AOC and others have shared frightening first-hand details from the attempted coup on January 6th, 2021.
Update 2/2/2021: On Monday night, Representative Ocasio-Cortez once again took to Instagram Live to share her experience of the attack on the Capitol building in more detail.
She talked about the frightening moment when an unknown man made his way into her office shouting, "Where is she?" as she hid behind a bathroom door believing that he was likely there to kill her — "this was the moment where I thought everything was over,"
Even the realization that this man was a Capitol police officer didn't feel like a guarantee that he was looking out for her safety — an uncertainty which friendly interactions between police and attackers would later justify. She described sheltering in Representative Katie Porter's office as they received reports of bombs being found and made contingency plans for escaping out a window or into a safer office.
The intensity and detail of her account are striking, as is her decision to share a personal context for how she processes the experience, relating that she is "a survivor of sexual assault," and noting that "when we go through trauma, trauma compounds on each other."
But perhaps the most important moment of the stream was her comparison of recent calls for us all to "move on" from the insurrection — often from those who stoked the misinformation that brought it on — to "the tactics of abusers," saying, "this is at a point where it's not about the difference of political opinion. This is about just basic humanity."
On Tuesday night, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York's 14th congressional district took to Instagram Live to share her experience of last week's frightening events at Capitol Hill.
Ocasio-Cortez has made a point of making herself accessible to the public, sharing her cooking, her gaming, and even her struggle to find affordable housing through social media. It's a practice that has contributed to the adoration of her fans as well as the vitriol of her detractors. But she has never shared anything quite as personal and affecting as her experience of the attempted coup on January 6th.
The attempted coup that took place at the Capitol building on Wednesday was equal parts terrifying and hilarious.
In times of crisis and chaos, it's important to keep a clear head and stay on top of the facts.
It's important to acknowledge that this was an unprecedented breach of security that could easily have been avoided and that it resulted in the deaths of at least four people.
But once you've processed the horror that entails, it's equally important to allow yourself a break from the tension and anxiety. Now and then it's essential to look at things from a different angle and just laugh at the absurdity.
Wednesday's attack on Capitol Hill was a great reminder of that lesson. Amid images of fascists and white supremacists taking over the Capitol building to disrupt the functioning of the federal government, chase legislators into hiding, and delay the confirmation of Joe Biden's clear victory over Donald Trump — waving the confederate flag, smashing things, stealing things, and generally getting away with it — there was also an abundance of clownish, hilarious behavior.
Some of the absurdity involved people being intentionally funny, while some of it displayed a raw, natural talent for being obliviously laughable. But all of it provided potent relief from the sense of American democracy falling to a movement of delusional bigots led by a petty conman (though that's still a disturbing possibility).
So as we move forward and focus on action to ameliorate the risk of further violence — anti-coup protests, impeachment, the 25th amendment — it's worth looking back at some of the highlights of absurdity that sprouted from Wednesday's waking nightmare.
At any rate, with all this absurdity, you have to laugh...or cry...or both, simultaneously while huddled in your closet.
8chan founder Fredrick Brennan believes his former business partner, Jim Watkins, is behind the dangerous conspiracy theory.
Update 1/22/2021: Following the inauguration of Joe Biden on January 20th, many believers in QAnon lore have begun to question some of their convictions.
Many saw the inauguration as a final deadline for "The Storm" and the mass arrests they expected to publicly expose the cabal of deep-state Satanists. And both Jim and Ron Watkins have issued statements seeming to indicate the end of the Q era.
Ron Watkins urging his followers on Telegram to "remember the friends and happy memories we made together," and to "respect the constitution," while his father Jim Watkins posted on the reactionary micro-blogging platform Gab about the "historical value" of the Q movement and the fact that "the culture of our country changed because of it."
That much is certainly true. And in the wake of the Capitol Hill insurrection on January 6th — which saw one of Q follower shot dead, another leaving Mike Pence n ominous note, and numerous others arrested — the apparent change of heart may be inspired by concern that these cultural changes will invite unwelcome scrutiny.
