The following is an op-ed by one Gabriella Coleman, published by al-jazeera
All typos and misspellings in the quoted sections are original and reflect only upon the author and the editors at al-jazeera English.
“The political movement known as Anonymous has managed to capture the attention of the media, the hearts of many supporters, and the ire of many spectators after an eight-month spree of political interventions, stretching from Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) campaigns, to human rights technical assistance in Tunisia, to a more recent spate of hacks under the guise of Operation Antisec.”
R – The media’s attention was captured when their own servers were attacked, databases leaked, and their twitter accounts stolen and then used to tweet fake terror attack messages. Attacking the media will get the media’s attention. Prior to that only the journalists who specialize in covering Internet issues were paying attention for more then 15 seconds. The many supporters of Anonymous world-wide couldn’t fill the seats of a single NFL football stadium on game day. The many angry spectators are the hundreds of millions of people who had their internet and financial accounts compromised and/or hijacked by members of Anonymous. If you threaten hundreds of millions of people with financial ruin, you will earn their ire, among other things. Anonymous has done nothing for basic human rights in Tunisia, or any other nation. Not a single member of Anonymous has raised a finger to repair the Tunisian food distribution network, not one.
“The state has now fully entered the fray with its own flurry of activity.”
R – The nation state(s) have not fully entered the fray, not by a long shot. That flurry you speak of, is little more then an idle crotch scratch by a very busy giant.
“In the past month, twenty-two alleged participants in the United States and the United Kingdom have been arrested, the bulk of them (14) in connection with a single operation: the spectacular wave of DDoS attacks aimed directly at protesting actions taken by Mastercard and Paypal in December 2010.”
R – Yes, from just that one operation by Anonymous. That likely means other investigations are still on-going and many more will be arrested and charged with felonies. Isn’t it interesting that Gabriella Coleman doesn’t mention the hijacking and theft of innocent customers financial accounts that also took place here? According to the Washington Post it’s 75 FBI raids and 16 Americans arrested in connection with criminal acts by the group known as Anonymous…so far.
“These were launched after these companies refused to accept donations for Wikileaks front man Julian Assange, soon after the activist organisation released a trove of diplomatic cables.”
R – Yes, Anonymous attacked financial companies for freely choosing who they would do business with. Anonymous attacked those companies on behalf of a fence of stolen information. They are not “activists,” they are griefers and e-thugs behind keyboards, and their behavior on various social media proves that conclusively.
“Hackers and activists supporting the DDoS campaign (and certainly not all do support the campaign) regard this act as legitimate protest activity, akin to a blockade or “digital sit-in”. Yet, if convicted, the participants of Anonymous could be charged with felonies and land in prison with excessive punishments.”
R – The black hat hackers involved set-up those activists with a fatally flawed tool (LOIC), then used those “activist” wannabe’s as cover to steal millions of people’s online identities and financial information. No activist has the legal right to prevent a legal business from doing business, or to damage that business in any way. Preventing financial customers from accessing their accounts is damaging to both the business and its customers. A blockade or sit-in that prevents the basic human right of free passage or commerce is a felony, for a multitude of good reasons. The US and UK penalties involved are not excessive by comparison and are designed to deter others from committing the same felonies and attacks on basic human rights.
“On July 20, 2011, a day after the US-based arrests, FBI officials offered a rare glimpse into its justification for the crackdown, citing a need to nip “chaos” in the bud: “We want to send a message that chaos on the internet is unacceptable,” said Steven Chabinsky, deputy assistant FBI director.”
R – Perhaps the members of Anonymous should listen more closely when the FBI chooses to speak about them? Maybe hacking the FBI is a really bad plan?
“Although most of the arrests were for the DDoS campaign, the FBI official never differentiated between hacking and DDoSing. The former is defined by computer break-ins or trespassing, while the latter refers to gumming up a server by bombarding it with too many requests. Curiously, this official also never went so far as to label the alleged participants criminals, terrorists, or vigilantes.”
