Anonymous vs. Zetas: is #OpCartel a flop, hoax, or honeypot?

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Over the last few days, word has spread of a purported #antisec operation by Anonymous against the most brutal of all Mexican drug cartels, Los Zetas. One element in the story is this video, above. Weeks after it came out, George Friedman's Austin Texas-based consulting firm Stratfor issued this report, and media gobbled it up. A story was born: "Anonymous is taking on the most feared drug cartel in the world, for great justice."

What was unusual about the way this story spread was the speed at which it was amplified by credulous reports from larger media outlets, despite a dearth of confirmable facts. This op got lots of press, fast. Faster, in fact, than it got support from Anons.

Geraldine Juarez and Renata Avila were two of the earlier voices I read expressing doubt about the prevailing storyline—a report by Juarez is here. Some I spoke to within Mexico wondered if the Mexican government (no bastion of purity) might be involved.

Over at Wired News, a must-read piece by Quinn Norton that cinches the deal for me (and in it, she references the aforementioned Global Voices item). Quinn's been covering Anonymous extensively for some time, and I trust her spidey sense on this one.

"Everyone, Anonymous and not, seems to agree that going after the Zetas, who are known for hanging people by their own intestines, would be a new level of ambitious, and might even be the point where Anonymous would bite off more than they could chew," Quinn writes. "But there's some nagging problems with the video that proposes the op."

Read the rest at Wired.

Charles Arthur at the Guardian covers the story here, asking smart questions.

Is it possible that the kidnapping was a hoax? And was the video a hoax? It doesn't feel consistent with previous, legitimate "Anonymous" videos to me. White balancing? Good lighting? An all-white backdrop? Looks like a hired actor in a quasi-pro production. What other forces could stand to benefit from this sort of thing, if it were staged? State? Private contractor?

As Damien Cave replied to this post just now, "Boing Boing is right to doubt #opcartel, but remember the Mexican context of fear. If it doesn't happen, it may not be a hoax. It may be that people have been scared off."

And that's the one thing Anonymous and the cartels have in common: the truth about their activities can be really hard to figure out.