Is Anonymous good for Maryville?

There’s a part of me that thinks yes — when the legal system has failed, there are few other options to seek justice, and an internet collective isn’t the worst one. But I’m also incredibly wary of unchecked power and the ethos of spreading information without verifying its authenticity or accuracy, and a movement that feeds on rage and indignation without any real accountability. It’s particularly important to look at these issues when they’re being carried out for a cause we believe in. Does the calculus change if Anonymous’s tactics are leveled at someone we support? And then, are the tactics and ethics bad, or just the issue? I have a feeling this position will be very unpopular with the Feministe commentariat, but here goes:

In certain ways, I’m glad Anonymous is taking up the Maryville case. And so far, their demands are reasonable and their tactics fair. They have an incredible ability to gather and disseminate information, and in situations like this one, a little transparency is vital. They’re a powerful force, and they get the media to stand up and take note: the Kansas City Star article garnered a good amount of attention, but Anonymous’s participation secured even more. They’re sending the message that there are real social consequences to refusing to protect and then ostracizing alleged rape victims.

Plus, rape victims often don’t see justice. Most rape cases are never reported to the police, let alone brought to trial. Cultural biases about what counts as “real” rape, and myths about what a “good” rape victim look like, often result in perpetrators walking free. Americans like to believe our criminal justice system is bias-blind, offering a fair trial to defendants and adequately seeking justice for crime victims. In reality, ours is a justice system run by human beings with all of their attendant flaws, operating in a society that continues to have deep issues with race and gender.

The justice system is not an entity that functions outside of racist and sexist cultural norms and beliefs, and attorneys, judges and jurors do not live in bubbles that allow them to carry out the law walled off from the worst aspects of our world. For all its many benefits, our legal system is wildly flawed and functionally biased in favor of the powerful and privileged.

But here’s the wildly dissatisfying conclusion: vigilante justice is worse. And we should question it even when – especially when – it’s in the service of a cause we believe in.

After all, Anonymous is simply a vast hive of anonymous people with varying perspectives, interests and opinions. It is not a singular entity. Anonymous may not always be on the side of the rape victim.

The hearts of many of the rape-avenging Anonymous folks are in the right place. And there’s a part of me that wants to cheer them on, and to tell them to take down the Maryville suspects, the prosecutor, Daisy’s harassers and the whole “good ol’ boys” network that seems to have influenced the case. That is a normal, human reaction. But that doesn’t make it a laudable one, or one that should have any impact on our criminal justice system.

We offer protections to the criminally accused for good reason. That doesn’t mean that the media or private citizens can’t pass judgment on a case before a jury does, or that our legal system does a particularly good job of securing justice for marginalized people like rape victims. But it means there’s some value in the humility of realizing that you are not, and should not be, judge and jury all yourself. There’s value in realizing that power can be addictive and corrosive, and that we need other people and systematic safeguards to keep our worst impulses at bay.

The full column is here.


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About Jill

Jill began blogging for Feministe in 2005. She has since written as a weekly columnist for the Guardian newspaper and in April 2014 she was appointed as senior political writer for Cosmopolitan magazine.
This entry was posted in Crime, Law, Politics, Rape Culture, Sexual Assault and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

149 Responses to Is Anonymous good for Maryville?

  1. Little Raven says:

    I suspect your feelings about how your message will be received are correct, but for what it’s worth, I agree with you. Anonymous may be on the side of the angels in Maryville – it seems that way from my limited perspective, but I live thousands of miles away and only know what people tell me.

    But I’m very wary of statements like “Anonymous is really a positive force of good when it comes to social accountability,” which we’ve seen examples of even here at Feministe. Anonymous may be a force of good, sometimes, but they aren’t always. They have no accountibility, no control mechanisms, and are generally motivated by the fury of the moment. There’s a reason we’ve moved away from mob judgment in this country…as satisfying as it often seems.

  2. EG says:

    Meh. If you have a better alternative for dealing with Maryville and the many, many, many people involved in this town’s atrocity, I’m all ears. But I’m not willing to throw up my hands all “Alas, Anonymous is worse, so there shall be no accountability for Maryville.” Give me a legal alternative–not just for the rapists and the people directly involved in fixing the case, but for the townsfolk who enabled them–and then, sure, I’ll say no to Anonymous too.

    But these people ran her family out of town and burned down their house. They dished out vigilante-ism, and I’m fine with giving it back. Fight fire with fire.

    • Jill says:

      All fair points. But then I also think, what does it say about Anonymous that I really hesitated to write this article, for fear that they would come to Feministe (again) and shut the site down (again)?

      • EG says:

        It says that sometimes they do shitty things, too. But I wonder if their ratio of shitty to good things is as bad as, say, the US legal system’s.

      • PrettyAmiable says:

        I was thinking of police, myself. An entity with mostly unchecked power where some individuals are morally bankrupt and face no recourse for their actions. It doesn’t mean police never do any good, however.

      • karak says:

        Anonymous has (as far as I’ve known) never killed anyone, but some of the earliest and greatest memes involve anonymous harassing the family of a child who killed himself, stalking an 11 year old girl that posted somewhat sexualized pictures of herself, trying to catapult #basementdad as the first twitter account to reach a million fans (you know, the guy that kept his daughter in a secret basement room and raped her and had six kids with her?), joining an avatar style game and making all the characters black and move in a swastika, posting child pornography on /b/, hacking photobucket for nudes, and so on and so forth.

        The more hacker-savvy members seem to be tending towards a sense of social justice–we saw anonymous stop school shootings, report animal abuse, protest Scientology, and now this.

        But, fundamentally, anonymous is about exercising power, for good and/or evil, but mainly for lulz. Anonymous–because none of us are are cruel as all of us.

      • Sachiko says:

        This comment is actually directed at Karak and the OP: So… why not have someone put safeguards in place? After all, PrettyAmiable has brought to mind a really good point that remains unaddressed, rather like his/her own argument. The police act as a LEGAL entity. Which means there is a downside to police activism, as well. Specifically that, within and without its ranks, we are programmed not to view it with suspicion. But, as everyone seems to be forgetting, law enforcement is made up of individuals prone to human error, as well. However, the benefit of being a legal entity means that, whatever the outcome, as long as legal channels are observed, they very rarely come under close scrutiny, becoming more harmful, than helpful, in the process. Iow, the actual difference between the two lies not so much in the respective channels they use, but in the checks and balances that are designated for each (or the lack thereof).

      • TomSims says:

        Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely

      • wembley says:

        Anonymous’ trolling of feminists and feminist sites in the past has been pretty vile. Rape threats, gross images, DDOS attacks, the works. I wish that didn’t fall off the radar so often. It’s nice that some of them seem to, you know, not despise women, or at the least some aren’t so dead inside that they can just send rape threats to women “for the lulz” while convincing themselves they don’t mean a word of it, that it’s just to rile. Progress, I guess.

      • ldouglas says:

        All fair points. But then I also think, what does it say about Anonymous that I really hesitated to write this article, for fear that they would come to Feministe (again) and shut the site down (again)?

        What does it say that I’m afraid to post this comment for fear you’ll track me down using my IP address and blow up my car?

        Uh, nothing about you, and a lot about me.

        Anonymous, if it can be said to have any rules at all, has a rule against targeting journalists and writers- even when they’re critical of Anonymous.

        If you have evidence that they’ve targeted Feministe before, share it, instead of using that classic yellow-journalism move of ending an unsubstantiated accusation with a question mark (“Obama to nuke Arkansas, eat babies?”).

      • Jill says:

        What does it say that I’m afraid to post this comment for fear you’ll track me down using my IP address and blow up my car?

        Uh, nothing about you, and a lot about me.

        Well, if I had in the past tracked you and other readers down and blew up your cars, then it would indeed say a lot about me. Anonymous has in fact attacked this site and shut it down in the past, more than once. It’s not yellow-journalism unsubstantiated accusations. It’s documented history.

      • PrettyAmiable says:

        Here’s a Feministe article I found.

      • amblingon says:

        Anonymous has in fact attacked this site and shut it down in the past, more than once.

        Hm, that article was interesting reading. I’m sorry you had to deal with that (though I’m still not clear on what exactly happened at Feministe- DDOS attacks? Or just a flood of misogynistic trolls?).

        One note: I thought it was pretty gross that the article you linked to sided with Biting Beaver, who is a classic example of transphobic anti-sex-worker hateful misogynist radscum, and who it seems was targeted by Anonymous not because she was a feminist, but because she blogged about abusing her son. Obviously it’s not OK to target someone with misogyny/rape threats/death threats etc. no matter how horrible they are or what your justification is, but it’s fundamentally wrong to portray the issue as a noble upstanding feminist being attacked by the evil hordes. A pox on both their houses.

      • Donna L says:

        Anonymous, if it can be said to have any rules at all, has a rule against targeting journalists and writers- even when they’re critical of Anonymous.

        What touching faith you have that Anonymous consists of people who can be trusted to follow “rules”!

      • ldouglas says:

        What touching faith you have that Anonymous consists of people who can be trusted to follow “rules”!

