The platform of Anonymous’ primary philosophy is founded on the principle of open source. Deek and McHugh (2007) in Open Source: Technology and Policy described the philosophy of open source and compares it to the traditional western attitude of control and commodification:
Software companies traditionally rely at least partly on closed, proprietary code to maintain their market dominance. Open source, on the other hand, tends to undermine monopoly, the likelihood of monopolistic dominance being reduced to the extent that major software infrastructure systems and applications are open. ( 2007, p. 8 )
Julian Assange echoed this principle saying; “The whole point of free software is to ‘liberate it in all senses’”. He added, ”It is part of the intellectual heritage of man. True intellectual heritage can’t be bound up in intellectual property.” (smh.com.au, 2010). The spirit enacted through WikiLeaks is basically open source in nature, by making leaked material freely available to the public. This idea of open source is best known in the principles behind the Linux operating system, which loosely coincides with an African philosophy known as Ubuntu. This was a concept that bishop Desmond Tutu defined as a way of being and identity formed by community (as cited in Battle, 1997). Unlike the view of human identity in the West, which emphasizes separate individuals competing against one another, “Ubuntu offers a way of discovering self-identity through interdependence” (Battle, 2009, p. 7). This idea of personhood found within relationship existed long before the rise of Western civilization.
In an interview on DemocracyNow! Vandana Shiva carried the indigenous voice, stating how “separateness was a very artificial imposition” and that “Most civilizations of the world for most of human history have seen the world in terms of relatedness and connection.” The way of life practiced by many first nation peoples emphasized equality rather than hierarchy, and collaboration rather than competition. Even the foundation of the US Constitution had some of its roots in indigenous culture.
Jack Weatherford (1998) described how Native Americans inspired the Constitution of the United States and the founding fathers implemented Indian governing structures. Individuals such as Benjamin Franklin were inspired by the Iroquois system. Philosopher Jacob Needleman (2002) revealed the deep philosophical ideas behind the creation of the US Constitution:
All the rights guaranteed by the Constitution were based on a vision of human nature that calls us to be responsible beings-responsible to something within ourselves that is higher than the all-too-human desires for personal gain and satisfaction; higher than the dictates of the purely theoretical or logical mind; higher than instinctive loyalties to family and tribe. (p. 10)
Perhaps the roots of Anonymous go deeper than any one could ever imagine. Young people online are tapping into something new and also defending an emerging culture that is difficult to articulate. “Give me liberty or give me death!” proclaimed Patrick Henry at the beginning of the American Revolution.
These same ideals of freedom drove the Tiananmen Square revolt and many other social revolutions. All over the world there is a deep universal thirst for freedom, justice and self-determination. One Anon spoke about deciding when to engage in a political action: “We wouldn’t begin an operation unless something has already started on the ground. In another words, we wouldn’t attempt to start a revolution on the internet. We would merely step in and assist a revolution that is already happening…” (Al Jazeera The Stream –19- Anonymous and the Arab uprisings).
Anonymous brings people together and whether they know it or not are helping form a new kind of democracy. While governments all over the world have been hijacked by conspiracies of exclusive, selfish interests, with an open source philosophy Anonymous joins the project of democracy, which has been evolving throughout history.
The root of Anonymous is a universal idea that cannot be owned or claimed and binds people together regardless of nationality and culture. In this technological age, net-neutrality and the open source approach to communication is what nurtures the free sharing of images, ideas and our humanity at the ground level. Web 2.0 as a philosophy and practice has created a fertile womb where the ancient wisdom dismissed by the drive for corporate profits can once again revitalize the impulse for democracy.
The Truth Behind the Cyber War
The Internet has become an intersection between what appears as unredeemed Western thought and a revitalized indigenous consciousness. In cyberspace, the uprooted artificial entity of the abstracted man meets the one who remembers his origin. This info-war is really a battle against the false legitimacy of corporate personhood. Anonymous is simply claiming the power of Lulz: the power to dissolve false personage and transcend corporate control for our birthright of universal equality.
The force of censorship is increasing. Recently US Sen. Patrick Leahy introduced a bill called Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act — or PROTECT IP for short. The bill would give U.S. officials broad powers to block websites for very general and obscure reasons.
