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.

Filed Under: anonymous, culture, history, lulz


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Nov 2011 @ 8:49am

    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.

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