        Anonymous, if it can be said to have any rules at all, has a rule against targeting journalists and writers- even when they’re critical of Anonymous.

        I think you missed a key clause there.

      • TMK says:

        Hm. Interesting. Delving a bit into that documented history i see that Feministe got attacked because it defended the actual target of the Anonymous attack, a disgusting human being using internet nickname of Biting Beaver.

        So, that is the real reason for the faux-concern about Anonymous, Feministe was on the wrong side before.

      • Sheelzebub says:

        Wow. No.

        I’m addressing several comments/assertions in this thread.

        1) Anonymous targeted a whole host of feminist sites, whether or not they “defended” or had anything to do with Biting Beaver. In fact, they attacked sites her site and other radical feminists sites linked to. That is what Feministe and other feminist sites were reacting to–Anonymous’s harassment of feminists who dared to be online in general.

        2) Anonymous targeted feminists who gave some moral support to BB way back in the day (long before this), when she was getting an abortion and got threats.

        3) Anonymous doxxed and harassed multiple feminists, not just BB or radfems. They sent rape threats and death threats to feminist bloggers, including feminist bloggers who didn’t know about BB’s post about her son and had little to no contact with her.

        4) They had a stated aim of silencing/shutting down feminist blogs and websites. And then whined about freedom of speech when they were criticized about this.

        5) I’m glad some folks here are against transphobia. Keep in mind that not only did Anonymous not give one single shit about trans* rights, their trolls made a lot of shitty comments about trans* people. They didn’t give a fuck about rights, they only cared about silencing women.

        Kindly don’t erase what actually fucking happened. And save your crocodile tears. If you think rape and death threats are okay, you’re a shitty person.

      • TMK says:

        If you think rape and death threats are okay, you’re a shitty person.

        If you think defending radical feminist thought is okay, you are what would be called few decades ago, useful idiot. The continual enabling of radical feminists by mainstream feminists should simply stop. It not only should stop, but they should be denounced and the links severed – because they use the same name.

        The fact anonymous did shitty things during the whole ordeal does not change the above, and i am not defending the anonymous conduct, but accusing feminist one.

        Oh, btw, AFAIK, you are wrong on the accounts of 1), 2), and 4)

      • Sheelzebub says:

        If you think defending radical feminist thought is okay, you are what would be called few decades ago, useful idiot.

        Actually, if you’d bothered to read the links provided, you’d see that many of the women (and some men) who were targeted were *not* radical feminists and had butted heads with them. But don’t let the facts get in the way of your rant. Please! Continue to twist words and rewrite history!

        The fact anonymous did shitty things during the whole ordeal does not change the above, and i am not defending the anonymous conduct, but accusing feminist one.

        I don’t give a fuck what anyone thinks of Anonymous, or KnightSec or whatever. I care that because some folks are so invested in backing this version of Anonymous, they’ll rewrite history. The fact of the matter is, it wasn’t just radical feminists or their defenders who got harassed. LGBT feminists, people of color, anyone who said “Hey, rape and death threats aren’t okay.” Or anyone who was linked by a blog Anon was currently attacking. And it wasn’t just online bullshit–a lot of people, not just radical feminists–were doxxed and harassed in meatspace. (And if they were people of color? They had inboxes and comments filled with racial slurs to contend with as well.)

        Oh, btw, AFAIK, you are wrong on the accounts of 1), 2), and 4)

        As far as you know isn’t all that far. Since I was actually here for the fucking harassment and attacks and you obviously weren’t, I know a little more about it than you do. They targeted feminists–didn’t matter if they were radical feminists or not. They had a list of feminist blogger and women bloggers who they gloated over when they were able to shut the sites down/disable them. These were not women who defended or allied themselves with radical feminists.

        You don’t like radical feminists? Join the club. Interactions I had with Heart consisted of butting heads. That doesn’t make it okay to rewrite history and erase what actually fucking happened.

      • TMK says:

        Actually, if you’d bothered to read the links provided

        I did read these and some more and my understanding is different from what you claim.

        I am also uninterested in flaming, so i am not going to engage in what you are offering.

        In the end, anyone who wants to have their own opinion on this, can follow the link and google some more.

      • Sheelzebub says:

        I did read these and some more and my understanding is different from what you claim.

        Your understanding is nil. Sorry that the facts make you so uncomfortable.

        I am also uninterested in flaming, so i am not going to engage in what you are offering.

        No, you’ll just “civilly” flame by twisting words, ignoring the facts, and erasing what happened.

      • Miriam says:

        That reads like the early days of Anonymous when it was all 4chan collectively running amuk on the web. KnightSec is a splinter group that does the social justice work. They sprang out of the Scientology protests from what I understand of the history. I’ve never read any hints that KnightSec has ever engaged in that type of just-for-the-lulz stuff. Actually, it seems like everything I read nowadays is about subReddits–not even 4chan anymore.

        That said, while I agree with your broader points about vigilante justice and share your concerns, I think we’re at a point in US culture where vigilante justice is about all we have. To me, there is lesser risk in KnightSec’s vigilantism than there is in Matthew Barnett never being placed on trial.

      • Matt says:

        Yes. I posted about this elsewhere but I don’t keep up with Anonymous much and forgot which specific group was involved in the social justice stuff. Thanks for posting the info so that a clear line can be drawn between lulzsec and knightsec and other secs.

    • Drahill says:

      But I think you and Jill are addressing two separate issues. Do you think that the harassment and arson would not have happened if the DA had charged the perps here? The first issue here is that the DA made a (most likely) incorrect decision about bringing rape charges in the first place, probably with dubious motivations. That is, from what I see, the crux of Jill’s article.

      The harassment and arson that followed are, from a legal perspective, an entirely separate thing. Right now, from what I’ve read, the suspects in those acts are unknown – the police are looking for them (it also appears that arson is highly suspected, but not confirmed).

      I just can’t support the whole “you did it, so we are justified in giving it back to you.” Not because I think of myself as claiming any moral high ground, but for a separate reason – Anonymous is not self-policing. What’s to stop them from making an incorrect accusation or presumption (which, let it be known, has happened in the past). Okay, Anonymous wants to help ID the arsonist and those who harassed this family. Sounds good. But what is there to stop them from being wrong? What happens if they are?

      Can the police be wrong too? Of course – but at least in the case of their wrongness, we have some imperfect system that’s designed to at least attempt a determination of the truth. What system checks the online vigilante? None. I oppose vigilantism online largely for this reason. I’m not comfortable with even the possibility they could get it wrong, because the victims of their wrongness will have NO recourse if they are. That is a risk I’m not willing to take.

      • Drahill, who has argued for “you did it so we’re giving it back to you”? What is it that Anonymous has done, or threatened to do, that in your view would be wrong?

        I’m annoyed by vague assertions of “mob rule” and “vigilante justice”. It is possible that’s where Anonymous is headed, or it’s possible that all they intend to do is journalistic muckraking to make it impossible for prosecutors to cover up a crime by those who are often protected. The latter, I am for. So what leads you to believe the former is what is going to happen?

      • Drahill says:

        Tom, I was responding to EG’s “fight fire with fire” proposition. That’s what “give it right back them” comes from.

        As for your second assertion, I think if you believe that online commentators are merely engaged in journalistic pursuits, you must have more faith in them then I. First, as it’s been pointed out elsewhere, the journalistic promotion of this case has been really the creation of the Kansas City Star. That is the paper that first really brought this story to national promincence. The internet angle has been a very recent phenomenon. If we are going to give credit where it’s due, give it to the actual journalists who did the legwork. Also, I take many of the internet commentators at face value – many of the statements coming out involve “doing justice” and “holding [those responsible] accountable.” That doesn’t read like investigative journalism to me, that reads like vigilantism. And it’s pretty clear that’s what it’s understood as, since all the commentators here other than yourself are using that word.

      • In Maryville, traditional media broke the story. In Steubenville, online media broke the story. But Anonymous can do things that neither bloggers nor traditional media can do (except perhaps Murdoch publications) — like hack social media accounts and publish private or deleted material. On balance, as a tactic, in the circumstance of a rape and coverup, I’m in favor of that.

      • Drahill says:

        But Thomas, I don’t think you are addressing my direct concern. You are presuming that any internet action will conduct itself with at least as much investigative integrity as a traditional law enforcement investigation would. And sadly, history shows us that it not really the case. Internet investigators are merely individual acting in their own capacity. Thus, they aren’t held to any particular investigatory standards like probable cause or reasonable suspicion. Internet investigators have disseminated false information on more than a few occassions, and have also identified innocent people in multiple cases (such as Sunil Tripathi in Boston, whose wrongful ID compromised the search for him for a time). You have a lot of faith in people if you believe they are inclined to conduct intensive investigations and vigourous fact-checking. But overall, the trend seems to show that they are not.

        I don’t want to screw up the mods here by posting anything with a ton of links, but I assure you if you google “internet vigilatism gets it wrong” like I did, you will see many example of times when some very bad things happened to innocent people who got caught up in this stuff. Until this type of stuff ends, I’m not comfortable with this form of getting justice. But that’s just me.