R – Perhaps the FBI didn’t differentiate between the two because both took place at the same time? The FBI almost never “labels” the people and groups that it investigates and arrests, they generally leave the labeling part up to the media, activist college professors, and the courts.
“By complaining about Anonymous’ (hereafter Anons) tactics in the absence of any stated criminal offense, the FBI appears to acknowledge, if in a somewhat oblique fashion, that the hunt for some Anons is politically motivated.”
R – The FBI is not complaining, that’s not what they do. They investigate crimes and arrest criminals. Attempting to spin what the FBI does will not change the FBI’s mandate or its job title. At the very least Anonymous violated the rights of free speech, commerce, and free passage for hundreds of millions of people. Those are interstate federal felony crimes to be investigated, and that is what the FBI does. That Anonymous claims to have done so for various “political” reasons is irrelevant in the eyes of the law or hundreds of millions of victims.
“The FBI also appears to acknowledge that, in contrast to terrorists and criminals, whom the state is justified in prosecuting since they have violated the contract that ostensibly undergirds social norms in modern civil society, Anons are in fact exercising their rights as citizens to demonstrate on behalf of “causes” they believe in: “[Even if] hackers can be believed to have social causes, it’s entirely unacceptable to break into websites and commit unlawful acts.”
R – I see no such acknowledgment from the FBI. I see only an activist professor attempting to spin criminal acts into a political statement. Unlawful means criminal. If you commit the crime, then you should be prepared to do the time. Low level members of Anonymous should be made aware that certain upper level members of Anonymous think that they are going to walk away from this without punishment and with a book deal, leaving the lower level not-so-Anonymous peons to spend time in federal prisons.
“There has not been a large-scale trend toward using hacking to actually destroy websites, [but] that could be appealing to both criminals or terrorists. That’s where the ‘hacktivism,’ even if currently viewed by some as a nuisance, shows the potential to be destabilising,” insisted Chabinsky, in language that mirrors critiques of 1960s-era social movements.”
R – Deputy AD Steven Chabinsky, speaking on behalf of the FBI, is being extremely lenient here. The FBI is well aware of the number of website defacement attacks that take place in the name of Anonymous. The FBI is well aware that massive criminal botnets were also used by Anonymous in several of its attacks. The FBI is hoping that many or all of the lower level Anon’s will wise up to what they are being used for and by whom. Because having ones bank accounts drained and/or their lives ruined, is not a nuisance, it’s a felony.
“Of course these brief statements should not be taken as the state’s sole, much less its final, words on Anonymous. They are interesting insofar as they gesture toward a social fact concerning Anonymous’ increasingly prominent role in social protest movements: Many of their actions are politically motivated and conscientious, and the December 2010 DDoS campaign, Operation Avenge Assange, was no exception.”
R – Of course those press briefings are not the state’s sole or final words on Anonymous. Those final words will come from the courts. Where We, the People, will have our final word on what Anonymous has done to us. Members of Anonymous, who are not so anonymous at all, should be very grateful that the courts will have that final word, and not a lynch mob of hundreds of millions of angry innocent citizens. Anonymous seeking vengeance on behalf of information fence and indirect mass murderer Julian Assange makes it somewhat difficult to claim there is no connection between Anonymous and Wikileaks, doesn’t it?
“DDoS campaigns can be legitimate tactics”
“Whether or not one agrees with all of Anonymous’ many tactics – some of them being illegal and disruptive, others falling in the province of peaceful and legal human rights assistance, and still others in a gray moral and legal zone – under certain circumstances, the DDoS can be considered as non-violent protest in line with well-recognised protocols for public assembly, the difference being the medium. Of course, as with any form of public assembly, some Anons are merely along for the ride. Others might in fact exhibit reckless behaviour.”
R – I have yet to see of a single action taken by or on the behalf of Anonymous that was not illegal and disruptive on some level or another. I see no evidence of a single act of “legal human rights assistance” by or in the name of Anonymous, not one. Perhaps Coleman would be so kind as to attempt to document those for us now, it shouldn’t take a book later. The right of public assembly does not preclude the rights of free passage or commerce. The FBI is hoping that those who are just along for the ride will take the hint, and get off of the short bus to prison.