Still, there is little doubt that some Q followers — as flexible as the acolytes of any other cult — will find ways to adapt their beliefs to the post-Trump era. Some are already beginning the process. Even if Q never reappears, the disturbed and unhinged worldview of Q followers is likely to remain culturally relevant for years to come.
There is a growing belief system in the US that is beginning to spread around the world.
Tied to a mystical struggle between ancient forces of good and evil that are secretly operating beneath the surface of our society, adherents believe they have been given the key to understanding the world.
QAnon Conspiracy Theory Lands On European Shores | Morning Joe | MSNBC www.youtube.com
They believe that their mysterious prophet has awakened them to a reality that you and I will soon be forced to face: that global elites from Washington DC to Hollywood are part of a Satanic (possibly Jewish) cabal of murderous, cannibalistic pedophiles who torture children in order to harvest their adrenaline-rich blood and oxidize it into the addictive drug adrenocrhome.
They believe that our civilization must be torn down to the foundations in order to be rebuilt—or perhaps just to bring on the apocalypse. And, as it turns out, the only politician heroically selfless enough to bring the whole system crashing down is the alleged peeping tom of Miss Teen USA and well-wisher of Ghislane Maxwell, President Donald J. Trump.
The billionaire accused of sexually predatory behavior by dozens of women—who is on tape saying he can grab women "by the pu**y," who used to hang out with "terrific guy" Jeffrey Epstein and joke about the financier's preference for women "on the younger side," who is refusing to provide DNA in the case of a woman accusing him of rape—that same man is secretly a crusader against elite sexual predators.
Who Believes in QAnon?
With Q believers likely in the millions—with that figure growing rapidly around the world—QAnon has a sticky capacity to pick up aspects of other belief systems in order to appeal to as broad a spectrum of credulous people as possible.
From Evangelical Christians to New-Age yogis, basically anyone liable to distrust vaccines in favor of either prayer or organic vegetables is likely susceptible to Q's message of mainstream evil and corruption.
The QAnon belief system fits neatly with the ideas about masks making people sick, 5G making people sick, or fear making people sick. Anything other than an infectious respiratory virus can be blamed for making people sick, and not nearly as many people are dying as They want you to think—They are just trying to control us for their mysterious evil purposes.
Back in April—when there was briefly a consensus on taking COVID-19 seriously—it actually seemed possible that people were going to abandon their weird conspiracy theories to focus on forming a united front to address a very real and frightening crisis. Surely people would find the reality of a deadly global pandemic much more compelling than fantasies about Hillary Clinton engaging in elaborate ritual murders. In hindsight, that was absurdly wishful thinking.
As it turned out, that April consensus would soon be undermined by Donald Trump and his ilk spouting off mixed messages, conspiracy theories, and anti-mask rhetoric. And under various states of lockdown and unemployment, increasingly disconnected, bored, and desperate people turned to weirder, darker corners of the internet for answers.
Despite (or perhaps inspired by) social media companies taking measures to purge this brand of conspiratorial misinformation, membership to QAnon groups has exploded. By some measures, it may be up to seven times what it was in March.
What makes the message particularly infectious is the way it's delivered. Originally posted on the /pol/ section of imageboard 4chan in mid-2017—amid a slew of similar anonymous posts from supposed political insiders —the cryptic "drops" delivered by a nameless informant claiming to have "Q clearance" (high-level access to classified government information) lend the whole thing a dire sense of secrecy.
As an added feature, the uncertain meaning and broken grammar of the posts allow individual followers to decode them communally—following the slogan "Where We Go One We Go All" (WWG1WGA), playing detective, and drawing conclusions that align with their personal assumptions about the world.
And if some of those conclusions—about Robert Mueller working with Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton being executed in secret, or JFK Jr. faking his death to live as a man named Vincent Fusca—turn out to be wrong, that's only one refutation of a particular interpretation. No amount of evidence can touch the infallible source itself.
Unlike Pizzagate, which came before it, there is no Comet Pizza for a delusional gunman to invade—looking for kidnapped children. In that instance, when he discovered that there were no abducted children locked in the basement—because there was no basement at all—he and others were forced to acknowledge that they had some fundamental details wrong.
