Anonymous launches new project, press release

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Barrett Brown

I am the founder of the distributed think-tank Project PM and a regular inactive to Vanity Fair and Skeptical Inquirer. My work has also appeared in The Onion, National Lampoon, New York Press, D Magazine, Skeptic, McSweeney's, American Atheist, and a couple of newspapers in the U.S. and Mexico as well as a few policy journals. I'm the author of two books and serve as a consultant to various political entities and private clients.

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53 Responses

  1. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    Okay, fine, I’ll be the shit-stirrer here. Certainly, it’s not hard to agree with the stated goals of Anonymous, while thinking that their internet triumphalism is a bit silly and self-righteous.
    “The Internet is a stronghold of freedom in an increasingly authoritarian world. It is capable of connecting and uniting all of humanity by lowering the barriers of language and distance. When we are connected, we are strong. When we are strong, we need not fear tyranny.”
    Step with me now, into the future!

    Look, they live in a democratic society that is becoming steadily more authoritarian- and not a totalitarian state- which means that sitting in your basement, alone, posting things for strangers to read somewhere out there, under an anyonymous name, is counterrevolutionary if anything. The last thing the forces of order want is for you to be out in the streets organizing, protesting, and changing people’s opinions who don’t already agree with you- the first thing they want is for you to be clicking away at your interactive television set telling yourself it’s the most important sort of free expression and a stronghold of freedom. In other words, the last thing the authoritarians, or seemingly the internet triumphalists, want is a strong and vibrant civil society, which both sides are working dilligently to hollow out and destroy in their own ways. Actually going out and talking to other people is a more revolutionary form of expression than what I’m doing right now on this keyboard.Report

  2. Avatar Barrett Brown says:

    “The last thing the forces of order want is for you to be out in the streets organizing, protesting, and changing people’s opinions who don’t already agree with you- the first thing they want is for you to be clicking away at your interactive television set telling yourself it’s the most important sort of free expression and a stronghold of freedom.”

    I don’t think this is a very accurate description of what is going on. For one thing, Anonymous and particularly the faction with which I am working, which I’ll term the Chanology faction for convenience, was responsible for one of the most extensive, global, and effective protest actions in history. On one day alone in 2008 when this project begain, participants protested in front of Scientology centers in 100 different cities across the globe. The initial video announcement was viewed over 5,000,000 times on YouTube alone, not counting other mediums. Secret Scientology documents were obtained and widely distributed. Scientology’s immoral tactics and operations were brought to the attention of the media. It is hard to say how many people who might have otherwise given their life and money over to such an organization were dissuaded from doing so by virtue of this information campaign, which continues today (along with protests; there was one earlier this week). And, of course, many Anons were arrested or prosecuted in various national civil courts by Scientology as a result, including two of my friends (one of whom, Sean Carasov, I wrote about on the occasion of his suicide a few weeks ago).

    At any rate, you might see how I would find it odd that you would assert that Anonymous does not engage in real-world protests or information campaigns, particularly since Chanology is only of several such campaigns that have been carried out over the past three years. If you have not read my previous posts here on Anonymous, I would suggest you do so that you might thus be in a better position to decide what it is about the organization merits criticism.Report

    • It would be odd if I had asserted that. I didn’t say anything about the actions of Anonymous. I said why I disagree with the principles stated in their press release. I disagree with the argument they’re making about the Internet. I’ve read your posts and I guess I’m somewhat informed about Anonymous and I still disagree with that argument. To be clear, I’m not saying that this particular group has not accomplished great direct actions in the physical world. I’m disagreeing with their assertions that the Internet is a uniquely revolutionary tool, a stronghold of freedom, breaking the barriers between people, and so forth. Is it really? How did we manage before the Internet? And how is it that the elderly tech-illiterate people of the Tea Party manage to do so much more in the real world and get so much more attention than my friends my age who send me lots of meaningless polls on Facebook?

      I remember a time, back in the mists of history, when there was no internet and people still managed to have huge protests and get them on the news. In fact, I remember a hell of a lot more of them, which is sort of my point. And, you know, I just think it has something to do with the fact that a lot of those same people I know who used to protest now “make themselves heard” by forwarding angry blog posts to like-minded friends on Facebook instead of doing the work of organizing. I certainly understand that you can do both: blowing off steam on the internet and real-world actions, and I never said that Anonymous doesn’t do both. But it seems to me that the majority of angry people don’t do both and it might have something to do with the fact that they now have a place to blow off steam without any real-world consequences. So I just disagree with the idea that the net is a revolutionary tool that is increasing real-world challenges to the powers-that-be. It would be nice to think so, but I don’t.Report

      • Avatar Barrett Brown in reply to Rufus F. says:

        In that case, I would merely advise you to keep watching. We may give you occasion to change your mind.Report

        • Avatar Obdicut in reply to Barrett Brown says:

          Comparing themselves to the sit-ins is rather idiotic.

