Conclusion to "Existential Dread" - a history of Anonymous's activities in 2011

Quinn Norton has completed her triumphant history of Anonymous's actions in 2011 for Wired and this installment is amazing, containing real insight into how the world sees Anon, how Anon sees itself, and how those two mix. I was really taken with the following section, which reminds me a lot of Clay Shirky's idea that the pre-Internet world was one of "select, then publish" but that now we live in the world of "publish, then select":

The Freedom Ops are useful in explaining how Anonymous ops work. At any time on IRC there were ops for any number of countries, not just Middle Eastern ones. There were channels for Britain, Italy, Ireland, the USA, Venezuela, Brazil, and many more, as well as Syria, Bahrain, Yemen, Libya, and most of the rest of the Middle East. Most of the ops had few participants, so those who were there linked to a press release or video about problems in that country with a bold call to action, but, for long stretches, nothing would happen.

That was OK; that is how Anonymous proposes ideas to itself. This reverses the order that the media was used to. In most of the world, the bold proclamation comes after the decision to act. In Anonymous, hyperbolic manifestos and calls to apocalyptic action show you want to talk about an issue. For many people reporting on Anonymous, it often looked like Anonymous was all bluster and no action.

But that’s the wrong way to look at it. For the lulzy hive mind, bluster can be the point itself. Other times, quieter, less dramatic actions would spring up and fill the channel, only for it to go quiet again when anons had moved on to another action. For the Freedom Ops, lying fallow was no shame, and dormant ops often sparked up in response to news events from the relevant region.

Quinn notes that this installment is "longer than the first two parts [part 1, part 2] put together, and only covers 2011-- a doozy of a year! ...I think 2012 may be an even crazier year with the hive mind."

2011: The Year Anonymous Took On Cops, Dictators and Existential Dread (Thanks, Quinn!)

(Photo: Quinn Norton)


  1. A few days behind, but I’ve been waiting pretty eagerly for the wrap-up of this series.  Not disappointing!  Quinn does a fantastic job of chronicling Anon so far without annoying hyperbole.

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