The Internet and IRL (In Real Life) -- have the lines blurred?

In the last couple of weeks, we have seen a gauntlet thrown down. #4chan group "Anonymous" has published a definitive attack on what is known as the Church of Scientology.

In the last couple of weeks, we have seen a gauntlet thrown down. #4chan group “Anonymous” has published a definitive attack on what is known as the Church of Scientology.

I’ll start here- What Scientology is or isn’t is not the point of this. A new way of bringing dissension to the table, is.

This may be one of the few stories on the IT News blog that is simply a condensation of everything I have been able to learn. Citations will follow.

Why is it newsworthy? Because I think that the group Anonymous has taken a few good lessons recently and learned how to take a protest to the people who may care. The people who may be vulnerable. And possibly demonstrate to business why the approach they have taken may have some merit.

The concept of “Anonymous” is simple. The collective “we” are literally Anonymous. Any person can be “we”. A supporter, a curious person, a committed individual. They’re all “we.” And the impact of the “viral” element is that someone that the originator doesn’t know may take up the banner and become part of “we.” Possibly even an intrinsic part.

Near as I can discover, the group that calls itself Anonymous began in the IRC space and defined worlds based in l33t. Their communication was nearly indecipherable if you didn’t misspell on their terms. The “attacks" that they made at the time were limited to the chan world. If you didn’t chan, you didn’t know or care.

Recently, a video of Tom Cruise came up on YouTube. It was 9.5 minutes of pure insanity that left me wondering if the 5150 law in California had been revoked or how this guy escaped it. Shortly after it hit the Netsphere, it was gone. The Church of Scientology called it a copyright infringement and invoked DMCA. YouTube called it a day. The video is still out there, but it gets difficult to find a site that still is willing to fight the CoS and publish. (hint… try

The thing that gives this any importance is that any business can be targeted, and potentially harmed, if this group gets their way. That is a bit scary when you consider the level of organization this group of “kids” has managed to reach in a very short time.

The other side of that coin is that Scientology has had a kick or two coming for some time and it is difficult for people who have been harmed by this cult to see what the problem is. There are many who have been waiting-- even for a long time -- for someone to please recognize that Scientology as a cult should be brought to task.

I have followed this like one might follow a bit of horrifying news -- avid interest combined with the sense that I am about to witness a train wreck. In some opinions, I am simply seeing a bunch of children in action, in others, we’re looking at a revolution.

As I see it, the paradigm may have shifted again. We clearly can see that determined people can reach a large audience quickly. We can also see that, while the initial message may not be refined, the final message may be. What I have learned in all this is that I do not want to tick these people off and that, to some extent, I hope they are successful. What I hope that everyone sees is that this approach signifies something new. Business may well ask itself, “How clean is my house?” The consequence of a bad answer could easily be targeted disruption.

This is not a discussion about Scientology, but most of the citations that I can gather about the issue are not complimentary of Scientology. I guess when you set out to destroy a group, regardless of how richly they deserve it, you just don’t say nice things. Regardless, I will avoid the famed wrath of the group by not citing them.

The Message to Scientology from Anonymous. (You Tube)

Web Vigilantes Attack Scientology Website (Times Online)

Hackers Hit Scientology with Online Attack (ABC News)

Anonymous plans to take their protest out of the Net and into the real world on Feb 10. They have organized a world wide peaceful protest against Scientology. They may well be successful.

Anonymous Plans to Protest Church of Scientology on 2/10 (Thought Blender)

And many, many more. Google it. The hits are astonishing.

In the past week, I have read literally thousands of pages. The thing that stands out to me is the maturity levels that have been reached. What started out as looking like a bunch of kids reacting against a specific group has become a real protest against that group. What started as an illegal action has become peaceful protest. These kids have garnered the attention of people who have been protesting Scientology for many years at great personal cost. This is the real result of the old “Telegraph” game where we tell two friends, and they tell two friends, and so on.

Businesses should be looking at what people acting independently can accomplish, and they need to consider how easy it is to be targeted by a watchdog group.

Do you think that Anonymous is acting totally outside the law, or are they simply employing technology in a manner that serves their purpose? If this is successful, what could be next?


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