Understanding Anonymous

Unless you're living under the 21st century equivalent of a rock, you've heard about the cyberactivism group known as "Anonymous."

Except: Anonymous isn't a group. It's an organization. It doesn't have a mission statement or a system of governance. It has no goals, no bylaws, no officers, and no club house. So what is it?

Even using a capitalized word to describe Anonymous is a misnomer. So instead of trying to characterize the concept as a "group" or a "movement", I am going to call it a phenomenon. In fact, I think it's a combination of two unbelievably powerful factors that have never been integrated before.

One the one hand, you have the notion of zeitgeist. From my handy dictionary:
zeitgiest - The defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time.
This is certainly a moment of civil unrest, and the people who are being characterized as part of this "movement" are those that feel the most disenfranchised. They see what they call injustice and want things to change.

Of course, a sensation that the world is unfair is nothing new. People have been complaining about being mistreated since complaining was invented. But today, something is different. And this time, I'm using my own definition:
social media -the appropriation of world-wide, near-instant communication propagated by individual relationships instead of traditional broadcasting.
This has always been happening, but modern technology makes it unfathomably more difficult to stop. Instead of complaining about a bad experience on a flight to your friends at the bar, you might make a viral video that garners over 10 million views.

What does the Guy Fawkes mask represent to you?
So what is Anonymous? It's people who are upset about the world being upside down and making a statement. In the same way that a dirty joke spreads through a college dormitory, particular trends such as Guy Fawkes masks and a tendency to speak in pronouncements spreads through the "community" of people who are angry.

If Anonymous is anything, it is a harbinger of the future. In the past, if you wanted to conspire to make something unfair in your favor, you only needed to convince the authorities to protect you. But today, cheaters don't just need to avoid the police. They must avoid everyone who might detect their true intentions.

Anonymous is simply democracy in it's purest form. It is rule by the people, not through election but through the wildfire of rumor.

If you're not interested in censorship or in oppression, you have nothing to fear from Anonymous.

But if you want to silence people or restrict their rights, you'll have to face the court of public opinion. And thanks to the Internet, that court and its bailiff number into the billions.

About the Author
Robby Slaughter (@robbyslaughter)

Robby Slaughter is a productivity expert and the author of Failure: The Secret to Success.