back to article ANONYMOUS: Behind the mask, inside the Hivemind

On a frigidly cold morning in early 2008, two dozen complete strangers arranged to meet for the first time. They had travelled from all over the metro area, some taking over two hours to reach their destination. Coffee and doughnuts were sacrificed to the ritual of placing online handles to faces. The first meeting of the …

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  1. schnide

    Right..

    ..so basically, it's a big umbrella for people to hide behind.

    1. John G Imrie Silver badge

      Rather like

      Amnesty International or CND or Green Peace or Out Rage then.

      1. Lamont Cranston

        Not really,

        as Amnesty et al. tend to have rather public faces.

        Anonymous appears to exist in the same way that Schrödinger's cat is alive.

      2. schnide
        Meh

        Perhaps there's some deep, deep irony..

        ..rather than idiocy in your comment that I'm just not smart enough for.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Trollface

      ...or

      ...or for people to gather under? Guess it depends what you're doing with said umbrella, and who's on the other side...

      1. schnide

        No, because..

        ..there's a difference between 'belonging to' and 'hiding behind'.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      or PETA...

      or NAMBA

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        (sp)?

        I think you meant NAMBLA, but I kind of hope you didn't.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Or even the penguins umbrella....

      Gas Umbrella would be awesome

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm Brian

    and so's my wife!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Almost

      I'm brianfag and so's my wife.

  3. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. BenR
      Joke

      ... yes ...

      ... the cake ...

      Of course.

    2. oldredlion
      Holmes

      Nice Charlies

      I didn't even see the cake.

    3. Matt Bryant Silver badge
      Facepalm

      RE: hmmm

      There was a cake? Sorry, I didn't see past the baps.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Coat

      I'm Anon - well sometimes

      I prefer the dumplings!

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Indeed

      There's a cake in that picture, I didn't spot it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Angel

        milk cake

        that's what it is mmmmmmmm

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Coat

          The cake is a lie

          All right, I'm out.

  4. Steve X

    old idea?

    "This is a reincarnation of an old idea ...From slaves fighting for freedom or the fragmentation of religions to "no taxation without representation", there have always been people willing to agitate, gather en masse, and even die for the right to speak their piece."

    And what has distinguished those people is that they were NOT anonymous. From anti-slavery campaigners, to Tianemen Square and after, the courage of the protesters can be seen because _we know their names_.

    Anonymity is the cowardly shield of the balaclava-clad yobs thowing petrol bombs, versus the visible, sometimes uniformed, courage of those who stand up to them.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Trollface

    Cake

    I like the cake on the pic ;->

    1. pepper
      Alert

      Damned resistance

      Damned resistance fighters staying anonymous during the Axis occupation of mainland Europe! How dare they! Cheeky cowards they are!

      See how crazy your argument is? There are plenty of reasons to stay anonymous, for good or for bad. Its all about perspective.

      1. Scorchio!!
        FAIL

        Re: Damned resistance

        "Damned resistance fighters staying anonymous during the Axis occupation of mainland Europe! How dare they! Cheeky cowards they are!

        See how crazy your argument is? There are plenty of reasons to stay anonymous, for good or for bad. Its all about perspective."

        There is no comparison at all. No matter how hard you try you will not justify your attempt.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Trollface

          dubs get

          "There is no comparison at all. No matter how hard you try you will not justify your attempt."

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "There is no comparison at all. No matter how hard you try you will not justify your attempt."

          Autotranslate: I can't coherently argue with you so I will just state you are wrong Because I Said So (TM).

          1. Scorchio!!

            Re: "There is no comparison at all. No matter how hard you try you will not justify your attempt."

            "Autotranslate: I can't coherently argue with you so I will just state you are wrong Because I Said So (TM)."

            Insightless response. Demonstrate how they scale up alongside one another, making reference to (e.g.) Violette Szabo and other members of the Maquis, who put their lives on the line and ultimately died in concentration camps and other vile places.

            As I said, there is no comparison between the Maquis and anonymous vandals who take elaborate precautions to maintain a gulf between their meatspace persona and their digital activities, to say nothing of what the Maquis were legitimately opposing. If you can find anything remotely resembling a comparison produce it. Show me how damn smart you are, that you are not merely an emitter of weak, risible easily iterated clichés.

            I'm calling you out and, as I do, I note that you have offered no data at all, merely a reflex, that you have overlooked the examples that I cited.

            Sloppy thinking. Anonymously, of course.

            1. croc

              @Scorchio!!

              The only thing that you have accomplished with your rants is to prove the old adage that one man's freedom fighter is another's terrorist, and another adage, history is written by the victors....

              1. Scorchio!!
                FAIL

                Re: @Scorchio!!