But when it comes to the cryptic ambiguity of QAnon, followers find evidence of the worldwide pedophile conspiracy all around them.
You might think that in a world where actual elite sexual predators like Harvey Weinstein and Jeffrey Epstein were able to operate in the semi-open for years—using their power and influence to shield them from consequences—that there would be no need to construct elaborate fantasies.
Surely, with all their public connections to prominent cultural and political figures—some portion of whom were active participants in predatory behavior—QAnon adherents could simply extrapolate those relationships into the web of the secret pedophile network. While they certainly do that, even using phony, sloppily-made flight logs to Epstein's private island to implicate a then-teenaged Chrissy Teigen…that's not enough.
No, true devotion to Q means seeing evidence of Satanist activity everywhere. Let's say you're shopping for furniture online and stumble across an overpriced item with an odd name. Do you think, "That's weird, seems like a mistake?" No, you immediately start Googling the name to find a missing child with the same name. Boom, Wayfair child trafficking conspiracy revealed.
There's something undeniably noble about the role these people have assigned themselves in the imaginary reality they live in. They cut themselves off from friends and family, from church leaders and anyone else trying to convince them that they aren't living in a dystopian detective novel as part of the underground resistance. They give up everything to fight the deep state pedophiles.
Their altruistic convictions, coupled with their incredibly skewed worldview, can unfortunately lead to some very dark places. In addition to nearly chasing Chrissy Teigen off Twitter with a dedicated harassment campaign, nd inspiring a handful of violent incidents, QAnon has disrupted real, valuable activism.
In July, Q believers co-opted the #SaveTheChildren hashtag and organized rallies that lured in a lot of well meaning people with no idea about the conspiracy theory behind it. All that energy might have actually been useful if directed toward increasing awareness of the realities of child trafficking—and perhaps promoting some legislation to help fight it.
But the QAnon cult isn't interested in any of that. The only part of the government you can trust is the Trump administration, and anyone who tells you that child trafficking is not primarily the work of an elite Satanic cabal is probably working for the elite Satanic cabal—if Tom Hanks is one of the bad guys, anyone can be.
So how do you fight the spread of misinformation that is so resistant to refutation and authority—with a community that fiercely reinforces it? Maybe you can't.
Maybe QAnon is destined to become the full-blown cult that it is quickly trending toward—luring in confused and directionless people to trade their money and their real-world relationships for a sense of purpose and an online community of fellow believers. And maybe that cult will react very badly—violently—to a "deep state" victory in the form of Donald Trump losing reelection in November.
But if we want to avoid that outcome, perhaps the best chance we have is to expose the identity of Q.
Unlike many cults—which rely on the charismatic appeal of the leader—QAnon works because of the leader's anonymity. It allows followers to imagine Q as a perfect embodiment of their ideals, working deep inside the structures of government power.
In this framing, Q must conceal their identity and communicate through coded messages in order to continue operating in the upper echelons of the American government. If Q instead turned out to be a pig-farming smut peddler living in the Philippines…that might change things.
As it turns out, the founder of 8chan (since rebranded as 8kun)—where Q has posted those coded messages since abandoning 4chan in November of 2017—has been claiming to know the identity of Q for some time now. According to him, Q is in fact a pig farming smut peddler living in the Philippines—and also the current owner and operator of 8kun…
In 2014, 8chan's founder, Fredrick Brennan, first partnered with a man named Jim Watkins, who had recently acquired the domain for Japan's most popular message board 2channel—through questionable methods.
Brennan had founded 8chan at the age of 19 to operate as a version of the troll-haven imageboard 4chan, but without moderators to interfere with "free speech" (i.e. hate speech and worse). After partnering with Watkins—then around 50—Brennan moved to the Philippines to work with him more closely.
