Documentary reminds viewers why they should not forgive threats to our freedom or forget the Anonymous
Until their response to the cyber-bullying of Amanda Todd Internet activist group Anonymous had been laying relatively low, making no headlines since 25 of their members were arrested by Interpol in 2011. As a result, We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists was expected to be somewhat of a eulogy for this Internet phenomenon — but writer and director Brian Knappenberger had a different idea.
Knappenberger begins the narrative by briefly tracing the history of hacking, starting in the late ‘80s with groups like LØPHT and the Cult of the Dead Cow. Discussion of those two groups foreshadows the documentary’s main contrast between harmless hacking and a serious battle for freedom of expression on the web. The narrative continues to describe where the Anonymous movement all began, with Christopher “Moot” Poole’s brainchild — the controversial online, anonymous forum 4chan.
While the primary focus of the film is on the serious issues of Internet freedom, Knappenberger doesn’t miss a chance to enlighten the audience on the strange nature of 4chan and its “/b/” subsection, which serves as a stage for posting oddities and Internet memes without censorship.
The documentary gives viewers insight into an average night on /b/, ranging from pictures of men dressed up as unicorns to Justin Bieber’s face Photoshopped on a busty woman’s body.
4chan has become much more than a portal for silly GIFs, though. We Are Legion introduces Anonymous as an online vigilante group, initially targeting Internet “troll” (one who purposely causes trouble online) Hal Turner, a famous Neo-Nazi blogger, bethe Church of Scientology.
According to another member of the group, the “Scientology troll” was the defining moment of the Anonymous movement.
In taking a collective moral stance against the controversial religion, Anonymous stopped being a bunch of “kids sitting in their mom’s basement” and put a face to the legion — a Guy Fawkes mask, to be precise.
The diversity of the Anonymous community is explored wonderfully in the film, with commentary from main players like Gregg Housh and Barrett Brown, as well as numerous webcam interviews with /b/ members who chose to remain, well, anonymous. Additional insight is provided by academics, old-school hackers and companies like Gawker and Wired magazine.
There is, however, a lack of representation from the organizations targeted by Anonymous.
For those previously unfamiliar with 4chan and Anonymous, We Are Legion provides a detailed, accurate account of the movement from its early days as “the weird part of the Internet” to its recent hacktivist exploits.
As for the present and retired /b/tards (the affectionate nickname netizens of /b/ have given themselves), maybe it is a proud moment to be a part of a larger thing and relive past glory, or just another good opportunity for the lulz.[hr]