We know Anonymous as an average channer on the imageboards and textboards. We also know him as a unique net character manifested on the internet by the *chans. The third origin of Anonymous however stems from these two things, but not a regular organization, but more of a stand-alone complex. An organization that does not have any true leadership, just any bunch of people united for one cause using the name for publicity. While the use of Anonymous as an organization started with Project Chanology, the origins of this go way back in 2006.
The word “stand-alone complex” is fitting, because the same concept is similar to the plot of the two Ghost in the Shell anime series (1st and 2nd GIG). In the context of imageboards, a standalone complex is basically a group of people, any group of people, take a name of the organization and use that name for any reason for any purpose. It can be for entertainment, it can be for serious business, it can be to send a political message. It can be for collaborate, it can be fore “international hactivisim, undertaking protests”, invading other websites, or just doing shit for the lulz. (Anonymous – Business Insider) They don’t need to take up any leadership position because they’re just a group of people (standalone) using the name as part of a big organization (complex). Like a standalone complex, more people use the name to further the name’s agenda, and it just builds and builds reputation among the public. This is similar to the use of the username as a shared identity. Since many channers post anonymously on the *chans, that same concept is applied in group actions. It’s is a decentralized, shared identity that any person could use. No one has created, no one has owned it.
Due to the fact that the name is used as a shared identity a way how it was originally created in the there is no true leadership. It merely relies on the “collective power of its individual participants acting in such a way that the net effect benefits the group.” (Ibid). What is similar to the collective power of individual participants in a net effect? A hivemind.
The hivemind nature of imageboards, particularly high activity ones such as 4chan’s make the concept of a shared identity more relevant in examining this topic. There is just a flow of text and information that flows daily like a chatroom. Even in boards outside of /b/ there is just so many pictures you can see and view information you can learn from. Even if you’re not into the hivemind, you still feel the effects of it. But the major difference of imageboards from static forums it is empheriual and anonymous coming from various anonymous channer’s. With no difference of people their opinion, knowledge, and information is treated equally. Therefore all decisions are made with this in mind.
To further understand Anonymous as a standalone complex, we have to look toward /b/ in the past were about anime and Japanese culture. But when it came popular normal people were interested in it. As more people got into /b/ the culture changes from just purely Japanese culture to somewhat real world topics. Around 2006-2007 it was in a mixed stage there was a mix of Japanese culture and real world culture. But the main culture if /b/: The lulz, still remained.
What is the lulz?
Originally, the word” lulz” is a corruption of lol or laugh out loud. A good theory of how lol was corrupted into lulz is that “lol” was corrupted by the initials “lul” then it was corrupted again when “lols” was turned into “lulz”. Apparently the “z” was accidently typed in for “s”. That is one theory how we know the true origin of the word “lulz”.
But what /b/ was into at its early years was a unique form of comedy. Comedy that is based on “shock humour, including genres of cringe, surreal, and black comedy” (ibid). Comedy that is for their amusement of those out of someone else’s expense even if it’s at the expense of other people or sensitivities. It was due to the mixture of the no rules policy and the fact that people are mostly anonymous at /b/ it turned into a twisted version of real life. Eventually they did something to get more comedy, out of a real person’s emotions.
Internet raids are spontaneous attacks to a website or an individual. The sole purpose of a raid is to take down a website to harass an individual into giving up. They take place routinely but only major ones get major publicity. Many raids are small and involve invading threads or forums with spam or with posts dissing the owner or users. Many raids can be warded off with various tools owners have with their disposal. Forum raids involving a large amount of forum users or multiple chans are called invasions. There are two types of raids. The first one is a spontaneous attack to punish a site or forum. This can be done by creating accounts to spam posts on threads on the victim’s board. Some raids include simply DoSing or DDoSing the forum into offline status. In some cases, the raiders find security vulnerabilities and use it to tear the forum up from the inside out, destroying user databases and forum data. In serious cases , they deface the front page of the site and/or release personal details of the users (also known as dox, leetspeak for “documents”) The second raid is to harass an individual. This can be done in various ways. Some of them including prank calling them with obscene messages, or in the case of channers: sprouting /b/ memes. Some include calling the nearby pizza place and ordering them pizza, or prostitutes (wanted or not). Other types include typing in obscene or harassing emails or threatening emails.