      • janethefish says:

        Thomas your in favour of blatantly illegal acts? Hacking accounts should land them in jail. I don’t want the NSA reading private communications, and I want some band of criminals reading private communications even less.

        This is exactly the kind of stuff they shouldn’t be doing. If they just did some legal internet sleuthing, I would be okay with that. Sure, there wouldn’t be the “fact checking” of print media, but… there was a reason I put that in quotes.

        But when they start hacking accounts? Yeah, no.

      • asia says:

        Anonymous is a really large very effective tool. It has been and can be used to harm. If it is the victim does lack any recourse against the destruction of their reputation. Public opinion can be very harmful as Daisy, her family, and the younger girl found out. Anonymous reversed and magnified the effect. The boys involved don’t deny it happened they deny it was rape. Public opinion has the right to say that no matter how you define what happened that night it wasn’t ok. It sends a message to both to deter rapists and protect survivors.

      • Drahill says:

        Asia, public opinion is merely that – opinion. Do I believe these young men are rapists? yes I do. Would I write letters to encourage the DA to reopen the case, or encourage the legislature/mayor or whoever has the power to appoint a special prosecutor? Yes I would. I would do anything within the bounds of the law to encourage this case to come to trial. However, I can still adamantly oppose anybody who attempts to “get justice for Daisy” through their own means. Not because I don’t believe Daisy deserves justice. I do. But vigilantism (especially the online kind) has a bad habit of not being very accurate sometimes. Have you not heard about when Reddit identified a suicide victim as one of the Bostom Bombers and the distress that caused his family? The police aren’t immune from getting it wrong either – but at least then, there’s arguably SOME oversight (as poor as it may be).

        I can understand the urge and the desire to help this girl in any way possible, I really can. But I can’t support the desire to try to help through less than legal means, only because the risk of error is too high.

      • EG says:

        The har.assment and arson that followed are, from a legal perspective, an entirely separate thing.

        That is part of the legal system’s inadequacy when it comes to addressing rape culture. I see no reason to emulate it. The prosecutorial misconduct and the persistent harassment and the arson are all aspects of the same lump of shit: Maryville’s particularly toxic rape culture. And every single person involved in creating that atmosphere is scum and implicated–every person who cut the girl’s parents dead at the supermarket and all the rest of it. They all worked together to create a rape culture that let those boys think that what they did was OK, that charges shouldn’t be brought, that arson was a good idea. And fuck them all. The legal system is clearly unable to address the situation.

        Can the police be wrong too? Of course – but at least in the case of their wrongness, we have some imperfect system that’s designed to at least attempt a determination of the truth.

        Oh, bullshit. Tell me, what consequences do cops face, generally, for their screw-ups? Screw-ups that involve guns and jail time? Ask the Central Park Five and get back to me.

      • Drahill says:

        Oh, bullshit. Tell me, what consequences do cops face, generally, for their screw-ups? Screw-ups that involve guns and jail time? Ask the Central Park Five and get back to me.

        Uh, EG, if you actually know that case, you’d know that the Central Park 5 were exonerated through the system that was actually set up to detect and correct the mistakes that led to their incarnation in the first place. This is where I feel like you’re being willfully obtuse. The system might fail and often take years to work, but at least in the legal arena, there IS a system in place. What do victims of vigilantes have? They don’t have shit. Try spending the rest of your life having to police your name on the Internet and having absolutely no recourse to free yourself from the rumors. Do people who are exonerated struggle with this as well? Sure, there will always be people who will believe in guilt (although I must mention that people who don’t even go through the system deal with this as well). But at least they get the ability to say they were exonerated. Vigilante victims get no such ability. Conflating the two is just evidence that you seem to not know much about the subject on a personal level, but only theoretical.

      • EG says:

        Uh, EG, if you actually know that case, you’d know that the Central Park 5 were exonerated through the system that was actually set up to detect and correct the mistakes that led to their incarnation in the first place.

        Yeah. After they’d served their sentences.

        How many years of their lives were lost? After being manipulated and fucked over as children? Where is the vaunted accountability? The cops who browbeat them into false confessions–where are they now? Have they been held “accountable”?

        You’re the one conflating things. Accountability for persecutors is not the same thing as the ability to clear one’s name. And your fantasy that after having spent ten years in jail–losing your adolescence and childhood–you just get to go “Oh well, but now my name is clear” and pick up the pieces and move on is laughable. Talk about missing the difference between the theoretical and the practical.

      • EG says:

        What do victims of vigilantes have? They don’t have shit. Try spending the rest of your life having to police your name on the Internet and having absolutely no recourse to free yourself from the rumors.

        But let’s see. The Central Park 5 were convicted in 1990 and exonerated in 2002, with the cops and the prosecution suffering no consequences at all. So, if after 12 years, the victims of Anonymous find that their lives go back to normal and no members of Anonymous suffer any consequences, you’d be fine with Anonymous, right?

      • Miriam says:

        Traditional and new media gets things wrong, too. A lot. If the biggest worry about KnightSec is “what if they get things wrong?” then we need to be worrying about that with any media outlet. And in this day and age, that’s a really broad category.

    • Alexandra says:

      No. Fight fire with fire and watch the world burn, maybe, but no. I would be terrified to live in a world where vigilante justice were the rule; I do not want that world to come into being. Justice may be blind, but she should not wear a mask.

      Let’s remember what happens when anonymous vigilantes tried to hunt out the Boston Bombing suspects – an innocent man who had disappeared after he committed suicide was reported to be a suspect despite the fact that the only source of information on him came from the merest of rumors on Reddit. His family had to suffer not only the shock and grief of his disappearance and eventually finding out he had died, they also had to suffer the hostile attention of the entire nation – hostile attention that extended beyond media attention to include threatening phone calls etc from complete strangers certain they were in possession of the truth.

      If the police are a good ol’ boy network, if the prosecutors are corrupt, that’s not a license to become corrupt vigilantes accountable to no-one.

      • EG says:

        Yes, and remember the Oklahoma City bombing? Actual news outlets were reporting a “Middle Eastern looking man” driving a van as the suspect. How is that any better?

        If the police are a good ol’ boy network, if the prosecutors are corrupt, that’s not a license to become corrupt vigilantes accountable to no-one.

        Well, as I asked Jill, alternatives? I’m listening.

      • ldouglas says:

        Well, as I asked Jill, alternatives? I’m listening.

        It’s a logical fallacy to suggest that if

        a) there are only two options, A and B, and
        b) option A is terrible, than
        c) we should go with option B.

        The fact that the justice system is bad does not suggest that vigilante justice is a good alternative, even if there are no other alternatives. For that, you’d have to prove that vigilante justice is better.

      • tinfoil hattie says:

        That’s not a logical fallacy. It’s an unsound argument,

        But I agree with it anyway.

      • EG says:

        The fact that the justice system is bad does not suggest that vigilante justice is a good alternative, even if there are no other alternatives. For that, you’d have to prove that vigilante justice is better.

        In the case of Maryville, is there really any question? The legal system utterly failed. That means I’m willing to try Option B, which worked reasonably well in Steubenville. It has the added benefit of vengeance on the rape-culture perpetrators who ran the girl’s family out of town, which the legal system can do nothing about, as ostracism is generally not illegal. So, yep, in answer to the original question, Anonymous is good for Maryville,

        If you have two options, A and B, and A has already failed and/or proven inadequate, you don’t need proof that B is better in order to try it. You just need a dearth of other options.

      • janethefish says:

        If you have two options, A and B, and A has already failed and/or proven inadequate, you don’t need proof that B is better in order to try it. You just need a dearth of other options.

        No. Suppose two options are presented to overcome your child’s cancer. The medical system presents Chemo. It hasn’t worked. Some guy presents shooting the child in the face.

        You don’t go shoot the child in the face.

        Sometimes there are only bad options. Just because one option is bad doesn’t make other options better.

        Vigilante justice is not a better option. Vigilante justice is a worse option as has been a worse option for hundreds of years. We have a bad justice system. But its getting better, and it has been getting better for a very long time. We should work to continue improving it.

  3. Drahill says:

    FWIW, I tend to agree with you here, Jill. Anonymous as a group is correct this time. However, it’s just this time. Let us not forget the group’s full history.

    The problem I largely see here is the rather HUGE arena of prosecutorial discretion. Here is a case where, largely, the police did their jobs. Suspects were identified, questioned, and from my understanding, confessions were obtained. Largely, this seems to be a rather solid case. The prosecutor’s reasons for dropping charges were very vague, which of course lends itself to rampant speculation that the real reason was politically motivated by the defendant’s family’s connections. To me, this speaks to a problem inherent in the system – that prosecutors need so little to justify their own course of action. Now sometimes, this discretion is warranted and prosecutors make good decisions about charging or not. We, largely, don’t want the general public to make these decisions. However, this seems to be a case in which the wrong decision was made. So, that begs the question of what can be done to reform it? Should there be a higher authority that parties (victims, defendants) to appeal to to challenge decisions about bringing charges? I don’t know. Do we need enacted standards to guide the process? I don’t know. But I share your discomfort with the whole mess.

