Snowden causes decline of Anonymous?

As argued by Florian Cramer on the Nettime mailing list, Anonymous feels it isn’t so anonymous anymore and is declining. This points at the very relevant subject of the ‘chilling effect’. If true it means that the answer many people ask themselves these days: “Why isn’t everybody angry at the NSA?” is; because we are scared shitless. I believe that many people are indeed boiling with anger, but feeling completely surveilled… how do you even start to express that anger without any fear of consequences?

Here are F. Cramers thoughts:

In a short but interesting article, he German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung observes a decline of the Anonymous movement just in a time where more and more of Snowden’s material is being disclosed. Writer Sebastian Dörfler notes that “time is overdue for a sign of life from the group that views itself as the protector of the free Internet and epitomized digital activism: ‘Anonymous’. Where are the hacker attacks and digital protest campaigns of the white masks with the big grin? While the
Guy Fawkes mask from the film ‘V for Vendetta’ has become a symbol of global protest, not much is to be heard from ‘Anonymous’ in their digital home territory” [my translation, FC].

Dörfler argues that the Anonymous movement “understands itself as a counter-public, but always relies on mass media attention”. In the case of the Snowden disclosures, it had lost its lead to the classical mass media (like The Guardian) and other civil rights groups.

I’d suggest another explanation: Anonymous never consisted of skilled hackers. As an inclusive popular cultural movement, that also wasn’t its point. Its concept of anonymity originated in registration-free Internet
communities like 4chan, not in darknets or the cypherpunk community – and in that sense, it was technologically naive.

After the Snowden disclosures, every Anonymous activist has likely realized that she or he is, in fact, not anonymous at all. Everyone ever involved in the movement could easily be (or has already been) identified through Internet surveillance data. This could be the simple reason why Anonymous has become more visible as stickers, graffiti and as masks worn on street rallies than in the Internet. Since the Internet might have become a too risky medium to play “Anonymous” for most of the people involved, Anonymous might have become a post-digital phenomenon.

-F

 

Leave a Reply