Internet raids are nothing new on the internet. The Something Awful Forums in the past were well known for their users (known as “Goons”) going to other forums for various reasons such for stealing content from their site and websites that deal with immoral acts such as pedophilia. Some of them were admin sanctioned, such as the infamous one against Ebaums world. Often times these raids involve crap flooding the site with spam or using various programs to DDOS. But the great majority of raids are minor ones that go after other forums for any reason. The earlier raids from the chans were mostly internet borne and mostly involve disrupting shit up or to a further extent: “fucking shit up”
The Pre-Project Chanology Era
Enter Tom Green: August 16th, 2006 was the start of the first major raid by 4channers. And it was through a phone call show named Tom Green LIVE! /b/ decided to pull a little stunt, by calling the show and spouting ever 2006 /b/ meme such of “Desu” spamming, “Pool’s Closed”, and “do a barrel roll!” (Encyclopedia Dramatica – Tom Green), all of which were popular 4chan catchphrases. After an hour Tom Green got fed up and said “thanks to you assholes this will no longer be a call in show”. However, Tom Green apparently never heard of something called a “call screener”, and apparently neither had the show called GirlTalk, which was spammed with /b/tards meme sprouting after the Tom Green show ended.
The Tom Green Raid was a good example of disrupting shit up. Habbo Hotel is another good example of “disrupting shit up”. Many people do know what the Habbo raids involved a bunch of /b/tards dressed up as black people with suits (which /b/tards called them “nigras” for the purposes of the raids) blocking pools on the virtural space, and saying “Pool’s Closed due to Aids” which is a play on the racist connotations and ignorance of how AIDS is actually spread.
But many channers do not know what that despite the racist connotation of the raids, it was the perceived racism of the Habbo mods that started the raids in the first place.
Apparently there was a rumor spreading about that Habbo mods were banning black characters for no good reason. So what they did was the equivalent of “you fuck with one black dude, you have to fuck with all of them”. Thus the /b/tards decide to raid Habbo hotel with the following “black man with afro, suit, matching creased pants, and black loafers” (Encylopedia Dramatica –The Great Haboo Raid of July 2006) and they proceeded the block the hotel’s pools. In addition they said racist chants, and performed a swastikas with the intent to anger the Habbo mods. There was an actual real life protest based on this raid that was documented on /b/ as well.
The other raids were of the example of “tearing shit up”. After the Habbo and tom green raids, they decided to raid other forums for the lulz. Forums Such as proana.us, myg0t, teenbabynet, and wikifur were targeted in the raids. Their tactics include crapflooding the forums with spam, MySQL injections to take a advantage of security vulnerabilities, taking advantage of weak protections on the server end of the site the end user by discovering their passcodes to vandalizing the site. Oh yeah, vandalizing wiki’s.
As an end result team4chan (the moderators of 4chan) had enough and moot posted a sticky on /b/ announcing that anyone who posts threads containing illegal content (and raids) “will get you permabanned and possibly arrested, and that even people who REPLY to illegal threads will receive a two-week global ban, with the definition of “illegal threads” referring to CP, jailbait, personal info, and raids”. (Wikichan – The Complete History of 4chan) Despite the fact there was a massive outcry from the /b/tards and multiple stickies were removed and reposted, this policy is still in forced for all boards to this day. While raids like this happen, they rarely at the magnitude of the early years. The closest to the magnitude of the Forum invasions of the past were Operation Overlord (aka 4chan vs. tumblr).
The Racist Pig Hal Turner:
Around December 20th 2006 Hal Turner, a racist pig (and holocaust denier) planned his final broadcast of his radio show. However a massive raid, led by 4chan and followed by 7chan,the Something Awful Forums ,the YTMND forums, and (yes) Ebaums world was planned at the same day to show Hal what the internet really thought of him. Most of the actual raid consisted of prank phone calls directed to him. However while many of the phone calls dot actually reached him, they disrupted the phone line in such a way that many people who actually wanted to call him could not got a chance to. In response, he decided to go after the trolls involved the raid. After the raid he posted “all the prank callers’ phone numbers on his website, encouraging his fan base to strike back.“ (Encylopedia Dramatica – Hal Turner) He did so he won’t do most of the work himself. In response, channers everywhere found Hal Turners criminal record, his address, and other personal details. That led to channers calling his house to harass the fuck out of him. The same records also ruined his Christmas dinner with his family.