  4. Mob rule is not a good thing. It is counterproductive, in my book.

    If you’ll pardon an analogy, following the death of Martin Luther King in 1968, many cities erupted in riots. Washington, DC, was one of them. The businesses torched and destroyed were almost entirely black-owned and operated. All of that rage was turned inward.

    It took decades for the parts of town affected to be re-invigorated.

    • EG says:

      How on earth is that even an analogy? What are the black-owned businesses in this case? Who are the rioters? What are you trying to say?

      • tinfoil hattie says:

        It’s irrelevant. All we have to demonstrate is that BLACK PEOPLE = MOBS.

        Comrade Kevin is just helping us.

  5. Jill, you wrote a lot of words, but aside from a vague distrust of Anonymous, I can’t tell what it is you are actually arguing against.

    I understand the concern that Anonymous isn’t on actor, it’s a collective without clear policies on tactics, etc. On the other hand, it seems to me that this article essentially attacks a strawman, in the sense that it rails against “vigilante justice,” but all we’ve really seen from Anonymous so far specifically in its antirape efforts are (1) pressuring the formal mechanisms of the criminal justice system to do their jobs; and (2) citizen journalism, getting facts out.

    You say that for all the problems the system has, “vigilante justice is worse.” But what “vigilante justice” is worse? All you’ve actually pointed to is the release of information — and you don’t even say what information they might release, about whom, or who it would prejudice!

    I know that if one sits around with criminal defense attorneys, one learns that they will worry all day long about information outside the rules of evidence polluting the jury pool. And it does. But in rape cases, the information that biases the jury pool maybe ninety-five percent of the time is information unfavorable to the complainant, that follows victim-blaming social scripts. We can’t get juries to hold rapists accountable under the best of circumstances. I think the specter of publicity rendering the trial unfair to the defendant, instead of to the complainant, is in the case of rape absolutely not in evidence in the real world in the US today. Jill, you and I know more about this than most of the readership, you because of the criminal defense lawyers you know and me because of my own experience in that practice. Affluent white rape defendants either get fair trials, or unduly favorable treatment. With few exceptions, they’re not getting railroaded. If the actual evidence doesn’t support conviction, they don’t get convicted. That’s not true for the poor and the black, which is a systemic problem in the US criminal justice system, but affluent white rape defendants don’t have to worry about adverse publicity because they get all of the presumption of innocence and then some.

    The indiscriminate reporting/whistleblowing that Anonymous does is a positive good. Prosecutors don’t think so, because they want control. They don’t want citizen sleuths questioning their decisions or stepping on their investigation. Defense lawyers don’t think so because anything that comes out is likely to make it tougher to make a deal and may actually lead to evidence that helps convict their client. But as a citizen and an antirape activist, the Nodianos video was one of the most important developments in the Steubenville case. Even if it had zero impact on the juvenile proceedings, it shined a light on the social circumstances in that social group in that time in that place, the specific Social License to Operate that Mays and Richmond operated under.

    Jill, you have not not balanced the harm Anonymous does against the good they do in their antirape efforts. You’ve balanced the good they have done and may do in Maryville, against a projection of potential harm — harm you have not described, and harm the likelyhood of which you have failed to establish any parameters for.

    When you say things like “vigilante justice,” the fair read is that what you’re criticizing is someone shooting or beating the accused. That’s being judge, jury and executioner. But there is no foundation for that concern. Anonymous has not called for that that I know of, and there is no reason but speculation to believe that it will happen. If you think otherwise, you should tell the reader why.

    If what you mean, as you seem to, is that people releasing information about the accused is “vigilante justice,” well then I thenk you have to have a much more specific critique of what they have released or may release to support that assertion.

    The vague distrust of Anonymous is understandable. But that’s all it is. It’s a vague distrust, and a speculative parade of horribles that are not in evidence.

    I don’t think you have this one wrong. I think you have this one entirely speculative, premature and hand-wringing, and I think that’s perhaps worse.

    • Ally S says:

      Seconding this all the way.

    • Sharon M says:

      All of the above Thomas. I was pretty damn happy too when they went after the Hawthorne PD back in June.

      IIRC, KnightSec is the “social justice” branch of Anonymous.

      Since the justice system is heavily tilted towards white, middle and upper class people whom often get off even with evidence that yes they did do it (Zimmerman.) I really can’t help but cheer.

      And I’m getting the impression you think they’re all male?
      Not true.

  6. Tony says:

    You can’t compare Anonymous with the courts and the police because Anonymous doesn’t have the power to lock people up. Anonymous don’t carry guns around with the authority to kill. Anonymous can’t legally confiscate somebody’s property. Anonymous can organize protests but they aren’t burning down entire cities like in the riots of the late ’60s. Rape threats, gross images, DDOS attacks, are vile and threats should be investigated if there’s any substance to them, but they aren’t mob rule. ‘Rule’ implies something more physical, coercive. Anonymous is just another expression–although a particularly acute one, to be sure– of the tendency of the public to have strong reactions based on incomplete information about individual cases, especially when the public can’t really know what’s going on and is always only reacting to second-hand information. Often that’s going to lead to millions of people making a snap judgement based on a news story when they don’t really know what’s going on. Getting rid of Anonymous isn’t going to get rid of that. This is a discussion that needs to be had though and I’m glad it is.

    • PrettyAmiable says:

      You can’t compare Anonymous with the courts and the police because Anonymous doesn’t have the power to lock people up.

      ..So? You can compare them on the basis that they have very effective tools of punishment and are at the hands of fallible individuals. How did you decide that “jail” is suddenly the line?

      • PrettyAmiable, the difference between the power the government has and the power of private actors has been fundamental to the US legal system since the ratification of the Constitution.

      • PrettyAmiable says:

        Great. I’m not seeing the relevance to that comment.

        If someone were to ask me what the bigger deterrent for a particular action would be: the threat of x amount of years in jail versus whatever Anonymous can do, I’m not certain what the answer would be. Waxing philosophic about the Constitution has no impact on whether something is inherently “good,” as posed in the post.

      • Tony says:

        It’s not “the” line, but I think it’s pretty clear that it’s a very important one. This article is about the corrosive nature of power, being judge and jury- and Anonymous just doesn’t have the power to do that to the same extent that the government does.

        As importantly, the tools available to Anonymous are available to anyone, whether they identify with Anonymous or not. “Citizen journalism” is hardly the province of one group. As far as I know Alexandria Goddard was pretty much just one individual acting on her own behalf. As more and more mainstream news organizations go up behind paywalls, become more specialized, or see their resources decimated, while at the same time social media and personal recording devices become ubiquitous, it doesn’t surprise me to see this sort of shift. There are broader dynamics at work here that risk getting confused with the Anonymous meme.

      • Lots of private actors have effective tools. People can protest and boycott, and one’s redress against that is very limited. The government can put people in prison and confiscate property, and those powers are significantly more closely scrutinized. That’s how we’ve operated for over 200 years. People in early America complained bitterly about anonymous pamphleteers smearing them, too, and tney felt just as helpless against it as they do today, so in that sense, Anonymous isn’t new. If you put that on a par with the government throwing people in prison without proving their guilt, or with real vigilantes killing people or literally tarring and feathering them, well then we fundamentally disagree.

      • Drahill says:

        If you put that on a par with the government throwing people in prison without proving their guilt, or with real vigilantes killing people or literally tarring and feathering them, well then we fundamentally disagree.

        Isn’t that a mere matter of opinion? Perhaps I am sensitive to this, because I am friends with a woman who was wrongly identified as having done something she didn’t do online and had a few individuals try to “get her.” (nothing organized). Her life has been turned upside down. Her ability to earn a living, ability to walk safely in her neighborhood, the safety of her partner – all of that has been compromised by this. Can you really affirmatively state that “well, she’s not in prison, so it’s really not that bad!” Your argument only really succeeds if we can fundamentally agree that the deprivation of physical liberty is the fundamental worst deprivation there is. And I would argue that the deprivation of mental security is the worst possible deprivation of all. I remember my friend saying “At least if I was in jail, I’d have some degree of protection.” That is chilling. And I think it speaks to the experience of people who unjustly come under internet scrutiny. It’s something I don’t think can adequately be spoken to unless one has really experienced it. That’s also why I tend to be critical of internet vigilantees, even when I can personally agree with them.

      • PrettyAmiable says:

        Looks like we do, because I, like Drahill, find this

        Her life has been turned upside down. Her ability to earn a living, ability to walk safely in her neighborhood, the safety of her partner – all of that has been compromised by this.

        terrifying. Look at what happened to Jessi Slaughter, and she was 11.

      • I’m sure Ben Roethlisberger would say that the consequences to him, based only on unproven allegations, were terrible. I don’t agree, and I don’t want to reduce the power of you and me as citizens to read about what’s alleged about him and say that we believe he did it. Do you?

