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Don't Worry. We're From The Internet.
November 8, 2011 12:24 PM   Subscribe

On October 18, Wired embedded a reporter with both Anonymous and the #Occupy movement, calling both "a new kind of hybrid entity, one that breaks the boundaries between “real life” and the internet, creatures of the network embodied as citizens in the real world." The first entries in Quinn Norton's ongoing special report: Anonymous 101: Behind the Lulz were posted today. Coverage from Wired's other special report, Occupy: Dispatches from the Occupation are already online. NPR: Members Of Anonymous Share Values, Aesthetics

Ms. Norton's article archive. She writes on IP and copyright issues, as well as about hacker culture. Her site, blog and twitter.
posted by zarq (43 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
If you go back and read the part in Neuromancer about the Panther Moderns, it seems weirdly prescient.
posted by vogon_poet at 12:31 PM on November 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


I kind of dig the "Anonymous-as-Trickster" comparison, but I do admit I got a little eye-rolly when she traced the origins of b-chan all the way back to Tristam Shandy.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:41 PM on November 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


It all boils down to this:
Anyone can be Anonymous. All you have to do is decide you're Anonymous. So if you are anyone, anywhere, in any strata of society, and you decide that you are Anonymous, that's it. You've joined. What you do from there is your decision.
No one can know what Anonymous wants, or who it is, when it is not definable. There might be

The other thing you need to know: "The lulz is laughing instead of screaming."

Metafilter: laughing instead of screaming
posted by filthy light thief at 12:43 PM on November 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


It's got to be really hard to be a SF writer these days.
posted by The Whelk at 12:59 PM on November 8, 2011 [8 favorites]


Don't Worry. We're From The Internet.

Depends on which internet they are from. As we all know, there are internets.
posted by spicynuts at 1:11 PM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


So I voted today and had the option of pulling for a few Tea Party candidates.

No options of OWS candidates.

Until I do, I will have no respect for this movement.
posted by IndigoJones at 1:18 PM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah I really wish I had a huge libertarian billionaire fund and support my movement that they invented out of whole cloth and bought their way onto the news.
posted by The Whelk at 1:20 PM on November 8, 2011 [25 favorites]


The Whelk: It's got to be really hard to be a SF writer these days.

Or, hard to be considered anything other than plain old modern-times fiction.

"You call that futuristic? I read about that on BoingBoing last week! A guy built it in his garage in Ohio!"
posted by filthy light thief at 1:26 PM on November 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


I donno, if I had that Koch level backing, I wouldn't waste it on American politics, not when west coast code has so much more impact.
posted by jeffburdges at 1:27 PM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


@IndigoJones:

So just to clarify --

You have no respect for OWS because the movement didn't start until most relevant candidacy filing deadlines had already passed?
posted by parliboy at 1:27 PM on November 8, 2011 [13 favorites]


Adding onto parliboy's comment, the Occupy movement is really young, and I think there are still strongly local elements to each major group. Claiming to represent the voice of the Occupation movement would be bold, or even disingenuous.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:31 PM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


yeah but there could easily be an OWS-Oakland party. the problem, as stated above, is they are actually a grass roots org and as such have grass roots funding.
posted by spicynuts at 1:33 PM on November 8, 2011


We have the hacker gangs fighting with the narco gangs. Blade Runner has arrived.
posted by spitbull at 1:36 PM on November 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


No options of OWS candidates. Until I do, I will have no respect for this movement.

Most jurisdictions require candidates petition for inclusion on the ballots by the end of August. OWS didn't get going until September.

I'd temper your "lack of respect" with a bit of a civics lesson, there.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:45 PM on November 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


IndigoJones: So I voted today and had the option of pulling for a few Tea Party candidates.
No options of OWS candidates.
Until I do, I will have no respect for this movement.


Oh you! That's a canny ploy you've got there, banking on Occupy Wall Street almost charmingly desperate need for IndigoJones' approval.
posted by JHarris at 1:59 PM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


You have no respect for OWS because the movement didn't start until most relevant candidacy filing deadlines had already passed?

