On January 19th of 2012, a group of anonymous hackers, under the name of Anonymous, took down the websites of the U.S Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation in defense to the popular website MegaUpload being shut down. This was just one of many “hacktivist” actions enacted by this group. “Hacktivism” is a term used to describe the use of computers and computer networks as a means of protest to promote political ends. “Hacktivism” is different from hacking, in that hacking is usually used with malicious intent, with the purpose of damaging or stealing digital property, whereas “hacktivism” usually has a political purpose.
According to Persuasion in Society, by Herbert W. Simons and Jean G. Jones,”… a social movement is an uninstitutionalized collectivity that operates on a sustained basis to exert external influence in behalf of a cause” (Simons & Jones, 2011). This meaning that a social movement is un-institutionalized or outside the mainstream, they are a collective that is cause-oriented, meaning they exist to promote an ideology or program of action, and their goal is to exert influence outside of their social media outlets. By this definition, Anonymous should also be grouped as a social movement. Anonymous is un-institutionalized, it is a collective comprised of internet users all over the world, and there is no single leader or controlling party. Anonymous exists with the goals of ending internet censorship and surveillance. Anonymous also opposes government corruption and recently has spoken out against homophobia in an attack on the Westboro Baptist church. Therefore, by taking “hacktivist” actions on the internet with cause in mind, Anonymous is “…exerting external influence in behalf of a cause”. Anonymous also meets the requirements of acquiring and mobilizing human and material resources easily through the use of the internet. The attack on the FBI’s website is an example. This involved a DDOS attack which requires a mass amount of users to overload the traffic on a websites server, creating a denial of service to anyone attempting to access the website.
Anonymous should be considered a revolutionary movement, as they seek to remove laws which they do not agree with and they are in opposition with the current government’s ideas of internet censorship and surveillance. They have not done anything in the way of promoting current laws or seeking passage of new laws, which eliminates reformist. Anonymous certainly is not resistive, as they do not seek to keep the status quo, and there is not any mention of returning to older ways which is the primary object of restorative movements. Although Anonymous does try to communicate with the people directly and sway the peoples opinion, they are, at the same time, seeking to stop the government from passing laws, so this means they are not an expressivist movement.
This video, entitled “Anonymous – Message to the American People”, is a video created by Anonymous in response to the passing of the The National Defense Authorization Act on December 3rd, 2011. The National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, is a bill which was created to specify budget and expenditures for the United States National Defense. According to Anonymous, however, this bill would also give the military the power to detain US citizens indefinitely without trial, among other things. In this video, the spokesperson is wearing a Guy Fawkes mask, which was created to resemble Guy Fawkes from the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. This mask has been used in other social movements such as the occupy social movement. According to an article by Molly Sauter, “The wearer is identified as anti-authoritarian, a member of an online generation that values the freedom of communication and assembly that the internet has so powerfully enabled” (Sauter, 2012).
The video begins with the greeting, “Hello citizens of the world, we are anonymous.” It is made clear that the video is intended for everyone. The video is both informative, while at the same using pathos to draw out fear from the viewer. This is evident in the distorted video image and voice. When applied to Burke’s pentad, it seems there are key ratios of Act:Agency and Act:Purpose. Because the Act determines what technique anonymous must use to persuade the public, and the Act is directly related to the purpose of Anonymous’ action. The video can be seen as a threat to the government of the united states, and a call to action for the citizens of the united states. Given that Anonymous has been mentioned on major news channels, and their videos have been popularized all over the internet, it is clear that Anonymous utilizes mass media to reach a wider audience.
After describing the bill and what it permits, the video describes the corruption of the government and the senate, but following this, Anonymous puts the blame on the individuals watching the video. This is shown in the line, “How did this happen? Who’s to blame? Well certainly there are those who are more responsible than others, and they will be held accountable. But again, truth be told…if you’re looking for the guilty, you need only look into a mirror”. This can be a very persuasive tactic, which could either turn off a viewer, or compel the viewer to take more action and become more involved. The video is concluded with the lines, “We are anonymous …We do not forgive Censorship. We do not forget Oppression. US SENATE… Expect us!!” The video in particular seems to make the group seem more militant, as opposed to being moderate with their strategies.
Overall the video uses strong language for calling the viewer to action, it also explains just enough about the bill to stir the viewer’s emotion and to gain the viewer interest. The viewer might then do their own research and become actively involved. Whether or not Anonymous’ controversial hacktivist actions are justified is hard to tell, but this video is very persuasive, especially for the majority of Americans who may be concerned about their rights.
Sauter, M. (2012, April 30). Guy Fawkes Mask-ology. Retrieved from Hilobrow: http://hilobrow.com/2012/04/30/mask/
Simons, H. W., & Jones, J. G. (2011). Persuasion in Society. Routledge.