                "The only thing that you have accomplished with your rants is to prove the old adage that one man's freedom fighter is another's terrorist, and another adage, history is written by the victors...."

                No, that is a non sequitur conclusion and precisely what I am not saying, since I oppose cultural relativism, which you would understand if you read my words on logic, epistemology and axiology. Read again carefully; I am clearly saying that the Maquis, engaged in legitimate self defence, in contradistinction to internet vandalism/'lulz'. So your attempt at sophism/intellectual sleight of hand is failed.

                The OP has effectively put the Maquis into the position of being terrorists when they opposed an aggressive, adventurist, barbaric and murderous enemy shared by most of Europe. (Perhaps you are not aware of what happened in mid 20th century Europe, though that stretches even my imagination to snapping point.) This is an exercise in cultural relativism and sophistry that a) enables others to claim that by (say) hunting you down and killing you they are fighting for a cause, b) enables states to hunt down and kill whomever they choose (other than cultural relativists who thought that destroying the WTC was 'good terrorism' and acted on said thoughts), and c) makes concepts in jurisprudence and law relative to the perceiver (this sort of argument allows for, say, Muslims to beat their wives, female circumcision, male subincision, judicial murder [...]). That you did so by employing the argumentum ad hominem, interpolating in an exchange where someone was called out and challenged to justify their response, failing to provide any data that would defeat the status of my argument, shows that you recognise the argument to be a failure and that you are trying to distract me from the original point. Calling reason a rant, and not focussing on the argument itself - the argumentum ad hominem - is piss poor logic/epistemology and a weak technique for justifying failure to address the facts. It leaves me feeling convinced that you know the indefensible has to remain undefended, finding the argumentum ad hominem an easier task. Oh, but that would be a troll, wouldn't it?

                You can address this by dealing with the original point; demonstrate how people who do DDoS, SQL attacks, deface web sites, publish confidential information about other internet users [...] are as brave as, for example, Violette Szabo who died in Ravensbruck concentration camp.

                So now I am calling you out too. Address the point; how do you compare internet vandalism with the Maquis and Violette Szabo's death in Ravensbruck conentration camp? Freedom fighters? Inane.

      2. Scorchio!!

        Re: Damned resistance

        "Damned resistance fighters staying anonymous during the Axis occupation of mainland Europe! How dare they! Cheeky cowards they are!

        See how crazy your argument is? There are plenty of reasons to stay anonymous, for good or for bad. Its all about perspective."

        Just to make sure that you have a little light reading, in which to have (as Douglas Adams once put it) 'some sense of perspective':

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Violette_Szabo

        http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/military-obituaries/army-obituaries/5048954/Captain-Charles-Upham-VC-and-Bar.html

        'Stupid boy'. (/girl)

    2. Solomon Grundy
      Trollface

      Recheck That

      That's a big general statement there pal... In many cases, some of the most famous in recent history in fact, the people involved were anonymous.

      The U.S. Decleration of Independance wasn't even signed when they rolled it out for fear of reprisal (it took almost a year to get the original framers to actually sign it).

      What was the name of the tank guy in Tienemen square?

      The Boston Tea Party was held by protestors disguised as Mohawk Indians. No one is sure who participated or started it.

      The list goes on. Many, many of history's most famous protests have been by anonymous freedom fighters. We DON"T know who they were.

    3. Bullseyed

      Re

      I've rarely heard anyone refer to Tianemen Square Guy by name. I'm sure I could look it up, but its hardly a common name.

      History picks out a few names for us to know about things like the underground railroad, but in truth there were hundreds of unnamed Anons running those ops as well.

      1. Scorchio!!

        Re: Re

        "I've rarely heard anyone refer to Tianemen Square Guy by name. I'm sure I could look it up, but its hardly a common name.

        History picks out a few names for us to know about things like the underground railroad, but in truth there were hundreds of unnamed Anons running those ops as well."

        It is correct to say that this is a difficult problem of identity. Even the Wikipedia entry's writer is cautious. Wang Weilin seems to be the most consistently named individual:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tank_Man

        Whether or not his name is a common one I do not know. I have not seen the stats.

        Certainly none of the 'lulz' and Anonymous twits have been as brave and as defiant as him.

        In the case of Capt. Charles Upham (VC & bar), if anyone read the article (and I seriously doubt it from the votes on my first response), they will have seen in the closing paragraphs that he *sought* anonymity after the war, was self effacing and probably suffered badly for his experiences, including multiple serious injuries in a number of battles. There is utterly no comparison between the French Maquis, or any other fighting force in any physical war and the behaviour of self appointed anonymous digital vandals without popular/electoral mandate or authority, *none*.

