5th November went by, as I predicted, without much fuss. We paid our GSTs, jostled for space in the MRT, met our deadlines. We scrolled our smartphones for news and were mildly amused by the sporadic net hacks by Anonymous. We tweet sardonic responses – whether in support or annoyance, and we went back to our lives.
This was pretty much what I expected, because I don’t believe think anyone – even those in support of their cause – believed Anonymous to be the revolutionary leaders they were looking for. And why was that? Because there is a difference between what you are fighting for, and how you are fighting for it.
Anonymous’ fundamental mistake lies in their organizational action. Given that they aren’t even a coherent organization to begin with makes this inevitable. They burst into the scene with arguable impact, but the follow up revealed a poorly planned (if at all) course of action.
My greatest problem with them:
Their execution mirrored exactly what they were against.
Their trivial attacks began with the whole ‘Straits Times distorts message’ issue, with a journalist singled out and threatened. The aggression, I felt, was uncalled for. But their intention for attack was somewhat justifiable. They were after all fighting for reporting that does not furthered the government’s agenda (I won’t label this as objective journalism cause I don’t think complete objectivity is possible).
Personally though, I feel that an attack on the Singapore government is an attack on Singapore. It was merely semantics they were playing with. They were posturing the government as distinct and even oppositional to the country at large, when this is not the case. Even if there exists discontentment towards the government, they are what currently holds our infrastructure together.
More concretely, we take the threat they made to cost the government financial loss by “aggressive cyber invasion”. If you’ve had any 101 on Econs, a loss to the government directly impacts us. In fact, any form of attack on the government becomes an attack on us because state and sovereign are inextricably linked. Then again, for a citizen who already views him/herself as wholly at odds with the government, this might not be the case. So alright, I’ll give it to Anonymous that the attack could be justified.
But that aside, I have serious issues with the attack on Ridhwan Azman.
Of course, because Anonymous is a disparate (?)organization(?)/group, this might not be representative of the Messiah/group as an entity.
Of course, their petty choice of attack may also be due to technical constraints or incapability to infiltrate into wider, more important networks.
Of course, Azman appears to be an ignorant wife-beater, which is Not Okay anywhere, anytime.
But that doesn’t mean what Anonymous did was right.
The justifications they gave was that Azman has been “dissing the legion” and claimed that they were a joke. Regardless of the veracity of his statements, Azman is entitled to his own opinion. How is Anonymous taking offense to negative remarks against it ANY DIFFERENT AT ALL from the government taking offense to a citizens’ dissent?
Some may argue that they were not attacking Azman in particular, but symbolically reminding all that they are serious – that they have the ability to put those against them in place, that they are not to be messed with. Does that not sound UNCOMFORTABLY familiar?
Regulation in our country operates largely on an automatic basis. We internalize a fear of prosecution – generated from the few instances where explicit legal action has actually been taken – and self-censor. How many of us even know what exactly constitutes as illegal content? We just tread carefully around imagined OB markers.
My point is, Anonymous clamping down on dissent against them serves this very purpose. With an example of someone ‘dissing’ Anonymous being hacked, do we not become more cautious when criticizing Anonymous online? Relative to legal prosecution, where the justice system still provides (to some extent, no matter what many argue) protection for non-malicious statements based on some truth, there is no way to prevent persecution by the Anonymous, or predict the way they persecute you. It can go beyond hacking your social media accounts to infiltration of confidential or financial data.
The fear is there. Anonymous attempted to replace the regulatory framework installed by the PAP with their own, equally restrictive one. What Anonymous did was to posture themselves as an opposite camp, as powerful as the regime, and force us to choose sides.
Personally, they appear as patronizing as the government.
A main complaint against the government is that they suffer from self-righteousness, thinking they know what’s ‘best for us’, and implementing regulations accordingly. Anonymous, by independently formulating their political agenda before calling for support (and threatening persecution of those who challenge them), reflect the exact paternalistic attitude they swear to loathe. What makes them think that all of us are ready to trade complete freedom of speech for financial stability? Perhaps many of us do, of course, but it shouldn’t be pre-assumed.
There is nothing revolutionary about them, they are just fighting lightning with lightning.
Why they seem ‘revolutionary’ to some is because they are new, and positioned themselves against a recognized antagonist. But with closer examination, their framework eerily parallels the regimes’. Okay firstly I need to qualify that I don’t think either party is evil or malicious. In fact, both have good intentions. What I’m trying to say is, what goes against what you go against does not always = you support. It’s not as formulaic as that.
I’m not saying that the government is perfect, or that such opposition isn’t needed. There are problematic issues with regulation that definitely needs reforming. Mainly, the vague regulatory markers we operate within severely restricts the political space citizens dare venture into. Also, there’s a lack of trust given to citizens. Yes – idiots are aplenty, so explicit rules against what should intuitively not be said (e.g. racial slurs) are spelt out. But we need to be given credit for being a lot more self-aware than we are thought to be. Even if we aren’t, we need to make those mistakes to learn for ourselves.
Another issue lies in ourselves. A good majority of us appear politically apathetic. The ‘battle’ between Anonymous and the government was a source of entertainment, and rather frivolous remarks were made about them, few politically relevant. Admittedly, I do quite enjoy those comments: “Eh hack into uni account and help my bell curve leh”, etc. But it reflects the state of political (un-)interest within citizens.
Interest aside, there is also the issue of knowledge. We need better contextual knowledge politically, and to consolidate our stances according to what we know. Chances are you may be a huge supporter of Anonymous without considering their methods, what exactly are the legislations they fight against, or what you desire for a political outcome. Choosing stances with only vague political ideas yourself isn’t a crime, but ideally we should have a good think-through before we choose either sides or none at all.
Life is nuanced. Politics is life multiplied by the # of people involved, which makes it a complicated little weasel. Anonymous’ motivations were understandable, maybe even noble. But for real – and positive – change to take place, we need more than a single leader herding us in his/her desired direction. We need a generation shaped by individuals who know enough, who know what they want, and who know how to do it without trampling on the principles that underlie their motivations.