I do not know the man from Adam.

    I would not have achieved anything – it would just have been an angry Redneck (me) rudely interupting a noble young man out to make the world a better place.

  30. As for Chomsky he just takes to their “logical” conculsions stuff that the young have been taught in the schools and universities (and seen in the media – especially the entertainment media) already. Indeed all their lives.

    Far from being “dissent” from “capitalist culture” – Chomsky is just an extreme example of the “Progressive” culture that actually dominates the modern world.

    I went round the London book shops on Wednesday – looked as the books that were marked out as big sellers….. and looked at their selections of specialist books on economics and politics also.

    Best not to talk about what I found – I think people already know.

    On the streets there were a lot of healthy, bright eyed young people – full of positive energy.

    And whose minds have been poisoned from birth.

  31. Julie near Chicago

    Paul,

    Your young man–I know exactly how you feel. It feels hopeless, and I’m no good at trying to talk about important things anyway.

    The fact of the matter is, only people of European and Far Eastern descent (and certain Semites) need to worry about being “racist.” They are born with racist-cootie magnets in them, that inevitably result in their being racist.

    Racism is a disease that simply cannot infect others.

    Your second comment above…Chomsky himself is one of the main forces behind what the young people have been taught. And I don’t know that he’s so much even a “Progressive” as a nihilist. Same thing with Billy-boy Ayers & wife. Maoist/New-Leftists, or just plain low-life nihilists? Same thing with Guevara.

  32. Yes Julie – the idea that black people can not be racist, because racism is about the “power structure” (and on and on…..).

    I suspect that someone in the Cabinet Office (and so on) in Britain (or the President of the United States) is somewhat more part of the “power structure” than me.

  33. I beg to differ on the nonsense that black people cannot be racist, there is no genetic code or inherited birth defect that causes this condition, whites can be subject to racism by black people in power, and abuse of proceedure during such things as wealfare application or litigation, muslims in public office can discriminate against whites, and I have personally encountered this, It’s really a power thing, is the word infidel amied at white people, bloodclot, white honkey, not a racist insult one may question, whilst I of course accept whites can also be racist to fellow whites, in england this is due to the class structure, I have never seen any evidence to prove this is genetic, mearly created by the circumstances of the day, and our routes that still remain tied to victorian conservatisim.