8 The Origins of Anonymous
The Origins of Anonymous
There exist three forms of anonymous. The first form represents the legions of internet users who visit anonymous imageboards and textboards such as 2ch, 2chan, 4chan, and similar internet sites in the Western World. The second form is a personification of the internet users, who represent no identifying race, skin color, or gender. Finally, there is the stand-alone complex, which is like an organization, but it has no true command structure or true standard operating procedure. Each one of these forms merit examination on an anthological level.
The first origin of Anonymous, the default username of people who choose not to use a username on the imageboards can be traced back to Ayashii World. The word is known by its Japanese characters as Nameless or nanashi. Its Japanese kanji characters are known as名無し.The kanji combination can be separated into individual characters:名- or‘na’ represents“name”, and無 – or“mu” represents naught.し-is merely a suffix, but when combined with mu and shi it combines into“without”. So literally the word Nameless can be known as “Without a name”. This tradition of the use of the “nanashi” as a default name continued throughout the textboards of Ayashii and other textboards until 2channel was established.
When 2channel was established, they adopted the tradition of using Nanashi as a default name for people who post anonymously. But as more boards were built by 2ch, more variations of the default name appeared. Some of the variations like from the Pokémon board (Nameless, I Choose You), the windows board (Nameless~3.exe), PC Games board (Nameless Ambition), and general railway’s board (The Nameless GO! Based on the title “Densha de GO!”). There are just many boards that have variations of the nameless default use. As a matter of fact, you can view a whole list of default names that are currently used in 2channel in Japanese at: http://logo.s3.xrea.com/\_nanasi.xhtm
There is one major exception to this rule: The VIP board. The VIP board (or by its proper full title NEWS4VIP), was originally for awful threads, banned posters, and spam threads that were on the site’s various boards that were removed by 2ch’s staff (Similar to The Something Awful Forums Comedy Gas Chamber). But actual people came to the boards and pretty much used it as a general chatroom. While you may think that NEWS4VIP may be for news by Very Important People, it has little to do with any with current and breaking news. There are a wide range of topics that are discussed in the board as there is something to talk about daily. Overtime they created their own culture, style of writing, and memes on top of 2channel’s culture. Eventually they even their own nickname as a default name known as VIPPERS.
The origin of the name VIPPER was not clear, but the name was adopted because “the name sounded good at the time”.
When 2chan was created, eventually there was a /b/ or several /b/ boards for 2-D (animated/anime topics) and 3-D (real world) content. And that /b/ at the time was spammed by a user named “Toshiaki” who was to 2chan a “lifeless spammer troll”. Eventually the people who regularly go to /b/ adopted the name. Eventually it was adopted as a default username on 2chan’s /b/.
Then a person named Christopher “moot” Poole created 4chan, translated “Nanashi” as “Anonymous”, and the rest is history. Well, until the idea of imageboards arrived in Russia in 2006. While channers there post anonymously, they often signed their posts and replies. Typical signatures include the name of the city they are from and the Japanese honorific "-kun". For example, someone from Omsk (the largest city in Siberia) might sign their posts "Omsk-kun". This practice allows users from the same city or region to exchange information. Especially due to the fact that the Russian media is controlled by the government and hopelessly biased, so imageboards in Russia are a good source of news for many people living in the country. (And yes, Image boards are well used in Russia.)
There are several boards that continue this tradition in different ways. Major examples include 7chan and iichan. Both are strongly associated with 4chan in two ways. The former was a refuge for 4channers when the site was having server problems in it's early history. The latter is being the home of "the real /b/" and preserving 4chan's meme based culture.
7chan’s /b/ usually takes a random username per month and on their /a/ board (which the board structure is entirely in Japanese text) the default name is Anonymous-san. iichan on the other hand has many different default usernames depending on the board you go to. People who go to the news board are known as junior field reporters. The random board has different usernames based on the British 1800s. The users of the video games board are known as “Wii, the people” as a play on the words “We the people” on the preamble of the US Constitution. Cosplayers who go to the cosplay board are known as “Anonymous Cosplay Connoisseur”. The Final Fantasy board users are known as “Random Encounters”.
