Wednesday, November 14, 2012

no prob, ill just engulf you

In Gabriella Coleman’s multi-media piece/input in We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists, the narrative/identity development of Anonymous was teased out to figure the porous disaggregated network body as currently encompassing the desires of moralfags and social bandit alike. In reading about the story of Jessi Slaughter, a formative trolling barrage for the group in 2009… I was struck by a more recent cyber-assault that made news this September in Canada. Amanda Todd, sixteen I believe, released a video with slides detailing the emotionally wrought experience that followed after she flashed a man in a chat room in seventh grade. A year later the man proceeded to blackmail her and released the images to everyone in every school she proceeded to attend and drop out of. Shortly after, a NJ ‘branch’ of Anonymous intervened to release the alleged personal information of the internet stalker. The irony is incredible (Anon released Jessi’s, the first victim’s, personals) -- I’m trying to think through this hypocrisy in terms of exposure/ threat of exposure. Doxing – the publishing of someone’s personal info in an attempt to intimidate or punish them – is the go-to tool here that works to fully augment the vulnerability of the target. Exposure allows for control and a hierarchy of power – I can physically locate you in space even though I remain a virtual handle.

“If crime is personal, it could be argued, then justice must be too. Hence, within the restorative model, justice is about making offenders ‘feel’ the costs of their crime: ‘our primary concerns should be to make offenders aware of the harm they have caused’ This emphasis on making offenders feel the consequences of their crime, involves arranging for the offenders to face their victims in conferences or family courts.” (197, Ahmed)

But what if there is no crime but only disgust (foul mouthed Jessi)? (trolling easily lends itself to the “shared witnessing [that is] required for speech acts to be generative, that is for the attribution of disgust to an object or other to stick to others” (94, Ahmed). 

What if there is no apology? – such as in the case of the exposure of reddit user Violentacrez ( Many of the proponents of Violentacrez’s moderated sections - who experienced his exposure as ‘an assault on the structure of reddit itself’ and of course a violation of free speech, (and here I am partially assuming by way of the admins complicity) appreciated what he was doing while not wanting to imitate it (a partial desire). We can think about this so called structure of reddit as Thrift’s prosthesis if we consider the network as an object: he writes, “in particular, objects form shields to human vulnerability by extending the body’s circumference. They provide mental and physical resources to allow the body to be in the world, they add to what and how the body can experience and they have their own agency, an ability to move in particular ways” (pg 239). In this framework the network and anonymity become a form of personal property which shouldn’t be violated through removal of the structure itself by exposure or by way of its control in the case of government filtering and electronic surveillance.

Ahmed’s exposure is a site of positive potentiality for healing but what happens then when the vigilante court is founded in its refusal to forgive or forget – when Anonymous doesn’t want to reintegrate the offending member in the case of A3 expatriation for forgoing anonymity for personal promotion. Exposure allows for recovery, but it is also the most disarming weapon. (consider the threat of outing).

In the letter to HBGary, Anonymous writes “you’ve clearly overlooked something very obvious here: we are everyone and we are no one. If you swing a sword of malice into Anonymous’ innards, we will simply engulf it”.  

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