“Remember, remember the fifth of November,” read nearly every post on my Facebook feed on November fifth. As millions celebrated Guy Fawkes Day on social media, the internet hacktivist group Anonymous took to the streets in their fourth annual Million Mask March.
The group, which uses the Guy Fawkes mask as its symbol, gathered in over 600 cities around the world. Protestors carried signs and shouted chants about an incoherent hodgepodge of issues. They called for an end to corruption, police brutality, and “capitalism”—whatever they understand that to mean.
The largest protest took place in London, where the protestors gathered in Trafalgar Square. The crowd was initially contained within the square, the pre-approved area for the protest, but protestors quickly began to pusbut protestors quickly began to push outward. Upwards of 2,000 London police officers attempted to keep the crowd under control, remembering the outbreaks of violence during the 2014 march.
Protestors launched fireworks at mounted police officers, wounding four officers and six police horses. When one protestor, 20-year-old Daisy Greenaway, asked her fellow protestors to not harm the animals, her requests were met with indignation as the individuals claimed that horses could not feel.
Protestors lit a police car on fire, posing to take pictures with it as it was in flames. Many physically assaulted police officers. Fifty people were arrested before the end of the night.
Washington, D.C. saw another particularly aggressive crowd, where protestors shattered the doors at the Environmental Protection Agency.
What, after all this violence, had been the point? Was there one? So many groups were there to represent their own interests that it was impossible to define a single goal.
Anonymous has struggled to articulate its purpose since its founding. Originally founded to carry out pranks, the group quickly diverged onto path of internet hacktivism, chasing a nebulous and perverted sense of “justice” rather than a set goal.
Anonymous lacks a distinctive structure, and has no leaders to direct its actions. It has split into factions that often work in complete opposition to one another. One encounters everything from socialists to libertarians to anarchists, those who oppose police and those who support a police state. While in general the group has a propensity for anarchy, as is demonstrated by its lack of leadership and structure, the group encompasses a wide variety of ideologies.
This lack of clear message poses a problem for those involved. It is impossible to know what the group stands for. Beyond the lack of message, the group often resorts to problematic methods for conducting attacks and bringing judgement. While they claim that they want to fight back at austerity and harsh policing, their actions are their own way of policing the world.
Those who do not conform to their shifting and self-contradictory ideologies are exposed and shamed. Those who do not comply with their desires are shut down.
Anonymous claims, when convenient, to be anti-authority, yet they use the same tactics as authoritarian governments. And then they hide their faces, afraid to accept responsibility for what they do.
Some of the groups they have targeted, North Korea for example, completely deserve the punishment they received from anonymous. But with their lack of a coherent objective, as the Million Mask March showed, it’s hard to know who will draw their ire next.
With Anonymous, it is important to remember what they have set out to get since the beginning, and what can only summarize much of what they have sought after since: their own whims and wishes—“lulz.”