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Halpin '12 Harry, "The Politics of Anonymous: Ontological Politics without Identity" Nov/Dec


In these chat channels, ideas for actions and news are spread, as is various informal gossip. Instead of a simple anonymous non-identity, various pseudonyms (often of a humorous nature) are often self-identified in order to distinguish the people in the chat room, although many people use multiple chat channels with both multiple pseudonyms and anonymous identities. Very basic security precautions are used in order not only to be anonymous in name only, but to prevent governments or other repressive forces from tracking down their presence in the IRC channel to a particular physical computer, with VPNs being popular. In particular, the methods used by Anonymous are easy to use, as they taking advantage of the open sourcing of tools such as the Low Orbit Ion Cannon to let almost anyone with a computer participate in the kinds of denial-of-service attacks needed to bring down sites like Visa and PayPal, although security flaws in some early versions of this software are precisely what led the FBI to arrest some of Anonymous for participating in these attacks. These kinds of attacks are not hacks, but are similar to techniques of ‘electronic civil disobedience’ (a term popularized by the Critical Art Ensemble)36 where by virtue of sending too many requests simultaneously to a website, the website overloads and goes off the Internet. The thing about Anonymous is that it escapes the grasp of power by opacity. The myriad IRC channels, 4chan and others, are essentially zones of opaque offensity, as ‘opaque to power as gypsy camp’ according to the Invisible Committee,37 although the actual opacity depends on a myriad purely technical factors such as whether or not IP addresses are logged or not. Thus, one cannot help but notice the affinity of Anonymous with the politics of the Invisible Committee, with the Blooms of 4chan becoming the Imaginary Party of Anonymous – as the French press put it, a ‘Tarnac numérique’.38 If the arrests of the people that are claimed to be ‘members’ of Anonymous39 are a good sample, the demographics of Anonymous are those of what Marx would term the ‘surplus population’ produced by the economic crisis: mostly rather young, unemployed, computer-literate, global, stretching across racial boundaries and often from low-income backgrounds. While the stereotype of Anonymous, particularly on 4chan, was of sexist 16-year-old boys, what has been revealed is that 4chan and Anonymous are as global as any Internationale and include many women and transgender people. ‘No’, one of the ex-operators of Anonymous’s chat channel, was claimed by the FBI to be Mercedes Haefer, a 20-year-old journalism student. One of the most famous hackers of Anonymous and Lulzsec, Kayla, claimed to be a 16-year old girl but was instead a 25-year old unemployed ex-army veteran from South Yorkshire – and one of the core arrests of Lulzsec, Tflow, was a 16-year old in London who was one of the more talented hackers in the group. The group is also multiracial. For example, the infamous hacker Sabu, who was involved in both Anonymous and Lulzsec, was a 29-year-old unemployed New Yorker of Puerto Rican descent who began working for the FBI when his children were threatened. Less well known arrests testify to the internationalism of Anonymous, including arrests in the Dominican Republic, Spain, Turkey, Chile and Romania. In Eastern Europe the protests against ACTA that were sparked in part by Anonymous were the largest street demonstrations since the fall of the Soviet Bloc governments. One can only suspect that a far larger section of the population enjoys the freedom of expression that Anonymous provides: those who are marginalized for reasons of class, age, gender, as well as those who simply live in a remote places where no other form of political expression is easily available, all find a vital new form of politics in participating in the actions of Anonymous. The issues of censorship and anonymity may be the kernel of a distinctive political spirit of the Internet that resonates far more widely than those involved in traditional politics, including those of the radical strain, may expect. In the seedy bars of the 4chan – Interzone of the Internet – it is perhaps surprising that ‘the space appropriate to the future crowd, the space that will beckon them, interpellate them, accommodate them’, in the words of Kristen Ross, is not ‘the bleak landscapes of Rimbaud’s later poetry … the tactile, haptic landscapes of desert, sea, and poles, more sonar than visual’ but the visual and linguistic spaces of message boards, viral videos and group chat on the Internet.40 To take the words of Jake Davis (Topiary) in his final message on Anonymous at face value: the ontology of the ‘hivemind’ is not a mere epiphenomenon; it constitutes Anonymous.

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