Understanding Anonymous: The Culture Of Lulz

from the it's-not-an-organization dept

We’ve written a number of times about the not-really-a-group Anonymous, and just how little those who position themselves “against” Anonyomous understand what it is they’re fighting against. But even for those who are “of internet culture,” explaining just what Anonymous really is certainly can be difficult. Either you live it and you get it, or you don’t. That doesn’t mean that everyone who “gets” Anonymous agrees with Anonymous. Hell, even Anonymous doesn’t agree with Anonymous much of the time — which is part of the point. But for those who are used to arguing against a group or those with an established position, the entire concept of Anonymous is completely alien.

Quinn Norton is putting together what looks to be a brilliant exploration of Anonymous and related efforts. The initial piece is the best I’ve seen to date in encapsulating what Anonymous is. The key point? It?s a culture. And, it’s a culture with a long heritage of similar efforts that many people didn’t get at the time, but there’s definitely a (rather non-linear, of course) relationship:

The birthplace of Anonymous is a website called 4chan founded in 2003, that developed an ?anything goes? random section known as the /b/ board. 4chan itself comes from a Japanese-language predecessor called 2chan, founded in 2001. Before that, the lulz and hacker pranking was alive and well in old-school IRC chat rooms, EFnet, and the 1990s hacker scene.

But if you?re going back that far, add as influences Mondo 2000, and publications like RE/Search, and a billion shitty zines that were dead by 1996. But those all came from something, too.

Hacker culture, and almost all of computer culture back in the day is shot through with the Discordian edge of 1960/1970s counter-culture and Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea?s Illuminatus. So from there it?s the yippies, Andy Kaufmann, and the Situationists we need to first comprehend. Or do we head back to early 20th century absurdists of Dada? Or maybe we venture all the way to that olde booke of epic trolling lulze, Tristram Shandy?

We?re all the way to 1759 now.

Perhaps this means the 1960s Discordians are right, and there?s a Ha Ha Only Serious giggle that is cosmic in nature. That there is a part of reality, a force of physics, that is actually a Fundamental Sense of Humor. But the gravity we deal with can only be explained to an even larger amount of Dark Humor, woven into the fabric of the universe.

Of course, those who don’t get Anonymous still won’t get Anonymous after this article. In fact, they’re likely to be more confused, or more sure than ever that it’s “just a bunch of bratty kids” or something along those lines. And thinking that works exactly to Anonymous’ favor, which is part of the joke, in which everyone is the punchline.

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Comments on “Understanding Anonymous: The Culture Of Lulz”

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That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Aww you called me Sparky, you must really care.

Had you considered it wasn’t being adept at getting people to do the work, but it was giving voice to the same things the other people were feeling and suggesting a course of action that will be more effective than a letter to Congress or an Editorial page?

And I like how you keep posting as an AC calling Anons dorks who just need to fit in, so you seem well aware of what the hate machine does to people who just don’t get it.

And hey on the upside if Anonymous is run by 3 guys, thats one more guy than owns the Tea Party. There are only 2 Koch brothers. Oh I forgot to mention, that qualifies the Tea Party as having known terrorist ties.


I prefer my secret club, mine stands for freedom… not sure what to make of the other club.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

A bunch of dumb asses donning anon-wear. So? I already said above that the guys are great at getting other people to do heavy lifting. That includes getting idiots to promote their brand with the group’s facial apparel.


None of the boneheads in that photo get to officially speak as “Anonymous”.

Starting to get it yet?

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

You think they wrote nearly all 400 press releases?

As to statements from LulzSec and Anonymous –
They are Anons and do not speak for every Anon, and might be splintered and rejoined… only Nyan Cat knows for sure.