Other imageboards that have little to do with 4chan, often play with the names that users can adopt. The General Told Discussion board (/told/) denizens are called Unbannable Macfags. In Pooshlmer’s Touhou board users are known as “nameless fairies”. And in OPERATORchan: people are known as “OPERATORS”, based on the OPERATOR in-joke on 4chan’s /k/. Because all users have the same name, these are just different ways of getting users to embrace anonymity.
Many 4channers do know about Anonymous, the infamous net character that is manifested in the real world as people with Guy Fawkes masks or occasionally as a silhouette of a person wearing a two piece suit with no head. But many do not know the origins of the net character itself. Not even modern /b/tards know the origins of this form of anonymous. But it’s still worth looking at to understand this important piece of *chan culture.
In order to understand this character we first have to define what a net character is. A net character is a personification of an item of character or a fictional person who is borne from the internet. When I mean born from the internet I mean, created from the internet. Good examples of Net Characters can be found on two sites: iichan’s Net Character’s board, and 4chan’s /nc/ board.
From the iichan’s /nc/ board (http://www.wakachan.org/os/wakaba.html) we can see various characters such as Vocaloids, personifications of foods, signs, Windows Operating systems, Hetalia, and ones based on video games such as Portal. The 420’s version of the net characters board (http://boards.420chan.org/nc/) feature western characters like from Homestuck, yurikki from the touhou project, yakui and tcc-chan (the personification of 420chan) The 2chan net character board (2chan net character board: http://dat.2chan.net/10/futaba.htm) is similar to iichan’s character board but there a few differences. There is a more focus on the nijura maids, the OS-tans and other personifications. Plus there is a focus on not safe for work material as well.
Net Characters: Characters borne from the internet.
The vocaloid characters are based on are a series of vocal synthesizers that were released by a Japanese company known as Crypton Future Media. The first in the series is Hatsune Miku, a female vocaloid. Later as the product became popular, more vocaloids were created such as Kagamine Rin and Len, Kaito, Kamui Gakupo (based on the voice of Gackt), Megurine Luka and many others. Their characters are the subject of many fan art, songs produced by them by friends, and have a large fan base and cosplay that persist to this day. They even have their own *chan called mikuchan.org
Second, is the Nijiura maids. The Nijiura maids were born from Fubata Channel’s /b/ (also known as the Nijiura boards). They are a collection of characters dressed in maids most of whose “personalities are based on puns involving their names” (http://danbooru.donmai.us/wiki/show?title=nijiura\_maids). There are fifteen primary maids of Nijiura some of them based on apathy, anger, chattiness, confusion, beauty, and even one on size. One of them is Yakui the medicine maid.
According to the Nijirua Maid Love website by shii, her name is based from薬餌 【やくじ】, medicine. She is addicted to all kinds of drugs medical and in 420chan’s case, recreational. She usually has mouth drool coming out and wears handcuffs. Problem is if Yakui is adorable, why she wears handcuffs? (http://shii.org/maids/yakui) For some reason, Yakui is the most known of all the Nijura maids. Particularly on 420chan’s /nc/ board (formually /yakui/)
Finally, we have the OS-tans. The OS-tans are personifications on Windows operating systems such as Windows 95, Me, XP, Vista, and Seven. They’re all depicted as females, but there are some male counterparts to the OS-tans known as OS-kuns. The concept of the OS tan’s begun with Windows Me personification on Fubata Channel. With Windows Me there was an eventual series known as Trouble Windows. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OS-tan http://www.otakubell.com/os-girls/ http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/OS-tan)
There are other types of Net Characters: Personifications based on pokemon, countries, touhou, wiki’s, and other as well.
Now with the introduction to Net Characters out of the way, I want to introduce you to the Net Character of Anonymous. Like Nijiura maids, and OS, it was created by 4chan’s /b/. To some /b/tards he is known as Old Anon. When I mean Old Anon I do not mean an elderly person, I mean a the classic anonymous most /b/tards and some 4channers know instead of the new “Project Chanology” anonymous that has spread to a stand-alone complex.
