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Inside the hive-mind

Our assessment is that the Egyptian government is stable and is looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people.” Hillary Clinton, January 25, Washington

When asked about the revolt in Egypt, 72% of american adults agreed that they should overthrow the current Pharaoh.” Anonymous member, #opegypt IRC, January 26,

Secretary Clinton received plenty of criticism for her statements about Egypt. That was unsurprising, given they were exactly the sort of statements you’d expect from a US administration worried one of its most reliable client regimes was facing the start of the sort of rolling series of protests that brought down another faithful US ally, Tunisia’s Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Even when the State Department later offered a slightly less pro-Mubarak view — “the United States supports the fundamental right of expression and assembly for all people. All parties should exercise restraint, and we call on the Egyptian authorities to handle these protests peacefully”, it only elicited further abuse in the region and further afield.

There was plenty of that in the #opegypt IRC channel, where Anonymous’s campaign to target the Egyptian government, and provide support to Egyptian protesters, was being co-ordinated. #Opegypt had been launched two days before, to support the Egyptian protests intended for January 25 that had been organised on Facebook. It came on the heels of #opAlgeria, of which more in a moment, and of course #optunisia, which had kept up a weeks-long attack on the Ben Ali government. That regime was one of the world’s most effective internet censors, which is what had drawn Anonymous’s attention in the first place. Ben Ali’s government had, among other things, used the country’s ISPs to deploy malicious code that harvested Facebook passwords.

But interestingly, in the #opegypt channel, one Anonymous member responded to criticism of Clinton by noting that, had the State Department statement been any stronger in support of the Egyptian protests, it might have enabled critics to paint them as tools of US policy, like the Iranian dictatorship did about 2009’s protests in that country. It was a subtle point, particularly for a group described variously as “juvenile”, “domestic terrorists” (thank you Fox News) and an “underground hate group”.

But the observation smoothly fitted into an ongoing discussion about what was happening on the ground in Egypt, fury about the Egyptian government’s response, philosophical debates about the nature of anarchy, the usefulness of pizza bombs (mass-ordering of pizza deliveries — a time-honoured, and rather analog, Anonymous prank), invariably un-PC — indeed, anti-PC — jokes, and discussions of Middle Eastern politics.

All, of course, while trying to maximise the DDOS attack on Egyptian government websites, primarily via the LOIC tool on volunteer computers across the globe.

On that front, it was clear that #opegypt has so far been less successful than #opAlgeria on the weekend. #Opalgeria — timed to co-ordinate with protests in Algeria — easily took down several Algerian government websites — in fact, it seemed to take down pretty much most of the Algerian internet full stop. People joined the chat room to report the website of the Algerian airline and Algerian media sites were all down as well. Indeed, the website of the hated Algerian interior ministry was still down two days later. One participant posted instructions for exploiting a flaw in older versions of the web content management system Joomla. And on Sunday morning Australian time, having pleaded with participants not to DDOS the website of Algeria’s ruling party, administrators proudly unveiled some special handiwork — they’d defaced the site and converted it into a message from Anonymous.

Egyptian web administrators have put up a much greater fight. The two targeted sites, www.moiegypt.gov.eg and www.mcit.gov.eg, periodically went down or slowed to a near-standstill, but would spring back up, to the frustration of attack co-ordinators. As they struggled to get volunteers to join the attacks, there were also providing “care packages” (COD gamers will recognise the term) of anonymisation tools and advice to Egyptian geeks, as they had done in Tunisia and Algeria, spamming Egyptian police email, fax and phone numbers and filtering information about how to work around Egyptian censorship. The Mubarak government — evidently unconvinced by Western commentators who argue social media is no threat to dictatorships — had launched a pre-prepared plan to shut down web browserr access to Twitter, which was being used to spread information about the protests, but users found they were able to access it via applications such as  Tweetdeck, meaning those on the front line could still provide information about what was going on.

One of the issues that repeatedly came up in the #opalgeria and #opegypt channels — usually from disgruntled citizens of both countries — was why Anonymous didn’t target unfriendly media outlets rather than government websites. This goes to the very core of Anonymous’s motives and rationale. Algerians came into the channel to call for the DDOSing of a fundamentalist Islamic media site, while throughout yesterday and this morning, Egyptians demanded the targeting of Egyptian media seen as compliant with the Mubarak regime.

