When Nina Funnell was bashed, strangled and narrowly escaped rape, she thought telling her story was the most responsible thing she could do. What she was not prepared for was mockery.
An anonymous online group posted her picture alongside a poll asking how “rapeable” she was. Some responded “she is heaps hot and I would totally rape her”; others that “she’s too fugly, I wouldn’t bother raping her from even behind with a box cutter blade" (the manner in which she was attacked). One responded, "what a conceited bitch for thinking she is even worthy of being raped, The guy just probably wanted to give her a good bashing in which case job well done.”
Who could be so callous, so misogynistic, so cruel? Anonymous, that’s who.
In the years since the internet went mainstream, a new generation has grown up expecting the freedom to say and do as they wish online. Many of them see the internet as a place completely devoid of morality and consequences.
They call themselves “The Anonymous”. They congregate on the imageboards which sprang up early in the decade. They ooze world-weariness and the cheap cynicism of middle-class teenagers; they identify each other through endless in-jokes or “memes”. They were exposed to pornography and imagery of all sorts from an early age, and it holds no fear for them. In the world of Anonymous, only outsiders, the old and the feeble-minded take offence - and they had it coming.
Most disturbing is the deep misogyny which has become the norm within this culture. Rape is a joke; women are habitually referred to as “cumdumpsters”. If a female joins in, she is told “tits or GTFO” (as in, post pictures of your breasts or get the f*** out).
So who are they?
Encyclopaedia Dramatica (ED) CEO Joseph Evers knows a thing or two about Anonymous. His US-based site, which began as a lampoon of the self-serious Wikipedia, has become a sort of moving cultural record of the Anonymous world, attracting massive amounts of page traffic and intense controversy.
He sees the Anonymous culture as an expression of middle- and working-class disenchantment. “Young people are overwhelmingly looking at the life their parents led, and how hard they worked, and what they got for it - which was garbage, y’know? - and you work like a slave, and you barely get to eke out a standard of living, and hopefully, you won’t end up in crippling debt at the end of your life. No one wants to buy that garbage anymore, and they’re expressing their discontent.”
Other clues lie both in the culture’s endless self-mythologising and self-parody. Anonymous calls itself alternatively “the final boss of the internet” and “internet superheroes” - yet members of Anonymous are often referred to as “basement dwellers”, invoking the stereotypical image of an obese man who lives in his parents’ basement.
There is certainly the desire within the Anonymous community to be seen as noble. Occasional mass actions have been organised, usually in defence of free speech. For example, in “Project Chanology” beginning in January 2008, members of Anonymous declared war on the Church of Scientology, in response to its efforts to censor an embarrassing video of Tom Cruise through legal action. Members disrupted the Church’s activities with pickets and elaborate pranks.
Similarly, in February this year, “Operation Titstorm” struck at the Australian government over the planned internet filter, bringing down departmental websites and spamming offices with pornography.
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