Pictured: Fredrick Brennan (left) and Jim Watkins (right)
At the time, Brennan was a vocal proponent of the misogynist "Gamergate" movement, and while he still holds onto some of the ideas of that movement, it's clear that he has matured a great deal and abandoned notions of free speech absolutism. In tweets he has disavowed much of the toxic behavior associated with gamergate and claims to have "moved on."
No doubt seeing the community he'd created become a haven for neo-Nazis, pedophiles, and mass shooters played a part in his growth. He resigned as the head of 8chan in 2016, selling the company to Jim Watkins. In 2018 he severed ties with Watkins and 8chan entirely and in 2019—following a string of mass-shooters posting their manifestos on 8chan—began actively calling for the site to be shut down, accusing Watkins of being "senile."
That was enough for Watkins to have Brennan charged with cyberlibel under the Philippine Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012. Facing possible prison time—likely a death sentence for Brennan, who suffers from a genetic condition commonly known as brittle bone disease—Fredrick Brennan fled the Philippines back to the US earlier this year.
So perhaps he has a bit of a vendetta against Jim Watkins—who has denied being or having any close connection to Q. Nonetheless, the case Brennan makes is compelling, and Watkin's biography makes him sound like exactly the kind of person who would pretend to be a secret government informant in order to manufacture a conspiracy and prop up the presidency of Donald Trump.
Who Is Jim Watkins?
A helicopter mechanic and recruiter for the U.S. Army at the time, Watkins got his computer training through the military, but he left the service during the dot-com boom to fully invest himself in "Asian Bikini Bar" and the related ventures of his company, N.T. Technology.
Since then Watkins has moved to the Philippines, got married, started a pig farm, founded a conspiratorial right-wing news outlet called The Goldwater (that also fetishized Asian women), hijacked the domain of 2channel, and took over 8chan—which has since been under scrutiny by the Philippines' National Bureau of Investigation for allegedly enabling the distribution of child-abuse materials.
Why would a government informant working to expose a global pedophile ring choose to operate on a website that has itself been labeled as a pedophile ring?
Is it the only place on the Internet where a secretive Government insider can be certain that coded messages won't be traced or altered? Or is Jim Watkins—who labels any criticism of his site as "a smear by the press"—driving traffic to his platform and using it to throw some smears back at the mainstream media? After all, how can the mainstream media judge 8chan's content if they are implicated in the Satanic pedophile cabal?
Evidence of Watkins' Connections to Q
This is not to say that Watkins invented QAnon. There are other likely suspects for that. But, perhaps, around the time that QAnon announced that 4chan had been "infiltrated" and switched to posting on 8chan in late 2017, Watkins may have taken over the role—which would explain how Q developed an interest in yoga and fountain pens...
@DylanReeve He can post as Q at any time. 8chan now entirely relies on Q traffic, as I've shown, all other users h… https://t.co/iZy6JAUGg9— Fredrick Brennan (@Fredrick Brennan)1598416563.0
At this point, QAnon is responsible for most of the traffic to the rebranded 8kun, and Watkins has not only promoted and defended the conspiracy theory and its merchandise through various venues, he even started a super PAC called Disarm the Deep State, with a stated mission to "mobilize a community of patriots in order to remove power from Deep State members."
The PAC has bought ads for QAnon-friendly candidates—with more than one QAnon adherent likely to enter congress next year. And a number of those ads happen to be running on 8kun…
Watkins being at the helm of the movement would also explain some of QAnon's antisemitic underpinnings and obsession with propping up a fascist leader, as Watkins previously used his news site The Goldwater to spread messages such as, "The third reich of germany corrected a crashing economy, and was brilliant in transforming Germany from a broken nation to a superpower in a rapid, methodical way."
Perhaps Watkins noticed that Donald Trump's brand of fascism (though replete with the usual trappings of nationalism, violent authoritarianism, xenophobia, aggreivement, false nostalgia, and militarism) lacked the structure of conspiratorial occultism that served the Nazi party so well. Maybe he felt he could provide that added structure from the sidelines.
