Saturday, AntiSec released personal e-mails from 77 different law enforcement web sites with the explicit purpose of revealing corruption and criminal behavior. We spent hours combing through this mountain of notably unimportant information and are entirely disappointed that it was even released at all.
Not only did AntiSec fail to uncover anything of value, but it publicized images of a 13 year old girl in a bikini. Although the girl in question published these photographs herself via Facebook, the importance of their presence in Chief Mayfield’s e-mail inbox is completely dependent on context, and the context is missing. As the only real article of interest, Anonymous gladly embraced this concocted “JailBait scandal” because it justified their illegal actions and gave them a sense of self-importance. In reality, there was nothing of value in this e-mail dump. Surprise, surprise. Cops don’t discuss their illegal behavior in e-mails.
Having said all that, I understand the power of a symbol. I don’t think AntiSec necessarily needs to justify every single action by unearthing scandalous proof of criminal behavior. Yet I still find there’s quite a bit left to be desired. What I’m about to state may shatter all your preconceived notions, but I really mean it. In every way, LulzSec was a more effective form of hacktivism than AntiSec will ever be.
Recent AntiSec press releases suffer from a severe case of self-importance. By hacking and releasing police e-mails, AntiSec appears to believe they are waving a magic wand which will cure law enforcement of corruption. Not only do these dumps lack context, as is the case with the JailBait scandal, but they also lack basic fact-checking and corroboration. There is absolutely no effort put into confirming the information presented as fact or fiction. There is a growing possibility that governments may plant disinformation on their own servers simply to discredit hacktivists.
As for the recent defacement of Syrian government web servers, I’m even less impressed. In the same way that invading Iraq was damaging and polarizing for liberty in the region, attacking Syria’s internet infrastructure is also counterproductive. Such symbolic support need not rest upon such a threatening attack, even if it is entirely nonviolent in nature.
However, I have great praise for LulzSec because of their conscious effort to utilize the power of a symbol. Unlike the self-important AntiSec, LulzSec did not overplay the importance of what they hacked. AntiSec seems to believe hacking will be a kind of cure-all for social injustice, criminal behavior and corruption. Such grandiose and delusional statements sell on the Anonymous marketplace, but they don’t translate to a wider audience.
LulzSec never promised to deliver any goods. LulzSec delivered symbols representing the incompetence and fallacy of authority. I might be biased, but a fake news story posted on a prominent news site is a lot more palatable than, say, telling the world you don’t care about the safety of police informants. AntiSec promises to find criminal behavior, but only delivers their own. Not only that, but they utterly fail to achieve the kind of symbolic triumph that was the reason for the success of LulzSec.