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Not surprisingly, "We are Legion" was extremely well received at Austin's SXSW Film Festival. This film sheds a great deal of light on the murky and confusing world of the hacker group Anonymous. The filmmakers were able to achieve incredible access to the group and tell the historical story mostly through interviews with participants. The film is essentially chronological so it tells their story so that people who haven't followed its development can gain some understanding of a very complicated and somewhat confusing organization. The film is done in a self-critical fashion that while generally favorable is not afraid to show the group's negatives, its conflicts and its internal struggles. It is extremely well-made and highly informative. The groups' almost accidental evolution from merry pranksters into some sort of political activists is fascinating. While they are clearly inspired by commitment to free speech especially online it is hard to clearly define their evolving ideology. They are clearly interconnected to emerging phenomenon such as the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street, but it is difficult to determine how significant their political impact has been in these events. In any case, "We are Legion" provides an opportunity to those of us outside these organizations to gain some insight into what they are doing and that is extremely valuable. I hope that this film is widely viewed since it provides a view of one of the new political frontiers of the internet.
To me the world is very unlike that of reviewer Thomas Chase who views
this as a movie promoting crime. I didn't see a movie that promotes
anything, but, it is about activism in different online forms. The
activists themselves are doing most of the talking and it shows how
loosely tied the group called anonymous is.
It shouldn't really matter if you are with this groups actions or not because it's about understanding their motivations and how groups like it can and will impact our shared future; sometimes with government crushing impact and sometimes for a cruel laugh at someones expense.
I came away feeling both uplifted and slightly scared, but whatever you feel it will make you think and to me that is always a good thing.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Immediately on seeing this documentary i could see that while it
presents only a few views, there was an excellent story telling
element. Internet is beyond the ability of people to classify but
people do know that there is a territorial war for knowledge, ownership
The slow, drawn out pranking, hacking, cracking and inability of authority to overwhelm the vast numbers of the ad-hoc "Anonymous" ideal and group that came to act in representation is chronicled. The range of interviews covers not just self declared geniuses and opportunist writers who claim to publish books attempting understand or explain the world. There are also all kinds of average, or even below average skill and intelligence who found a home and created as much of the culture as the so called elite hacker. So there is a transcendence and assumption that we know the internet and forum culture enough that ethics and the vast range of different motivations can be opened up to the audience.
Its way more general and relevant to all internet forum users and connected to global events, revolutionaries than it is to simple acts of system cracking and website hacking. So many people will find it educational but most likely will react more to the not so magnetic nerd culture by identifying with or against it.
There are many interviews here which apparently succeed in chronicling the much longer story of legal suppression of activism through hacking. Milestones of change such as the public criticism and public mobilization against the Church of Scientology and it's extreme litigation and counter-offensive efforts to harm anyone who publicly embarrasses or criticizes it.
The main story is that this documentary seeks to recruit people by opening their eyes to the power of even small acts of defiance in the face of abuse of power. Abuse such as in the case of governments closing down lines of communication and concerned freedom groups re-enabling information flow such as in the Egypt massacres of demonstrators who eventually embarrassed their dictator into quitting government.
This type of documentary is rare - so spread the word
What kind of documentaries are the best kind? For me, they're the kind
that do their job and do it so well, so indisputably strong, and
mesmerizing that they almost make you a more realized man for seeing
them. A documentary's job is to make its viewer go from ignorant to
informed; I should walk in oblivious and unknowing and emerge as if I
read an opus with all the information on the subject I could ever want
- at least enough to form a strong, valuable opinion on. Of course,
with the abundance of short-documentaries, TV specials, and ones that
tackle macro issues like gun control and healthcare, one needs to lower
expectations to an achievable, more realistic level.
There is no need for expectations to be lowered for We are Legion: The Story of Hacktivists, a documentary that concerns the newfound "hacktivist" movement and the notorious band of cyber-protesters that call themselves "Anonymous." It's a spectacular, groundbreaking documentary that centers on the group, its formation, its goals and self-proclaimed "operations," and its surge of popularity on the internet and open-forum websites such as 4chan and Reddit. It provides one of the best pro/con debates, as well as some of the slickest arguments for why groups like this need to exist. I would say gangs like these are almost necessary to protect the rights of the people.