          Sit ins originated with Gahndi, who used them in public spaces, against the government. They were protesting for independence, and protesting against their non-involvement in their own government. They were not protesting private services.

          They were literally sitting somewhere they weren’t allowed to be. They were not doing so in order to disrupt the business to make an abstract point, but a very concrete one. The disruption was simply their presence, demanding service.

          Historical tone-deafness.Report

          • Avatar Barrett Brown in reply to Obdicut says:

            Of course, every comparison has its problems; one is after all relating one event in time-space to another, and no two are exactly alike. Sometimes there are indeed major differences. For instance, Gandhi did not believe in racial equality and fought only for the rights of his own ethnic group during his time in South Africa. Anonymous is fighting a more universal struggle; I understand that you consider it to be in service to something “abstract,” but we do not. We also do not consider a DDOS attack on a corporate website to be anything akin to the bombing of a city, the framing of a citizen, the incarceration of millions for drug “offenses,” police misconduct, or any of the other means which are employed by the various states to various degrees. So, again, there are similarities and then there are similarities. DDOS may not be much akin to a sit-in, but it is also not akin to any of the atrocities for which states are so often forgiven and even applauded.Report

            • Avatar Obdicut in reply to Barrett Brown says:

              Why do you keep saying ‘we’ in reference to Anonymous?Report

              • Avatar Barrett Brown in reply to Obdicut says:

                Because I am an active participant in Anonymous and have been for nearly five years. This is not something I would have admitted at one point, but things have changed ever since Anons were first outed by Hal Turner and then the Church of Scientology, and of course it would be unethical for me to write all of these breathless screeds about how swell Anonymous is without acknowledging my affiliation.Report

              • Avatar Obdicut in reply to Barrett Brown says:

                But how does that mean you get to say “We” about Anonymous? That’s what I don’t get.

                First of all, most of Anonymous isn’t involved in this struggle. Most of Anonymous is posting random pron and lulz on \b\.

                Second of all, even if we restrict “Anonymous” to “the set of people engaged in actions related to Wikileaks”, why do you think that you can represent Anonymous authoritatively?

                Your writing on this subject is noticeably different from on other topics. Saying that states engage in worse behavior is an obvious tu quoque argument. I never said that your actions were tantamount to a state-sponsored atrocity, so defending yourself against that charge is frankly bizarre.

                Oh hey, Anonymous just posted the facebook profile and phone number of a young girl, with the message “Do your worst!” Activism at its finest.Report

            • Avatar Jeff In Ohio in reply to Barrett Brown says:

              It seems DDOS attacks are more akin to chaining a building entrance or spiking a tree. They deprive their targets of the resources they use in their day to day business while not inflicting physical property damage. While not commenting on the morality of DDOS attacks on credit card companies, the aspect of them being anonymous does not sit well with me. Sit ins in buildings, streets, trees or lunch counters, at their very essence, rely on the protester to be identified thus giving the public a figure and a cause in which to empathize. Anonymous attacks give the attackers and their sympathizers satisfaction. I’m not convinced it attracts sympathy anywhere else.Report

  3. Avatar Chris says:

    “was responsible for one of the most extensive, global, and effective protest actions in history.”

    Most extensive, maybe, most global, maybe (though that might be redundant), but one of the most effective protest actions in history? Dude, you must be really young, not to mention a bit short in the perspective department (and historical knowledge department, to boot).Report

    • Avatar Barrett Brown in reply to Chris says:

      Unfortunately, yes, I am still in my 20s and thus always happy to get a bit of insight from my elders. What were the five most effective protest actions in history?Report

      • Avatar Scott in reply to Barrett Brown says:

        “Still in my 20’s”

        That definitely explains a lot. I guess you come by your naivete naturally then and there maybe hope that you will grow out of it. Please get back to us in another 20 years when you’ve actually been out in the world and seen some of it.Report

        • Avatar Barrett Brown in reply to Scott says:

          I’ve lived in Tanzania, various cities in Texas, New York, Los Angeles, and several different Mexican states, while also having spent some time in other countries and locales. I have worked as a journalist in most of those places and in other capacities in others. I am the author of two books so far and am cited in several others. I have written for dozens of publications. I have worked in politics. I have been discussed in at least one sermon at a major Episcopal church. I have founded and continue to run an organization with ties to a dozen others as well as over 100 members of its own including prominent scientists, journalists, authors, activists, war veterans, and producers. The idea that I have not seen the world and experienced it to its fullest is ludicrous, particularly since you know almost nothing about me.

