Internet

The Further Adventures of Guy Fawkes

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From the Baltimore City Paper, the most complete account I've read of the war between Anonymous and Scientology. An excerpt:

In an e-mail, Doc describes Anonymous as "the first internet-based superconsciousness." Anonymous is a group, in the sense that a flock of birds is a group. How do you know they're a group? Because they're travelling in the same direction. At any given moment, more birds could join, leave, peel off in another direction entirely. A popular picture of sign-waving Anonymous protesters in their trademark Guy Fawkes masks is captioned: "Oh Fuck, The Internet is here."

At the March 15 protest, an anon in his 30s who says he works in homeland security, compares Anonymous to the War on Terror–you can fight terrorists, but you can't fight an idea. Anonymous, he says, is an idea.

As he says this, he's wearing a suit and surgical mask, standing on a street corner outside the Washington Church of Scientology, while someone reads L. Ron Hubbard's military record over the PA system.

A guest blogger at Henry Jenkins' site has more. Whether or not you care about Scientology itself, this is a fascinating study in decentralized, leaderless organization—and in the ways ephemeral online fandom can evolve into something politically engaged.

NEXT: Dr. No Coverage

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  1. Not to dis Anonymous or their specific criticisms of Scientology but it’s curious to me how criticisms of public figures or organizations are so often taken at face value – disregarding or ignoring the various possible personal problems, character problems, or even mental health issues of the critics. Someone speaks negatively about a school or religion or public figure on a forum and so often it’s assumed the charges must be true.

  2. the various possible personal problems, character problems,
    or even mental health issues of the critics

    Are you trying to bring down the entire blogosphere, Otoh?

  3. Scientology is a lot like libertarianism except that Scientologists don’t get giddy over loony old fucks running for high political office.

  4. Yes, otoh, the presumption is against the powerful, because their possible malfeasance actually matters to other peoples’ lives. Of course, its possible to take that too far, and just take the unvarnished word of every asshole with a chip on his shoulder without fact-checking…but far, far more often the error is not believing these people too readily, it is rather dismissing them out of hand.

    Besides, how do mental heath issues factor into a well-documented, fact-driven complaint? I for one could not give two shits if the guy who just handed me the damning memos in some PR case was talking to his imaginary friend while dancing naked and smearing jello on his chest.

  5. Ah yes, Anonymous. The fine group that brought you the recent attack on epileptics. Fine folks, keeping America safe for non-twitchy people.

    The scientology thing notwithstanding…

  6. btw, I wasn’t speaking of journalistic critics – I was speaking of critics like Edward and I who comment and criticize anonymously on websites, chat rooms, and blogs, with no way to check out our credibility. So, why take anything we (especially Edward, or maybe it should be take everyone seriously but Edward..) say with anything more than a large grain of salt? Yet, reputations and careers have been ruined through these formats.

  7. stoneymonster,

    Got proof? I say it was the Scientologists that did it. I have equal proof.

  8. Yet, reputations and careers have been ruined through these formats

    .

    So what? You reputation is what people think of you. Their thoughts are not your property. If someone is gullible enough to believe a libelous post made by an anonymous person that’s their own problem.

    Anyway, I don’t buy it; the vast majority of people who participate in fora where anonymous postings are legion are pretty discerning in my experience. It’s the people who think that there are rules in place to prevent libelous commentary who seem to be likely to be taken in by it.

  9. Otoh – “how criticisms of public figures or organizations are so often taken at face value – disregarding or ignoring the various possible personal problems, character problems, or even mental health issues of the critics”

    Discrediting the message based on the messenger is known as the logical fallacy ad hominem. It may be worthwhile to take it with a grain of salt if the messenger is a raving nutjob, but considering that the messenger is in this case thousands of people it might bear at least one or two run-throughs. Discarding the message out of hand, however, is doing yourself a disservice.

    Stoney–If you’ve read up a bit on Anonymous, you’d see that its less a cohesive group and more of a group of individuals claiming anonymity. Literally anyone can claim the moniker, which can be problematic in cases like the epilepsy thing. Some members of anon are involved with the fight against the ‘Church’ of Scientology, some are not involved, and some are even working against the first group. There are few rules, no leaders, and no defining credo with the various groups calling themselves anonymous.

    That said, virtually all members of anonymous involved with the fight against scientology that have spoken up have condemned the epilepsy board attacks as crossing a line and going too far. The attacks certainly were not from the anti-CoS collective–if for no other reason (though certainly this isn’t the only reason) than it would be straying widely from the target–the CoS organization–and would actually work against that goal.

  10. “politically engaged” is a bit strong a term for what is essentially larping at being politically engaged, is it not?

  11. Got proof? I say it was the Scientologists that did it. I have equal proof.

    You are probably right; it sounds very much like the modus operandi of scientology:

    The sentencing memorandum concerning two scientology intelligence agents:

    Moreover, a review of the documents seized from the two Los Angeles, California, offices of the Guardian’s Office — including log books of messages from these two defendants — show the incredible and sweeping nature of the criminal conduct of these defendants. Indeed, Guardian Program Order 158, and some of the other orders in evidence, have already provided the Court with a glimpse of this conduct. These crimes included: the infiltration and theft of documents from a number of prominent private, national, and world organizations, law firms, newspapers, and private citizens; the execution of smear campaigns and baseless law suits for the sole purpose of destroying private individuals who has attempted to exercise their First Amendment rights to freedom of expression; the framing of private citizens who had been critical of Scientology, including the forging of documents which led to the indictment of at least one innocent person; and violation of the civil rights of prominent private citizens and public officials. These are but a few of the criminal acts of these two defendants which, we submit, give this court a glimpse of the heinous and vicious nature of their crimes.

  12. “politically engaged” is a bit strong a term for what is essentially larping at being politically engaged, is it not?

    Politics is just larping with guns.

  13. Discrediting the message based on the messenger is known as the logical fallacy ad hominem. It may be worthwhile to take it with a grain of salt if the messenger is a raving nutjob, but considering that the messenger is in this case thousands of people it might bear at least one or two run-throughs. Discarding the message out of hand, however, is doing yourself a disservice.

    To be contrarian to your point (which I basically agree with),
    I give you Creationism.

  14. Am I living under a rock? I’ve never heard of this “Anonymous” group.

  15. Politics is just larping with guns.

    Now, that is truly excellent.

    Sometimes, you can even dress up like an Indian (feather, not dot), and engage in wanton property damage.

  16. Someone in America is a serial killer, and so most–if not all–Americans are liars and murderers or they support the liars and murderers in some way. The proof is that they keep on calling themselves Americans willingly, while knowing what their group can be associated with.

    Seriously sick of people bringing up the epilepsy crap.

    Anonymous isn’t anything but random people, and Project Chanology is a movement of Anonymous which is full of people that aren’t even really a part of Anonymous save for Project Chanology. Not one member of Project Chanology condones illegal or immoral acts against anyone by any group–including Anonymous.

    See. It’s simple. 🙂

  17. Edward at 10:27: “Scientology is a lot like libertarianism”

    OK, Edward, pay me $10,000 and I will reveal to you the elementary principles of Libertarianism.

  18. As a Scientologist, I once considered these protests to be the hubris of youth, misdirected by the seedy side of an internet culture. But now I know better.

    After reading the information gathered some anti-Scientology sites I now understand why they consider the Church to be an evil tyrannical organization that fleeces it’s parishoners. If it weren’t for what this little campaign has turned me onto, I would just be another sad commentator on the, I am sorry to say, gullibility of the people of my Church. However, this organization has taken on a much brighter side no matter what is professed by some of those in my Church. I was interested in finding out where some of these kids got their info so I visited the sites including the partyvan site where their “organization” started from. I must say I was impressed at the profound and thoughtful overtones of the discussion boards. Most were actively calling for peaceful, law abiding behavior at the protests, and they swiftly rejected any ridiculous calls for burning things, overturning cars, etc. In this age where we as Americans are being constantly reminded of how insecure our way of life is in the world. Where we seem to have lost some of the sanctity of personal freedom and the joy of pursuit of our way of life as we see fit, this campaign seems to be exactly what Scientology and our country needs, right now!

    These individuals know the Church is involved in some nefarious activity, and they have been very active in gathering any evidence of it, which they have promptly given to authorities. I have seen proof that the Church is fleecing people for profit and run as a pyramid scheme type of business, and I encourage everyone to contact the IRS, your representatives in Congress, and all other authorities and bring them your claims.