        The act of popping up out of a Tor exit node, proxying and then attacking, probably using an unregistered cell phone connection can hardly be described as better than the act of a vandal and coward trying to avoid the consequences of their behaviour, one prepared to overlook the RL consequences of their acts on other people in meat space.

        Moreover, comparing the underground railroad to stealing personal data and releasing it into the public space, defacing websites, DDoS, SQL attacks, no matter how elegant and well executed is risible, vain, childish and would appear to indicate a lack of both insight and lack of a sense of proportion. The people who ran the underground railroad were doing something honourable, selfless and humane [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Underground_Railroad ]. Destroying business, personal confidentiality [...] is no more honourable than any other form of vandalism. I hardly think that even a substandard troll is capable of believing this.

    4. John G Imrie Silver badge

      Name the co conspirters of

      Guy Falks

      1. Jedit
        FAIL

        The co-conspirators of Guy Fawkes?

        That would be Robert Catesby, Thomas and Robert Wintour, Robert Keyes, John Grant, Francis Tresham, Robert and Thomas Winter, John and Christopher Wright, Thomas Percy, Sir Ambrose Rookwood, Sir Everard Digby and Thomas Bates. I can also spell "conspirators" and "Fawkes".

        Anonymous protesters don't wear the Guy Fawkes mask because the Gunpowder Plotters were anonymous. They wear it because the character V in "V For Vendetta" wore it, and the most important thing about V is that it didn't matter who he was.

        1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
          Happy

          RE: The co-conspirators of Guy Fawkes?

          "Anonymous protesters don't wear the Guy Fawkes mask because.... character V in "V For Vendetta" wore it..." And because they desperately want to be fantasy freedom fighter heroes rather than just the dull, boring bunch of wannabes they are.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Stop

      Null pointer exception: title

      What about the tomb of the unknown soldier, then? The epitome of bravery, or so I'm told.

    6. QuiteEvilGraham
      Happy

      Needs a musical accompaniment.

      This http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lKTKkpWBHdI, and cake? Perfect!

  6. Matt Bryant Silver badge
    WTF?

    Que?

    ".....We found enough money to pay his bills for 6 months. All he did for 6 straight months was watch Fox News and debunk them online....." So, what you're saying is the backbone of Anon is a load of bored lefties with too much time and money on their hands? Why don't they do something really useful like some charitable work that would actually help real people and/or the environment, rather than pretending to do so?

    This sounds like the type of over-educated sheeple that used to join CND, the Greenpeckers, or turned out to support the Miners' Strike (despite never having done a day's manual labour in their lives) or the Poll Tax protests, simply because it was the hippest bandwagon to jump on in their day. Whilst I'd give them a thumbs up for their efforts against cults like Scientology, the rest of their activities seem to be mainly mindless vandalism or posturing. If they seriously think there would be "Worldwide rioting" if they got "v&" then they need to think again.

  7. Ralthor
    Alien

    In summation...

    ... People are people. Dogs are dogs and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri are REAL small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri.

    1. Autonomous Cowherd
      Boffin

      You didnt ask for my opinion, but here it is anyway!

      I believe that debunking Fox News, or any other major news outlet is a really valuable thing! I think this should be encouraged, when done correctly. Why not consider it to be like the peer review process?

      Many people base their worldview and decisions unquestioningly on the authority of the goggle box.(Not to be confused with the Google box; the content of the Google box is completely fine to unquestioningly base all decisions on.)

      As the news outlets have so much power, and as we all know they are being selflessly run for the spread of truth and wellbeing of all, I would expect them to applaud and encourage the army of unpaid volunteers checking their 'facts' for the lulz... er...I mean: mistakes.

      As a final note, Thanks for publishing this article El Reg, liked it a lot - good job!

      1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
        Boffin

        RE: You didnt ask for my opinion, but here it is anyway!

        "I believe that debunking Fox News, or any other major news outlet is a really valuable thing...." I actually agree whole-heartedly with that sentiment. I think all news outlets, from government-controlled ones like the BBC to corporations like Fox, should be held up to scrutiny. What I object to is the selective scrutiny of those intent not in finding the "truth", but who simply claim they are looking for the "truth" when their focus is only on players with views which conflict with their own political/religeous beliefs. The fascination with Fox just shows the bias of the Anons involved, it's been a lighteningrod for their attention ever since Obama identified it as being "anti" to his administration. I'm betting there was no Anon interested in funding someone to spend six months debunking articles in The Guardian (at least not until The Guardian had the falling out with WIkileaks and A$$nut). Any Anons looking to hack the users database of Socialist Worker? Honest, this is my surprised face - not!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          WTF?

