Recently, the self-proclaimed political activist and hactivist collective Anonymous have caught my eye on Twitter through their work on human rights (@AnonBig) and Internet censorship (@FreeTheInternet), yet despite their broader intentions to defend individual rights for the underdog, I can’t help but reiterate the concerns of critics that the clan-oriented faceless group hides behind a mask of the anonymity that is still largely internalised by a herd mentality and more often than not bipartisan views.
Not only do these traits liken them to the very people they stand against – governments and corporations – anonymity also somewhat gives the impression of cowardice which ironically contradicts the outspoken nature of the grassroots activism mentality.
Far from a glamourized depiction of the idealist collective that they purport to stand for (often against corruption and capitalism), anonymity does not lend to Anons’ voices as individuals being heard to represent a real voice for the very people that the collective is largely proclaimed to represent – the individual.
From a psych perspective, the cult symbol of hiding behind the stylized depiction of the Guy Fawkes mask is more dehumanising than supportive to reinforce a sense of identity that is so intrinsically fundamental to personalizing a voice for advocating the often serious nature of concerns raised by the group.
Taking a look at any leader of reformist regimes and movements, we notice a certain sense of charisma that propels their cause to the larger community where there is a sense of relational identity that people from the wider community can associate with on a personal level. If Snowden weren’t a relatively young and charismatic (to some extent) figure that plays with the main stream notion of being a ‘spy’ and put a face to the black hat society, would there really (still) be so much hype about him in main stream media advocating #freesnowden? (I would liken this to the free Schapelle Corby case if not for being politically insensitive – not standing for the death sentence in any respect.)
Whereas, Anonymous pride themselves on ideas, the vaguely associated Internet gathering noticeably lacks this level of personality that can hold up against the real world model – a hierarchically oriented society where there is inevitably, even in the most adhocratic organisations, some notion of leadership and guidance.
In the real world, where we learn that going above the law doesn’t necessitate a means to an end for promoting a cause, the trick that Anonymous often do not quite grasp is finding a way within the bounds of society (loopholes within the law) to strategise a retaliation.
Speaking to governments and corporations but on the wrong page, Anons’ efforts largely go unheard and become misrepresented and dismissed as a cult movement that is largely child’s play.
Though, I do advocate free press and stand by a lot of the Anon ideals that EFF promotes, it is noticeable that there is inevitably an inconsistency and conflict in the fundamental concept of anonymity behind the cause that leave more room for members themselves to verge on grey and ethical areas that make Anonymous just the same as the opposition – corporation’s employees who hide behind an organisations legal liability structure as a whole.
Just as how Tor is now largely redundant given the largely monitored ports where backdoor access by government agencies is even more so than generic platforms, anonymity doesn’t in anyway whole heartedly take ownership of the cause.
Where in Muslim cultures the veil is a symbol of modesty pertaining to their religion, there is also the downside of a lack of liberties to rise above oppressive regimes, where largely women are not able to openly speak up for themselves. With no disrespect implied, but look where their rights as individuals are comparative to western democratic societies.
For those who do not live behind the Great Firewall of China still with the luxury in ‘free’ society to make use of liberties made available, I would urge them to embrace a face to the cause where there are still subtle methods of voicing your concerns that do not hinder on career and loss of life and welfare.
Why hide behind a mask when you still can express your views otherwise?
We need more real voices and not bot-like Ghosts.