The (IN)Famous Anonymous

David Kushner is offering us “An Inside Look at Anonymous, the Radical Hacking Collective” in his article in the New Yorker. The article was initially entitled “An Inside Look at Anonymous, the Radical Hacking Collective” which has been changed to “The masked avengers”, probably because the the original title suggested that the article was going to shed a light on the collective while it is mostly centred around a hacktivist named Christopher Doyon. I never heard about him and haven’t read anything about him since reading this article. In a way, for me he is just a fictitious character. What I’m writing here is just based on the story Kushner tells.

Doyon is a hacktivist. Before he was forced to leave the US, he used to sleep in parks with his backpack, laptop and several packets of PallMall and use Starbucks wifi to get online. Doyon was originally a member (Commander X and later, the Supreme Commander) of People Liberation Front (PLF) to which he stayed closely connected while he was in the US. PLF was always his first priority. He actually joined Anonymous just to get more information about it and also to recruit for PLF. He was so devoted to his goals that during the days of their attacks on specific targets he would go several days without eating or taking a bath.

It is clear that Kushner is trying his best to stay unbiased by citing almost every possible relevant fact to the story. However, one can easily observe that, especially by the arrangement of the data throughout the second half of the article, there is an emphasis on the personal behaviour of Doyon, on his being a facefag and namefag.

There is no argue that whatever Doyon has done is for the joy of power. Even his tendency to live as a homeless, to spend the nights in parks, is a sign of his will to power. To have the absolute power, with respect to possession, you must either have all or none. Anywhere in between, you are a slave to your fear (of loss) or greed (to have more). Doyon was smart enough to understand that to have all is almost impossible. It is much easier and more feasible to possess none.

Doyon also enjoyed other types of power. By challenging governments, he tried to demonstrate his own power. The stronger the rival was the more powerful he felt. He would also find another joy of power in helping the oppressed by becoming their hero (or superhero). The good feeling you get from helping others, the ecstasy of generosity, is in most cases, if not all, the joy of power.

After a while, however, may be because of the lack of meaningful actions or the decline of satisfaction he got from those actions, he began to enjoy the power of fame. He started to appear on media. He even used his real name as well as his pseudonym. He started behaving as if he was a real militia, and as Kushner argues, he appeared to believe the persona he adopted as the “commander X”.

However, All these facts and issues should not lead to demean Doyon. Everyone wants power. For Nietzsche the “will to power” is the basic drive for all human beings. Doyon might have abused this will, he might have demonstrated it in a very selfish way, but we should also remember that unlike many of us he has actually done something, made some changes and left his prints in the world. 

My argument here is not to defend Doyon, per se. I haven’t read anything about him except for this article. I’m just trying to argue against the attempt to reduce an activist to his personality and behaviour. It doesn’t matter for the history. History only preserves actions, what one does throughout her life, any changes she might have caused to make the world better or worse. And based on this article, it seems like Doyon has.

The importance of a figure like Doyon can be better understood when compared to other activists of his era:

This past Christmas, the founder of the news site AnonInsiders visited him, bearing pie and cigarettes. Doyon asked the friend to succeed him as Supreme Commander of the P.L.F., offering “the keys to the kingdom”—all his passwords, as well as secret files relating to several Anonymous operations. The friend gently declined. “I have a life,” he told me.

This shows why some figures like Doyon are looked down in our time despite their importance. Doyon ignored the conventional way of life, traditional values like regular meeting with family and friends, and even taking good care of his health. In short, he ignored to “have a life” for what he believed was a greater, communal good. However, it seems like in our time, the greater goods are to live healthily and do everything in moderate. In other words, we all have to be middle-aged, conservative and afraid of death.

But isn’t life really those days that you are so busy doing what you love that you forget about eating or bathing?

Kushner writes:

Doyon had shaved his beard, and he looked gaunt. He told me that he was ill and that he rarely went outside. On his small desk were two laptops, a stack of books about Buddhism, and an overflowing ashtray. A Guy Fawkes mask hung on an otherwise bare yellow wall. He told me, “Underneath the whole X persona is a little old man who is in absolute agony at times.”

When we spoke, he used a lit cigarette to gesture around his apartment. “How is this better than a fucking jail cell? I never go out,” he said. “I will never speak with my family again. . . . It’s an incredibly high price to pay to do everything you can to keep people alive and free and informed.”

In June, two months before his fiftieth birthday, he quit smoking (“#hacktheaddiction #ecigaretteswork #old,” he later tweeted).”

I think by citing these, especially at the point where the article is to conclude, Kushner is subtly trying to illustrate that Doyon at the age of 50 began to understand the true values of life. In a way Kushner is trying to tell other hacktivists: “Look at Doyon. Learn from his life. Even he understands that at the end what matters is to be a good girl/boy, quit smoking and talk to the family regularly”.


Is Doyon Che of our time?

In short, No. At least for the most obvious reason that Che died before getting so old to tweet: #hacktheaddiction #ecigaretteswork #old or to complain about not speaking with his family.

It is true that the life of people like Doyon, their ideals and actions can remind one of the guerillas of the mid twentieth century, most famously in Cuba. In both cases, the activists abandoned normal way of life and even put their lives in danger for a greater good, to change the world for the better. Moreover, what they did and the means they used to reach their goal, was not legal for the simple reason that they wanted to change the system.

However there are some fundamental differences between Che and Doyon. Che’s actions was based on a theory which, right or wrong, was the most progressive theory at the time. Doyon’s acts, no matter how important, were only founded on the views of a few people and the immediate need for action. There was no long term perspective.

Another difference is in their era. For Che’s time, while most of the group were killed, the rest kept going, recruited new members and continued with their struggle despite  the strong possibility of being completely eliminated. But in the times of Doyon, his fellow activist rejects being the Supreme Commander because he has a life.

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