          @Matt Bryant

          Fox has been a lightning-rod (unless you mean "a rod that lightens") to the left-wing since it's launch, ever since it was obvious how partisan their views are, to the point of obscuring the truth ("lying" to most people). It has nothing to do with Obama, though their coverage of him is sickening.

          I'm not saying others don't do the same or opposite, but Fox is definitely one of the biggest offenders.

          But, why would they attack the Socialist Worker? Anon is in it for the lulz, but not against other anons (i.e., hurting a faceless collective of constomers). They "want" to hurt corporations that step over-the-line with regards to freedom of speech/expression - something Socialist Worker is a heavy defendant of and Fox is an enemy of.

          1. Scorchio!!

            Re: @Matt Bryant

            "They "want" to hurt corporations that step over-the-line with regards to freedom of speech/expression - something Socialist Worker is a heavy defendant of and Fox is an enemy of."

            This kind of specious argument also informs things like the Warrington bombing, the Guildford pub bombing, the WTC attacks and many others, and that has been precisely my point all along; firstly there are greater consequences than anything originally planned (in the case of attacking the internet presence and activities of a commercial organisation that would be the investors, who in many cases just happen to be pension funds...), and, secondly, I've repeatedly made the point that people who do these things have no legitimate basis for doing so, that they are self appointed, that they are unsupervised and that they inflict their personal preferences on the world, rather than referring to some objective standard, or some attempt to produce something commonly accepted as being the closest yet to an objective standard.

            IOW these people are criminals. Be sure of one or two things; people like Assange, the anonymous groups, Wikileaks as a whole, they will be penetrated and they will pay for what they have done. If you think it unlikely, remember that the various Baltic independence groups - Estonian, Lativian, Lithuanian - were seen as lost causes during the years in between the end of WWII and the downfall of the USSR. Once people thought that the Unabomber, Carlos the Jackal, the Angry Brigade, the Barclays Bank bomber, Milošević, Mladić even Arkan [the list is of course far longer, and the prisons of this world are filled with people who thought they would remain undetected] would never fall. Arkan, as you will probably know, was killed deliberately before his trial began, as was bin Laden for whom no trial was planned. Very few people will escape the consequences of these deeds, and people who value their freedom and well being need to remember this. Or face the consequences.

        2. Stoneshop Silver badge
          Holmes

          @Matt Bryant

          " but who simply claim they are looking for the "truth" when their focus is only on players with views which conflict with their own political/religeous beliefs."

          Do you really think that people whose political ideas coincide with (which may or may not be equal to "are formed by") a news conglomerate, are going to spend time investigating and exposing its distortions and omissions?

          Newsflash: they don't.

          1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

            RE: @Matt Bryant

            "....Do you really think that people whose political ideas coincide with (which may or may not be equal to "are formed by") a news conglomerate, are going to spend time investigating and exposing its distortions and omissions?...." I would hope that keeping a competitive press would encourage them to keep each other honest. After all, headlines like "NoTW Hacked Milly's Phone!" are probably helping to shift a few non-Murdoch papers this week. I would hope it is in the papers' own interests to be keeping tabs on each other. As a positive example, try reading Private Eye some time.

            Similarly, I hope that this is even more so on the Internet as it is far cheaper to set up and run a news'n'views website than a national newspaper (no printing presses, no need for massive offices, etc), so we should get a wide variation in views. That is good. I would find a narrow variation would be bad even if I found it politically agreeable, as you cannot form your own opinions if all you hear is just one side of an argument. Discussion and debate is good. One of the things I did find very amusing in the run up to the Obama election was the amount of space many major websites dedicated to debunking the websites representing the opposite end of the political spectrum. Some of it was wildly funny, some of it was just tragic, but a lot of it was actually much more informative than what was coming out of either the McCain or Obama camps.

      2. Anon NHS IT flunkey

        Couldn't agree more!

        I support a couple of people who do exactly that ;)

        http://www.noagendashow.com

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Anonymous Coward
        FAIL

        @Bullseyed

        Really? I demand to know where my inheritance is, forthwith. Since you seem so very sure that I should be getting it.

        echo 'Bullseyed' | sed -e 's/eyed/hit/g'

        There, I fixed it for you. Now back to work I must go; oh wait according to you I don't do that either.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        businessmen are self made?

        "They hate corporations because businessmen are self made, while libs get money passed down to them that their great grandparents earned."

        Really? Then leave them naked in a deserted island and see how rich they will get. I didn't know the Koch brothers, for example, were libs either!

        Anon since I think I've never posted Anon before, and this is the obvious article to do it... For the lulz, of course.

    3. Mr Baker
      FAIL

      Que?

      "Greenpeckers"? With your choice of insult you reveal your own ignorance.

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