The Many Moods of Anonymous

Friday, March 04, 2011


Anonymous has been making headlines lately for their online and offline protests in support of Wikileaks, North Africa, and the unions in Wisconsin. But are they pranksters, hackers, or activists? New York University anthropologist Gabriella Coleman says that they represent the gamut of internet behavior, from its most idealistic to its most nihilistic.

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Comments [9]

Chris Gray from New Haven, CT

Oh, great! A word in our language that for centuries has been owned by everyone and was widely used by many and attributed to many others is now "owned" by a particular group and we should be wary of appropriating credit for their work.

I, myself, am never anonymous though, like Ben Franklin, I very occasionally use pseudonyms. While nether for nor against its efforts, and I have long predicted such a group's birth in the digital age, I sure do object to its name! I suggest Working Anarchist Artists' Associates; WAAA! for short.

Give anonymous back to the people.

Mar. 09 2011 11:56 AM
Michael Garrett

From my limited perspective I would think it unwise for just anyone to use the Anonymous label for any activities they might wish to pursue. It is apparent that the capabilities of Anonymous are quite extensive and not to be trifled with HBGary. So to repeat, I would be very cautious attempting to appropriate that which is not yours to use. Pick a different label just to be safe, something clever and original! lol

Mar. 08 2011 11:40 PM

As someone who's followed (and at points participated in, albeit not for several years) the antics associated with the very loose collective of individuals now being referred to as "Anonymous," I was more than a little disappointed in this piece. As another listener mentioned in a letter that you read on-air recently, I'm left with the unsettling suspicion that you may know as little about the rest of the topics that you cover on your show as you apparently do about this one.

To be fair, Ms. Coleman is clearly much more familiar with her subject matter than was apparent within the context of your short broadcast. The link above to her lecture at MIT suggests a fairly robust grasp of the "Anonymous" culture and its historical underpinnings. It likewise acknowledges the variety of disagreements (as expressed by the poster above me) regarding the "true" nature of "Anonymous" and the rationale behind its recent actions, which have garnered so much ill-informed media attention.

Mar. 07 2011 10:09 PM
Sergei Rabbinowitz from Beatosu, Ohio

I really appreciate and like the careful analysis of media trends that OTM goes through every week, yet I must say that I was really disappointed by this piece. In the future, I'd recommend OTM stay away from discussing things they don't understand and aren't familiar with until they have multiple view points about the topic. This professor really has little to no clue about what Anonymous is or what it represents.

Anon is not a political group or movement or entity. Not even remotely so. This whole drama of late and Anonymous' involvement in political events has its roots in the days of Chanology. It is all essentially the by-product of cancer on 4chan with the last few waves of summer newfags and the deep-intermingling of Reddit and 4chan, and a few other "sites" and irc networks.

Anonymous at the end of the day is about porn, lulz, and too many un-PC things that I can't post on this site. For a better "definition" (which itself is impossible) can be found here:

Mar. 07 2011 01:56 PM
ilse fisher from United States

i think he just means the odd entonation of stating things in a manner of a question... it is distracting. but once you get passed that, i felt her commentary was extremely captivating, at least.

(pardon the lower case use in writing... :P)

Mar. 07 2011 01:52 AM
bemasc from Cambridge, MA

[1] Certainly looks like an archetypal troll: carefully tuned to express an opinion bizarre enough to evoke vehement disagreement, but not so far out as to immediately reveal itself as fiction.

I enjoyed the interview, and thought Dr. Coleman had a lovely radio voice. Also, I'm pretty sure this is the first time I'd ever heard anyone use the word "lulzy" on the airwaves.

[1] actually might be a nice example, for newcomers to the subject, of 4chan lulz in action.

Mar. 06 2011 06:38 PM

I was so wrapped up in listening to the show I came here to comment about how I had become absorbed in the discussion so much that even though I'd come to my destination, I had to wait in the car to hear the end. I have read a few Wikileaks stories where Anonymous was mentioned, but never had a good idea of what or who they were, thanks for walking me through it! I dont agree with commenter Alex's criticisms of speech mannerisms, I didn't find her speech distracting at all. I do find other radio personality's voices and mannerisms annoying at times, but I think its just personal preference. I wouldn't bother writing such a lengthly comment about something like that, it seems a bit personal, perhaps this is an example of a "troll"? Considering Prof. Coleman's subject of study, I'm sure she is accustomed to receiving ad hominem attacks such as this.

Mar. 06 2011 11:44 AM
Karl Fogel from New York, NY

@Alex Machi

That's kind of an odd comment, with its focus on Prof. Coleman's tone of voice (which I found perfectly clear and listenable, so I'm not sure what you found wrong with it).

The only specific criticism you made was about her characterization of Anonymous as a "group", which comes down to a question of how one defines "group". But in the interview she deals with that complexity very well; she represents the nature of Anonymous accurately. If you're objecting to the inherent group-ness that is implied by merely using a single word like "Anonymous" to describe them, then you might as well object to the use of language itself.

For what it's worth, some other interviews by her on the same topic are this one on Brian Lehrer's NYC cable television interview show:

and this in-depth one for MIT TechTV:

She cites primary sources and discusses her research methods. Criticisms of her conclusions should do the same, IMHO.

Mar. 05 2011 07:58 PM
Alex Machi from Falmouth, MA

I don't know how much your guest, Gabriella Coleman, actually knows about Anonymous, or any other on-line activists (her characterizations of the "group" Anonymous lead me to believe it is actually very little), I hope that if you ever need to use her as a source in the future you will at least do your audience the favor of NOT using her speech on the air. Quote or paraphrase her, if you must but do not air her vocal expression. I was actually very dismayed to hear she is a professor. If I were to sign up for a class she taught I would immediately drop the course after the first lecture. Awful, awful speech mannerisms. Extremely annoying, particularly on radio - where one can't excuse such vocal peculiarities, which might not be as apparent on television or in person. Frankly, her speech patterns were distracting, and detracted from the substance of the story. Perhaps in the future your producers can locate better sources to provide material for a radio - i.e. audio - program.

- many thanks

Mar. 05 2011 05:10 PM

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