EDITOR’S NOTE: The intention of this article is not to deny any member of ‘Anonymous’ his or her right to anonymity, but to tell the story of one very active member who continuously self-promotes.
The strange story of Aaron Remington K. Bale, known to many on Twitter as ‘Anonforecast’, perhaps began with a traumatic brain injury suffered in a severe Jeep accident while at the University of Louisville. Bale may have once possessed a fine mind, as evidenced by his claim of a near-perfect score on the SATs. Bale shared pictures of this former life in which he was both sociable and even popular. Since then, Bale awarded himself the “Anonymous Medal of Honor,” specifically for failing to remain Anonymous. As he wrote on his resume, “I survived an entire year in Anonymous fully doxxed (dox.AaronBale.com) without getting Attacked.” However, within those very ‘dox’, he also stated that other malicious attempts to dox him were merely attacks containing false information. Not only that, but Bale assumed extravagant and absurd titles such as “Previous Founder and Intellectual Property Representative for Anonymous Joint-Operations TrapWire, Darknet, Payback and Blackout-SOPA/NDAA.” Among his colleagues, Bale listed Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales, Google CEO Eric Schmidt, Anonymous scholar Gabriella Coleman, writer Quinn Norton, reporter Amber Lyon, Arizona Senator John McCain, and many others he has certainly never contacted, let alone collaborated with.
Bale, much like Barrett Brown, worked with Anonymous without anonymity or any discernible technological talents. I first became aware of Bale while monitoring Barrett Brown’s video chat room, a place full of ‘Anonymous’ neophytes posturing to replace the “leader” Barrett Brown, who had been recently arrested for threats he made on YouTube directed at the children of a mysterious “Agent Smith.” Bale appeared in this chat room nightly, donning the iconic Guy Fawkes mask when it suited him and going without when it didn’t. Like most of the denizens of this chat room, he spoke of things that made little sense and was easily shaken by a group of trolls who discovered the recently arrested Barrett Brown’s hive of idiot wannabes.
It occurred to me, on investigating Mr. Bale for the first time, that his entire persona could be an elaborate joke and a put-on, as some of the materials he has produced are genuinely funny. On the internet, it’s often hard to tell:
“Lamar Smith was the 3rd Horseman of the Apocalypse, SOPA was his Horse. UNITU is the 4th, and November 5th Ratification of #OpVote (Untitled2269) is the only thing on earth that can stop an Eternity of Hell-on-Earth that follows this upcoming Final World War. I see enough strongly correlated support from the Milgram Corrolary, our Founding Fathers and the Beatitudes of OccupyJesus, to tell you that Anonymous came to deliver you form Cyber-Armageddon.” ~ Aaron Bale
‘Forecast’, as Bale is often called, recently spoke on The MIXX talk radio about #OpLastResort, an ‘Anonymous’ operation responding to the death of Aaron Swartz. Forecast’s appearance on this show was publicized by @YourAnonNews, the largest Anonymous-branded Twitter account at over half a million followers. Bale earnestly explained to the audience that he and his collaborators created the groundswell of opposition to SOPA by attaching relevant information to Justin Bieber hashtags. This is not too far from the narrative that opposition to SOPA was an organic, grassroots reaction to bad legislation, as many activists believe. This popular narrative ignores executive decisions at Google, Reddit, and Wikipedia–three of the internet’s most trafficked sites–to place a scare-message warning people of the dangers of SOPA. The SOPA blackout, indeed, was successful mostly because of powerful executives who felt their profits threatened. Most do not accept this particularly sensible narrative, instead believing “the people” rose up to stop evil. It is only slightly more ridiculous to believe “the people” surfing Justin Bieber hashtags made all the difference. Shaken, Forecast repeatedly mentioned that he would likely be the next internet activist to get “Swartzed” or “Barrett Browned.”
The premise of #OpLastResort made about as much sense as the story of how Aaron Bale and his team of Bieber-taggers defeated SOPA. By releasing encrypted files of supposedly damning evidence against the government, ridiculously dubbed “Whistleblowing Warheads,” Bale and his colleagues hoped to ransom a rapid change in legislation. Should Bale find himself “Swartzed,” the encryption key to these “warheads” would be automatically released. The changes #OpLastResort demanded, although poorly stated, were actually fairly sensible considering the mistreatment of Aaron Swartz.
 There must be reform of outdated and poorly-envisioned legislation, written to be so broadly applied as to make a felony crime out of violation of terms of service, creating in effect vast swathes of crimes, and allowing for selective punishment.
 There must be reform of mandatory minimum sentencing.
 There must be a return to proportionality of punishment with respect to actual harm caused, and consideration of motive and mens rea.
 The inalienable right to a presumption of innocence and the recourse to trial and possibility of exoneration must be returned to its sacred status, and not gambled away by pre-trial bargaining in the face of overwhelming sentences, unaffordable justice and disfavorable odds.
 Laws must be upheld unselectively, and not used as a weapon of government to make examples of those it deems threatening to its power.
As “Outside,” by 90’s alternative rocker Staind, provided bumper music, I began to reconsider the possibility that ‘Forecast’ was all a bad joke. Why would hackers at Anonymous release encrypted versions of documents that were so damning the government would cave to demands? How could Anonymous possibly withhold data on their arch-nemesis? Should the government issue a statement accepting the demands of Anonymous and quickly attempt to meet them, an impossible feat within the narrow window of Anonymous’ attention span, what incentive would Anonymous have to retain the documents? It was the kind of scheme only a person with Traumatic Brain Injury could cook up. The bad music was over, and Bale pontificated about fulfilling his role as spokesperson for Anonymous, but I’d had enough.
In essence, #OpLastResort was like saying, “I’m distributing a secret weapon that will totally destroy you, my worst enemy, but I’m not going to show it to anyone, and I’ll only refrain from destroying you if you just do what I say.” This might be laughable if it wasn’t so serious. #OpLastResort went viral this weekend, generating news headlines and earning a front page spot on YouTube by Monday. It seemed so obvious that the “Whistleblowing Warheads” were a bluff designed to draw attention to demands that weren’t expected to be met.
Empty, non-violent, and terroristic threats are still terroristic threats, yet Aaron Bale has gone out of his way to make sure he has not retained a shred of anonymity, a strategic move that may not play out so well in coming weeks. Should the lizard-people decide to target Bale, they will find a long list of his current medications published at cage.aaronbale.com, a subsection of his site where he details “BrainCage,” a debilitating syndrome in which the sufferer needs constant care or prompting from a “brain orthotic,” a device invented by Bale.