Each day seems to bring a new video from the hacktivist collective Anonymous threatening some spectacular attack, then everyone freaks out. This week, Anonymous is threatening to disrupt the Iowa Caucuses. After a month of fake Anonymous scares, we call bullshit.
An Anonymous-branded video was recently uploaded to YouTube. In it, a spooky computer voice declares its contempt for the American political process: "Both parties are desecrating the American democracy and committing crimes against humanity on behalf of the American people." It calls on Anonymous members to shut down the Iowa Caucuses in December in protest.
The Des Moines register warns:
An anarchist-style movement that has caught the attention of the FBI and taken credit for hacking into military and corporate websites has now claimed responsibility for creating a video that urges its supporters to shut down the Iowa caucuses.
Sounds scary! But so did Anonymous' recent, much-hyped threats against Facebook, Fox News and the Zetas drug cartel. None of those amounted to anything, and it's almost certain the Iowa Caucuses threat won't either.
Just skiming the facts shows some red flags; The guy who uploaded the video is an Occupy Iowa participant and claims he "found this DVD outside my tent....with a note…" Uh, OK. Then Morpheus appeared and offered him a choice between chugging a red or a blue Pabst. And, not to get too nerdy, but the video references "OpESR," an old, failed Anonymous operation.
Apparently all it takes these days to spark a media hacking frenzy is a copy of iMovie, a voice synthesizer and a painfully overblown prose style. Slap up the Anonymous logo (or better yet, one of the pre-made videos of a masked Anonymous figure speaking) select a dramatic soundtrack—that creepy song from Requiem from a Dream is a favorite—and spout off something about how a hot issue of the day has "angered" Anonymous so prepare to meet your doom, We are Legion, Tunisia, Egypt blah, blah, blah.
Create a YouTube account, publish the video, then wait for some hapless journalist to see it and call the authorities for a comment. If the target is high profile enough, the authorities will always say they're aware of it, or will look into it, because saying, "Hey, it's just a YouTube video—hundreds are uploaded every second, so chill out," would make them seem out of touch. The journalist will then call the target of the YouTube video and get some quote about how they're "preparing" for the attack. Story finished. Headline: "Anonymous Threatens X." 1,000,000 unique visitors, please!
(See the giant misunderstanding that was Anonymous' plan to "kill" Facebook for a textbook case of an overeager media creating a threat out of nothing.)
And yet, almost none of these reporters actually talk to Anonymous members, or seriously consider the plausibility of Anonymous' claims. Anyone can be Anonymous, but that doesn't mean Anonymous actually listens to what anyone puts in a random YouTube video.
To illustrate the absurdity of taking Anonymous threats seriously just because they are made in a video on YouTube, consider the threats "Anonymous" has posted Youtube in the past week alone. Threats against:
"We have been watching you. You have been harassing a girl and annoying her and you know who that person is. She does not like what you are doing and we anonymous certainly do not like it."
Tinychat.com continues to allow and host rooms in which underage persons engage themselves in sexually explicit manner on webcam. Tinychat's support team has failed to take the appropriate actions necessary therefore allowing this unacceptable behavior to continue.
(Unclear, it's all in Spanish.)
The inhumanity and brutality the NYPD has shown will not be let be free. This is our warning. Let the people protest without shame or threat.
Recently gamers have been forming groups or clans to take us down. I laugh at that… You are 12 year-old pathetic losers who love the world as it is because you have not seen the real world.
And many, many more. If I made an Anonymous video, it would be ordering all Anonymous members to upload as many videos as possible and overwhelm the media, forcing them to stop reporting every flight of fancy a 22-year-old plugs into iMovie between Call of Duty binges as a serious threat.