The Philosophy of Anonymous: Ontological Politics without Identity
The philosophy of Anonymous Ontological politics without identity harry halpin You cannot arrest an idea. The last tweet of Topiary, before his arrest Ranging from WikiLeaks to the global struggle against treaties such as ACTA, over the last few years the Web has become a centre of political struggle in and of itself rather than a mere adjunct of other struggles. At the same time, a new social force has emerged from the Internet: Anonymous. It is unclear at this moment even what Anonymous is, much less where is it going. Is Anonymous the vanguard defending the Internet, the Internet not only in-itself but for-itself, whose denial-of-service attacks are 'Internet street protests', as Richard Stallman put it? 1 Is Anonymous the incarnation of the long-awaited altruistic invisible army of hackers needed by various social movements, as promised by science-fiction writers for the last decade? Or is Anonymous a phenomenon more similar to a mass panic, a sort of collective behaviour that falls outside of organized politics, an 'Internet Hate Machine' that embodies the libidinal subconscious of the lost children of the Web? All of these theories are attempts to grasp something that is both radically new and the return of a certain long-repressed collective force whose existence pre-dates the Enlightenment ideology of the individual. Anonymous, it will be argued here, is an ontological shift on the terrain of identity at the very moment that identity has become the highest form of selection and exploitation in cog-nitive capitalism, the first glimpse of a form of life without identity on the Internet. Heidegger was wrong: the coming of the gods after cybernetics is possible: they do not forgive and they do not forget. Anonymous stretches simultaneously traditional theories of political organization and our ontology of personal identity. It is precisely this interlinked nexus that gives Anonymous, and future Internet phenomena, their power. Anonymous does not constitute a dubious mystical collective being; nor should techno-gnosticism be substituted for the very real battles for control over the all-too-material infrastructure of global capitalism, of which the Internet is the first and foremost example. However, one cannot deny that Anonymous is a global political collective force whose international impact has been as wide, if not wider, than any other recent movements. Anonymous distinguishes itself from pre-vious political phenomena by its ability to coordinate mass direct actions that are global in scope within minutes purely using the Internet and without any pre-existing organizational structure: a phenomenon of real-time politics still not grasped by current institu-tions whose foundations were constructed before the advent of the Internet. The secret to this scalability and participation lies on the plane of ontology. The political power of Anony-mous cannot be separated from its strange world of memes, a unit of self-replicating culture originally theorized by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins.