Anonymous – Culture Jammers at Large

For a less convoluted and much more concise analysis, visit Thom’s Blog.

For this assignment I am using the example of the Internet Subconscious – Anonymous.

The online group banding under the name of anonymous is a far reaching and (shockingly enough) incognito group that sometimes engages in culture jamming and other times in internet based attacks that seem to lack rhyme or reason. The group grew out of online message boards and forums, a very participatory medium and again due to the lack of organization, every member makes their own content.

There have been a wide variety of targets, ranging from the Church of Scientology to the seemingly innocuous ‘Habbo Hotel’. At this point, we see our first difference from most other ‘traditional’ culture jammers, whose methods more often resemble the college protests of the 60s. A large amount of Anonymous’ activities are based by manipulating existing texts, be they online or televised.

In our first example – the Habbo Hotel Attacks (Pool’s Closed) we see the strange strategies undertaken by Anonymous. Habbo Hotel has a system by which players cannot pass through one another and so by putting members in front of the only entrance to the pool, the pool becomes closed.

This is a slightly more literal take on the meaning of influence – the virtual avatars have removed a major feature of an online medium for no purpose other than apparent joking.

The Pool. Its Closed.

The Pool. It's Closed.

However, Anonymous did not limit themselves to virtual internet forums, but also have taken a ‘stand’ against Oprah (Oprah clearly doesn’t read things out loud ahead of time.). However, unlike the Habbo attacks, there was some sort of reasoning behind this assault. Or at least you can make out one.

The Oprah Culture is mocked without mercy here – referencing an online meme (DragonBall Z. It’s Over 9000)– in order to satirize the American fear based media. This also had the effect of giving a culture jammer airtime – breaking more traditional producer/consumer models.

By breaking this ‘golden rule’ of not interfering with a heavily regulated and scheduled show, Anonymous may have been trying to attempt change in the American Media Landscape.

Despite their use of text based assaults, the internet spawned ‘domestic terrorist group’ (Fox News does their very best to show their fantastic journalistic ability.), Anonymous has also taken to the streets in their crusade against Scientology – advocating for ideological reform in person, in what is to date, Anonymous’ most traditional of assaults, and understandable.

This campaign has taken place online as well, with many youtube videos being produced adding an online element to the crusade.(The Infamous ‘Message to Scientology’)

However, as with every organization that prides itself on freedom of expression, there are many members who are out to ruin the seemingly harmless protests and activities of anonymous. Because of the very nature of anonymity, many people commit activities under the banner of ‘anon’ and there is very little anyone can do to dissociate these rogue elements from the main ‘anon’ group.

Attacks have been carried out on Hip Hop forums, much of which took the form of racist epithets and malicious attacks on an epilepsy support forum placing strobing banners. Anonymous has no organization or member list, and many members who were attracted by the strong voice of the online anonymous may now wish to dissociate themselves from the group.

Not your traditional Protest Slogan.

Not your traditional Protest Slogan.

In conclusion, anonymous is an exceedingly interesting cross section of the internet – those who stand up and are counted as a member of a group, drawn in by the anonymity of protest and virtual avatars. But at the same time, there are those who use this for aggressive actions, shattering the connotation of ‘activism’ as being necessarily a ‘good’ thing. One thing is certain though – when anonymity is near assured, no one is safe.


1 Response to “Media and Activism – Activity 1”

  1. 1 deadrockgirl
    December 10, 2008 at 11:56 am

    Annonymous was a really strong idea as they have many examples of their use within the media and the fact that no one really knows who they are.

    I have a friend who took part in the habbo hotel pool blockage …

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