      • PrettyAmiable says:

        …What? I’m not comfortable with all of Anonymous’ actions because they’ve also been known to harrass innocent people “for the lulz”, therefore I’m against freedom of speech? I have literally no idea what you’re trying to get at.

      • Drahill says:

        Thomas, I feel like you are sort of dodging the questions at this point. We aren’t discussing whether information about investigations should be free. That’s called journalism, and that’s what the Kansas City Star has already been doing. And that is a public service. But have you not seen the links people have been posting? We are talking about vigilantism – not journalism. Did part of reporting on Roethlisberger include publishing his home address? Did it include the address of his then-girlfriend?

        Look around. You are the only person trying to argue that this is some mission of journalism. Which makes it appear that you’re not really facing reality. By their own admission, the people running this campaign have made it clear it’s not about disseminating information to the public. The public largely knows the story, partly because Daisy herself is telling it (and I support her in that). So why are you remaining firm in your assertion that this internet campaign is some sort of journalistic endeavor?

      • Matt says:

        There is some sort of miscommunication here. The people who trolled feminist websites and the people involved now are not the same group at all. Anonymous is not a monolith. Just because the WBC goes around doing awful shit doesn’t mean that every Christian is like that, yes? Do you not trust food pantries that are run by Catholics?

        Anonymous is broadly the idea of organized actions performed anonymously via the internet. That’s it. Anything else is based on the personalities of individual Anons.

      • Evan Carden says:

        Matt,

        But under that analysis, they also shouldn’t get any credit for Steubenville, yes?

      • Matt says:

        If you operate on the assumption that these are different members of Anon, then no. But some of the Anon members whose real identities are known publicly are involved in both cases. For instance a man under investigation for hacking the Steubenville sports team website is publicly part of #OpMaryville.

      • Evan Carden says:

        Matt,

        If you say so, but it feels an awful lot like no true Anonymous to me.

        Or, going off the police comparison, the cops who argue that they personally haven’t done anything wrong, so why are they getting blamed?

        I don’t find either argument particularly convincing.

      • Matt says:

        Well, if the criticism were valid here, we would have to apply it to a lot of groups. For instance general feminism and its relation to radfems. Sure feminism gets some criticism for its more problematic elements but it must be considered a net positive since posters here identify as feminists and post on a site called Feministe.

        It seems to me, and to be fair not just in this case, that people accept NTS as valid for people they don’t like but anyone they like they throw down the same argument and somehow its not NTS.

        Personally I’m very suspicious of inconsistent deployment of the NTS argument.

      • Evan Carden says:

        Matt,

        I think a lot depends on how you view Anonymous. If you view it as a movement, the equivalent of feminism or a religion, than your argument works. If however, you view it as an (admittedly deliberately disorganized) organization, like a police department, or an army, a corporation, or even belonging to a specific church within a larger religion, than the question of why exactly they choose [obviously there are individuals who do not get to choose their affiliations, especially with armies, but no one is being drafted into Anonymous] to affiliate themselves with that particular organization (or brand, if you prefer) is a perfectly legitimate one.

        And for you to argue against conflating their actions with…their actions is a little rich. Especially as they proclaim themselves legion and define themselves in an indistinguishable manner (masks and anonymity). And, indeed, appear to deliberately engage in no self-policing.

        However, that doesn’t necessarily make them worse than any other form of punishment/exposure/journalism.

        Nor necessarily even less accountable, as they can and have been caught and arrested (I haven’t run the numbers but I’d bet at a greater comparative rate than corrupt police officers).

        However, that doesn’t mean they’re better either, or more accountable.

  7. upyernoz says:

    The update to this post seems relevant to the discussion:

    The first signs of Anonymous getting into pitchfork-and-torch mode in Maryville have started. A 22-year old Maryville resident published a relatively innocuous tweet saying that he wishes people wouldn’t bash Maryville, and that he likes the schools, the bars, and the people there.

    In response, he’s been doxxed. Anonymous users are circulating the tweet as well as his personal information — his home address and phone number, his parents contact information, and his email and social media addresses. So far it’s just a small contingent, but it’s troubling.

  8. Coraline says:

    But I’m also incredibly wary of unchecked power and the ethos of spreading information without verifying its authenticity or accuracy, and a movement that feeds on rage and indignation without any real accountability.

    As it happens, Jill, I am another reader here who agrees with you.

    There is an old Far Side comic that I love which shows a couple of dogs sitting at a computer, and one is saying to the other “On the Internet, no one knows you’re a dog”. And as silly as it is, that pretty much wraps up how I feel about Anonymous. No one knows who they are.

    I have a deep distrust of “information” that is handed out by someone who won’t tell you who they are, won’t tell you how they got that information, won’t give you any evidence as to its accuracy, and simply says “Oh, its true. Trust me”. Sorry, no.

    Anonymous might not be the mob, but they are the ones lighting the torches, passing out the pitchforks, getting everyone riled up with “righteous rage”, and then sitting back to watch the show.

    Yeah. The media and the lawyers and the judges and the police might not be perfect, but you know what? We know who they are. If I am going to have an enemy, I prefer that enemy to have a face and a name because it makes them much easier to fight.

  9. Chataya says:

    This is the same group that DDoS’d SendGrid so they would fire Adria Richards for complaining about sexual harassment.

    • It is and it isn’t. The people there that do the anti-rape projects don’t necessarily overlap with the people who attacked Richards. If the proposition being argued is that Anonymous does some fucked up things, I agree. But if the proposition is that what the Anonymous antirape activists have done or will do in Maryville is wrong, I think we don’t have much basis yet to say, and the Steubenville example is generally positive.

      • Chataya says:

        Is a racist, misogynist douchewaffle who occasionally happens to agree with us still a douchewaffle?

      • Coraline says:

        That would be a big yes.

      • PrettyAmiable says:

        This made me want waffles.

      • zaebos says:

        The thing is, that douchwaffle isn’t the same douchwaffle. Literally.

        Like, if you get information and post it here without a handle/name, then boom, you’re anonimoose legon blah blah

      • You cannot demonstrate that the group of people under the Anonymous banner that attacked this place, or did any of the other shitty things you’re talking about, share even one person in common with the people active in the Maryville operation. I’m assuming, though I likewise cannot demonstrate, large overlap between the people involved in the Steubenville op and the current one. The “Anonymous” banner is broad, and very different groups of people fly it for very different reasons.

      • TimmyTwinkles says:

        Thomas is right. For one thing, Anonymous is just an umbrella term for a few different things. I don’t care to go into too much detail, but the key point here is that there is a big difference b/w random lulz DOS attacks and Ops. Anybody can lead/participate in a DOS if you have the numbers (or a bot net); it involves a program any 14 year old can download and run, and a way to coordinate the people participating. Theoretically, any one person can get on 4chan and rally the troops for whatever purpose. This is where the random, vindictive attacks discussed in this thread come from. An Op is created for a specific purpose, typically in response to a systematic corruption or cover-up, and disbands whenever the objective is reached or the decision is made to back off. An Op is fairly tightly controlled and coordinated, which isn’t hard since there are very few people who can do the kind of hacks you see in an Op. They typically have little or nothing to do with the DOS script kiddies based out of 4chan. Whatever you may think about internet vigilante justice, the people running the Anonymous efforts in Maryville are not the same people that attacked this site. Which isn’t to say this site won’t get attacked again, but if something does happen I don’t think Ops will have anything to do with it.

    • Miriam says:

      I thought that the Adria Richards thing was subReddit organized and not Anonymous anyway.

  10. matlun says:

    I will do something quite atypical for me: I agree with Jill 100% in her article (as I read it).

    In the Steubenville case, Anonymous were the first to reveal the identity of the victim. Were they a force of good or evil? Personally, I am not sure, and I am left with a big question mark as to how valuable their influence has been in these cases.

    The end result? A bit dollop of moral uncertainty.

  11. All Cats Are Beautiful says:

    I hate how you can’t critizise Anonymous because “they’re not a monolith” and how there’s seemingly no obligation of any of its members to account for their activities. I don’t trust people who operate in the same name as men who post child porn, publish personal information of people who did no wrong, and hack feminist websites.

    • Matt says:

      So you blame Feminsite for radfems and the Unitarian Universalists for the pro life move? Are we now allowed to generalize criticism of Muslims because of the actions of a minority of extremists?

      You can criticize any subgroup of Anons for things they have done that you don’t like, but trashing Knightsec over the actions of a bunch of 4chan script kiddies is unfair.

      I mean technically you COULD blame left handed chimpanzees for the actions of the Crusaders in 1100 because they are all primates after all but it would be completely nonsensical.

    • Miriam says:

      That’s not exactly it. It’s more that Anonymous isn’t the bubble of undifferentiated chaos that it gets portrayed as (or at least, not in all of its actions). The subgroups within Anonymous have their own norms and rules. So it’s not that you can’t criticize Anonymous because it’s not a monolith but rather that a defined cell shouldn’t be criticized for random DDoS attacks done for the lulz. The defined cell should be criticized for what it’s responsible for precisely because it can be identified.

