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Anonymous Prepares to Enter Politics

The Anonymous phenomenon is evolving, and with Operation Horizon looks set to enter the political sphere. Meanwhile the New York Supreme Court has upheld the validity of anonymity within activist discourse and action.

by Guillaume Dasquié On November 29, 2011

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À propos de l'auteur

Journaliste et écrivain, il est l'auteur de cinq ouvrages, principalement des essais et des livres d'investigation touchant les questions géopolitiques et la raison d'État. Il a également publié des enquêtes dans Le Monde et Libération.

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On December 17, the hacktivist collective Anonymous will launch “Operation Horizon”, an operation focused on their political role. That day, Anonymous will commemorate the anniversary of the death of Mohammed Bouazizi, the spark for the revolution in Tunisia and the Arab Spring. They will also be marking the birthday of Bradley Manning, who on the same day will celebrate his 24th birthday in prison for allegedly passing classified documents to Wikileaks.

The event will take place at a time when, according to several studies and research projects, the Anonymous phenomenon is evolving and can now lay claim to genuine political legitimacy. Those findings are particularly relevant on reading the most recent article by New York anthropologist Gabriella Coleman, one of the very few researchers who has long specialized in Anonymous and hacker collectives.

A Shield

Last week she published a text in the latest issue of Public Culture, an academic journal devoted to popular culture with a eye on international and digital issues.

Coleman first of all mentions a decision of the Supreme Court of the State of New York on November 15, which upheld the validity of anonymity within activist discourse and action. It was a detail that annoyed some New Yorkers who had wanted to ban rallies planned as part of the Occupy Wall Street operation. The decision was of even greater benefit to any political action carried out under the Anonymous brand. According to the high court:

Anonymity is a shield against the tyranny of the majority.

But for Gabriella Coleman, even if the Anonymous movement has arrived once and for all at a political agenda, taking up strong positions (as it did in Iran and in Egypt), it nevertheless suffers from the tensions inherent in hacker culture. Tensions between communities simply structured around a liberal ideology regarding the sharing of information and the free flow of data; and other communities more concerned with focusing on political action applicable in “real” life.


In a sign of the times, the hacker quarterly 2600 devoted its autumn issue to Anonymous and the results of its political activity. It featured a lengthy investigation into the group’s attacks against Rupert Murdoch’s press stable and the impact of such initiatives against the populist press. 2600 stood in support of the freedom of conscience.

In France, two experts in digital culture have recently brought out a book that’s more of a history of the subject – Anonymous by Frédéric Bardeau and Nicolas Danet, from FYP Editions. It attempts to provide explanations for the political credibility of a phenomenon based on anonymity and decentralization; it’s quite a basic evaluation, but quite thorough all the same. For the authors:

Power structures at the international level and those of the most developed countries appear opaque, related to an elite that are interested only in money and have strong leverage over policy makers and the media (…) Anonymous responded with a counterpoint to the establishment that was both symbolic and practical (…) The aim is the undermining of existing powers anywhere in the world that are regarded as oppressive by some sections of the population, with the aspiration of re-appropriating the public space of the Internet and ultimately the public sphere as a whole.

Image Credits: Flickr CC Jacob Davis [cc-by-nc-nd], Ophelia Noor

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