Anonymous has been labeled liberators of information, hackers, conspiracy-minded thieves, and the salvation of freedom. Take what you will from your own opinions, but here we will cover more about who they are and what they stand. To often the press cover bits and pieces to support the story included, and not enough fact finding on “both sides” happens, usually at the expense of the groups that calls itself Anonymous.
In all the news, have you ever seen any given story cover the complete side from Anonymous’s point of view? I know for myself and here TFNJ, we are also guilty of failing to get “all” the facts sometimes. The fact is, Anonymous has fairly noble goals, meant to help individuals make a more “informed” decision and to stop corruption, nothing more. While we can argue the methods employed by the group are illegal, and that committing crimes to stop a crime or injustice is never valid, it doesn’t change their stated goals. I think if we take a closer look at their goals, making ourselves more “informed” we might come away with a different opinion.
Recently while in a drive to south Florida, I had a debate with a colleague that centered around Anonymous, and the hacking they do. My colleague, let’s call him Mike, supported the views of Anonymous, and even entered they a gray area os supporting their illegal activities. For myself, I was staunchly opposed to Anonymous, seeing them more like an illicit syndicate crime hell-bent on stealing hard working peoples credit card info and personal identity. And so we laid out our cases to each other during the 3-hour drive.
Mike supported their cause, and some of their actions as necessary to relieve a group from unspoken terrible circumstances that governments, agencies, and societies were unwilling or unable to do. For me, I could only see credit card fraud, identify theft and blurred those into what Anonymous did and remained opposed.
Upon arriving at our destination, neither one of use swayed the other, and we agreed to disagree.
But something happens a short time later. While trudging our way through another day of work, we came upon a person who we will call Sam. Sam began engaging us in conversation and tipped us off to an event they were having in downtown Orlando. So we attended and took pictures of their activities, another act of civil disobedience. Sitting comfortably at a local cafe after it is done and left, we again talked to Sam who agreed to let us interview him provided we do not reveal his identity.
After many questions about Sam’s cause, and what Anonymous is, I came away from the interview with a slight shift in my belief about the group. I was not so steadfast clinging to the notion that Anonymous stands for stealing yours or my bank information, but instead that they were committed to a higher cause but that they admitted taking more than just standing around with picket signs to affect attention and change. But what difference did they want, I was asking myself. Part of me still I wanted to believe they are what I saw them as in the beginning.
Over the course of the next few weeks, I began to look at the actions of Anonymous, visited their website(s), talked more to Sam, and studies what could be their complaints. I looked at one of their chief complaints, that law enforcement is corrupt, abusive, and not at all open to outside criticism or change. At first to me, it seemed like this is just not possible, after all, law enforcement often must be elected, voted or approved by some elected body somewhere. And admittedly that electoral body wouldn’t choose to have an abusive or corrupt agency.
But that’s where things got complicated. I began researching complaints across the United States about police corruption. What I found surprised me. Day after day, new claims surfaced about alleged fraud, abuse, and mismanagement by various law enforcement agencies. Does this mean police as a whole are wrong people? No, at all. Police are human also, just like you and me, susceptible to the same problems. The vast majority of police and law enforcement are good people doing their job honorably. But there’s always that rotten apple. With unions, bureaucracy and personal agendas, it can be complicated to find and weed out those few rotten apples.
Using FBI statistics, I found that officers convicted of corruption have increased. I found that more lawsuits are filed today about the abusive police than in 2000. And sadly, I found the number of officers and agents that participated in cover-ups and were convicted was also up.
Ok, so on the point Anonymous makes about corrupt and abusive law enforcement, I’m beginning to see there are real problems that are not getting solved.
But why hack into them? How does committing an illegal act to solve and correct another unlawful act make things right? It doesn’t really. Not at all. But Anonymous is a hard villain to put in a corner because their cause is noble and does help the public, albeit, indirectly. We are a nation of laws. Shouldn’t Anonymous fight these despicable acts legally, challenging them in court, or through some public relations blitz? I guess that would be ideal, but that also takes an enormous amount of money. It’s the proverbial David and Goliath.
Well, I suppose I can never wrap my head around to publicly support Anonymous’s illegal criminal actions, whatever they are and to whatever extent they go, but I took the time to read their website, “WHY WE PROTEST.” And I took the time to read their OPS PAGE. It makes for some interesting reading. Anonymous is a group of individuals spread across the globe, which are weaved together through loose connections and a common shared goal. Presumably, anyone can be a member, but some moderators act as shepherds though no one person “controls” the group or its actions.
Having now taken the time to read, educate myself, look at both sides, I feel I can now make a more “informed” decision. I choose to think that Anonymous is not at all associated with would-be criminals out to get your bank information. I also want to realize that by and large, there appears to be corruption in every law enforcement department and government agency. But then again, that is true to some extent for most large businesses; there’s always a rotten apple out to help himself to a higher enrichment of some type that he was not entitled.
I think that we as citizens should support the causes of Anonymous, and their fight for transparency of information. I do believe that if given all the information, people can and will make more informed and better choices. Isn’t that that the ideal we all should want? I still can not come out in support of illegal actions they may take, but I do see them more of a crusader for those who can not fight.
I would encourage you to take the time to educate yourself, read what they have to say, investigate both sides before you make a decision. Perhaps they are more like bad tasting medicine. That tastes horrible but makes “us” better. What Anonymous needs is attention to the particular injustices they are trying to make right.
I don’t claim to have it all correct, but I have a better idea than I did in the beginning.
Written by um, call me Frank.
Related Florida news here