I read Parmy Olsen’s ‘We Are Anonymous’ over the weekend. It is the story of the infamous hacker collective that brought down the Church of Scientology, Pay Pal, Master Card, Visa, Sony, the FBI and CIA among their numerous conquests. It’s a fascinating read about a group based on a contradiction: A few very talented, capable, creative people performed truly heinous acts because they thought their lives were pointless. This nihilistic perspective drove them until they were caught.
The participants were young. The oldest was 28, the youngest 16. Uniformly, they were the socially awkward. They were bullied and marginalized for most of their lives. Most left the education system in middle school because they were bored or mistreated. All of them lived with parents or relatives, reeking havoc on some of the largest organizations in the world from their bedrooms.
Anonymous was more of accident than a movement. The book details how the hacker collective transitioned from a chaotic, leaderless group looking for lulz (fun at other people’s expense) to very small team that stole the private information of millions of people only to give it away to secure fame and respect from the hacking community. Without recounting the book, because it’s worth reading to understand hacker culture and the underworld of the internet, I was struck by several points: