Tomorrow, 6th of January 2010, is YouTube Porn Day. Yes, 4chan’s Anonymous has once again declared war on YouTube as a reaction against perceived injustice in YouTube’s ban policies. YouTube junkies can look forward to stumbling upon some titillating surprises tomorrow.
Just don’t do it at work.
At some levels, pranks are generally awesome and fun to watch from a safe distance. Deep down inside, even as we deride Anonymous for its immature mean streaks, we secretly want to be part of this public conspiracy. The complexities hidden in our reactions to Anonymous’ works are almost Freudian in their elusiveness, as intangible as the loose collective of “hackers on steroids” itself, and yet as real as the effects it engenders.
From Scientology to Dusty the cat, 4chan’s influence on the “real world” is undeniable even though it possesses neither structure nor organization. Driven by powerful ideas encapsulated in memes, Anonymous is the ultimate form of anarcho-libertarianism, free from all authority but the common consent of peers.
It is the epitome of al-Qaeda’s modern strategy to inspire unknown independent actors through commonality of ideology to effect change without the liabilities of a chain of command. It is mob justice without any concern for personal responsibility. It is the fifth estate as envisaged by the deepest believers of crowd wisdom. It is a conscious but anonymous act of rebellion against the system. It is a game for the thrill-seekers and an addictive sense of empowerment for the disenfranchised. It is also nothing one can describe in words because it has no authority to define its own existence.
The past few years brought us the rise of online social networks — a wealth of information that further empowered the collective’s capability to effect change upon the physical world. As the Internet extends its reach, who knows what tomorrow will bring? Anonymous’ power can only grow.
The actions Anonymous takes and the opinions it generates are not ones that can be conveniently shaped by paid consultants and media gurus. Its credibility lies exactly in the fact that it has none. As it grows, the anarchic influences it thrusts upon our orderly society will eventually become a force of nature, an untamed wild bull in a carefully-planned china shop, to be reckoned with by the old establishments.
Perhaps, they will eventually strike 4chan down, for one reason or another. But just as al-Qaeda survived the destruction of its physical networks, the powerful sense of identity behind the driving wheel of this invisible force is not something that can simply be outlawed.
Though grass-roots movements of similar nature grew and died in the past, they did so because they existed in the old world, where size and power eventually meant leadership and the vulnerable points of failure that it led to. But Anonymous has thus far proved itself capable of surviving this critical flaw of human societies that has over millennia dismantled empires, conglomerates and alliances. After all, how does one kill that which has no life?
Perhaps one day, someone clever and insane enough will learn to shape and direct this untameable power. After all, in the online world of loose circumstantial evidences, it is not impossible to tactically unleash the fury of anonymous mob justice upon one’s enemy with an expertly-crafted false flag.
I, for one, welcome our new anonymous overlords.