Touche, but 't'is only a scratch. (Only September? Jesus, like guests overstaying their welcome, it seems a lot longer.)

But seriously? I have no respect for the movement for a variety of reasons (similarly I have no respect for the Tea Party, by the way, so keep the name calling on point), but the salient point for this discussion is that I see a whole lot of slogans, lots of touchy feely, lots of self congratulation and self examination and self righteousness, but I do not see a whole lot of "okay, what do we really care about and how can we get involved in the system?"

Being a grass roots org means entering the political system is beyond them? Pretty defeatist, if you ask me. If they were really angry and not just mucking about, they'd make it work.

And who knows? Perhaps they will get their act together. (Has it really only been September?) And if so, if they do start some meaningful movement in those parts of their outrage I actually share, I may yet offer a thumbs up. But the way they're going about it now - kind of doubtful, really.

Oh you!

I represent the something or other percent. Hear me roar!
posted by IndigoJones at 2:05 PM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


What does being "a member of Anonymous" mean? Is it an organization at all, or just a bunch of /b/tards using the name "Anonymous" when it's convenient?
posted by falameufilho at 2:08 PM on November 8, 2011


What does being "a member of Anonymous" mean? Is it an organization at all, or just a bunch of /b/tards using the name "Anonymous" when it's convenient?

yes.
posted by LiteOpera at 2:10 PM on November 8, 2011 [7 favorites]


At some point, Occupy is going to have to admit that it actually does have leaders. Visit one of their sites and look for the hoopy froods, the really amazingly together people who can hold a tent city together with nothing but careful planning, imperturbable confidence and relentless good cheer. You can spot them from 100 meters away.

Gaining the confidence of a direct-democratic assembly is a far better filter for good leadership than our usual backroom process for nominating candidates.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 2:11 PM on November 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


falameufilho: What does being "a member of Anonymous" mean?

Cough, cough (look upthread, or read the NPR link for the source of the quote)
posted by filthy light thief at 2:14 PM on November 8, 2011


filthy light thief: "Cough, cough (look upthread, or read the NPR link for the source of the quote)"

Oh, thanks. So it's not an organization then. Why do we keep treating it like it is? It is like a bunch of Yankees fans decide to riot and set building on fire and we say "the Yankees rioted and set a building on fire".
posted by falameufilho at 2:18 PM on November 8, 2011


They are grown men that really want to talk about “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.” Maybe it’s ironic, maybe it’s not. (I’m told by one such brony that the show is just a lot better than you’d expect.)

IM SERIOUS YO IS THIS MY EXCUSE TO TALK ABOUT PONY?
posted by JHarris at 2:22 PM on November 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


At some point, Occupy is going to have to admit that it actually does have leaders.

At some point, Occupy is going to admit that they're just like everyone else, and thus can be easily dismissed out of hand.
posted by JHarris at 2:23 PM on November 8, 2011


Being a grass roots org means entering the political system is beyond them? Pretty defeatist, if you ask me. If they were really angry and not just mucking about, they'd make it work.

They really are just getting started, but they're also not "a grassroots org." They're not an "org" at all, that's the point. Their goal is to start a conversation, not turn into a distinct political party and lobby for specific laws or whatever. Similarly, criticizing them for not having policy goals is missing the mark, I think- if they have a goal, it's to get EVERYONE talking about possible solutions. To reinvigorate the state of the political dialogue in this country, which is, as everyone knows, in the shitter.

You might say "that's dumb and impossible," but the fact is, it shouldn't be, and they'd like to change that.
posted by showbiz_liz at 2:26 PM on November 8, 2011 [14 favorites]


There are an awful lot of fancy academic ideas about better future approaches to democracy circulating through OWS and Spain's Democracia real YA, even the hand signals and human mic touch on fairly advanced stuff. All such academic ideas about improving democracy have at their core observations about how the current system is exploited by a powerful few.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:45 PM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


For a long time there's been that sort of tired, slightly defeated joke, "Surely this..." I think of Occupy as a sort of tentative raising of the hand in answer ... "Yeah, maybe this."

The joke was what would it take to actually get people into the streets? It really seems that rather than just one thing, it's the cumulative insult has begun to bestir more of the populace. Although it's easy to ridicule, the amorphousness may be a feature, not a bug.

Or maybe it's the "Couch to 5K" of protest practice.
posted by cairnish at 2:54 PM on November 8, 2011 [7 favorites]


This video of Gov. Scott Walker getting "mic checked" at a fundraiser tipped me off to one of the most exciting features of the 99% movement.

What you got here is a classic case of rabble-rouser protestors pissed off at a governor's bullshit, right? But now they're able to tie their grievance in with a much broader protest movement, now when they stand up and shout they are shouting along with the movement, with the voice of the 99%.

It's a classic galvanizing moment: all these disparate ideas and protests now have a common language. That is really exciting.
posted by wemayfreeze at 3:25 PM on November 8, 2011 [10 favorites]


>I have no respect for the movement for a variety of reasons (similarly I have no respect for the Tea Party, by the way, so keep the name calling on point), but the salient point for this discussion is that I see a whole lot of slogans, lots of touchy feely, lots of self congratulation and self examination and self righteousness, but I do not see a whole lot of "okay, what do we really care about and how can we get involved in the system?" <

I was just talking about this attitude, how people like to dismiss ideas if the people talking about them are not perfect in every way or have all the answers. "Al Gore drives an SUV, so global warming is not real". The message The Right has been spreading is that the OWS people aren't legitimate because they don’t have a point by point plan for fixing the world. We all know what that attitude is about, an excuse to dismiss things that are inconvenient.

So you’re saying as soon as they do more work (for free) and figure out how to fix everything, and can show you a plan, then you might grudgingly give them a tiny bit of support?

Check out the Coffee Party if you’re looking for a more direct approach.
posted by bongo_x at 3:33 PM on November 8, 2011 [12 favorites]


justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow: Visit one of their sites and look for the hoopy froods, the really amazingly together people who can hold a tent city together with nothing but careful planning, imperturbable confidence and relentless good cheer.

And a towel, of course.
posted by Greg_Ace at 4:03 PM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


bongo_x, well put!
posted by JHarris at 9:53 PM on November 8, 2011


Something Anonymous and the "99%" have in common?

Genius marketing.
posted by jet_manifesto at 11:40 PM on November 8, 2011


Oh really jet_manifesto? Care to elaborate?
posted by JHarris at 1:32 AM on November 9, 2011


Well, as someone with more than a passing professional acquaintance with marketing, I am consistently impressed by the sophistication and penetration of their self-promotion campaigns. I mean, what has Anoymous actually done, in terms of physical-world action? Very little, as far as I can tell. A few minor hacks here (nothing serious, really), boosting the finances of V for Vendetta mask manufacturers, playing a prank on a Time poll.

And yet, they dominate the news of the world on sites like Metafilter here (maybe one post a week?), Reddit, and (obviously) 4chan. More recently, they can be found in mainstream media on a regular basis, cropping up as prankster spirits or terrorist wannabes, anarchist chaos punks or hacker hipster perverts. Even my *mother* has heard of them, something any numbers-focused marketing executive would be over the moon about.

The thing is - although they don't actually do much of anything in the physical world, they are phenomenally successful in the only realm that matters to them: information. Anonymous is clearly an entity born of the ocean of data that has flooded the world over the last ten years. It shows a mastery of viral marketing, media seeding, meme generation and propagation, disinformation, ironic displacement, argument framing, message shaping, branding, subversion, reappropriation, repurposing, spin, visual iconography, horizontal segmentation, and a host of other marketing techniques. The mission of Anoymous is to be talked about, and to get people talking, and at that it seems remarkably successful. This very conversation and the hundreds like it on this site are ample evidence of that.