      I always see the social justice wing referred to as KnightSec, although some quick Googling has made me feel more shaky that I’ve got that right. Perhaps one of the other commenters who knows more about the internal workings of Anonymous can confirm or refute that.

      • Anon21 says:

        Yeah, but these “good” subgroups are choosing to be associated with the Anonymous “brand,” yes? And the whole point of this particular brand is that you can’t single out individual members. So if they’re being blamed for the excesses or downright shitty things done by other people using the same brand, it’s hardly the fault of their critics.

      • Matt says:

        Good. I’ve always wanted to tell off liberal Christians for their rampant hyprocrisy and now by your logic I can. And they can’t get mad because they choose to associate with despicable genocidal murders, and in a way infinitely closer than what Knightsec has done regarding Anonymous.

        Shame on you liberal Christians. Shame!

      • Miriam says:

        I think KnightSec is sufficiently delineated that it’s not productive to criticize them for general Anonymous actions. As I understand it, their association is about methodology and structure rather than philosophical alignment. They’ve chosen to use their skills for social justice rather than evil.

        I think there is some legitimate stuff to criticize about the results of KnightSec’s actions, but I don’t think it’s legitimate to criticize them for 4chan actions that predate KnightSec’s existence.

      • PrettyAmiable says:

        Matt, I’m not sure what your point is. That already happens. Here, even.

      • SkyTracer says:

        The difference between identifying as an Anon and identifying as a Christian is that the Christian exists in a culture that will effectively force the label onto them. “Christian” is pretty much an inescapable label for someone who takes Jesus at his word, and the dominant Christian traditions explicitly instruct believers not to deny the association. To a liberal Christian, that instruction would probably be read as “don’t lie to people”, which is a teaching they can get behind. Given those factors, it’s not surprising that even sincerely progressive people identify as Christian despite Christianity’s sketchy past.*

        Feminism is part political movement with a shaky history toward some groups, but its spirit is the moral belief in the equal value of women. Feminism is historically important enough (and politically powerful enough) that many people who don’t feel comfortable with certain aspects of feminism’s history nonetheless feel compelled to identify as feminist because they adhere to the underlying principle of feminism. There is a lot of social pressure (in limited but influential circles) to do so.*

        Is there a parallel situation for Anonymous? Do they have a foundational principle and the social influence to virtually force anyone who agrees with that principle to identify as an Anon? I haven’t seen it.

        OTOH, I think assigning actions to “Anonymous” is both factually incorrect and indulgent of the power play behind this sort of tactic. “Anonymous” is a symbol used by mostly unassociated people to instill a sense of helplessness in a chosen target. In the case of a Steubenville or a Maryville, Anonymous is like the Bat Signal. In other cases, Anonymous is like a joker card found at the scene of a crime. In any case, Anonymous is not a thing with agency.

        Geek references FTW yo.

        (*I say that stuff as a smug atheist dude who doesn’t identify as feminist even though I meet the dictionary definition. This isn’t about defending my self-identifications.)

      • SkyTracer says:

        Is there a parallel situation for Anonymous? Do they have a foundational principle and the social influence to virtually force anyone who agrees with that principle to identify as an Anon? I haven’t seen it.

        Hell, half of these people apparently think V for Vendetta was reason enough to make “the face of Anonymous” a man who violently tried to turn England into an orthodox Catholic theocracy. They don’t seem to care that that particular mask gives money and advertising to a titan of capitalism (Time Warner) either. What if these people don’t care about who does what with the Anonymous banner as much as they care about making themselves feel mythic by quoting Biblical demons?

        I’ve heard Popes apologize for the crusades, and I’ve heard feminists apologize for bigotry within feminism. Where are the Anons drawing lines between themselves? “Anonymous” may be a symbol, but what exactly does that symbol stand for? Is it the inexplicable laughter of a criminal or the intimidating theatrics of a vigilante?

        It’s neither. Anonymous represents the chaotic neutral, and Anons seem to like it that way. The problem isn’t just the lack of accountability, but the apparent lack of desire for accountability.

    • ldouglas says:

      I don’t trust people who operate in the same name as men who post child porn,

      Uh, what? One of the single largest Anonymous missions has been reporting and deleting child porn sites from the darknet.

      • Chataya says:

        I believe they’re referring to Anonymous’s beginnings on /b/.

      • TimmyTwinkles says:

        Child porn on /b/ and Anon are two completely separate things. The porn was just standard e-pervs taking advantage of /b/ being an unmoderated space that allowed anonymous posting. Like someone said earlier (or later cant remember), Anon has done a lot to go after people who disseminate child porn. Anyone can post on 4chan, so i could see taking moot to task for not doing more about it early on. But while there are plenty of legit criticisms to make about Anon, this really isn’t one of them.

  12. EG says:

    Everybody who feels oh-so-sanguine about condemning Anonymous’s actions here because they have the potential to do harm, tell me, do you feel the same way about the cops? The legal system in general? The United States government?

    What is Anonymous’s track record of terrible behavior compared to cops, the legal system, the US government in general? How and when are the latter held accountable? Why are the latter, rather than the former trustworthy despite their many, massively harmful, murderous screw-ups?

    • Librarygoose says:

      But EG, one is an amorphous group of nameless. faceless people we can’t hold accountable in any reasonable sense and the other is jack-offs on the internet.

      But really, I agree with the people pointing out that you can’t really say all of anonymous is the same group that put porn clips in kids’ videos on youtube. It’s just people. That’s its brilliance and biggest flaw.

      • TimmyTwinkles says:

        This idea of jack-offs on the internet is nonsense, at least as it relates to Anonymous’s activism. I’m not going to repeat what I already posted upthread about the difference b/w ops and random DOS attacks, but understand that the Anonymous that people are defending is essentially a decentralized group of elite hackers, no kids, no jack-offs, and you wont see them on 4chan. You may not agree with their means or their end, but as posters on an SJ blog we might give them a little of the respect afforded to fellow activists.

      • Anon21 says:

        Again, these “elite hackers” are choosing to associate themselves with those script kiddies you have so much contempt for. And by the nature of the way they operate, we can’t actually confirm what you’re saying, because they don’t present themselves individually. If they’re being tarred with a brush they don’t like, they brought it on themselves.

      • TimmyTwinkles says:

        Elite hacker is a pretty silly term I’ll admit, though as good as any when in a non-programming space i suppose. But if you’re implying with your quotes that they’re not elite, well, you’d be wrong. And you’re right, you can’t confirm alot of what i’m saying, and I dont blame you for not just taking my word for it. The association b/w them and 4chan is complicated. Regarding the offensive content on b (except for the kiddie porn), it’s pretty interesting to observe the group dynamics of an anything goes free speech space.

      • Librarygoose says:

        Anonymous is at least, in part, jack-offs on the internet. They are also well intentioned hackers doing some serious shit. They are BOTH anonymous which is their best defense and their biggest flaw. As I said earlier. Claiming that anonymous is in no way any of those “script kiddies” who just fuck around is ridiculous. You can’t be LEGION with a few dudes. That’s barely a league.

    • TimmyTwinkles says:

      Hear Hear! And EG, your point upthread about the town being complicit is dead-on. My grandpa had a farm not too far from Maryville. Got family 6 and 7 generations deep in small southern towns alot like Maryville. Town like that, the justice system is subordinate to the community, not the other way around. It enforces the community’s priorities and prejudices, and upholds the traditional social order. In this case, all three are implicated. The priority protected was high school football; the prejudice was against newcomers; and the social order was the rapist’s last name. Not to mention a rape culture made worse by small town fundamentalism. Mind you I’m not saying justice was ever an impossibility; just highly unlikely.

    • Kerandria says:

      Thank you, EG.

  13. Angie unduplicated says:

    We’ve had anonymous vigilantism down here for many years: Ku Klux Klan, Sevier County’s Whitecaps, and others. I’ve heard the excuses-“The Signal Mountain Klan raised money for Head Start ( all-white)….got XYZ to pay child support…” This is PR, nothing else. The individual incident is heart-warming, but anonymity is crucial to, and conducive to, criminal activity. Excoriating one rapist openly while enabling rapists all over the Web sounds like the usual vigilante pattern of behavior.

    • Bagelsan says:

      Nailed it. EG, et al., you think Anonymous isn’t perfectly happy living in our rape culture, that they don’t perpetrate it just as much as any other power-hungry joe on the internet? You’re deluding yourselves.

      Anonymous is like chivalry. Can they look good and beneficial every now and then? Do they hold doors for little old ladies (sometimes)? Sure! But the rest of the time it’s a fucked up system fed into by fucked up people getting fucked up results. It’s based on inequality, anonymity, and mob rule. Remind me how that works out, usually?

      • EG says:

        EG, et al., you think Anonymous isn’t perfectly happy living in our rape culture, that they don’t perpetrate it just as much as any other power-hungry joe on the internet? You’re deluding yourselves.

        That wasn’t the question, was it? The question is, if you look at the top of the post, “Is Anonymous good for Maryville?” And my answer is yes.

