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Anonymous: Losing Relevance?

Ah, Anonymous. The hacking collective has a lot of secret fans, and not-so-secret fans, who appreciate the hacking collective’s rally-round-the-cause approach to its endeavors, its over-the-top penchant for hyperbole and, of course, the sheer banding-together-for-the-common-good-ness of it all.

It’s hard not to feel righteous when getting your #OpISIS on.

And sure, the group has a cantankerous refusal to shy away from political hot potatoes. It has levied its website defacing and DDoS efforts at Israel, for instance, which drew criticism from many quarters—and in support of Julian Assange, and Edward Snowden, also controversial moves. But its other targets include a lot of generally agreed-upon Bad Guys, like ISIS and the KKK. And Scientology. Who doesn’t love to hate Scientology? Except for Scientologists of course.

Most recently, and much to the glee of a good percentage of the American voting public (this slogger among them), Anonymous has declared war on Donald Trump.

Well—has declared war on Donald Trump again.

Coming up on April 1, Anonymous will protest what it characterizes as Trump’s “hateful” campaign. It promises to take down several websites connected to the Trump. All of which is wonderfully grassroots and vigilante and…wait, what?

That’s it? Take down a handful of Trumpish websites? Err, that’s a little underwhelming, guys.

And this is the problem with Anonymous. For all the rhetoric (“we shall destroy you” and “massive all-out war” are not-uncommon words in the manifestos) and the master branding (those Guy Fawkes masks are a bit of genius, it must be said), the group rarely manages any real impact.

New York Magazine pointed out in an editorial the other day that “Anonymous has been ‘declaring war’ on things for years.” These include cities like Toronto and Orlando, the entire continent of Australia, Singapore, various cretins like the guy who used a bow-and-arrow to hunt cats, the Ultimate Fighting Championship, and even the 2014 World Cup sponsors.

NYM wasted no time getting its snark on: ”The World Cup went off mostly without a hitch, while sponsors like Coca-Cola, Budweiser, Emirates Airlines, and Adidas made lots of money. The World Cup and its sponsors still exist.“

The Boston Globe op-ed folks piled on: “Those wars almost never lead to the total defeat of their enemies, as promised. The melodramatic language of these declarations tends to occlude the actual purpose and result of the operations behind them—for better or for worse.” It added, “Many of the hyped-up wars launched in the name of Anonymous in recent memory have been chaotic, underwhelming or disastrous.”

A lot of these campaigns have good thoughts behind them—they’re pro-human rights, anti-terror, pro-animal and pro-environment. Generally speaking. But where’s the outcome?

When it comes to Trump, Anonymous just wrapped an offensive. To support the anti-Trump White Rose Society and the White Rose Revolt, Anonymous launched #OpWhiteRose —which claimed to have leaked Trump’s personal information online, including his cell phone number and Social Security number. Major media outlets were quick to point out that the information had actually been circulating on the web for years. The information had not been hacked or leaked at all.

But the non-hack, Anonymous claimed, was actually a stroke of genius: “The government and law enforcement authorities are seeking the arrest of the people responsible for attempting to illegally hack Mr. Trump’s accounts and telephone information. Why law enforcement at every level was so quick to pounce on a non-crime and effect arrest of those behind it—without investigating whether a crime had even been committed—paints a telling portrait of exactly the fascist tendencies Anonymous wished to prove.”


You’ve gotta be better than that, Anon, if you’re looking to do more than be a tiny irritant in Trump’s ugly, bigoted ear, like a fly in horse stall. And sad to say, I’m starting to lean towards my big-name-news-outlet compadres and co-opt a catchphrase from a commercial that aired before any of the Anonymous hacker crew were likely born: Where’s the beef?

Photo © Rob Kints/Shutterstock.com

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