Anonymous is powered by mantras and quite a lot of them are in blatant contradiction to reality. Especially the constant “we have no leader” claim astounds all people who spent at least one minute on IRC or on Twitter.
The hierarchies and pecking orders might not be official ones, but they are very real. Anonymous members are very wary of fixed and transparent leading structure, but they don’t seem to recognize their own group as something submitted to social mechanisms that allow certain individuals to accumulate power.
Or do they?
Most Anons already were exposed to such unofficial hierarchies and they DID perceive them as unfair and highly susceptible to exploitation and manipulation. I’m talking about school. Of course most schools don’t meet the exaggerated stereotypes of high school movies, but the basic social mechanisms are the same. There are popular and influential kids and also kids who are neither of that. Many don’t question this system as long as they are happy with their position in it. But are all Anons happy with their position in Anonymous? Is that the reason why they don’t question it? But how can they accept the lie of equality if they experience inequality each day?
I already mentioned the mantras. They play an important role in dealing with this sort of Orwellian doublethink. Here a few of the most notable ones:
- “We have no leaders, everyone can decide for themselves and ‘vote’ for an operation by taking part or not. That’s perfect democracy” This mantra is the most deceiving one. It’s based on a misconception of democracy as well as on a misconception of equality. Due to a lack of transparency and equality of communicational capital, the possibility is rather slim that “newfags” are actually able to get one of their ops running. On the other hand powerful Anons and popular Anon accounts can discredit operations they don’t like very easily as “false flag” or “not Anonymous” (which conflicts with the “everybody can be Anonymous” mantra, but this kind of doublethink is a given here). This mantra is also very often used to avoid accountability for other Anons deeds and for having an excuse for not opposing other Anons crimes.
- “Anonfamily” Anonymous is not the first group to recognize the power of this simple word: family. Family sticks together, family doesn’t report crimes or opposes unethical behaviour. ‘Even if they do terrible things, after all they are family, right? And even if I don’t get to say much here, it stays all in the family.’ The term family also implies hierarchy, but sort of a comfy, cozy hierarchy. Amongst the groups who made use of this powerful mantra are: The Mafia, Charles Manson and the Family of Love.
- -“We are legion” Anonymous constantly refers to military in its slang, slogans and mantras. Even “operation” is taken from the military context. This identification also makes it easier to accept the factual hierarchy and the double standards Anonymous claims for itself. Killing is wrong, but it can be right or at least OK in a military/war context. The military slang helps Anonymous to uphold the delusion that somehow they too hold the monopoly on legitimate use of force.
Those mantras help a lot to silence the cognitive dissonance, but that can’t be all.
There has to be a carrot on the end of this stick of denial, even if it’s just a very, very small and shriveled one.
And this carrot is the Anonymous Dream.
The American Dream makes people accept inequality and unfairness, based on the promise that everyone, if capable enough, will be able to ascend to the ranks of those who profit from the inequality. Many Anons defend the lie of “no leaders” because they hope to be the ones in charge one day. With a legion at their command.
Or at least with a legion to be their very own online version of a “peoples microphone”.
Most of them won't admit this wish even to themselves, but the time many of them invest in befriending and worshiping the "right" people (sometimes in very questionable ways) speaks for itself.
Anon offers such prestigious leader positions for all imaginable skills: for hackers, techies, writers, nude models, activists, reporters, artists, trolls and conspiracy theorists. Everybody can become popular and gain influence, in theory. But let’s do a bit math. There are about 20-30.000 individuals worldwide who consider themselves Anon or associated with Anonymous. There are a few hundred individuals who can be considered influential and just a few hands full of Anons with real power. Most of those are associated with each other for a long time or were able to provide exceptional skills or resources. They have to be elitist, because especially those high ranks are (rightfully) infested with paranoia and distrust towards outsiders. The chance for a random Anon peon to ascend into those lofty aristocracy ranks is about zero.
If we let aside all actions and just focus on the social model, Anonymous is little more than a barely disguised pyramid scheme.
This structure becomes even more obvious if we take into consideration that popular members of Anonymous also profit financially from their position. Nearly all of them ask for donations from time to time to pay for their travels, for new laptops, screens, cameras, servers, VPNs or even recording studios.
Thanks for reading,
- Justice Duck