But probably the most damning evidence that Watkins is, if not himself posting as Q, at least closely tied to whoever is, is the fact that 8kun and the most popular source for verifying and aggregating Q's posts both use the same IP address through an obscure Internet security service known as VanwaTech—a service which Fredrick Brennan claims was developed specifically to serve Watkins and 8kun.
A theory going around is that Vanwatech (@LimTheNick) is not an independent company, but is in fact itself owned by… https://t.co/fhGj33JIcM— Fredrick Brennan (@Fredrick Brennan)1571306600.0
If, as this seems to indicate, Watkins operates both 8kun and QMap.pub, Brennan argues that there is nothing to stop Jim—or perhaps his son Ronald Watkins—from posting as Q and faking the "tripcode" verification system.
We may never find out if this is true, and even if we do, it's likely that many QAnon adherents would never believe it—following the mantra of "do your own research" in order to confirm their biases, rather than listening to any legitimate sources of information.
But maybe, if we can spread this information about Watkins to enough prospective targets, we can prevent more people from falling prey to QAnon's cultic conspiracy movement. Maybe we can prevent more families from losing their loved ones to paranoia and delusion. Maybe we can prevent American Fascism from reaching its full, terrifying potential.
President Donald Trump—whose every move is already interpreted by QAnon followers as being secret messages directed toward them—was asked about QAnon at a recent press conference, and stated: "I don't know much about the movement other than I understand they like me very much, which I appreciate."
When the reporter followed up, noting that the movement believes him to be "secretly saving the world from this satanic cult of pedophiles and cannibals," he seemed to embrace the idea without much concern for its absurdity, saying, "Well, I haven't heard that, but is that supposed to be a bad thing or a good thing? ... If I can help save the world from problems, I'm willing to do it."
The Wildest Online Conspiracy Theories About the Coronavirus And Why Everyone Is Talking About Bill Gates
Just don't listen to anything qAnon says.
If there's anything that's spreading faster than COVID-19 is spreading across the globe, it's rumors and misinformation about the virus.
You may have heard any number of things about the new coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China by now, but odds are that only a fraction of that information is actually accurate. Here are the craziest, falsest, and just plain funniest coronavirus conspiracy theories.
Ideas are indestructible, and Anonymous was always—first and foremost—an idea.
Once upon a time, the Internet was less a broken mirror of reality and more a diversion from it.
Maybe that's why prior to the era of identity monetization, blue check marks, and self-branding, anonymity was synonymous with power.
In the early 2000s, a group known as Anonymous sprung up across digital platforms, born out of a spirit of loose anarchism and disruption. "Anonymous" or "Anon" is an umbrella term, and like the Internet itself, the group was always slippery and amorphous.
Between 2003 and 2018, Anonymous's loosely interconnected network of digital hacktivists took on everything from Scientology to the Clintons to ISIS to Trump. At some point, they fractured, and it's unclear as to whether they still exist in any context, or if they ever really did. Was Anonymous an idea? A joke? A movement?
To try and answer these questions is a doomed enterprise from the start, because the group is (or was) so decentralized, so scattered, and so complex that it resists exact interpretation.
But perhaps Anonymous can also teach us something about our modern political moment—after all, the group was entwined with many of the major political forces of the past decade, from Occupy Wall Street to the Arab Spring to QAnon. Maybe it can teach us something about the art of modern rebellion, especially in a rapidly digitizing and artificial age when information is poised to become the most valuable currency of all.
Welcome to the netherworld of Anonymous, where everyone can be no one together.
Born of Trolls, Hackers Turn to Scientology
The hacktivist network known as "Anonymous" arose around 2003. Springing up on 4chan, the group began as a collective of tricksters harnessing the Internet to pull pranks and seed an ethos of trolling and general disarray.
Anonymous eventually gained global reach thanks to its appealing ethos of decentralized leadership and general anarchical spirit. With memetic virality, it spread thanks to broad, decentralized messaging techniques and an emphasis on both humor and justice.
Today, two images are usually associated with Anonymous. There's the Guy Fawkes mask from the 2006 film V for Vendetta, which follows one activist's quest to end a totalitarian fascist rule in England; and there's the "man without the head" image that symbolizes the group's commitment to decentralized, anti-authoritarian rule.