          [COMMENT REDACTED – EDK]Report

          • Avatar RTod in reply to Barrett Brown says:

            [REDACTED – EDK]

            How do you know these things?Report

            • Avatar Barrett Brown in reply to RTod says:

              I am resourceful. Not that I would have to be to glean the information that I did, but suffice to say that I am not going to reveal my methods because someone else might be inclined to reveal actual identifying information about the fellow, whereas I am not going to do that because Scott has done nothing to warrant any such response yet and also out of respect for my hosts here at The League.Report

              • Avatar RTod in reply to Barrett Brown says:

                Let me get this straight – folks from the League use our email addresses or whatever they glean off us here to do research on us and post things that hint that you know all about us and our little lives, but may or may not be willing to REALLY spill the big nasties on this site?

                This just months after asking us to electronically help fund the site (which a bunch of us did)?

                Are you fucking serious?Report

              • Avatar Barrett Brown in reply to RTod says:

                No, you do not have it straight. I received information that Scott was posting from an Alabama state computer. I did not seek out this information; it came to me automatically. I spent a few minutes making sure that it was not someone that I suspected it might be or otherwise someone whose postings of that nature from such a computer would be a violation of the law. Then I disregarded it. Upon Scott deciding to challenge me on my life experience, I challenged him on his based on the information that I had. Again, that he was posting from an Alabama government office was stated clearly in the whois info that is sent to our e-mail boxes when anyone posts a comment; it was written out in plain English next to the IP address.Report

              • Avatar RTod in reply to Barrett Brown says:

                Barrett- I like your writing, and agree with you on most stuff. And I disagree with much of what I see Scott post here.

                But letting him know here that you know all about his personal life, giving out his employer and insinuating publicly that you know about his past but aren’t going to spill anything juicy now because he so far has “done nothing to warrant any such response”-

                Dude, that is seriously creepy.Report

              • Avatar Barrett Brown in reply to RTod says:

                I don’t know everything about his past. I know that he did a stint in the military because he announced this to everyone here. I know that he posts a series of comments calling for various assassinations and hassling me because The League sends me e-mails with IP addresses and, in this case, “Alabama.gov” in plaintext. I spent literally two minutes ensuring that it was not one of the people who have already chosen to stalk me or worse, as I was concerned about people doing so from a government computer. Upon determining that he was someone else, I immediately stopped looking into it. Were he writing from a private home or company, I would not have pursued it at all. But if someone who is employed by a government is writing things about me – and I know you probably haven’t seen the comments in question – I’m going to look into it. And if someone is going to make false assertions about me – something that has happened a great deal here, including one commenter alleging that I do not really write for the magazines that I write for – then I’m not uncomfortable saying something true about that person.

                Having said that, if this is considered an ethical breach of trust, I will resign from The League if asked to do so.Report

              • Avatar Heidegger in reply to RTod says:

                RTod: “Dude, that is seriously creepy.”

                It is, RTod. Is it just me or do many other Lesaguers find this profoundly disturbing? In the background of his comments, there is a not so subtle message (threat?) that if you don’t mind your Ps and Qs, he’ll feel free to reveal the “truth” about you–whatever he deems necessary to defend himself. I find it terribly unsettling, and very, very wrong. Especially, when it’s left in the hands of someone, whom I believe, has a very deep persecution complex.
                Oh God, look at what I just said—I’m doomed! Please tell me Barrett, I’m just being paranoid.Report

              • Avatar Koz in reply to RTod says:

                “And if someone is going to make false assertions about me – … “

                I haven’t been following all this closely. What exactly are the false assertions?

                Given the sort of things that you’ve done and you’re interested in, I have no doubt that you have plenty of enemies. Did you get those enemies because you stood up for what’s righteous or because at one time or another you were just a petulant tool. And can you tell the difference?

                That’s where I have my doubts.Report

              • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Barrett Brown says:

                otherwise someone whose postings of that nature from such a computer would be a violation of the law.