“But this is an inevitable feature of Anonymous’ platform, open to seasoned activists and newcomers alike: Some novice participants cut their teeth on politics for the first time with their Anonymous brethren, forming, no doubt, an individual political consciousness, which has fed into a more robust sense of democracy in action, especially after Anons held campaigns in support of the uprisings in the Middle East and Africa that have helped to displace authoritarian regimes that had managed to exploit their constituencies for decades on end.”
R – Ah yes, “seasoned activists” like the Communist front group National Lawyers Guild, tin-foil hat freakazoid Alex Jones and his Jew hating minions, and of course, the terrorist group HAMAS, whose flag spent so much time as the Twitter icon of the former Anon/LulzSec leader known as Sabu (as I’ve already documented on this little blog bunker). Abject and open Jew hate has often been a matter of political consciousness, but it has nothing to do with democracy. Not one single uprising from the Arab Spring has resulted in anything that fits the definition of democracy, not one. The only results thus far have been a lot of violence, a lot of dead people, impending mass starvation, threats of war, wrecked economies, a mass of military heavy weapons disappearing into the black market, and even more abject and open Jew hate. Maybe We, the People, don’t like what you are indoctrinating those novice participants with…
“Even if the FBI is ambivalent about explicitly denouncing Anonymous as a criminal threat, its tactics of arrest and intimidation and their criminalisation of all tactics used by Anons, such as DDoS, constitute an approach to security and surveillance that deserves critical attention, especially if any of these arrests move to trials.”
R – The FBI is almost always ambivalent about its investigations, because it vastly prefers that those investigations reach the courts without being poisoned. If you are intimidated by the FBI, then perhaps you should not be committing federal felonies? Since Coleman has now shifted her op-ed to openly speaking on behalf and in defense of Anonymous, she should have some critical attention herself? I think so…
“There are many ways to think of the DDoS campaign against PayPal and Mastercard, but one way we might think of it is as digital direct action.”
R – Speaking as the friend and family member of several victims of Anonymous’s attacks on Paypal, perhaps there is only one way to think about Anonymous, its active members, leadership, and supporters. Consider yourselves damned lucky there is a legal system and social norms that preclude vengeful lynch mobs, even those over 100 million strong.
“Emerging organically, this movement did not wait for a judge, politician, nor a journalist to declare a legal or moral judgment. Citizens took matters into their own hands.”
R – See above. The bowel movement known as Anonymous is a stain on the underwear of the 21st century. In a decade it will be little more then a handful of crappy book deals. In 25 years it will be little more then a footnote in obscure history books. In five decades it will be utterly forgotten by all but the handful of living survivors who took part. Another Children’s Crusade meeting its inevitable end. Another Flower Power generation wasted and used up by cynical criminals, politicians, and perverse political pundits. Another failure by the Ivory Tower to properly educate, to provide the service that they are well paid to provide.
“In less than 24 hours, a large assembly of citizens took not to the streets where protest activity traditionally unfolds, but to the digital agora to act on their own accord, to loudly assert their opinion on a matter, and to act directly against those actors they felt were acting unjustly.”
R – A large assembly in comparison to what? Citizens of what nation? The bulk of those Anon’s arrested thus far are not US citizens. What right does some teenage punk in the UK, the Netherlands, or Turkey, have to freeze my family and friends Paypal accounts for almost a week? What human right is that? (BTW: The historical ancient Greek Agora was only for non-slave males and is supposed to be capitalized). Perhaps that was the wrong choice of wording by G Coleman? Anonymous was not acting on its own accord, asserting it’s collective opinion, or taking into account the hundreds of millions of people that it was effecting adversely. It’s very clear that there are bad actors, some outright criminal, in leadership positions in Anonymous. Anonymous, per its own claims isn’t supposed to have a collective opinion. Anonymous leadership very obviously did not take into account that those giant corporations, like Visa, Mastercard, Paypal, and Sony are giants because they each have hundreds of millions of customers, customers whose already difficult lives have been made even more difficult, thanks to the punks and e-thugs of Anonymous. That is what will be remembered about Anonymous by We, the People.