The demands were met with the same response every time — Anonymous is committed to free speech, regardless of who uses it, and will not target the media, no matter what they say — “no media including Fox or state run”. The media, along with educational institutions, are considered taboo in a movement where taboos are usually flagrantly violated. “You may not agree with what they say,” said one member, “but you will LOIC to the death for their right to say it.” The judgment also seems to reflect an understanding that media attention is an important tool for Anonymous. It was even when the goal was simply to bring the lulz at the expense of targets that had enraged them, and much more so now that fighting for free speech has become the central goal of a growing movement.

The other characteristic is one so subtle as to almost be unnoticeable. Anonymous operates in a wholly non-national way. Not international, but non-national. Where you are in the real world — “meatspace” — is irrelevant, except to the extent that different countries means different servers, enabling DDOS co-ordinators to keep track of whether target sites are loading or not, and because Anonymous discourages people within the relevant countries themselves from participating in DDOS attacks, since the LOIC broadcasts your IP address.

This formless, leaderless, non-national movement is evolving, maturing and (most likely) growing rapidly, especially in the Middle East. Other operations such as one against the Venezuelan government are under way. There is talk of a future #opiran, which is acknowledged as a hard target. It is an altogether more complex beast than what is portrayed in the MSM, or even by the hackers who have slammed its use of DDOS (Anonymous itself is less a group of “hackers” per se than of the cyber-literate).

It is also profoundly at odds in its ethos and methods with traditional NGOs and activist groups. This is not your traditional protest movement and elements of it would be deeply hostile to more traditional political activism. Anonymous is something that, because it grew organically in cyberspace rather than reflecting the cyber version of existing real world phenomena, looks and works differently to real-world organisations or movements we’re familiar with. Something important and new is happening here.

29
  • 1
    ronin8317
    Posted Thursday, 27 January 2011 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    Reality check : DDOS and hacking web sites cannot take down a regime. It does however encourage governments to implement draconian measure to curtail internet freedom, and to implement an identification regime where every packet can be traced.

    http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=22832

  • 2
    Scott
    Posted Thursday, 27 January 2011 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    DDOS is the bogong moth of hacking; pure annoyance but not threatening. Solved by a couple of hundred thousand bucks in security consultant fees and a bit of kit from cisco.
    As for Anonymous, it seems to be a protest movement for a generation that can’t be assed leaving the family home for anything but a music festival. Do you honestly think that the mullahs in Iran will be worried that their iran.gov.ir website is down?
    As they say in the classics, decisions are made by those who show up, not those who fire the LOIC from the safety of the bedroom.

  • 3
    Maroubraman
    Posted Friday, 28 January 2011 at 6:42 am | Permalink

    Whether or not DDOS attacks are very threatening is beside the point. They are a reflection of the basic Anonymous theology. They find something they disagree with, and rather than work out ways to openly and legally bring about change, they resort to anonymous acts of violence. And that their violence is mostly on-line assaults like DDOS attacks does not change the nature of the tactic, which is essentially terrorist, like it or not. They purport to advocate freedom of speech and freedom in general, but their methods reveal other intentions. This is the same “group” that tried to bring down Australian government websites not too long ago. Several Anonymous “members” were convicted and jailed over criminal violations of federal law in their assaults against the Church of Scientology in the US. And just yesterday, five Anonymous “members” were arrested in the UK following their assaults against Visa, PayPal, etc. The latter most clearly illustrates their terrorist mindset: They object to attempts to censor Wikileaks, so they wage cyber-violence against Visa and PayPal for exercising THEIR right to withdraw support of Wikileaks. Like all terrorists, they see any collateral damage to innocents as justifiable.

  • 4
    Alena V
    Posted Friday, 28 January 2011 at 6:59 am | Permalink

    That’s an impressive analysis, Bernard.

  • 5
    drsmithy
    Posted Friday, 28 January 2011 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    They are a reflection of the basic Anonymous theology. They find something they disagree with, and rather than work out ways to openly and legally bring about change, they resort to anonymous acts of violence. And that their violence is mostly on-line assaults like DDOS attacks does not change the nature of the tactic, which is essentially terrorist, like it or not.”

    A DDoS is no more an “act of violence” than a few hundred greenies chaining themselves to trees. It’s about as non-violent an action as you can take while still doing something at all.

    Like all terrorists, they see any collateral damage to innocents as justifiable.”

    By that measure, everyone who seeks or enacts change is a “terrorist”. There’s _always_ some sort of collateral “damage”.

  • 6
    AR
    Posted Friday, 28 January 2011 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    Maroubra can insert Hubbarsist references into any subject.

  • 7
    Bernard Keane
    Posted Friday, 28 January 2011 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    How are your Thetans, Maroubraman? And never forget, before you sign a billion-year contract, you should read the fine print.