Early on, the group embarked on helter-skelter actions and pranks, with mixed results. The group targeted the white nationalist figure Hal Turner in 2006, eventually exposing him as an FBI informant, and Anonymous first began to dive into high-profile political activism through an effort called "Project Chanology," a coordinated protest against the Church of Scientology. After the Church removed a video of Tom Cruise because they believed it portrayed them negatively, Anonymous hackers started a campaign to take down Scientology once and for all. They posted a video called "Message to Scientology" and launched a crusade against the church, which included a coordinated attack on the organization's website.
And so a movement was born. Thousands of people showed up in real life to protests around the country. "It was a very bizarre scene," the former hacker Gregg Housh said of the protest he attended in Los Angeles. "Here is a church created by a science-fiction author, being protested by people wearing masks created by a science-fiction author." Reality was bending; the simulation was showing its cracks.
For the next decade, Anonymous would harness the Internet in unprecedented ways, fighting for justice and destruction, for irony and distraction, and for change that would reverberate all the way to the top.
WikiLeaks and the Arab Spring: Anonymous Gets Political
Anonymous quickly shifted focus towards censorship and free speech. They used DDoS (Distributed Denial of Services) attacks to shut down websites they viewed as threatening to freedom. In 2010, they emerged to protest a censorship bill in Australia; and later that year, they collaborated to defend WikiLeaks after Amazon kicked Julian Assange's operation off its servers and Visa, Mastercard, and PayPal stopped processing donations to the group. (Anonymous later separated itself from WikiLeaks, due to Assange's influence over the organization).
Around the same time, a segment of the group decided that they'd collectively become too serious. They needed more "lulz"—LOLs, laughs, the trolling ethos that originally inspired the group. So a group called Lulz Security (or LulzSec) was born. They hacked the CIA's website. The next month, the FBI arrested fourteen Anonymous hackers for the aforementioned earlier attacks on PayPal, and Anonymous began to rise on the US government's radar.
In 2011, when the Tunisian government blocked WikiLeaks, Anonymous launched a crusade to support protestors in the movement that would eventually spark the Arab Spring. One of the more infamous leaders of LulzSec, Hector Xavier Monseguer (or "Sabu")—who would later become an FBI informant—and others also allegedly helmed a DDoS attack on the Tunisian government's websites. Anonymous was also integral to the planning of 2011 Occupy Wall Street protests in New York, which were somewhat similar to the organization in that they lacked internal structure and clear leadership and set goals.
Soon, White House staff became concerned that the group could destabilize the US power grids. The group became known as cyber-terrorists and anarchists. Perhaps out of necessity, or because its major players were being taken out or growing up and leaving hacktivism behind, Anonymous fractured around 2015 and 2016, leaving behind conspiracies and a legacy of rupture and chaos.
Still, Anonymous's penchant for social action continued throughout the 2010s. In 2013, Operation Safe Winter fought to raise awareness about homelessness. In 2014, a group called "Operation Ferguson" organized cyberprotests against the police after the death of Michael Brown.
In 2015, Anonymous shifted its focus towards the Islamic State. #OpISIS was a response to the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris; despite being a largely uncoordinated effort, they still managed to make waves. "For more than a year, a ragtag collection of casual volunteers, seasoned coders, and professional trolls has waged an online war against the Islamic State and its virtual supporters," writes E. T. Brooking. But they never lost their irreverence.
"Taking away the free speech from a group that is advocating the end of free speech is delicious fun," a member wrote on a Reddit forum about the Hebdo operation.
"They rise up most forcefully when it comes to Internet freedoms and technology, particularly technology that is being abused in some way," says Brian Knappenberger, creator of the documentary We Are Legion. "They're sort of protectors of the Internet. This is their territory, and if it's abused, they're personally offended."
In the latter half of the 2010s, Anonymous waged war against pedophiles and the dark web. In 2018, they lashed out at QAnon, the pro-Trump conspiracy group that stole Anonymous's branding despite a complete lack of alignment with most of Anonymous's central ideologies.
