Over the last week or so, I’ve been asked by numerous people if I knew about the situation on Wall Street, where internet activists from the organization Anonymous are currently organizing a mass protest known as Operation Occupy Wall Street. I’ve told them, to their disbelief, that I not only know about Occupy Wall Street, but have been in support of the Anonymous movement almost since its inception.
The concept of Anonymous stems from the basic premise behind 4chan and other such imageboards: without having identities attached to images or ideas, no one could claim ownership to them, and thus the idea or image itself could be modified or rearranged by almost anyone. Creativity was limited only by the interest of the masses. In fact, many of the Internet memes that have been used and abused over the years were formed by the group.
This bottomless well of creativity had its dark side, however; due to their anonymity and almost unlimited amount of resources, the hacker community within Anonymous was free to harass and attack anyone they wanted without fear of being caught. Thus, Anonymous garnered for itself a reputation as the bully of the Internet.
It was around this point that I had first discovered Anonymous, and like most denizens of the Internet, I did my best to stay out of their way. However, in 2008, the public image of Anonymous began to change. In their crusade against Scientology, many people, myself included, saw the potential hidden within Anonymous to do great things. I wanted put on take up a Guy Fawkes mask and join them in their protests, but because I was only 16 my parents wouldn’t let me.
Over the past year, Anonymous has put together a number of protests and “operations” in the name of freedom of speech on the Internet, defending WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and fighting against various government suppressors. In June of this year, Anonymous announced that it was turning its sights on “the system” as a whole, initiating a year-long campaign known as Operation: The Plan. Phase 2 of this plan begins with Operation Occupy Wall Street, which has been going on for over two weeks.
While I disagree with them at times, I still find myself fascinated by the group and how it’s changed over the years. They’ve taken the facets of pop culture regularly utilized within many of their memes and have repurposed it for their own needs. In many of their banners and YouTube addresses, they use references, clips, and music from films like “Hackers,” “The Matrix,” and of course, “V for Vendetta,” from which their signature Guy Fawkes masks originate.
And now, their movement has become internationally known. Despite the attempts by many news outlets to conceal coverage of the events in New York City, the identity (or lack thereof) of Anonymous has redeemed itself from being the mere “bully of the Internet” to the respectable and even admirable activists that they are today. Whether one agrees with them or not, one cannot doubt the impact that Anonymous has had on the Internet and the world as a whole.