To paraphrase the lovely Pat Cadigan, reality is always weirder than fiction… because fiction is constrained by the need to appear plausible. Which is why, had someone tried to write a novel about an ad-hoc tribe of sociopaths united by membership of an internet bulletin board attempting to take down a notoriously weird young religion created by a fast-talking science fiction writer that numbers some of the biggest names in Hollywood among its ranks, they’d have probably been laughed out of the slush pile with a form rejection slip. [image by Sklathill]
But Chanology, the Anonymous crusade against Scientology, is a very true story, and one that’s still being told. Julian Dibbell has a good long-form piece in Wired all about it, and it’s a fascinating read… not to mention ideal source-material for writers of near-future speculative fiction. Dibbell highlights the real driving motive behind the fluid alliance of Anonymous, which is much less the desire to right wrongs than it is the desire to wind up a legendarily uptight organisation – a desire that focusses inward as well as outward, like an irascible hydra whose heads turn on one another as often as they strike at their enemies.
Dibbell also points out that while Anonynous may represent the arrival of “the kind of ad hoc, loosely coupled social activism that many have hoped the ad hoc, loosely coupled architecture of the Internet would engender,” it may also represent its apogee. Anonymous and Scientology are almost made for one another, so perfectly diametrically opposed at an ideological level that they can’t help but feed the flames of the conflict; potential future opponents may well learn from Scientology’s mistake, and avoid feeding the trolls.
What interests me most about Anonymous as an amorphous (id)entity, though, is the potential it has for temporal continuity independent of its current membership. It’s a banner that any rebellious or angry group could raise at any point in the future, because although its methods and aims are fundamentally individualistic, its public face is exactly the opposite. Like the Luddites and the saboteurs before them, all that’s needed to join the cause is an awareness of its existence… and of its power to enrage the forces of order. Even if Chanology fizzles out against the superior legal firepower of Scientology, I suspect we’ll not have heard the last of Anonymous.