“If they happened to break laws, these laws were viewed, with good reason, to be unjust.”
R – So also speaks the several already revealed pedophile and convicted rapist members of Anonymous. We, the People have a vastly different view of such behaviors. Our courts will determine what is just and what is criminal.
“Like all traditions, direct action is diverse in its make-up, tactics, history, and purpose. At times, activists seek to block access in order to protect a resource, as with tree sit-ins in the Pacific Northwest or blocking Japanese whaling ships in the Southern Ocean as carried out by Sea Shepherd.”
R – Neither of those direct action protests have any relation or connection to anything that Anonymous has done so far. What exactly was Anonymous protesting when it defaced the Epilepsy website with flashing pictures?
“In the long tradition of Plowshares actions, the intent is to get arrested in order to publicise an issue.”
R – If that is the intent, then perhaps Anonymous leadership was negligent in informing the many script kiddies of exactly what they were getting into? Perhaps Anonymous leadership flat out lied to those kids about how anonymous online they actually are? Perhaps Anonymous leadership consists almost entirely of professional far leftist agitators bent on destroying a certain political system and has no qualms about sacrificing the freedom of several thousand impressionable teenagers to achieve that goal?
“Anonymous rendered Mastercard and Paypal’s webpages defunct for a number of days by flooding their servers with too many requests and did so to garner media attention, to make their platform visible, and to demand that Assange be given due process. In this sense, they were successful, no matter what the outcome of the case made against them.”
R – Anonymous got media attention for messing with the economic lives of hundreds of millions of people while the worlds economy is already struggling. Now Anonymous is visible, as individuals, and liable to prosecution for such acts (perhaps you should have expected that?). It very strongly appears that Julian Assange doesn’t want any due process at all for his myriad crimes against humanity and individuals. Fifteen years in federal prison and millions of dollars in fines doesn’t strike me as being particularly successful at anything, except gaining a permanent criminal record.
“What made the events of December 2010 unusual – and extraordinary – as a moment of direct action poses a challenge for prevailing theories of civil disobedience. Many of the most notable acts of civil disobedience, even virtual sit-ins, have been organised by small affinity groups in which participants are public and typically well aware of the legal consequences of their actions.Some participants in these actions even have their lawyer’s phone number written on their arm in permanent marker.”
R – There is nothing unusual or extraordinary about what Anonymous has done, the only new wrinkle has been the Internet. There is no challenge or comparison between identity theft and Rosa Parks, none whatsoever. It was and is absurd and damned insulting to read members of Anonymous attempting to make such a comparison. Small professional “affinity groups?” Yes, we see what you did there, and we know who you are. Nobody in Anonymous told those children that the LOIC was hopelessly compromised right from the start. Nobody gave them the chance to find a lawyer before they were encouraged to commit federal felonies on behalf of small freakish political affinity groups.
“Anonymous, which prides itself on not having a readily identifiable, corporate form, was powerless to defend itself using these methods. Thus, as the December events unfolded, I was glued to the computer watching how Anons would or even could minimise the risk and chaos that to some degree characterised these interactions.”
R – Yet within revealed Anonymous communications there are very clearly leaders and followers. Thus, as the December events unfolded G Coleman spoke not one word about what those followers were getting themselves into. Instead, G Coleman cheered them on, seeing book deal money signs all the way.
“Remarkably, “the hive mind”, as they refer to themselves, never spun out of control. They stayed on target and conjoined their disruptions with manifestos and videos explaining their rationales.”
R – The “hive mind” was never in control to be spun out of. It was always operating at the behest of e-thugs and/or professional criminals. Using misplaced protests as cover while they stole identities, financial information, and classified military and police documents.
“But at the time, one thing was clear and has been repeated by sympathetic and unsympathetic observers alike: Many participants were likely unaware of the legal risk they were taking, and did not have lawyers to contact in the face of a future arrest.”