        Do you think that the cops, the legal system, the US government isn’t perfectly happy living in our rape culture? That they don’t perpetrate it just as much if not more than any other power-hungry conglomerate? You’re deluding yourself if so. And if not, what makes Anonymous so much worse?

        I don’t find the tactics of Anonymous to be inherently repulsive. I don’t find them to be any worse than any other group we turn to for “justice.” Nobody here has done anything to articulate why I should.

        The KKK is a false comparison. I guarantee you that if Anonymous starts lynching people, I will join you in your condemnation. But don’t confuse internet persecution with the murderous, racist terrorism that is the KKK’s raison d’etre.

      • Bagelsan says:

        But don’t confuse internet persecution with the murderous, racist terrorism that is the KKK’s raison d’etre.

        Not seeing a huge difference, frankly. Much internet persecution is racist and terroristic, and it sometimes results in deaths. It’s also often sexist, transmisogynist, classist, ethnocentric, ageist… it’s the full gamut of fucked up, honestly.

        And NOT supporting Anonymous doesn’t mean supporting the police, btw. Those aren’t the only two options for social justice. Personally I’m not ready to surrender Maryville totally to vigilante justice (anymore than it should be an unchecked police state) unless maybe you’ve interviewed every resident and discovered that they’re all 100% onboard with raping teenagers?

      • trees says:

        But don’t confuse internet persecution with the murderous, racist terrorism that is the KKK’s raison d’etre.

        Not seeing a huge difference, frankly. Much internet persecution is racist and terroristic, and it sometimes results in deaths. It’s also often sexist, transmisogynist, classist, ethnocentric, ageist… it’s the full gamut of fucked up, honestly.

        This comparison strikes me as absurdly hyperbolic, so I’m guessing I just don’t know a whole lot about Anonymous. Can anyone suggest a site where I can learn more about this group in order to make sense of the comparison?

      • EG says:

        Not seeing a huge difference, frankly. Much internet persecution is racist and terroristic, and it sometimes results in deaths. It’s also often sexist, transmisogynist, classist, ethnocentric, ageist… it’s the full gamut of fucked up, honestly.

        You’re…not seeing a huge difference between KKK’s reign of terror based on terrorist lynchings/murders, and Anonymous’s internet activities? Really?

        That just strikes me as wildly disingenuous. But if it’s not, if it’s serious, then we don’t have enough in common when it comes to values to have a productive conversation.

        You don’t have to support the cops, but unless you’re going to condemn bringing them in to a rape case in equally strong terms, you have to demonstrate to me why I should think Anonymous is worse.

        I’d love to hear about other options, as I’ve said many times now. By all means, mention them.

    • TimmyTwinkles says:

      I’m sympathetic to a whole lot of the criticisms here regarding Anonymous, but comparing them to the KKK is some minimizing racist bullshit. Unless Anon has murdered thousands of African Americans that I’m unaware of?

  14. BroadBlogs says:

    Worries over “spreading information without verifying its authenticity or accuracy” is my biggest concern.

    I would like to know what the track record is for Anonymous. If Anonymous has been careful and accurate, and continues to do so, I don’t have a problem with it. I imagine that Anonymous would lose credibility and power if they aren’t, and would be motivated to stick with the truth for that reason.

    Generally speaking, I feel that more speeches better than less.

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  16. Bex says:

    After what happened to me and my partner during the Rehteah Parsons case, I have to agree with you. We were threatened and harassed by Anonymous “hackers” after their terrible op security led us to inadvertently stumbling upon all of the “secure” information they had collected on the possible rapists.

    On top of all that, the casual racism that these so-called social justice advocates threw about in their discourse was absolutely disgusting. It seemed pretty obvious to me that most of the participants were in it to give “Anonymous” more publicity.

    • TimmyTwinkles says:

      I have no doubt about the racism, but could you elaborate a little on this for a non-layperson?

      We were threatened and harassed by Anonymous “hackers” after their terrible op security led us to inadvertently stumbling upon all of the “secure” information they had collected on the possible rapists.

      • TimmyTwinkles says:

        Actually i think i have a fairly good idea what transpired and with whom now that i think about it, but still would appreciate it if you’d elaborate a bit

  17. king ten butts says:

    I definitely disagree with the idea that Anonymous is worse than other oppressive institutions like the courts or the police, but only for lack of numbers and resources…
    A friend of mine, active in the Anonymous community, was raped by another member of Anonymous (who is, afaik, still really popular among other Anons in their area). Almost immediately, other mutually-known Anons took to the rapist’s defence. This was happening at the same time as their work in the Steubenville hacktivism. So while Anonymous on the whole can shine a light on issues that society likes to ignore, it also directly participates in them on an individual level. Much like “proper” institutions, it also offers criminals a community to manipulate and fall back on. If you have enough fame or enough friends, you have a certain amount of impunity. See: Julian Assange. (Heck, this is the same reason I don’t identify as a Feminist. See: Hugo Schwyzer.)

    Lastly, as stated earlier, the more “serious” members of Anonymous choose to associate with a group that spends much more time harassing individuals for petty slights and disagreements than they spend helping victims; a group that was founded in and even continues to promote racism, child pornography, etc.; a group that actively opposes feminism.

    I just don’t know why certain people want you to choose between billy clubs and fedoras. Can’t I despise them both?

    • ldouglas says:

      A friend of mine, active in the Anonymous community.

      This doesn’t make sense to me. If people in real life are saying they’re a member of the ‘Anon community,’ which doesn’t really exist offline insofar as it exists at all, then that’s a big “huh?”

      • Matt says:

        Why would you assume that the Anon community doesn’t exist offline? As far as the average Anon who just follows orders goes there is no real reason to keep anonymity from other Anons. From what I recall, during the Scientology demonstrations and maybe Occupy lots of Anons were together IRL. Its pretty common knowledge that internet communities often spill over into the real world.

      • ldouglas says:

        As far as the average Anon who just follows orders

        I really don’t think you grasp quite what Anonymous is; it’s not a community in the sense, say, Feministe is. There’s no central organization, no recognized leadership, and really anyone or nobody is Anonymous depending on how they happen to identify that day. There are no Anonymous conventions.

      • Matt says:

        I think your preconceptions are coloring your understanding of my post. Anonymous doesn’t have an explicit hierarchy but it has an implicit one, even if it changes a bit. There are people with more pull than others. Most Anons just follow the crowd just like everyone else.

        I’ve read discussions by Anons about meeting people at the Scientology rallies. And they met there and sometimes meet in real life now. Just like anyone else in an internet community.

        Sure they don’t have a steering committee setting up cons everywhere, that doesn’t mean they don’t go outside or meet up ever.

      • king ten butts says:

        I’m being intentionally vague for my friend’s sake, but it’s ridiculous to suggest people who call themselves Anonymous don’t communicate on an individual level, meet in “real life”, or bow to certain in-group hierarchies. You obviously know about the Scientology protests, Guy Fawkes masks, and Anonymous involvement in Occupy, so what are you confused about?

    • wembley says:

      It is shocking, just shocking to me, that dudes are defending Anonymous all over this thread and now questioning that one person in Anonymous would rape another. My monocle is just popping off my face in shock.

      Lol, “knight” sec. Lol “chivalry”.

      • BBBShrewHarpy says:

        +1 One little step to White Knighting!

        I like the argument above that because Anon is full of elite hackers we should trust its moral compass.

        Any organization comprised of people, however formally unstructured, will eventually either fall apart or shape itself into leaders and followers, and the mission will depend on the willingness of the followers to contain any ill-considered urges of the leaders. Citations? History!

        I like the checks and balances provided by our institutions. I also like the fact that Anonymous challenges our institutions. I just worry that we are elevating Anonymous to a pedestal that is not healthy and according it a status that it doesn’t require in order to function.

      • XtinaS says:

        “I like the argument above that because Anon is full of elite hackers we should trust its moral compass.”

        [citation needed]

      • BBBShrewHarpy says:

        From TimmyTwinkles above:

        “understand that the Anonymous that people are defending is essentially a decentralized group of elite hackers, no kids, no jack-offs, and you wont see them on 4chan. You may not agree with their means or their end, but as posters on an SJ blog we might give them a little of the respect afforded to fellow activists.”

        and posts that follow. As if “elite hackers” were somehow above kids and jack-offs. It struck me as a bit too like bowing to the almighty technical wizards without considering that being an elite hacker conferred no credibility in any arena other than elite hacking.

      • TimmyTwinkles says:

        To BBS:
        Being a brain surgeon confers no other credibility in any arena other than brain surgery. What’s your point? I’ve not once said anyone is above criticism, or that I approve of everything done by people claiming Anon. But your attitude towards hackers in general tells me you know nothing about programming or cyber security.

      • BBBShrewHarpy says:

        You make my point: I would no more trust a brain surgeon on social justice issues than I would anyone else, nor would I think a brain surgeon was less likely to be a jack-off.

      • TimmyTwinkles says:

        And may I add, I’ve seen firsthand women participate in the top levels of Anon’s hacktivism. Not that this automatically confers legitimacy on their actions, but I don’t think its fair or accurate to write off any positive comments about Anon as white knighting.