  • 8
    Maroubraman
    Posted Friday, 28 January 2011 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    My guess is that if you had anything better to say AR, you would not have to try personal insults.

    And Dr. Smithy, I agree with you that DDOS attacks are a pretty feeble form of assault hardly worthy of the term “violence.” But it is nothing at all like “a few hundred greenies chaining themselves to trees.”

    You may choose to ignore it, but quite a few people see the hypocrisy in Anonymous’ original assault on the Church of Scientology — they accused the Church of violating freedom of “speech” so they pledged to destroy the Church’s presence on the internet to prevent the Church from having a forum from which to express its point of view.

    And your conclusion that “by that measure, everyone who seeks or enacts change is a terrorist” is as illogical as your tree-hugger analogy.

    I am sure there are well meaning people living in the Anonymous universe, including many who idealistically want to help bring freedom to people oppressed elsewhere, whether politically, religiously, or otherwise. Good luck to them. But there are also individuals who hide behind Anonymity in the hope that they can commit harmful and destructive acts without considering or facing the consequences. I am old fashioned. I believe such people may hide from everyone but cannot hide from their own conscience. Call it karma. Call it what you want.

    There is a difference between an idealistic goal and the means used to attain it.

    Freedom of speech/information? Good thing.

    Use illegal DDOS attacks to punish companies like Visa, PayPal, etc., for choosing to withdraw support for Wikileaks? Bad thing.

    A DDOS is just like greenies hugging trees? Prisoners in the dock always come up with justifications, explanations and excuses. Did you mummy ever tell you, two wrongs don’t make a right?

  • 9
    Maroubraman
    Posted Friday, 28 January 2011 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    Hi Bernard. Just saw your comment after I posted mine. Like AB, don’t you have anything more intelligent to say than try to insult me personally?

  • 10
    Maroubraman
    Posted Friday, 28 January 2011 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    By the way AB, Bernard and all. I think the whole Crikey world knows I am a Scientologist. No need to “out” me.

  • 11
    drsmithy
    Posted Friday, 28 January 2011 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    And Dr. Smithy, I agree with you that DDOS attacks are a pretty feeble form of assault hardly worthy of the term “violence.” But it is nothing at all like “a few hundred greenies chaining themselves to trees.”

    Why not ?

    And your conclusion that “by that measure, everyone who seeks or enacts change is a terrorist” is as illogical as your tree-hugger analogy.

    Why ?

  • 12
    Maroubraman
    Posted Friday, 28 January 2011 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    @Dr. Smithy:

    1) Because greenies hugging trees conveys their message without harming innocent people. The DDOS attacks on Visa, etc., screwed up a lot of innocent people who were just out trying to do their Christmas shopping — and may have been supporters of internet freedom, opponents, or people who have never heard of Wikileaks.

    Your (I assume) view that such collateral damage is justified (or excusable because it is so insignificant) is the same view expressed by people who commit much more serious acts. Innocent pedestrians blown up by car bombs are justified in the same way. The two acts do not compare in severity of course, but it is the same justification.

    2) Many people achieve change. Civil disobedience is one avenue. But it is not true that there is “always” collateral damage. Furthermore, let’s face it, the trouble with Anonymous is that “it” has many faces. As I said, I am sure there are many Anons who mean well and do no harm. There are others, as you well know, who think the very concept of “meaning well” is a joke and their only admitted purpose is to cause chaos, for their own entertainment.

    I think you believe I am opposed to all Anons and everything every Anon does and everything every Anon believes. Not the case. Even though, when you have a bad experience with one member of a “group” or even hear rumors about a “group,” it can tend to make you adopt a closed, fixed view of the group as a whole and every member of it.

    That is called prejudice.

    That is what I normally run across on Crikey. No problem. I am enjoying my game of trying to bring about a broader view. I don’t have any great emotional concern about how successful I am, or not.

  • 13
    drsmithy
    Posted Friday, 28 January 2011 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    Because greenies hugging trees conveys their message without harming innocent people. The DDOS attacks on Visa, etc., screwed up a lot of innocent people who were just out trying to do their Christmas shopping — and may have been supporters of internet freedom, opponents, or people who have never heard of Wikileaks.

    So you think people chaining themselves to trees have no impact on the supply of goods manufactured from those trees ?

    Greenies chaining themselves to trees is just an example. Any protest that involved disrupting normal life without causing harm (and they’re not uncommon, being one of the cornerstones of a free and democratic society) is analagous.