Think of me as being like Anonymous for a moment if you will.
I am at my heart just an AC, I posted here for a while as just AC. Then I started using the name TAC, and then I registered the name. Up until I registered the name, anyone could have posted calling themselves TAC – In fact someone still could, but without the trendy avatar. Someone might think that person was me as I sometimes do forget to login and the cookie with the AC version of TAC stored fills in the blank.
Anons are like ACs, you never know which one has the cream filling till you poke it.
Some ACs are industry shills, some are deep thinkers, but all are ACs. We judge ACs by the content of their message, and not by the name. Anyone can come here and be an AC, Anyone can be Anonymous… to know for sure is to judge the content of the message.

G Thompson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I am sad for you that you can no longer act like the 12 year old who had curiosity by questioning everything and was willing to take a risk and had fun doing anything or nothing at all.

In the words of Peter Pan – written by Carolyn Leigh

If growing up means it would be
beneath my dignity to climb a tree
I’ll never grow up, never grow up,
never grow uuuuuuup, not me.

I won’t grow up
I don’t want to wear a tie
and a serious expression
in the middle of July

And if it means I must prepare
to shoulder burdens with a worried air
I’ll never grow up, never grow up,
never grow uuuuuuup, so there.

G Thompson (profile) says:

Of course, those who don’t get Anonymous still won’t get Anonymous after this article.

Having grown up with the cracker/hacking culture (in all it’s forms) Anonymous is everything anyone wants it to be and everything you don’t.

It’s an IDEA not a group, its a meme not a gathering, its a conceptual take on the original virtuality and Plato’s shadows.

Or it’s none of the above. Though it could just be that person sitting across from you, that person you see fleetingly everyday and give a nod too, or that person who stares back at you in the mirror.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

This might be of interest, I’ll leave it over here…

“Remember, remember
The fifth of November
The gunpowder treason and plot.
I know of no reason
Why the gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot.”
But what of the man? I know his name was Guy Fawkes, and I know that, in 1605, he attempted to blow up the houses of Parliament. But who was he really? What was he like? We are told to remember the idea, not the man, because a man can fail. He can be caught. He can be killed and forgotten. But four hundred years later an idea can still change the world. I’ve witnessed firsthand the power of ideas. I’ve seen people kill in the name of them; and die defending them. But you cannot kiss an idea, cannot touch it or hold it. Ideas do not bleed, it cannot feel pain, and it does not love. And it is not an idea that I miss, it is a man. A man who made me remember the fifth of November. A man I will never forget.

Or maybe its just for the lulz…

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

I thought about this some more and I have a prime example….

Julian Assange.
Had he not made himself the poster child for Wikileaks, would there still be press coverage about whats in the cables rather than so much effort spent looking at him?

The message has become lost in a series of egos, plots, counterplots, and all sorts of things. Had the cables been released from behind the mask, would there have been as much distraction?

G Thompson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

a short attention span, a little free time, and a vague desire to belong to something but not to take it too seriously

Interestingly, you have just described human civilisation for the last 10,000 years.

Please don’t confused these years with the short intermissions within them of Spanish inquisitions, MICE (Money, Ideology, Conscience, Ego) worshipping, and the push for power by those who want to control everything due to inferiority complexes

Anonymous Coward says:

For the lulz have been going for quite some time, anyone read Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer?

“This is not a book in the current meaning of the word, this is libel, calumny, a spit on the face of art a kick in the ass of God”

His words in the 1930’s.


Anonymous are not really something that is new, it is a new name and it came to the limelight lately, but it had been going on for ages. That everything goes is not new, that search for freedom to express something has been going on for ages and surfaces at times, the revolt of the commons where some signs of it.

Anonymous Coward says:

The funny part of the “history of anonymous” is that it keeps pointing to groups that were either too stupid or too self destructive to do anything except make us laugh. Yes, we get the lulz, but the rest of the message is lost.

Those OWS types who wander around in Guy Fawkes masks and try to act all serious about it just add to the laughter – no, we aren’t laughing with you, we are laughing at you. A movie might have made you think you are relevant, but in the end, it was a movie about a terrorist. What a wonderful example.

