Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Cyber Insurgency Lulz - Who Is Anonymous?

Thanks to Wired's Danger Room for sharing the link to Counterterrorism Blog where we read, "The Lulz vs. North Korea." From the article:
Would this be seen as western provocation by North Korea? Who knows, but it does raise the question of how uncontrolled or accidental cyber-warfare could have unintended consequences, a new factor in an old dynamic. Unlike nuclear technology the ability to conduct cyber-warfare is not the sole preserve of states. Individuals, or loosely affiliated groups of individuals operating on a trans-national basis can replicate some if not all of a nations capability.
This is probably not the place to discuss 4chan and /b/ but I do recommend looking them up, you'll be surprised (I'll bet).

But I can do you one better and give you a quote from Hardt and Negri's Empire that I think well-anticipates this situation (by nearly 10 years):
In effect, one might say that the sovereignty of Empire itself is realized at the margins, where borders are flexible and identities are hybrid and fluid. It would be difficult to say which is more important to Empire, the center or the margins. In fact, center and margin seem continually to be shifting positions, fleeing any determinate locations. We could even say that the process itself is virtual and that its power resides in the power of the virtual....(39)
Their Empire is not simply imperialism 2.0 - that's what the Cold War was. Our situation is marked now by informational wars: whether one chooses to drink Pepsi or Coke is just as valuable to the world order today as a recently Post-Colonial country's decision to become a democracy or espouse communism. So, if, suddenly "the marketplace" becomes concerned that Pepsi can no longer maintain productivity, things will start happening: the news cycle will grab onto this, the pundocracy will weigh in, the activist investors will be profiled... This is an informational war in the same way that the current financial crisis is an informational war. Today the powers that be are hammering-out how to maintain fluidity within the world economy, they are not meeting to discuss how to prop-up the U.S.'s over-production of farm equipment ("Use USAID! give it to Kenya so that they resist the kalishnikovs the Soviets are sending"); so it's not like the situation at the eve of WWII (I mean the Berlin Conference of 1885). The situation is no longer Westphalian sovereignty vs.

Rather Hardt and Negri are claiming something else:
Our claim... is that we are dealing here with a special sovereignty that should considered liminal or marginal... a sovereignty that locates its only point of reference in the definitive absoluteness of the power it can exercise. Empire thus appears in the form of a very high tech machine: it is virtual, built to control the marginal event, and organized to dominate and when necessary intervene in the breakdowns of the system. (39)
These breakdowns of the system look less like wars liberating people (that phrase used to justify the last invasion of Iraq) and more about the state of emergency. "Order and peace - the eminent values that Empire proposes - can never be achieved but are nonetheless continually reproposed," as Hardt & Negri state (60). Thus it is more likely that any military action in North Korea will likely be justified by promoting the terrible state of affairs in North Korea. Thus, the only way to fight wars will be by marketing them appropriately.

Why do I begin with 4chan griefers and go to these philosophical discussions? Because I think that "Anonymous" is a great, practical, example of what Hardt & Negri call the multitude:
This is another fundamental characteristic of the existence of the multitude today within Empire and against Empire. New figures of struggle and new subjectivities are produced in the conjuncture of events, in the universal nomadism, in the general mixture and miscegenation of individuals and populations, and in the technological metamorphoses of the imperial biopolitical machine. (61)
If we try to understand who Anonymous is, as an ontological group that has formed based on its identity, we will be forever frustrated. If you read the transcript form the build-up to the Lulz you will see that the group are not interested in democracy, they're not complaining about nuclear proliferation. In fact, one "member" (I use scare quotes 'cause membership is open and you can't be Anonymous) even states, "I [doing this] isn't out of moralfaggotry," that is, doing this because one is partisan to an outcome. This is also predicted by Hardt & Negri when they wrote:
These new figures and subjectivities are produced because, although the struggles are indeed antisystemic, they are not posed merely against the imperial system - they are not simply negative forces. They also express, nourish, and develop positively their own constituent projects....The deterritorializing power of the multitude is the productive force that sustains Empire and at the same time the force that calls for and makes necessary its destruction. (61)
Postmodernism FTW!

1 comment:

  1. 4chan's intrigue, for me, lies in how it so openly demonstrates to anyone interested the state which human beings have 'progressed' to. Given a scenario in which a man knows he will never be held accountable for what he says/does, he will almost always reveal the truth of how he thinks, acts and feels. Obviously he will spit lies like hot fire but even these lies will be a visible extension of his personality.

    The problem with that though, is that those who would diagnose 4chan (I use 4chan more as a codename for 'open people in the wild' here) too commonly confine their observation to a narrow tunnel. They insist on seeing either the redeeming qualities or the damning, hardly ever coming to some Middle Way where a definite statement can be made about the observed as a whole rather than in segments.

    It's a might silly to think, but the activities of Anon remind me very much of the Greek deities. No solemn-faced judges in stiff coats are these 'higher' beings, on the contrary, they grow bored in their so-called supremacy and turn to chaos and satire for amusement.