                Interesting that this would be an issue of concern.Report

              • Avatar Heidegger in reply to Kolohe says:

                And also, Barrett–please don’t tell anyone that I once busted rock in Alcatraz and Leavenworth. My sincere thanks.Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to RTod says:

                Okay, as one of the other folks on the site, and part of the email list of League people, this is the first I’ve ever heard of this, and I’m willing to bet that Erik, Mark, et al haven’t heard of it either. The most I know is Jay’s name and appearance because he added me as a friend on Facebook.Report

              • Avatar Barrett Brown in reply to Rufus F. says:

                Anyone who comments on any post we write has their comment and IP address and sometimes further info sent directly to our e-mail box. I’m not sure I understand what you mean.Report

              • Avatar Barrett Brown in reply to Barrett Brown says:

                Anyway, I’m off to a party. I apologize if anyone is offended by my mini-investigation, but the fact is that I have a surprisingly large number of enemies for someone my age, some of whom have adopted fake personas to write to my various editors for the purpose of ending my career, others who have actually reported me to the authorities for made-up crimes, and others who have falsely accused me of being involved in organized crime (just yesterday, in fact). Some of these enemies are political; some are romantic. As such, I am a bit wary of certain things, among them government employees who develop an interest in me and who post comments advocating violence – and particularly at this time.Report

              • Admittedly, I have needed to have Kain explain half the functions of the software here to me, but I didn’t know we got IP addresses in the emails. Usually all I see in the gmail box is “Jaybird” commented on “My Post Name”, and I delete the email, usually without opening it, and come to the site. Is there some way to respond to the threads via email?

                At any rate, what I was responding to was RTod’s question about us communicating back and forth about people’s personal info and, to be honest, I don’t think any of us care really about people’s info. 95% percent of our email conversations are boring stuff about, “Hey do you think we should post more about (fill-in-the-topic)”.Report

              • Avatar Jeff In Ohio in reply to RTod says:

                Oh shit. You can see me in my underwear.Report

              • Avatar Barrett Brown in reply to Jeff In Ohio says:

                If it’s any consolation, you look cute.Report

              • Avatar Jeff In Ohio in reply to Barrett Brown says:

                We will not be fucking.Report

              • Avatar Barrett Brown in reply to Barrett Brown says:

                We can do other things…Report

              • Avatar Jeff In Ohio in reply to Barrett Brown says:

                Heh, looks like you already got your hands full.Report

              • Avatar Scott H. Payne in reply to RTod says:

                RTod,

                Barrett’s actions aside, please rest assured that to the best of my knowledge no contributor at this site has in the past used any of the information submitted by commenters to the site in any way that a reasonable person would deem inappropriate. I have, on occasion, emailed a commenter to carry on a conversation privately using an email address that has been sent to me electronically via comments left on a post I’ve published. But I have never utilized any other information in any other way to acquire personal information about a commenter. Neither has any other contributor to knowledge — again, Barrett’s actions aside.

                If you have any further concerns about this issue, please feel free to email me at scott.h.payne@gmail.com and I’d be glad to address them with you. You could also contact Erik and I’m sure he would be glad to do the same.

                Best,
                ScottReport

              • Avatar Koz in reply to Scott H. Payne says:

                “Barrett’s actions aside, please rest assured that to the best of my knowledge no contributor at this site has in the past used any of the information submitted by commenters to the site in any way that a reasonable person would deem inappropriate.”

                I’m sure this is all no big deal, but Barrett should have anticipated this before taking the League’s reputation into his own hands. It’s not like the concerns were hard to forsee.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Barrett Brown says:

        I’m not much older than you, to be honest, but I’ve read a little bit about, you know, the 20th century, or the 19th, and hell, even the 18th. If you’re going to start looking for more effective protests, you could do worse than googling the year 1229 Paris, or staying in Paris, check out the 1780s, or look at Ireland and England in the 19th century (America’s major pre-1865 political issue will furnish you with some examples as well), the draft riot in NYC, then the suffrage movement and its protest actions, the various labor movements of the late 19th and early 20th century, the Bonus Army, the American Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 60s, the anti-war movement in the 60s, the recent nationwide strikes in Spain and France, and so on (there are literally thousands of examples). If you want extent, you only have to go as far back as 2002-03, to the anti-war protests that were global on, at times, a spectacular scale (though their failure was pretty spectacular as well).

        Seriously, it’s not hard to find more effective protests, and it’s probably not all that hard to find larger ones, though more global would have to be more recent, since this sort of thing didn’t go global really until the 1960s. But maybe it’s not perspective you lack, but hyperbole you have too much of.Report

        • Avatar Barrett Brown in reply to Chris says:

          I agree with many of those examples, but I disagree with what I think to be your assertion, which is that it is hyperbole to count Chanology as among the most effective, global, widespread protest actions in history. Obviously there have been such things that were either more effective, or more widespread, although few have been more global (although credit for the last is not entirely due to Anonymous but rather the globalized society in which we now live, of course). I maintain that Chanology was and is among the most effective, global, and widespread – not the most, but one of.