      • BBBShrewHarpy says:

        Women can be jack-offs too, you know.

        As for my attitude towards hackers… I’ve programmed for a living at various times of my life, which is part of why I can award hackers no special halo for anything really, except technical expertise.

      • TimmyTwinkles says:

        That’s fair enough. I take back what i said about you knowing nothing, that was a needless ad hominem.

  18. someGuy says:

    [article in the link discusses the rape and self-harm, suicide attempts]

    http://www.xojane.com/it-happened-to-me/daisy-coleman-maryville-rape

    The young woman spoke about that fateful night and there’s one snippet about Anonymous at the end:

    Since Anonymous has gotten involved, everything has changed. #justice4Daisy has trended on the Internet, and pressure has come down hard on the authorities who thought they could hide what really happened.

  19. Alara Rogers says:

    When we have an organization of known, identified people who carefully and cautiously seek out information that nobody else has or is willing to pursue regarding miscarriages of justice, publish and promote that information, and lead campaigns to demand justice, we don’t need Anon or the work they do.

    Scientology and rape are two areas where, for different reasons, the mainstream media is not that organization. Scientology’s vicious attacks via the legal system on named individuals for exposing its abuses required an anonymous organization to protest it, and rape culture is just so fucking *everywhere* that often, even the media promotes it (consider the coverage of the 11 year old gang raped in Texas, where all the quotes the New York Times got were victim blaming and there was nothing in the article to balance that or imply condemnation of that.)

    The news media, when it is doing its job right, is fair and balanced. When it is not doing its job right, it reinforces existing cultural memes. News media cannot play the role both of exposing information and of protesting injustice. The role of exposing information is inherently dangerous because a lot of our laws restrict who is permitted to seek out information to the legal system, under very tight and easily abusable constraints, and the formal press, which cannot openly take sides. Seriously, in my home state it is against the law to record a conversation if both parties don’t agree to it, so if a person recorded their spouse abusing them, it would not only not be evidence of a crime against them but would actually be evidence of a crime they committed. That’s wrong. Until we fix it, there will need to be people who can safely break the law to uncover information about injustice.

    Of course this is wrong. Of course this is a bad idea. Anon is not accountable to anything other than the tsk-tsking of other Anons. But right now there is *nothing better*. I have a problem with highly paid trial lawyers dragging innocent physicians through hell for children having birth defects that were in no way preventable by the physician, but there is no other group that protects the patients from malpractice. Lack of accountability is a bad thing, but in a society that has set up rules that actively punish justice seekers, how *can* you safely be accountable? If fighting a town that raped a girl and then drove her family out and burned her house down made you into Edward Snowden, who the hell would do it?

    Yes, Anon is perfectly capable of doing terrible things, and has. Yes, I imagine that Anon is just as enabling of rape culture within its ranks as every other group ever that wasn’t specifically founded to combat rape culture, and just as enabling of other isms within its ranks as any other group not founded specifically against that ism… witness the high degree of racism and transphobia within feminism! The only reason feminism isn’t a major enabler of rape culture within its own ranks is that it’s one of the specific things we’ve identified as What We Fight (and even then, Vagina Monologues “good rape” anyone?) All the things we agree are Bad and yet not specifically What We Exist To Fight, we have within us; Anon’s no different.

    I am very, very much in favor of the dissemination of correct, truthful information as a weapon against lies, deception and miscarriages of justice coming from the truth being covered up. I’d love to see Anon implement accountability procedures to prevent false rumors from being disseminated (though, to be fair, all the cases listed above of false rumors disseminated on the Internet were not Anon’s doing.) But their decentralized nature, which allows them to do what they do without being arrested for it, prevents that. So maybe if we had legal channels to let private citizens go after information that had been covered up and expose it without legal harm? Maybe if we applied whistleblower law to things like uncovering corrupt police or prosecution? But the cops don’t care about your whistleblower protection, the cops will beat the shit out of you for “resisting arrest” and plant weed on you and claim they arrested you for marijuana possession. If you’re going to go fighting the cops you *need* to be anonymous because they are a gang of organized thugs with no accountability themselves. And if you’re seeking justice for rape victims, often that’s going to put you up against the cops.

    Anonymous is one of the reasons we are not yet a police state. They have the capacity to do incredible harm, but thus far, I haven’t seen much of that since they started their anti-Scientology campaign. So, is Anonymous good for Maryville? Well, let’s put it this way. Maybe not, but Anonymous is definitely bad for *rapists* in Maryville, and someone needs to be.

    I’m concerned about vigilante justice too. Show me a justice system that doesn’t need it to actually *achieve* justice for the oppressed, and I might actually start to think it does more harm than good. But so far, while I agree that the organization got its start in a particularly vile segment of the Internet and that there was a reason it was called the “Internet Hate Machine”, nowadays I don’t see it doing much that is harmful. A lot of the semi-organized Twenty Minute Hates against decent people are coming from Reddit nowadays and not identified with Anon at all.

    • Miriam says:

      This is one of those times I wish for a Like or +1 option because I have no useful comment to make, but I want you to know how perfectly stated I think your post was.

    • TomSims says:

      “The news media, when it is doing its job right, is fair and balanced.”

      Hey Alara, that sounds like FOX News. Just kidding, yet another great post by you.

  20. Drahill says:

    But EG, you haven’t answered my question. I wasn’t arguing about length of time. I was arguing about having a system at all. If the people who Anonynous targeted has a system by which to pursue exoneration, than Anonymous would in effect be a legal judicial system and your point would be moot. The whole point of Anonymous is that they are extrajudicial, which is a large section of Jill’s argument. So you might wanna try again there.

  21. LotusBecca says:

    This article is such a vile little apologia for our legal system.

  22. pheenobarbidoll says:

    Every single criticism levelled at anonymous can be levelled at the justice system in this country. This is a perfect example of how many colonized people feel about it. Now imagine if people in power replaced your judicial system with anonymous, and you were subjected to whatever rules and justice they dished out. So anonymous isn’t a legitimate system to mete out justice? News flash- neither is your precious system. It’s an illegitimate system with no checks and balances when it comes to the colonized. So frankly, I see zero difference between the two.

    • pheenobarbidoll says:

      Oh and the expectation that if it worked correctly it would serve rape victims is ridiculous. IT IS WORKING. That’s why it FAILS rape victims.

    • SkyTracer says:

      The difference is people (like Jill) who use their public platform to say things like “the system I’m a part of includes bad people who often do bad things, and that should stop.” Where are the equivalent members of Anonymous?

      • pheenobarbidoll says:

        That’s not really much help now is it? Not when you have people in that system killing, beating, raping, attacking and stealing from the colonized who have not ever faced any consequences. Not in 500 years. And it’s not bad people in the system, it’s the system itself. Vigilante justice backed by a government isn’t magically justice. So if people here are going to complain about vigilante justice then they need to include, not exclude, their own judicial system. Biggest bunch of shoot first ask questions later system in this country.

      • TimmyTwinkles says:

        They’re out doing things (some i approve of, some i think are reprehensible), b/c they realize that standing back and criticizing the system does absolutely nothing to change it. The powers that be give 2 shits what you, I or Jill think about anything. Though its a hell of alot easier to criticize those that do from the cheap seats (not actually talking about Jill’s post here, she simply asked if Anon’s presence is a net positive for the Maryville situation, which is a fair question)

      • Bagelsan says:

        b/c they realize that standing back and criticizing the system does absolutely nothing to change it.

        Yes, we currently have exactly the same legal system that we’ve had for hundreds of years, because criticism never ever accomplishes anything.

      • TimmyTwinkles says:

        No, it doesn’t. Activism does, civil disobedience does, but criticism from the peanut gallery? Citation please.

  23. Paula says:

    This is a great conversation to initiate – we all need to consider the best way to advocate for sexual abuse victims.
    I don’t think anonymous social media action is the best way, as there is no accountability and no assurance of accuracy. That being said, in this day and age, something is always better than nothing.

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  25. Tamen says:

    So how do the people defending Anonymous actions feel about Anonymous’ complicity in doxxing the wrong woman/accuser in the Ohio rape case:

    @Anon_Central published this woman’s information on Twitter.

    http://www.buzzfeed.com/ryanhatesthis/this-is-what-happens-when-anonymous-accuses-you-of-faking-a

    • anonFrost says:

      In response to this… again, @anonCentral is an affiliate of the group in it’s entirety but it does not represent a collective thought process.

      Nolan ran with the intel and a random affiliate blasted it further. Don’t assume Anonymous members across the world supported it.

  26. anonFrost says:

    Anonymous is not a singular entity. We are human nature if nothing else. Good, bad and indifferent.

    Do not judge Anonymous based on the good things we have done or the bad things we have done. Simply do not judge.

    Anonymous brought Maryville to a status that it would not have reached without our help. Daisy supports Anonymous just as we support her.

    That being said, you may agree with Anonymous being involved and you may not, but either way… your opinion is just that, an opinion.

Comments are closed.