R – I’m sorry, I cannot seem to find a single time during December 2010 where Anonymous supporter G Coleman made such feelings or warnings perfectly clear to the members of Anonymous. Perhaps somebody could provide me a link to such? Reading up above I see G Coleman attempting, and failing miserably, to spin those criminal acts into some sort of political cause.
“The spectacular events of December, combined with the recent arrests, have of course changed all of this; many of us have now been educated as to the risks at hand.”
R – Did you know that professional Islamic terrorists refer to attacks like 9/11 and the twin embassy bombings of 1998 as “spectaculars?” Perhaps this was yet another unfortunate choice of words from G Coleman? When G Coleman writes “many of us,” is she referring to herself? Is assistant professor G Coleman more then just an interested observer?
“The legal risks and the philosophical subtleties of DDoS as a disruptive direct action tactic no longer reside within the sole province of a smaller circle of activists who have practiced and theorised this tradition for over a decade. A much larger swath of citizens have subsequently entered the fray.”
R – A proper reading of the history of DDoS attacks would reveal that such attacks have hardly been within the sole province of a small circle of far leftist agitators. G Coleman is being so misleading with this statement that becomes extremely difficult to discern what is a lie, and what is simple political spin. The larger swath of citizens would be the hundreds of millions of innocent victims of those attacks, who I note G Coleman has not mentioned even once in this op-ed.
“In light of these arrests, whether or not DDoS campaigns are always an effective political sword to wield (and they are strong arguments to be made on both sides) is not the primary question that should concern us.”
R – Frankly, I think a lot of people should be concerned about such attacks, especially when they come from national governments, as a weapon of war. Again, I have to ask, who is “us?”
“The key issue is the evidence used to decide who is involved and to determine what they ought to be charged with doing.”
R – I fail to see where those two above sentences from G Coleman make sense, even without a question mark at the end of the second sentence. The evidence in question belongs to the investigative agencies and courts involved. The charges are clearly listed in the Grand Jury indictments and will no doubt soon appear on websites like The Smoking Gun, within hours of those charges being filed publicly, if not sooner. Unless of course, Anonymous DDoS’s those sites, like Anonymous has already done to Gawker and Talking Points Memo. (Hello Freedom of Speech? Anonymous hates you.)
“If a DDoS action is deemed as always and under every circumstance unacceptable – always a tactic of chaos – this will in the short term result in excessive penalties; in the long term, an excessive clamp down, such as felony charges for those that stand accused, could stifle these tactics altogether on the internet.”
R – Violating the rights of free passage and free commerce, like violating free speech, should always be unacceptable at the individual level. The penalties for such are hardly excessive and already exist in US law. Excessive would best be used to describe the financial damages, done in the name of Anonymous, to hundreds of millions of people world-wide. Such a clamp down would not only be deserved, it would be widely welcomed.
“This is damaging to the overall political culture of the internet, which must allow for a diversity of tactics, including mass action, direct action, and peaceful of protests, if it is going to be a medium for democratic action and life.”
R – “The overall political culture of the Internet?” There is no such thing. Unless, of course, Anonymous and G Coleman are of the opinion that the internet is solely the playground of far-leftists, professional agitators, tin-foil hat loons, and spam hackers. The Internet is only a reflection of the nations that already exist and already own its physical infrastructure.
“Gabriella Coleman is an Assistant Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University. Her first book, Coding Freedom: The Aesthetics and the Ethics of Hacking, is forthcoming with Princeton University Press and she is currently working on a new book on Anonymous and digital activism.”
R – Remember what I said above about a book deal? Think about that young little Anon’s. You’re going to federal prison while G Coleman is making money off of your criminal actions, that she wholeheartedly supports. You are being used, by professional users, as their personal army, again. Maybe somebody should investigate just how deeply into Anonymous operations and leadership G Coleman is involved? After all, she stands to show profit from the imprisonment of others…
R – Put that in your book and smoke it…