OUTSTANDING article on Anonymous and Scientology
This article, written by Chris Landers and published on CityPaperOnline, is truly a must-read. What one will get out of this article is an indepth overview of the history and current state of Anonymous, and a partial overview of Scientology’s deplorable past.
Landers gives an excellent overview of Anonymous. He discusses its history before the Scientology protests. While most of us had never heard of Anonymous before 2008, they have been around for years. The popular Anonymous that is protesting Scientology is quite different from the Anonymous that gave rise to this New Anonymous (or NewNonymous, PopNon, or whatever you prefer). The Anonymous that got the ball rolling on the Scientology protests was the years-old Anonymous that operated as an anarchistic online community with very few rules. The rules consisted of little more than the following:
1) No names. No nicknames. Everyone is completely Anonymous and unidentifiable from one post to the next. Ideally, everyone simply named themselves “Anonymous”. To my knowledge, the primary reasons for this were to facilitate free speech (people could say what they want without fear of embarrassment or persecution), and to promote the evaluation of ideas based on their merits, not on who offered them.
2) No child porn.
Based on these principles, Anonymous people have joined together online for years to exchange ideas, jokes, silliness, and collaborate in pranks (e.g., prank phone calling Tom Green’s TV show ad nauseum) and raids (e.g., on Scientology, on a White Supremacist website). A few Anons over the years had stretched free speech really far by authoring fake terrorist threats on one of the Anon sites.
The raid on Scientology was set-off by the cult’s litigious strong-arming to have the hilarious Tom Cruise video pulled off the Net. However, as the protest continued the protesters became more educated and civilized. Crossing fiberoptic paths with seasoned Scientology protesters, most notably Mark “Wise Beard Man” Bunker, the Anonymous Scientology protesters underwent an enlightenment. Firstly, they underwent a maturation in protest conduct, switching from digital guerilla warfare (e.g., hacking, black faxing, prank phone calls and emails) to grassroots civil protesting. Secondly, they learned that Scientology was far worse than they had ever imagined, learning that its abuses stretch far wider and deeper than suppression of free speech. These two processes played an integral role in producing an Anonymous population explosion, with NewNons coming from all corners of society, not just from 4chan.
NewNonymous is a diverse bunch. This band of Anons includes people from both inside and outside of the original Anonymous community. In NewNon, the most prevalent and noble aims are to foster widespread awareness of the crimes of Scientology, to put an end to the cult’s illegal, unethical, and totalitarian practices, and to see its tax-exempt status in America revoked. Of courses, there are some people who claim to be of Anonymous who are really just Scientologists in disguise and are trying to sabotage the protest. And there are oldschool Anons (or OldNons) who are simply in it for the lulz (i.e., laughs originating from jokes and pranks). Most interestingly, there are also OldNons who are trying to sabotage the protest because they view the NewNons as having hijacked Anonymous. This is a problem for New Anonymous, as now the protesters has to worry a whole new set of saboteurs.
In addition to its terrific overview of Anonymous, the article also discusses some (though surely not all) of the terrible things that the Cult of Scientology has done and continues to do, and some of its squables with the law. It recounts a number of cases in which the cult and prominent individual Scientologists have attempted to squash speech against the cult by threatening legal action, pressuring media agencies to fire cult critical writers, pressuring Google and YouTube to remove displeasing content, and so on. Also discussed is its demonization of noted cult critic and ex-Scientologist of 9 years, Arnie Lerma. It demonstrates the dishonesty and/or ignorance of many Scientologists in an interview in which the Scientology administrators were basically saying that the protesters were primarily young people who were just bored and following along, not admitting at all that there are reasonable grounds for grievance. The article closes with the story of how one young peaceful protester was somehow identified by the cult and was sent a letter threatening potential future legal action.
I cannot recommend this article highly enough. It is long but well worth the read.
I also recommend this open letter to Anonymous and its critics.
To browse through the full collection of posts on the Cult of Scientology on The Frame Problem, click here.