Anonymous Documentary We Are Legion Peels Back Hacktivist Group’s History

By Angela Water | January 22, 2012 | 11:33 am

PARK CITY, Utah — New documentary We Are Legion puts an actual human face on Anonymous, the hacktivist group whose members usually are seen wearing Guy Fawkes masks — if they are seen at all.

Considering Anonymous’ retaliatory acts against websites run by the Department of Justice and the entertainment industry just last week in response to the government takedown of file-sharing site Megaupload, We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists could almost be mistaken for a 93-minute news segment.
But unlike most news segments about the group, the documentary contains genuine moments with actual Anons (some maintain their anonymity in the doc, but others don’t).

“The last two or three days we’ve seen a lot of what Anonymous does,” We Are Legion director Brian Knappenberger said in an interview with Wired.com here Saturday, the morning after the documentary’s premiere at the Slamdance Film Festival. “You know, there was a film about the Weather Underground that came out a few years ago, and that was made 30 years after they were blowing up buildings, and I love that film. But picture making a film like that while they were still blowing up buildings — that’s what I’m talking about.”

We Are Legion might be the first to portray the group’s members as true revolutionaries, and it could serve as a time capsule if the kind of online sit-ins and retaliatory strikes that Anonymous has helped create become the new model for civil disobedience across the globe.

For those who didn’t hear of Anonymous until Occupy Wall Street started up, We Are Legion effectively puts the group’s current incarnation in historical perspective. The documentary traces the roots of early hacker-activist groups like the Cult of the Dead Cow and Electronic Disturbance Theater before jumping into Anonymous’ roots in 4chan.

The documentary goes deep. Speaking with current and former Anonymous participants — as well as Wired writers Ryan Singel and Steven Levy — Knappenberger gives a thorough chronological account of Anonymous’ exploits, up to the group’s current place at the forefront of online disobedience.

Starting with Mercedes Renee Haefer, who was arrested in conjunction with the denial-of-service attacks against online payment service PayPal last July, the documentary talks to Anons and experts about Anonymous’ vendetta against Scientology, defense of WikiLeaks, and support of the actions in Tunisia and Egypt during the Arab Spring.

Slamdance, the underground alternative movie fest that runs during the Sundance Film Festival here each year, seems like the perfect place for We Are Legion‘s primer on Anonymous. The film might have seemed out of place at a glitzy Hollywood-in-the-hills screening.

“It feels right,” Knappenberger said of the premiere. “Slamdance has a kind of undercurrent of revolutionary, counterculture, slightly anarchic vibe that just seemed to fit [the film] right away.”

Knappenberger is looking for distribution for his film so it can be seen by a wider audience. It seems possible that Hollywood backers will shy away from a film about Anonymous after the group’s actions against the Motion Picture Association of America and other entertainment industry power players. But Knappenberger said he isn’t worried.

“I just want to tell the story,” he said, adding that considering Anonymous’ various targets over the years, “Who aren’t I offending?”

He could also take advice from his subject Haefer, who in the film says that what Anonymous ultimately hopes to protect is freedom of speech, regardless of a person’s opinions or background.

Or, as she says simply, “Your opinion matters.”

Anonymous Documentary We Are Legion Peels Back Hacktivist Group's History | Underwire | Wired.com.

‘Vendetta’ mask becomes Occupy symbol

By Verena Dobnik, Associated Press
Updated 11/4/2011 10:21 AM

NEW YORK – Look at a photo or news clip from around the world of Occupy protesters and you’ll likely spot a handful of people wearing masks of a cartoon-like man with a pointy beard, closed-mouth smile and mysterious eyes.

A protester with the “Occupy Seattle” movement wears a Guy Fawkes mask on Oct. 15. The masks are modeled on a 17th-century English terrorist, who is often now seen as a freedom fighter. By Ted S. Warren, AP

“They’re very meaningful masks,” said Alexandra Ricciardelli, who was rolling cigarettes on a table outside her tent in New York’s Zuccotti Park two days before the anniversary of Fawkes’ failed bombing attempt.

“It’s not about bombing anything; it’s about being anonymous — and peaceful.”

To the 20-year-old from Keyport, N.J., the Fawkes mask “is about being against The Man — the power that keeps you down.”

But history books didn’t lead to the mask’s popularity: A nearly 30-year-old graphic novel and a five-year-old movie did.