"We are the 99%" and it's variations is an extremely effective slogan. The Occupy movement has taken inspiration from Anonymous and elsewhere and run a highly effective campaign through online systems, almost entirely bypassing mainstream information outlets. I remember their messages popping up on Reddit and elsewhere every day for months before anything actually got off the ground.

What really interests me is the way the tools of mass suggestion and influence (marketing is historically a child of propaganda) that have for so long been used by authoritarian and commercial powers to control/manipulate citizens/consumers, are now, in many ways for the first time (due to the ubiquity of cheap access to communications technologies) being turned back upon the state and commercial powers that invented them. If this is just the beginning of the future (as all presents are), the next few decades should prove very interesting/terrifying indeed.
posted by jet_manifesto at 3:45 AM on November 9, 2011 [6 favorites]


I came to this thread to complain about wired being a bunch of hacks not hackers but stayed for that incredible video of Gov. Scott Walker getting "mic checked", thanks wemayfreeze.
posted by Joe Chip at 4:12 AM on November 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


There was a cute Bill Maher monologue listed next to Gov. Scott Walker being mic checked.
posted by jeffburdges at 7:54 AM on November 9, 2011


jet_manifesto, with all due respect, what you are seeing is less marketing, and more the things that marketing has long sought to simulate. If news happens, it is only natural that reporters would talk about it. Marketing and promotion is the art of making the artificial seem noteworthy for outside purposes, whether commercial or political.

I submit to you that Anonymous and the Occupy X folk are newsworthy, and it is only right that they be talked about, and that the competition from other news sources, combined with journalistic ennui and an overabundance of the very kind of marketing you mention fromm other sources, causes too many legitimate matters for reporting to be ignored. Like the huge protests after the Iraq war got started that barely registered on the news in the U.S., out-competed by other, "more important" matters. At some point, you have to stop talking about the need for message control and start seeing that, really, such a thing is all merely a matter of the manipulating of reporters, and not an objective thing at all. Manipulation has become so endemic in our culture that we talk about it concrete terms, and speak derisively of people who don't do it well enough. Phooey to all that. I hate it in all its forms, and look with suspicion on arguments that talk casually about implementing it. Hence, this response.
posted by JHarris at 8:44 AM on November 9, 2011 [8 favorites]


Anonymous and OWS are both Stand Alone Complexes
posted by wemayfreeze at 9:06 AM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


what you are seeing is less marketing, and more the things that marketing has long sought to simulate.

*blink*

Every so often someone says something just plain AWESOME in its eloquence.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:10 AM on November 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


JHarris, I basically couldn't agree more with what you've said, and I don't see how it contradicts anything I've said, so I suspect we're either talking past each other or I haven't explained myself well enough.
posted by jet_manifesto at 4:17 PM on November 9, 2011


It's possible that I haven't explained my own point well enough. Here it is more directly:

OWS and Anonymous don't have marketing. What they have is legitimacy. Often these days legitimacy doesn't translate into news (witness the Tea Party), but it has this time.

(Even so, it took the media a while to wake up to the fact that holy shit something's happening, and most news reporting on Anonymous still adds up to FEAR FEAR FEAR, which is part of why Quinn Norton's writing on them is noteworthy.)
posted by JHarris at 5:03 PM on November 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


OK, I see where you're coming. I guess we do disagree on one point then, though at root it's probably merely semantic. I think Anon./OWS have both legitimacy and marketing (as in, they use the tools of marketing theory and technology), and I don't see those two things as being in any way mutually exclusive. I do agree that they instill fear in power regimes, but in my view that is partly because those regimes are seeing their own weapons turned back on them.

As I said, I'm excited to see where things go from here, as technology continues to drive the decentralization of political voice.
posted by jet_manifesto at 10:27 PM on November 9, 2011


At some point, Occupy is going to have to admit that it actually does have leaders.

Occupy Denver elects a new leader: Shelby, a Border Collie mix
posted by homunculus at 1:29 AM on November 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


Inside Occupy Wall Street: How a bunch of anarchists and radicals with nothing but sleeping bags launched a nationwide movement
posted by homunculus at 3:27 PM on November 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


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