After being trolled by a raid loli known as Frecka, shutting down his website, and making death threats, he decided revive the show. However it ended up being raided again by 4channers. In particular one /b/tard who did his usual meme sprouting over the phone ensured that Hal’s carrer of racist fuckery was dead. While did filed lawsuits against 4chan, 7chan regarding the incidents, the lawsuit failed because Hal refused to respond to the responses. In the end, the Internet won and the racist pig finally quit the internet forever. Currently he’s in the federal barbed wire hotel for sending death threats to federal judges.
The Project Chanology Era.
The Project chanology era begun at Feb 2 2008 after a back and forth conflict with the Church of Scientology over a leaked YouTube video. 4chan’s /b/ retaliated with Project Chanology. Project chanology begun with “DDoS attacks, made prank phone calls and even prank-faxed pictures” to many offices of scientology (Convergencemag). Eventually these protests evolved into something more of a real life protest of Scientology in various offices. To represent themselves as channers they use the mask of “because faces are concealed behind 17th century revolutionary Guy Fawkes masks” (ibid) These protest started in cities such as Orlando Florida, Santa Barbara, California and even in Manchester, England. But eventually evolved into more cities as the raids progressed. Even /b/tards and 4channers advertised these real life protest dates and the protest in general during Katuscon (a anime convention) in the year 2008.
The great majority of the real life raids on Scientology were just for the lulz. Channers protest by saying /b/ memes. And just did mock protests of scientology. But they did cover their faces due to the fear of reprisals form the Church of Scientology. Eventually chanology begun to create something of a split between people who do these raids for the lulz and people who perform these raids for a real true purpose. Essentially, the people who are part of the anonymous movement are people should use their power to “accomplish something they see as a social good or to counteract some injustice.” (Crude, Inconsistent Threat: Understanding Anonymous) Those people are called moralfags because they have a moral reason for their actions instead of doing it for kicks.
Post-Project Chanology Era
This split of morality has been used for the basis of other raids based on the name but not the original spirit of Anonymous. Examples include political protests such as the Iranian uprising/election protests, Operation Titstorm, and Operation Avenge Assange. The recent various middle eastern uprising protests such as operation Tunisia, Algeria, and Egypt had the same treatment. But other raids for the lulz did happen though despite the split between the moralfags and the original stand-alone complex: Such as the SOHH and ALLHipHop raids, and the No Cussing Club book expose. YouTube Porn Day as retaliation of YouTube banning a user who was the King of /b/. The harassment of Justin Bieber. The elaborate Time Person of the Year 2008 prank. Operation Overlord was the latest one that was done for the lulz Then you have organizations that are not associated with the anonymous “identity”, but it’s obvious that they’re part of the chan culture. Such entities include such as lulzsec or Lulz Security who was behind the security breach of Sony ending up in the temporary shutdown of the Playstation Network How does Anonymous as a stand-alone complex take action for raids? There are three basic guidelines when Anonymous takes action. First, do it for the lulz, or comedy. Second, internet censorship for any reason is bad for free speech. Finally, but not the least important is don’t hurt cats (or any other animal). The third basic guideline was known in many instances where /b/ intervened in cases of animal cruelty, mostly involving cats (ie. Dusty the Cat). But those are basic, loose guidelines that had been observed when taking action.
Now you know how anonymous works as a stand-alone complex. Not a group, or some sort of elite hackers on steroids like some Fox News wants you to think of.
For further reading
- WebUpon – Removing the Mask – Anonymity on the Internet
- Anonymous – Business Insider
- Encyclopedia Dramatica - Tom Green
- Encyclopedia Dramatica - Hal Turner
- Encyclopedia Dramatica - Lulz
- Tanasinn.info – The Complete History of 4chan
- Convergencemag - A for Anonymous
- Crude, Inconsistent Threat: Understanding Anonymous
- Anonymous on the road to Immortality
Ndee “Jkid” Okeh (YSJkid@gmail.com)