Occupy movement grows

V for Vendetta, the comic-based movie whose violent, anarchist antihero fashions himself a modern Guy Fawkes and rebels against a fascist government has become a touchstone for young protesters in mostly western countries. While Warner Brothers holds the licensing rights to the Guy Fawkes mask, several protesters said they were using foreign-made copies to circumvent the corporation.

Yet whether the inspiration is the comic, the movie or the historical figure, the imagery — co-opted today by everyone from Wikileaks founder Julian Assange to the hacker group Anonymous — carries stronger connotations than some of the Occupy protesters seem to understand.

While Fawkes’ image has been romanticized over the past 400 years, he was a criminal who tried to blow up a government building. It would be hard to imagine Americans one day wearing Timothy McVeigh masks to protest the government or corporate greed.

Lewis Call, an assistant history professor at California Polytechnic in San Luis Obispo, said the masked protesters are adopting a powerful symbol that has shifted meaning through the centuries.

“You can seize hold of it for any political purpose you want,” he said. “That’s the real power of it.”

Fawkes was a Catholic insurrectionist executed for the bombing attempt. In the years immediately following his execution, Nov. 5 was England’s official celebration for defeating Fawkes, said Call, who has written about the nexus of Fawkes, V for Vendetta and modern-day protests.

Call said over the next three centuries, people in England started using Fawkes’ image in different ways. Some used Fawkes as a symbol for putting limits on state power. Others held him up as a freedom fighter.

Then came the comic book, a nihilistic story set in a futuristic England. And the movie. People began thinking of him as a libertarian or even anarchist hero.

“Gradually over the centuries, the meaning of Guy Fawkes has dramatically changed,” said Call. “The reputation of Guy Fawkes has been recuperated. Before he was originally seen as a terrorist trying to destroy England. Now he’s seen more as a freedom fighter, a fighter for individual liberty against an oppressive regime. The political meaning of that figure has transformed.”

Nearly two years after the film V for Vendetta was released, the hacker group Anonymous wore the Guy Fawkes masks depicted in the movie during protests against the Church of Scientology. Then came Wikileaks and the Occupy movement.

At Zuccotti Park in New York, the Guy Fawkes masks have been worn over the past month by Occupy protesters ranging from self-proclaimed anarchists to drummers to those impersonating “zombie” bankers. Few wore them Thursday afternoon because of the arrests of masked activists. But they weren’t gone — just hidden.

One was in the left hand of 32-year-old Jason J. Cross — right under a protest sign. He had 20 more stashed in his tent, to be sold at $5 apiece.

“I had 10 here yesterday, and I sold out!” he said.

Cross said he’d purchased 100 of the Chinese-made masks online.

“The origins of this mask comes from the idea of rising up against the government,” he said. “Guy Fawkes represents the fact that the people have the real power.”

A man at the Occupy London protests on a recent day said the mask has become a potent symbol.

“It’s unifying the world under one symbol,” said the 33-year-old man who asked not to be named because he claimed to be a member of a group accused of hacking into government and corporate computer systems.

“People hide behind the masks, put the masks on and their identity is hidden. Therefore they can do a lot more than they would if they didn’t have the masks,” he said, after emerging sleepy-eyed from his tent.

The London protester said his brethren are trying to counter Warner Bros.‘ control of the imagery.

He claims that Anonymous UK has imported 1,000 copies from China, and the distribution goes “straight into the pockets of the Anonymous beer fund rather than the Warner Brothers. Much better.”

Hudson Williams Eynon, a protester in Seattle’s Westlake Plaza, said the mask is not the only corporate product the Occupy movement is using. Smart phones, cameras and Internet service are used to organize. It is something unavoidable, he said.

“There’s a lot of inherent ironies in protesting corporations in a corporate world,” Williams Eynon said in early October.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

via ‘Vendetta’ mask becomes Occupy symbol – USATODAY.com.

Time Warner profits from Guy Fawkes masks worn at ‘Anonymous’ protests

Time Warner profits from Guy Fawkes masks worn at ‘Anonymous’ protests

By Eric W. Dolan
Monday, August 29th, 2011 — 4:59 pm

Anonymous

“Thanks to “Anonymous,” the mask has become one of the most popular masks in the U.S. and the top-selling mask on Amazon.com. Rubie’s Costumes, the New York company that produces the masks, sells more than 100,000 Guy Fawkes masks a year.”

via Time Warner profits from Guy Fawkes masks worn at ‘Anonymous’ protests | The Raw Story.

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