    Now I clearly understand that what the spokespeople of the Church of Scientology are doing is inciting malice and prejudice. Make no mistake not all in Scientology are the same and some probably just don’t know what they are doing. However, they are some pretty nasty characters in there, I have seen it.

    It is unfortunate that the leaders of Scientology feed off of our youth to pursue their personal agendas of acquiring wealth and power. Quite despicable really.

  19. OK, Edward, pay me $10,000 and I will reveal to you the elementary principles of Libertarianism.

    Should I be concerned that the masthead on my welcome letter reads “Ayn Rand Foundation”?

  20. Politics is just larping with guns.

    touche, mr. walker.

  21. Politics is just larping with guns.

    Most excellent.

  22. Why was I not informed of this internets version of the Hatfields and the McCoys earlier?

  23. I have a theory that Anonymous is actually run by the Scientologists in a vain attempt to discredit anti-Scientology-ism.

  24. “Not to dis Anonymous or their specific criticisms of Scientology but it’s curious to me how criticisms of public figures or organizations are so often taken at face value – disregarding or ignoring the various possible personal problems, character problems, or even mental health issues of the critics. Someone speaks negatively about a school or religion or public figure on a forum and so often it’s assumed the charges must be true.”

    Ad Hominem, much?

    Of course the accusations shouldn’t be taken at face value. Nor should the people leveling them be dismissed with ad hominem character attacks.

    How about another alternative? Educate yourself.

    Here’s a bunch of info from the Anonymous side:

    http://forums.enturbulation.org

    and here’s a bunch of info from the Scientology side:

    http://www.scientology.org

    Happy researching!

  25. The leaders of Scientology believe that Anonymous is being directed by the German Secret Service, who themselves are being directed by the omnipotent Nazi Psychiatrists who rule Germany even today, and who came from the Marcab Confederacy 225,000 years ago. The Marcab Confederacy was based near a star in the “handle” of the Big Dipper.

    Yes, that’s what they really believe. The rank and file don’t necessarily know about the Marcab Confederacy part, which is revealed at higher levels, but they do believe the story up to the omnipotent Nazi Psychiatrists who rule Germany even today.

    This would just be harmless insanity except that Scientology harms people and breaks up families. It is a millionaire worldwide criminal racket and needs to be dismantled.

  26. “Discrediting the message based on the messenger is known as the logical fallacy ad hominem.”

    Fair enough. I should tighten my argument. Here’s the situation. Someone, anonymously, writes up possibly true, possibly slanderous charges against you online. Yet, there is no way to check their credibility. Maybe they are just fantasizing. Maybe they have a vendetta or agenda. You really don’t know. And there’s no way to check.

    ” It may be worthwhile to take it with a grain of salt if the messenger is a raving nutjob, but considering that the messenger is in this case thousands of people it might bear at least one or two run-throughs. Discarding the message out of hand, however, is doing yourself a disservice.”

    I believe this can also be known as the bandwagon fallacy. A lot of people have said it, so it must be true/plausible. Ever hear of mass hysterias?

    “So what?You reputation is what people think of you. Their thoughts are not your property.”

    This is one of those Murray Rothbard mantras that certain libertarians go around repeating as though they were self-evident or revealed truths. First of all, I wasn’t speaking of ‘thoughts’ but what is put on paper or online. Secondly, sure you can refute what has been said about you, but usually that refutation is a backstory. It is the initial splash that usually reverberates longest and loudest. A reverberation that can destroy or diminish careers and institutions.

    “If someone is gullible enough to believe a libelous post made by an anonymous person that’s their own problem.”

    No, it’s clearly not. It’s also, and mainly, the problem of someone whose career or organization has been ruined or diminished. There’s a good reason for libel law (so that people don’t go around blithely harming others with their slander at no cost to the slanderers). Epstein is a sounder source for this than Rothbard.

  27. I’m in your magazine, challenging the concept of collective.

  28. I think Anonymous is a pretty cool guy, eh picks on scientology and epileptics and dosen’t afraid of anything

  29. Otoh,
    Yes, this is a disadvantage of an open media. Yet, the cost is probably worth it, overall. Journalists also rely on anonymous sources. Without them, there is probably a lot of evil that wouldn’t get revealed. So, I know where I would pick my poison.

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