Old Anon usually manifests itself as a person who wears a black two piece suit with a white shirt, red tie (or sometimes a black tie) and dark shoes. The person itself is usually completely covered in green, more specifically the face and hands. The face itself may be covered green with no facial features, few facial features, a sign that says “No picture required”, or a face with a question mark. Even the question mark can be colored white, yellow, or black depending on the creator. In some cases it shows a mouth, with the rest of the face covered.
Now the words “no picture available” was the first appearance of anonymous. It appeared as a picture on 4chan’s /b/ as a silhouette of a picture with a green face with the words “no picture available.” The possible earliest appearance of the net character was noted at Tuesday, December 14, 2004, 2:38:12 AM (fight4chan) The picture and image spread on. There are many variations of anonymous out there. There’s a early image of him at Saturday, January 08, 2005, 11:38:18 PM (hyperfighting)
However, the first major appeared of the old anon may come from sage-man, which is a flash animation by former 4chan moderator Okk. That is when it Evolved to a man with a suit at 2006 (4chan)
But the character of old anonymous itself, we don’t know the true origins of the character. However, we can trace it to an old painting called the Son of Man.
The Son of Man – or by it’s French name “Le fils de l’homme” is a 1964 paiting by the Belgian surrealist painter.
At least it hides the face partly. Well, so you have the apparent face, the apple, hiding the visible but hidden, the face of the person. It's something that happens constantly. Everything we see hides another thing, we always want to see what is hidden by what we see. There is an interest in that which is hidden and which the visible does not show us. This interest can take the form of a quite intense feeling, a sort of conflict, one might say, between the visible that is hidden and the visible that is present.
(Source: Torczyner, Magritte: Ideas and Images, trans. Richard Millen (New York: Harry N. Abrams), p.172.)
In the context of imageboards, we see the visible (the context and the message), but we do not see the hidden (the identity of the person or the true side). The apparent face is the name, hiding the visible but hidden, the true identity of the person. On imageboards, it’s something that happens routinely. Every thread you read has a message, hides another thing, we always want to know what is hidden by what we see.
There are several similarities of the Son of Man and Old Anon: The black suit, red tie, and white shirt are the same. Main difference is the covering of the face with the apple, you can see the part of one eye but not the entire face. But in the old anon you can see the general shape of the face but not the true side of the face you can see any of its real facial features. Minor differences include no green gloves and but there is a hat.
But it’s not only on the internet where can you see this personification. It’s in real life where you can also see this personification of anonymous in the same varieties like in online. Occasionally seeing one without the mask or in radically different forums. But there are many ones that have a familiar face…from a certain movie (and actually an comic book based on the film) called “V from Vedetta” simply called V.
From that face was known as New Anonymous. Born from the Project Chanology protests of 2008 they reflect the mocking of scientology rather than actual protests. But eventually that mask evolved from its Chanology origins into the moral (aka moralfag) faction of Anonymous.
BONUS INFO: Toshiaki.
Believe it or not, Toshiaki from 2chan’s /b/ do have a net personification. It comes in two forms: The first form is a young male with a white shirt and black hair, with its eyes covered (if faced by the camera) or his head turned away from the screen. He also accompanied with a personal Ninjura Maid called Medoi.
(http://shii.org/maids/medoisanmedoisan.png) Another form of Toshiaki is manifested a neckbearded male with glasses and medium long hair. Occasionally with a blanket because he's a NEET and can't afford the electric bill. (Those images of that form of toshiaki can be found on this thread:http://yschan.org/ys/res/78.html\#i80)
A Side Note: While the net personification of anonymous represents the average channer, there is no true personification of 4chan similar to what 420chan has (TCC-chan). While there are attempts to personify 4chan similar to what other popular internet and social network sites have been treated to, they either accentuate the anonymity of the site, or the shock nature portion of the site. A possibly real reason why 4chan can’t be personified is that it has many boards (some 50 of them) and if anyone tries to personify the website, the personality of the character would be schizophrenic.
We know Anonymous as an average channer on the imageboards and textboards. We also know him as a unique net character manifested on the internet by the *chans. The third origin of Anonymous however stems from these two things, but not a regular organization, but more of a stand-alone complex. An organization that does not have any true leadership, just any bunch of people united for one cause using the name for publicity. While the use of Anonymous as an organization started with Project Chanology, the origins of this go way back in 2006.
The word “stand-alone complex” is fitting, because the same concept is similar to the plot of the two Ghost in the Shell anime series (1st and 2nd GIG). In the context of imageboards, a standalone complex is basically a group of people, any group of people, take a name of the organization and use that name for any reason for any purpose. It can be for entertainment, it can be for serious business, it can be to send a political message. It can be for collaborate, it can be fore “international hactivisim, undertaking protests”, invading other websites, or just doing shit for the lulz. (Anonymous – Business Insider) They don’t need to take up any leadership position because they’re just a group of people (standalone) using the name as part of a big organization (complex). Like a standalone complex, more people use the name to further the name’s agenda, and it just builds and builds reputation among the public.
This is similar to the use of the username as a shared identity. Since many channers post anonymously on the *chans, that same concept is applied in group actions. It’s is a decentralized, shared identity that any person could use. No one has created, no one has owned it.
Due to the fact that the name is used as a shared identity a way how it was originally created in the there is no true leadership. It merely relies on the “collective power of its individual participants acting in such a way that the net effect benefits the group.” (Ibid). What is similar to the collective power of individual participants in a net effect? A hivemind.
The hivemind nature of imageboards, particularly high activity ones such as 4chan’s make the concept of a shared identity more relevant in examining this topic. There is just a flow of text and information that flows daily like a chatroom. Even in boards outside of /b/ there is just so many pictures you can see and view information you can learn from. Even if you’re not into the hivemind, you still feel the effects of it. But the major difference of imageboards from static forums it is empheriual and anonymous coming from various anonymous channer’s. With no difference of people their opinion, knowledge, and information is treated equally. Therefore all decisions are made with this in mind.
To further understand Anonymous as a standalone complex, we have to look toward /b/ in the past were about anime and Japanese culture. But when it came popular normal people were interested in it. As more people got into /b/ the culture changes from just purely Japanese culture to somewhat real world topics. Around 2006-2007 it was in a mixed stage there was a mix of Japanese culture and real world culture. But the main culture if /b/: The lulz, still remained.
What is the lulz?
Originally, the word” lulz” is a corruption of lol or laugh out loud. A good theory of how lol was corrupted into lulz is that “lol” was corrupted by the initials “lul” then it was corrupted again when “lols” was turned into “lulz”. Apparently the “z” was accidently typed in for “s”. That is one theory how we know the true origin of the word “lulz”.
But what /b/ was into at its early years was a unique form of comedy. Comedy that is based on “shock humour, including genres of cringe, surreal, and black comedy” (ibid). Comedy that is for their amusement of those out of someone else’s expense even if it’s at the expense of other people or sensitivities. It was due to the mixture of the no rules policy and the fact that people are mostly anonymous at /b/ it turned into a twisted version of real life. Eventually they did something to get more comedy, out of a real person’s emotions.
Internet raids are spontaneous attacks to a website or an individual. The sole purpose of a raid is to take down a website to harass an individual into giving up. They take place routinely but only major ones get major publicity. Many raids are small and involve invading threads or forums with spam or with posts dissing the owner or users. Many raids can be warded off with various tools owners have with their disposal. Forum raids involving a large amount of forum users or multiple chans are called invasions.
There are two types of raids. The first one is a spontaneous attack to punish a site or forum. This can be done by creating accounts to spam posts on threads on the victim’s board. Some raids include simply DoSing or DDoSing the forum into offline status. In some cases, the raiders find security vulnerabilities and use it to tear the forum up from the inside out, destroying user databases and forum data. In serious cases , they deface the front page of the site and/or release personal details of the users (also known as dox, leetspeak for “documents”)
The second raid is to harass an individual. This can be done in various ways. Some of them including prank calling them with obscene messages, or in the case of channers: sprouting /b/ memes. Some include calling the nearby pizza place and ordering them pizza, or prostitutes (wanted or not). Other types include typing in obscene or harassing emails or threatening emails.