Anonymous would not sit by and passively watch this happen without a response. Some of them struck the Chamber of Commerce with DDoS attacks. Since then there have been accelerating responses to Corporate and government corruption. This battle is intensifying and the mainstream corporate media is continuing to frame the group in a negative light. WikiLeaks has been under attack with the character assassination of Assange. This is now being attempted with Anonymous, but in a different way. The aim has not been to destroy the image of an individual, but to deny the universal ideals that connect each person with the root of humanity. The media has become the means to attract and distract. The given image pulls attention and seduces people to give up their core identity for one manufactured and approved by the dominant consumer culture.
The effort of character assassination and the resistance to it reveals the true nature of the much touted ‘cyber war’. This war is actually a battle between the forces that monopolize images and those that nurture the free flow of creativity. The decentralized environment of an open Internet allows images to move freely and is evolving in a vibrant new media that counteracts the old models based on centralized control. Mobilized images are fluid and dialogical in nature, challenging the establishment’s imposed monologue of fixed imagery. Through the open source technology and interactive and morphative structure of the Internet, ordinary people are gaining the ability to broadcast content of their choice out to the world.
Often this contrast of forces becomes visible in the social space. It is captured in iconic images like that of the girl putting a flower in the gun barrel at a Vietnam war protest, or recent confrontation of ordinary citizens with Robocops in Cairo. Now the cyber battle is unfolding between Anonymous and the establishments of imperial power. On one hand, there are uniformed police committed to violence; while on the other there emerges a creative chaos of direct peaceful action. Anonymous wearing Guy Fawkes masks might be associated with the uniformity of the police or military. Yet, there is a distinction. Police and military uniform action come from outer authority. There is always commander that guides the group. Individuality is subservient to the hierarchy of the uniform. On the contrary, the impulse to action in the collective of Anonymous comes from each person. It is a free act of each individual meeting the other. A V (Guy Fawkes) mask is not conformity, but becomes a gesture of commitment to the potential freedom for everyone.
The phenomenon of Anonymous is really a celebratory effort of the collaborative mind against that which blocks individual access to the creative power within. Anonymous are all who refuse to have free expression denied. Perhaps in a sense we are all hackers, not literally, but fighting to regain a sense of sharing and worldwide fellowship that has been stolen. We will not accept intellectually justified plunder.
Anonymous is a new consciousness woven through the spider web of the Internet. Day and night, sleepless eyes watch the world, catching abuse and corruption of an American dream that has been turned into a nightmare. This is a revival of the ideals behind the American Revolution. People are transforming the death-force of deceit into a Web of Life and reconciling these two divergent paths of civilization.
A deepened understanding of the operation of the media and tactics of character assassination is a guard against the manipulation of perception. Character assassination of Anon can become an opportunity for each person to awaken to a deeper identity. Anonymous is the idea behind the mask. It is much larger and more resilient than any personality or character. After all, “Ideas are bullet proof” and, what does not kill us makes us stronger. We do not forgive those who deny our connection. We do not forget our obligation to one another. We are legion because the true self shines through every mask.
Battle, M. (1997). Reconciliation: The Ubuntu theology of Desmond Tutu. OH: The Pilgrim Press.
Battle, M. (2009). Ubantu: I in you and you in me. New York: Seabury Books.
Deek, F. P., & McHugh, J. A. M. (2007). Open source: Technology and policy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Mander, J. (1978). Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television. New York: Quill.
Mitchell, G. (2011). The age of WikiLeaks: From collateral murder to Cablegate (and beyond). New York: Sinclair Books.
Needleman, J. (2002). The American soul: Rediscovering the wisdom of the founders. New York: Tarcher/Putnam Books.
Weatherford, J. (1988). Indian givers: How the Indians of the Americas transformed the world. New York: Crown.
Disclaimer: I am not and have never been a part of any of the various actions by what has become known as Anonymous. I do not represent any of the expressions of Anonymous. The term ‘group’ used to describe Anonymous is inadequate and I used it because of the limitation of language. Anonymous cannot be understood as an organization in the classic sense and is much larger than what our language can grasp.