    Your (I assume) view that such collateral damage is justified (or excusable because it is so insignificant) is the same view expressed by people who commit much more serious acts. Innocent pedestrians blown up by car bombs are justified in the same way. The two acts do not compare in severity of course, but it is the same justification.

    No.

    The difference is in no way simply an issue of severity. There is a fundamental difference between an action that causes - at worst - a minor inconvenience and one that causes death.

    Non-violent protest causes inconvenience without actual harm. That’s pretty much the whole point of it.

    Many people achieve change. Civil disobedience is one avenue. But it is not true that there is “always” collateral damage.

    Well that’s obviously entirely dependent on how you want to define “damage”. However, when you’re setting the bar so low that the temporary inability to buy Christmas presents online counts, then you’re going to struggle mightily to find any sort of meaningful “change” that didn’t cause “damage” to _someone_.

    I think you believe I am opposed to all Anons and everything every Anon does and everything every Anon believes.

    No, I think you’re a zealous, paid-up member of a fraudulent and abusive organisation - one with a victimisation complex so intense even rich white men discussing taxation seem humble by comparison - using proscribed hyperbole to colour nonviolent protest as a terrorist attack.

    That is called prejudice.

    No.

    Judging people by the colour of their skin or the country they were born in is called prejudice.

    Judging people by a set of beliefs they profess to follow, the company they choose to keep and the rhetoric they spout is called *analysis*.

  • 14
    Maroubraman
    Posted Friday, 28 January 2011 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    Actually no, it’s called prejudice. And it is commonly described as being blind. Which is why you can only see black and white.

  • 15
    Maroubraman
    Posted Friday, 28 January 2011 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    It’s also why your comments started with, and ended with, personal insults and attempts to stereotype.

  • 16
    drsmithy
    Posted Monday, 31 January 2011 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    I think you need to consult a dictionary.

  • 17
    Maroubraman
    Posted Tuesday, 1 February 2011 at 7:43 am | Permalink

    Not necessary. Your comment proves my point.

  • 18
    drsmithy
    Posted Wednesday, 2 February 2011 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

    Not necessary.

    Really ? Because I can’t find any definitions for the words ‘prejudice’, ‘stereotype’ and ‘insult’ that match anything I wrote.

  • 19
    Maroubraman
    Posted Thursday, 3 February 2011 at 2:16 am | Permalink

    And the reason for that, Dr Smithy, is that is because you only see things which fit your rock solid, fixed ideas. Once again, your comment proves my point.

  • 20
    Elan
    Posted Thursday, 3 February 2011 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    This is what you did before isn’t MARO. (rhetorical). It’s what you do every time.

    Does the ‘church’ **direct its followers to make sure they have the last word. (rhetorical) I know it is a principle of Scientology that any negative views have to be countered.

    (** I have no interest in any ‘church’. Thus the wotsits).

    I reckon that’s a principle we all adhere to, so no big deal. But the need to close a discussion by making the last post. (rhetorical).

    The question can be answered by simply replying to this.

    Or not.

  • 21
    drsmithy
    Posted Thursday, 3 February 2011 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    And the reason for that, Dr Smithy, is that is because you only see things which fit your rock solid, fixed ideas.

    Hypocrisy and irony all in one. Awesome !

    Just because someone disagrees with you does not mean they’re prejudiced.

    Assuming you adhere to the views and philosophy of a group you voluntary and explicitly associate with, is not stereotyping.

    Finally, describing your behaviour in a negative manner, is not inherently insulting.

  • 22
    Maroubraman
    Posted Thursday, 3 February 2011 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    Hello Elan.

    Actually, I am not interested in having the LAST word. But when I see something I want to respond to, I like to respond. The church does not direct me. In fact I am virtually certain that if anyone in the church reads my comments they do not have the faintest idea who I am. I don’t even know if they would agree with everything I say. But contrary to what you seem to think, I don’t care either way and, again contrary to what you seem to think, I have NEVER had anyone in the church suggest what I should or should not write, or how (or even if) I should or should not respond to others on the internet.

    But here is what I find interesting: I enjoyed Bernard’s original post. I agreed with some points, disagreed with others, and added a comment to express my point of view. Shortly thereafter drsmithy, and then even Bernard himself, descended into personal insults and ridicule. Your post is of the same flavour. You (collectively) seem to me to be incapable of objectively considering anything I say without your conclusions being completely swayed by your pre-conceived ideas.

    Rather than fighting over the last word, I would much prefer that we could improve, even if just slightly, our understanding of each other.

    Whether or not you end up having the last word may depend on whether or not you can respond to this without further personal insults.

