Anonymous: The New Age Robin Hood(s)
Every day, 2020 seems more and more like a never-ending nightmare that the world is unable to stir from. From starting with conspiracies about a possible WWIII, to the death of basketball legend Kobe Bryant, to a global quarantine in the face of a fierce pandemic, and now, international protests, marches, rallies, and riots in response to the brutal police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota. While George Floyd’s death was the catalyst for the first rallies, it was only the tipping point in the ongoing protest of the mistreatment of Black people around the world, especially in the United States.
While we all mourn the death of George Floyd and the countless other innocent citizens who have been victims of police brutality, one group of “hacktivists” has emerged to condemn corrupt officers and the bastardized systems that refuse to hold them accountable for their actions. Just when we thought 2020 could not get any more unbelievable, Anonymous, one of the most active and widely known international hacking collectives, has returned with a special message for the Minneapolis Police Department and the United States government: “You are not here to save us, but rather, you are here to suppress us and carry out the will of the ruling class…We do not trust your corrupt organization to carry out justice, so we will be exposing your many crimes to the world…Expect us.”
The group was formed in 2003 and designed to function as a digitized hive-mind; each activist acting independently towards a collective goal or against a common enemy. Although decentralized, Anonymous boasts an extensive list of highly coordinated and expertly executed cyberattacks on some of the biggest “bad guys” on the global stage, including the Church of Scientology, numerous federal governments, Westboro Baptist Church, several major corporations, and now supposedly the Minneapolis Police Department. Anonymous’ affiliate groups and members span the globe.
However, Anonymous hasn’t been heard from much since 2016, except for their hacking of the United Nations website. Supporters and critics alike have been awaiting their return, which is seemingly upon us. In fact, this isn’t the Anons’ first time to take action against racists and corrupt institutions. In 2014, the shootings of Michael Brown in Ferguson and Tamir Rice in Cleveland were protested by Anonymous affiliate groups and members. Their actions included videos calling for justice and transparency from police departments, identification of the police officers involved in both attacks, hacking of social media sites, and city government emails and websites. The following year, they launched a cyber protesting campaign against the KKK (aka Operation KKK), which resulted in the identification of hundreds of KKK members.
In late May, Anonymous released a video calling for justice and reform in the government and local police departments, which was followed by unconfirmed claims of hacking the Minneapolis Police Department website, as well as the release of lawsuit and settlement information about several rape cases including Jefferey Epstein, Donald Trump, and their underage victims.
Anonymous’ cyberactivism has always been followed and encouraged by their online fanbase. However, their recent activities have launched them into significant Internet fame. The question then follows: are the Anons really the Robin Hoods that social media has made them out to be, or are they simply opportunists taking advantage of civil unrest and a weak administration?
In cases such as these, we always wonder what is more important: the intention behind an action or the outcome of the action. While many critics may argue that the Anons’ sole intention is to cause cyber chaos for their own entertainment, profit, or pure anarchy, it is necessary that we remember who they are playing against in this grand game that is 21st-century America. The American people are at war against fascism and racism, and Anonymous has joined the fight — no matter their intentions. It is impossible for outsiders to know the minds of a decentralized organization like Anonymous, and we must not pretend that we need to. And while many may not agree with Anonymous’ tactics or previous activities, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” especially as our nation inches farther and farther away from democracy.
We are in the midst of one of the most significant events in history. The Black Lives Matter movement is calling for the change that our nation so desperately needs, and the president, the police, or a pandemic will stop it. When it comes down to it, the Anons are singular protesters, just like those who have rallied in all 50 states and 18 nations, who have used their platform and their collective voice to say what must be said by those in power: We can no longer trust our government and law enforcement agencies to act in the pursuit of justice, equality, or the best interests of all American citizens. We have a right and responsibility to do something about it. Whether that means protesting in the streets, donating, sharing resources over social media, voting out corrupt officials, or even hacking the United States government, we cannot and must not be complacent.