The film cherrypicks several different operations conducted by Anonymous - a group that is known not just for their controversial, highly-technical actions but ominous videos and Guy Fawkes masks - to allow the viewer the insight not so much if they're good or bad but how impacting they are. Their first major operation was attacking the Church of Scientology after they demanded the website Gawker to remove a video of Tom Cruise praising the religion. Anonymous saw this as an attack on free speech and staged elaborate server attacks on the church's site as well as protests at their churches around the world. But how did Anonymous form and how did these attacks come to fruition? Through the same tool the group uses to get their ideology across; the internet. Through sites like 4chan and Reddit that predicate off of the anonymity of their users and commit. Through the use of different sections for users to share their interests and talk about their ideas and even stage meetups around the world. That's how.
Another operation the group conducted were the protests against the famous internet bills called the "Protect IP Act" and the "Stop Online Piracy Act," which threatened a more government-regulated web. Others include questionable things such as hacking Sarah Palin's email, the websites of major credit cards for denying donations to WikiLeaks amid controversy, and even shutting down the PlayStation Network when a young man was handed a lawsuit for tampering with the network.
One of the many issues that has brewed with Anonymous is how disorganized it really is. Anyone from anyone where in the world can call themselves Anonymous and no stratification exists in the group. It's a global, leaderless group of people who are each advocating for what seems to be different things. While they can seem helpful and germane to the idea of democracy (WikiLeaks and the Church of Scientology), they also can appear just as harmful with immature little publicity stunts likely staged by a whole different group of people trying to call themselves a larger group of people. It's a messy set of circumstances.
Do I personally support Anonymous? It depends. When they're advocating for civil liberties and preservation of freedom, most definitely do I see them as helpful and necessary. It's when I see them staging childish attacks on political figures and public ordinance do I wince. Their powers are ones that can easily be taken for granted and perhaps we the people should protect them while we can.
I recently gave a thirty-five minute presentation on the rise, history, and crucial points on "hacktivism" - promoting political/social issues using technology - in my sociology class and used this film as the basis of my argument and format. One of my points was that no matter who is doing the hacking or what their justification may be, it will always be viewed as a deviant practice. You could say the group Anonymous is breaking the law and should be severely punished, but it that a fair thing to do fro someone who's allegedly protecting your rights? The answer, as always, is left up to you, dear reader.
The full film, We are Legion: The Story of Hacktivists, can be viewed on Youtube free of charge. It is something of your American right to do so, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=arQRSjlDzDc
Directed by: Brian Knappenberger.
We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists
Thanks to online anonymity you can now let your friends know that they're fat sluts without having to lose their friendship.
However, fat shaming is far from the mandate of the faceless hackers in this documentary.
From its early inception on image-based message boards to its impact on the occupy movement, the polemic collective of online hackers known as Anonymous has always put freedom of speech first on their list of demands.
Claiming to have hacked numerous email accounts and websites belonging to governments, politicians and movie executives, the faceless rabble reinforce their rule when civil liberties are threatened.
Speaking in-depth with masked/unmasked members (Anon2World, Gregg Housh) as well as curators of online media outlets that tout its exploits, We Are Legion may be biased but it does divulged incredible insight into this unorganized organization.
Furthermore, it's nice to know that those masks they wear don't mean they're all Juggalos.
Let me say up front that I have serious reservations about hacking as political tactic. The members of Anonymous attack anyone they don't like, without reference to any set of political principles or the likelihood that their actions will change anything. Based on the film's interviews with Anonymous members, they're motivated as much by the thrill of the hack as by any serious political agenda. I also question the filmmaker's selection of some of their interview subjects. One guy from New York is apparently incapable of uttering a sentence without using "f***" or "f***ing" at least twice. Barrett Brown, a so-called spokesman for Anonymous, is so affected it sounds like he's working on a William F. Buckley impersonation while waving around his unlit cigarette. When these guys tell you they're changing the world, it's a bit difficult to believe. This isn't a bad documentary - it's well done technically and it's certainly informative. What it didn't do was change my mind about the legitimacy and important of Anonymous.
This a fine example of the media sympathizing perhaps even glorifying a group and actions of criminals. The reason people in government are given authority for adverse actions against citizens is in part necessary lesser evil one that is preferable to the actions of a fascist state where citizens have no recourse to penalties and no defense or legal representation to protect themselves from individuals or groups acting above the law for unknown motives. Vigilantism and conspiracy in a grand scale is really treason with a pretty bow tie. Being a fan of these people is spitting on the real professions dedicated to their appointed often selfless and extremely dangerous position. I suppose it is a lot to ask someone making millions from potentially creating situations that get groups of actual individuals paid, trained, and responsible for their actions hurt or worse is acceptable to the media, but it sucks and I personally feel boycotting this sort of crude, it promotes crime and undermines our government.
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