          Your example of the Bonus Army is something I have a hard time seeing as effective, widespread, or global, much less more significant than Chanology. It was centralized in one location with about 50,000 participants and did not achieve much more than prompting the feds to attack them along with their families. The release of The Jungle 30 years earlier was alone more effective in prompting change by inspiring food regulations that exist to this day. Am I missing something regarding the Bonus Army?Report

          • Avatar Obdicut in reply to Barrett Brown says:

            Well, you’re missing the Adjusted Compensation Payment Act of 1936. But you’re right that the Bonus Army didn’t have a global effect. However, prior to the internet, nothing much did.Report

            • Avatar Barrett Brown in reply to Obdicut says:

              Yes, but that act was not passed until 3 years later, after the onset of additional circumstances. Certainly the Bonus Army incident contributed to that, but it wasn’t sufficient to achieve its goals without a storm coming along to kill a bunch of soldiers working on a government project and the subsequent news coverage.

              As for it not being global, I should note again that certainly Anonymous and others who launch protests today are operating in a more conducive environment by which to globalize an action, and are thus at an advantage in that respect.Report

              • Avatar Obdicut in reply to Barrett Brown says:

                Sure. Chance always has an effect.Report

              • Avatar Barrett Brown in reply to Obdicut says:

                That, too. One of the main points I have been trying to make in recent years is that these sorts of phenomena have became inevitable, and will accelerate. If Moot had not established 4chan, Anonymous as such would not exist, but something like it probably would by this point – and definitely would in the near future. William Gibson sort of predicted this back in 1983 and again in later books.Report

              • Avatar Obdicut in reply to Barrett Brown says:

                What sorts of phenomena? I’m not sure what you’re referencing.Report

              • Avatar Barrett Brown in reply to Obdicut says:

                Anonymous and other emergent phenomena in which individuals who would otherwise find it difficult or impossible to collaborate suddenly being able to do so due to the internet.Report

              • Avatar Jeff In Ohio in reply to Barrett Brown says:

                And it seems just as likely that protest will become as ubiquitous as basement bands on myspace, and just as generic. While the Internet gives promise of distributive ease, it also delivers banality in spades.Report

            • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Obdicut says:

              Obdicut, I’m not sure how you define “global effect”. The three “sister revolutions” at the end of the 18th century, those across Europe in 1848, the movement to abolish slavery in the 19th century, the sufferage movement, the Communist revolution, the late 60s protest movement- all of these things were at least multi-national, and they certainly had effects around the globe. What is the difference between multinational movements that spread their message through print and then broadcast media versus those that use the internet. aside from maybe speed?Report

              • Avatar Obdicut in reply to Rufus F. says:

                The three sister revolutions were not global. They had global effects, but that’s not nearly the same.

                Hell, I don’t think Anonymous’s protests here have had a global effect, either.

                Come to think of it, nothing has actually had a global effect.

                All I really meant is that, in the usage of ‘global’ that I felt was meant– simultaneous action on a global scale– the internet is almost a necessity.

                But you’re right– to the extent that things have been global, other movements have been global. But neither this, nor anything in history, has actually been global in its effect.Report

          • Avatar Chris in reply to Barrett Brown says:

            I disagree about the Bonus Army, even if the effects weren’t immediate (see: post World War II), but whatever, it doesn’t matter. There are dozens of examples in the places and periods I’ve mentioned, that, even if they weren’t global, produced results that affected many more lives.

            But before we try to argue that point, why don’t you tell me what you think it was that the Scientology protests achieved.Report

      • Avatar Simon K in reply to Barrett Brown says:

        1. Ghandi’s campaign for Indian independence
        2. The US Civil Rights movement
        3. The campaign for majority rule in South Africa
        4. Solidarity (the Polish trade union)
        5. The first phase of the American Revolution

        That took all of about a minute. I’m sure there are more that should rank above trying to crash a couple of websites.Report

  4. Avatar RTod says:

    I’m not sure to what extent I agree or disagree with the points encapsulated in this press release (though I expect I agree with much more than I disagree). But if you are a part of the movement and have any voice in it whatsoever, you might have them find a different rhetoric – unless the purpose is just to sound important to the already converted.

    This press release might have been meant to call to mind Thomas Paine, but it comes off a little more Peoples Front of Judea.Report