Internet raids are nothing new on the internet. The Something Awful Forums in the past were well known for their users (known as “Goons”) going to other forums for various reasons such for stealing content from their site and websites that deal with immoral acts such as pedophilia. Some of them were admin sanctioned, such as the infamous one against Ebaums world. Often times these raids involve crap flooding the site with spam or using various programs to DDOS. But the great majority of raids are minor ones that go after other forums for any reason.
The earlier raids from the chans were mostly internet borne and mostly involve disrupting shit up or to a further extent: “fucking shit up”
The Pre-Project Chanology Era
Enter Tom Green:
August 16th, 2006 was the start of the first major raid by 4channers. And it was through a phone call show named Tom Green LIVE! /b/ decided to pull a little stunt, by calling the show and spouting ever 2006 /b/ meme such of “Desu” spamming, "Pool's Closed", and "do a barrel roll!" (Encyclopedia Dramatica – Tom Green), all of which were popular 4chan catchphrases. After an hour Tom Green got fed up and said "thanks to you assholes this will no longer be a call in show". However, Tom Green apparently never heard of something called a “call screener”, and apparently neither had the show called GirlTalk, which was spammed with /b/tards meme sprouting after the Tom Green show ended.
The Tom Green Raid was a good example of disrupting shit up. Habbo Hotel is another good example of “disrupting shit up”. Many people do know what the Habbo raids involved a bunch of /b/tards dressed up as black people with suits (which /b/tards called them “nigras” for the purposes of the raids) blocking pools on the virtural space, and saying “Pool’s Closed due to Aids” which is a play on the racist connotations and ignorance of how AIDS is actually spread.
But many channers do not know what that despite the racist connotation of the raids, it was the perceived racism of the Habbo mods that started the raids in the first place.
Apparently there was a rumor spreading about that Habbo mods were banning black characters for no good reason. So what they did was the equivalent of “you fuck with one black dude, you have to fuck with all of them”. Thus the /b/tards decide to raid Habbo hotel with the following “black man with afro, suit, matching creased pants, and black loafers” (Encylopedia Dramatica –The Great Haboo Raid of July 2006) and they proceeded the block the hotel’s pools. In addition they said racist chants, and performed a swastikas with the intent to anger the Habbo mods.
There was an actual real life protest based on this raid that was documented on /b/ as well.
The other raids were of the example of “tearing shit up”. After the Habbo and tom green raids, they decided to raid other forums for the lulz. Forums Such as proana.us, myg0t, teenbabynet, and wikifur were targeted in the raids. Their tactics include crapflooding the forums with spam, MySQL injections to take a advantage of security vulnerabilities, taking advantage of weak protections on the server end of the site the end user by discovering their passcodes to vandalizing the site. Oh yeah, vandalizing wiki’s.
As an end result team4chan (the moderators of 4chan) had enough and moot posted a sticky on /b/ announcing that anyone who posts threads containing illegal content (and raids) “will get you permabanned and possibly arrested, and that even people who REPLY to illegal threads will receive a two-week global ban, with the definition of "illegal threads" referring to CP, jailbait, personal info, and raids”. (Wikichan – The Complete History of 4chan) Despite the fact there was a massive outcry from the /b/tards and multiple stickies were removed and reposted, this policy is still in forced for all boards to this day.
While raids like this happen, they rarely at the magnitude of the early years. The closest to the magnitude of the Forum invasions of the past were Operation Overlord (aka 4chan vs. tumblr).
The Racist Pig Hal Turner:
Around December 20th 2006 Hal Turner, a racist pig (and holocaust denier) planned his final broadcast of his radio show. However a massive raid, led by 4chan and followed by 7chan,the Something Awful Forums ,the YTMND forums, and (yes) Ebaums world was planned at the same day to show Hal what the internet really thought of him. Most of the actual raid consisted of prank phone calls directed to him. However while many of the phone calls dot actually reached him, they disrupted the phone line in such a way that many people who actually wanted to call him could not got a chance to.