Some members of Anonymous may have gone off to join QAnon; it's hard to know. Though different from Anonymous, QAnon shares some of Anonymous's hatred of the government—its "deep state" paranoia echoes Anonymous's fears of totalitarianism.
Today, QAnon members often show up at Trump campaign rallies, and though Anonymous and QAnon have very different ideas about what constitutes freedom and free speech, it's clear they both believe they're fighting for it.
In the wilderness of the Internet, especially when so many layers of irony interlace with each other and when trolls abound, it's easy for ideologies to twist out of form. It's easy for trolls to be mistaken as criminals, too—just as it's easy for trolls to become criminals. On the Internet, at least outside the realm of corporate influence and bribes, identity is as fluid and amorphous as you want it to be. Anonymous members can become Trump supporters who can become Bernie supporters who can become QAnon supporters who can become FBI informants who can then rejuvenate Anonymous.
If the Anonymous movement shows us anything, it's that identity and ideology are not set. They're as fluid as the shifting landscape of the World Wide Web, which might just be a reflection of the shifting tides of the human spirit.
Remembering Anonymous in 2020
If you Google Anonymous, you'll see the question "is anonymous good"? pop up on the search bar.
A short search will reveal that most self-proclaimed authorities on the subject believe that Anonymous is neither good nor evil. Instead, it's a diverse group made up of people from all around the world, bound together by a shared symbol rather than a structure or hierarchy.
Because Anonymous never had a set ideology or leader, there's no one precise way to remember them. There's no way to know what's real, or if Anonymous was ever the super-group that the media made it out to be. Most likely, it was more of an idea than anything else, though it may still exist in pockets. There's also no way to tell if the group has just gone further underground or if it truly has been dead for years.
According to Gabriella Coleman, Anonymous was always about freedom and elusiveness. "They dramatize the importance of anonymity and privacy in an era when both are rapidly eroding," she writes.
In terms of ethos, Coleman argues that Anonymous embodied an ancient trickster archetype, using old ideas about freedom, hedonism, and the randomness of the universe to cope with an increasingly unbearable modernity. "Nietzsche was attuned to the vitality of sensuality, myth, and art. Music, poetry, and even the mad laughter of the trickster Dionysus, who he championed, offer an aesthetic life of pleasure," she writes in her book Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The Many Faces of Anonymous. "They are pursuits through which humans can overcome their limits and the tragic condition of life: 'Not by wrath does one kill but by laughter. Come, let us kill the spirit of gravity!'"
Is Anonymous nothing more or less than an idea, which became a movement and an identity? Was it all just a story? Has the story ended, or has it fractured and bled into other movements and other corners of the Internet?
Someone in a Guy Fawkes mask is out there, laughing.
The Anonymous forum on Reddit is still alive and well. A month ago, one Redditor mused, "Is Anonymous just a legend to teach us that we do not need a name or an organization to use our power?" Could Anonymous have been a myth designed to reveal that 'All of us can anonymously exploit the options that we have (elections, commercial decisions, jobs we chose, freetime activities) to change the world together?'"
Recently, #AnonHasBeenDeadForYears trended on Twitter. Some agreed with the hashtag. Some warned the world that Anonymous has never been dead—instead, it's everywhere.
These are the kind of conversations that Anonymous inspires. Half-ironic, half-imbued with radical visions—zombified, always mutating—Anonymous (or whatever remains of it) persists.
Maybe it persists in part because it, ironically, offered a form of identity, of differentiation, of meaning crafted through collectivity born out of a crisis of meaning. Perhaps in anonymity, there is identity.
"On the street...I am just another person in a sea of faces," writes a (fittingly) anonymous blogger in Dazed, in a piece that may or may not be a parody or a fake—we'll never know. "But in cyberspace we are different. We helped free the people of Egypt. We helped fight against Israel as it attempted genocide. We exposed more than 50,000 paedophiles around the world. We fought the drug cartels. We have taken to the streets to fight for the rights you are letting slip through your fingers. We are Anonymous."