The best part is that almost all of those historical groups died off because the people involved realizes that it was meaningless, and didn’t really go anywhere. Enjoy the lulz, anonymous people, because sooner or later people stop listening.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Woosh. Anonymous is not a group. Anonymous is human expression at its most honest. Its cruel, its kind, its hypocritical. Its the voice if the downtrodden, and a hivemind that will run you over without a thought. This is what happens when you give people a chance to act without rl consequences. You see the best and worst of human nature. Its the ultimate expression of the mob. The mob is a forgotten aspect of today’s individualistic society, the invention of ways for a small number of people to commit violence against a large group of people has changed us. The mob lost its power to gunpowder and bombs, but has found it again in the network. Its that feeling of “they can’t stop all of us” which has disappeared in the days of police arresting people by the thousands. But here on the network the mob has taken new form, the swarm, the hivemind, Anonymous. The mob no longer calls for chaos in the streets, it calls for thruth on the internet

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Wooosh! Any collection of people with a common goal (even if the goals are lulz) are a group. Even as a seemingly random mix of people, there is still structure, there are still leaders, followers, top people and ass licking syncopates, and so on. You don’t have to have a membership card or a secret handshake to define a group, socially we do it naturally.

Even in your own post, you end up saying “he mob no longer calls for chaos in the streets, it calls for thruth on the internet” – you are stating the obvious that the mob isn’t really a mob, it’s a group.

The LOIC attacks on Mastercard and others really ended up showing the true nature of “anonymous”, that it is in fact a fairly organized and structured group, with leaders who chose a target and led their people against them (and let them underlings take the legal heat).

They are also pretty much unsuccessful, see the current state of Wikileaks. Quite simply, all the whining in the world can’t change the reality that if you want to play in the real world (and get money to pay for your play), you need to work within the societal norms or you will get cut out. A harsh lesson for the children of 4chan (and they are children, the demographic runs almost entirely in the 12-25 range), but they need to learn that the real world works on reality, no idealism or self-supporting bullshit.

Anonymous Coward says:

Our Freedom Fighters are your Terrorists, and our terrorists are your freedom fighters

If you buy into the whole ‘us against them’ mantra then you are already too far gone and will never understand, so there is no point in trying to explain.

Anonymous gets it, when citizens speaking out against their government become the ‘terrorists’ of the day (and they will in the US, just wait for it, it’s already happening in other countries), then the only way to publicly criticize those in power is by being anonymous.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Our Freedom Fighters are your Terrorists, and our terrorists are your freedom fighters

But here on TD, if you’re anonymous, you’re a coward.

It’s funny how Masnick has never picked up on this blatant hypocrisy; something that every person notices the first time they come here.

A blind spot that has most certainly become an achilles heel.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Our Freedom Fighters are your Terrorists, and our terrorists are your freedom fighters

Awww did you not know you can type in any old name and not be an AC any more?

Don’t even have to register to gain the benefit, thou others might assume your new mantle raising you to new heights.

An anonymous post is an entry on a bulletin board system, Internet forum or message board, blog, or other discussion forum without a screen name or more commonly by using a non-identifiable pseudonym. Some online forums do not allow such posts, requiring users to be registered. Some may allow anonymous posts, but discourage those known as “anonymous cowards” (a term coined by Slashdot). Others like JuicyCampus, AutoAdmit, 2channel and other Futaba-based image boards (such as 4chan) thrive on the anonymity. Users of 4chan, in particular, interact in an anonymous and ephemeral environment that facilitates high creativity and rapid generation of new memes.


Blame /.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Well the downside to your point, and I like your point very much – it is elegant, is right now We the People stands only for We the “Corporate Construct People”.

When things are so one sided and the people feel they have no voice, sometimes it takes a single voice to rally people towards speaking up and taking action.

No one can name everyone involved in the birth of the US, because many of them were everyday people who were tired of what was happening to them and heard a voice saying we can make a change. We know the leaders and the mythology that surrounds them, but not the average person. Sometimes it is better to not have a leader for people to focus on, because the message is so much more important than the person who said it first.

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