  • 23
    Elan
    Posted Thursday, 3 February 2011 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    Whether or not you end up having the last word may depend on whether or not you can respond to this without further personal insults.

    fighting over the last word’ Fighting?

    preconceived ideas’ What?

    You simply feel the need to be the last man standing. You do it every time. I simply wondered if it was a ‘tology doctrine.

    Strewth! You DO get precious don’t you?

  • 24
    Maroubraman
    Posted Thursday, 3 February 2011 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    And hello Dr Smithy:

    I agree with you (!) that “just because someone disagrees with you does not mean they’re prejudiced.”

    And I also agree (!!) that “describing your behaviour in a negative manner is not inherently insulting.”

    But neither do these things prove that you are NOT prejudiced, nor that you do not intend to insult. And from your comments you clearly are prejudiced and do intend to insult.

    And why do I say that? Because you cannot conceive of the tiniest, most remote possibility that your conclusions about Scientology might be incorrect or incomplete.

    There is nothing wrong with being certain about your convictions. But since no individual or group is all good or all bad, when someone has an all-out, unshakable, blanket, stuck point of view, there is a fair chance the term “prejudice” is not too inappropriate.

  • 25
    Maroubraman
    Posted Thursday, 3 February 2011 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    Hi Elan. Precious here.

    You don’t like “fighting” over the last word. Should I say, “gently bantering?”

    What preconceived ideas? You statements like, “Does the church direct its followers (rhetorical) … ” and “I know it is a principle of Scientology that … ”

    Since you made it clear that these were rhetorical comments, you obviously have a fixed opinion of what the answers are. Hence, preconceived ideas.

    As for you comment that I “do it every time,” I think we could consider the old concept that it takes two to tango. It’s not like I sit here writing comments to myself and then answering them. And as I said somewhere above, this started out with me simply commenting on what Bernard originally wrote. It wasn’t even that big a deal. I agreed with some of his points and disagreed with others. That was the end of it as far as I was concerned.

    But then he (and Bernard and now you) make ME and my religion the issue. I didn’t start that. YOU (collectively) did. And I don’t mind — I am not objecting that you brought it up. But since YOU (collectively) brought it up, is it not fair that I should respond?

  • 26
    drsmithy
    Posted Thursday, 3 February 2011 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    But neither do these things prove that you are NOT prejudiced, nor that you do not intend to insult. And from your comments you clearly are prejudiced and do intend to insult.

    Clearly where ?

    And why do I say that? Because you cannot conceive of the tiniest, most remote possibility that your conclusions about Scientology might be incorrect or incomplete.

    How could you possibly know that ?

    But since no individual or group is all good or all bad, […]

    Really ? So which aspect of the KKK’s philosophy do you think is worthy of advocacy ?

    […] when someone has an all-out, unshakable, blanket, stuck point of view, there is a fair chance the term “prejudice” is not too inappropriate.

    Generally speaking, only if they do it without knowledge, thought and analysis. That’s where the “pre” part of “prejudice” comes from.

    Incidentally, you neither know, nor could know, whether my point of view is “all-out, unshakable, blanket or stuck”, because we’ve never discussed it.

  • 27
    Elan
    Posted Thursday, 3 February 2011 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    Hi Precious.

    I should have put it another way. It IS a principle of Scientology to counter all negative criticism.

    I was asking if the church had directed you to do so.

    You ARE precious, Precious. You acknowledge that yourself and even give it a capital.

  • 28
    Maroubraman
    Posted Thursday, 3 February 2011 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Elan. I realize you are now just trolling me, but I will bite anyway.

    Actually, it is NOT a principle of Scientology to counter all negative criticism.

    Actually, the Creed of the Church includes the statement “That all men have inalienable rights to think freely, to talk freely, to write freely their own opinions and to counter or utter or write upon the opinions of others.”

    Despite what you have been led to believe by sources you obviously consider reliable, that IS what Scientologists believe.

    I have no problem with you expressing your opinion and obviously have no problem expressing my own.

    Now, may I ask you a question?

    Other than these exchanges, have you ever met a Scientologist?

  • 29
    Elan
    Posted Friday, 4 February 2011 at 1:54 am | Permalink

    Sorry I didn’t pick up on this MARO, It isn’t showing in my history for some reason.

    Yes I have. They regularly attend meetings at the Friends of the Mafia Hotpot Supper Club.

    And don’t be silly about trolling. Trolling has sting. Real sting. if you think my posts have done that, then you have a very thin skin. And I don’t believe you have, so don’t be silly.

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