In response, he decided to go after the trolls involved the raid. After the raid he posted “all the prank callers' phone numbers on his website, encouraging his fan base to strike back.“ (Encylopedia Dramatica – Hal Turner) He did so he won’t do most of the work himself. In response, channers everywhere found Hal Turners criminal record, his address, and other personal details. That led to channers calling his house to harass the fuck out of him. The same records also ruined his Christmas dinner with his family.
After being trolled by a raid loli known as Frecka, shutting down his website, and making death threats, he decided revive the show. However it ended up being raided again by 4channers. In particular one /b/tard who did his usual meme sprouting over the phone ensured that Hal’s carrer of racist fuckery was dead. While did filed lawsuits against 4chan, 7chan regarding the incidents, the lawsuit failed because Hal refused to respond to the responses.
In the end, the Internet won and the racist pig finally quit the internet forever. Currently he’s in the federal barbed wire hotel for sending death threats to federal judges.
The Project Chanology Era.
The Project chanology era begun at Feb 2 2008 after a back and forth conflict with the Church of Scientology over a leaked YouTube video. 4chan’s /b/ retaliated with Project Chanology. Project chanology begun with “DDoS attacks, made prank phone calls and even prank-faxed pictures” to many offices of scientology (Convergencemag). Eventually these protests evolved into something more of a real life protest of Scientology in various offices. To represent themselves as channers they use the mask of “because faces are concealed behind 17th century revolutionary Guy Fawkes masks” (ibid) These protest started in cities such as Orlando Florida, Santa Barbara, California and even in Manchester, England. But eventually evolved into more cities as the raids progressed. Even /b/tards and 4channers advertised these real life protest dates and the protest in general during Katuscon (a anime convention) in the year 2008.
The great majority of the real life raids on Scientology were just for the lulz. Channers protest by saying /b/ memes. And just did mock protests of scientology. But they did cover their faces due to the fear of reprisals form the Church of Scientology.
Eventually chanology begun to create something of a split between people who do these raids for the lulz and people who perform these raids for a real true purpose. Essentially, the people who are part of the anonymous movement are people should use their power to “accomplish something they see as a social good or to counteract some injustice.” (Crude, Inconsistent Threat: Understanding Anonymous) Those people are called moralfags because they have a moral reason for their actions instead of doing it for kicks.
Post-Project Chanology Era
This split of morality has been used for the basis of other raids based on the name but not the original spirit of Anonymous. Examples include political protests such as the Iranian uprising/election protests, Operation Titstorm, and Operation Avenge Assange. The recent various middle eastern uprising protests such as operation Tunisia, Algeria, and Egypt had the same treatment.
But other raids for the lulz did happen though despite the split between the moralfags and the original stand-alone complex: Such as the SOHH and ALLHipHop raids, and the No Cussing Club book expose. YouTube Porn Day as retaliation of YouTube banning a user who was the King of /b/. The harassment of Justin Bieber. The elaborate Time Person of the Year 2008 prank. Operation Overlord was the latest one that was done for the lulz
Then you have organizations that are not associated with the anonymous “identity”, but it’s obvious that they’re part of the chan culture. Such entities include such as lulzsec or Lulz Security who was behind the security breach of Sony ending up in the temporary shutdown of the Playstation Network.
How does Anonymous as a stand-alone complex take action for raids?
There are three basic guidelines when Anonymous takes action. First, do it for the lulz, or comedy. Second, internet censorship for any reason is bad for free speech. Finally, but not the least important is don’t hurt cats (or any other animal). The third basic guideline was known in many instances where /b/ intervened in cases of animal cruelty, mostly involving cats (ie. Dusty the Cat). But those are basic, loose guidelines that had been observed when taking action.
Now you know how anonymous works as a stand-alone complex. Not a group, or some sort of elite hackers on steroids like some Fox News wants you to think of.