Discussion in 'News and Current Events' started by The Wrong Guy, Nov 5, 2011.
ThirdCoast Digest: http://thirdcoastdigest.com/2012/09/we-are-legion-anonymous-and-the-new-era-of-activism/
The Internet is a wild place. It’s been said before, so many times that it’s a trite nothing to say it again, but the Internet is a bit like the old American West. It is inhabited by ordinary citizens, by robber barons, by the rich and greedy, by those thirsting for new horizons, by those wishing to stand for something and stake their lives in it. And it is new; it does not have a police force; it does not have a rule of law. It is outside of known boundaries. The rules of the Internet are still being written: what rights do we have, what responsibilities exist? The thing about the Internet that is wholly and completely new, unlike anything that has come before, is that it is global. The Internet is everywhere. The Internet is anywhere.
Much like the Internet that gave it life, the group Anonymous is wild. It is composed of ordinary citizens, of robber barons, of those thirsting for new information, and those wishing to stand for something. These members come from everywhere, and anywhere. The only common thread between all of them is anonymity. From shock jocks to pranksters to a new breed of global democracy activists, Anonymous is quite possibly the largest tent in the world. We Are Legion traces the development of the loose collective colloquially known as Anonymous from its origins in shock-jock antics through to the Arab Spring and then into what is referred to as the Occupy movement, and all the growing pains and ongoing internal conflicts along the way.
We Are Legion has almost impossibly high production values. This is a documentary, but it is a documentary for the children of the Internet era. It has narrative and plot structure; it has aesthetics; it has design and artistic value. Luminant Media deserves at least an accolade, if not several, for understanding the aesthetic and entertainment demands of information consumers that grew up online.
As one of those people, I was both impressed with and taken aback by how effectively and totally I was sucked into the vision of the world that We Are Legion presents. I am sure that someone, somewhere, will call this movie propaganda, and while I’m not entirely convinced the label is deserved, if it is, We Are Legion is the best-done piece of propaganda I have ever encountered. When I finished watching it, I wanted to immediately jump on the Internet and teach myself encryption basics and start that Code Year project I’d heard so much about in January and see how quickly I could catch up now that I was ten months behind.
There is no doubt that this film could be called propaganda. The film is not unfair, or untruthful, but it is remarkably sympathetic in its portrayal of Anonymous, and rather savage in its portrayal of some of the more draconian punishments being leveraged against participants in some of the group’s more well-known actions.
One young woman, facing fifteen years in prison for participating in the DDoS (distributed denial of service) attack of Mastercard and Paypal in 2010, laments, “The average pedophile gets eleven years. I’m facing more time than the average pedophile for participating in what amounts to an electronic sit-in.”
I was struck by the savvy choices and editing of interviews, both with members of the collective, former members of the collective, academics that deal in the Internet, and media. All of them, to a person, are intelligent, eloquent and occasionally astoundingly self-aware. One of them, when talking about the struggles that grew out of moving from pranks to social activism, says “what Anonymous is. Or, rather, what Anonymous thinks Anonymous is.” That’s a display of self-awareness not generally seen in real life, much less in documentaries. It’s also said by a man that in some earlier screen time can’t stop himself from commenting on the number of “awkward geeky guys” that probably got laid when Anonymous members started to do direct, real-world action (against the Church of Scientology in 2008). It’s not as if the filmmakers coached interviewees or cherry-picked segments.
That is, perhaps, why this movie can’t quite be called propaganda. Or if you’re feeling cynical, you might say it is incredibly well-done propaganda. It doesn’t gloss over or even hide from the warts and the dark places. Both the actions of the group as a whole and the individuals that represent the group for the film are laid bare to be judged without being presented as perfect or even better than the average person. The sum effect is that much like anything or anybody, there is good and bad, but this group and most of these people are far more good than bad. They do more good than harm.
Several interesting philosophic and moral conundrums are raised during the course of the film, and they are questions that we will need to find answers to, since we do now live in a world in which at least part of our lives is conducted online, electronically, over the network. Should we be forced to adopt a persistent identity, even in online interaction, that can never be abandoned? Can we never put a mask over our Internet identities?
]Anonymity can be used to bully and harass, but it can also be used by ordinary people trying to overthrow a brutal dictatorship that’s been entrenched for fifty years. It can be used to spread hate, but it can also be used to combat hate without fear of reprisal. A friend said to me that anonymity was much like a gun: it can be used to terrorize, or it can be kept under the bed as a weapon of last resort. How easy should it be for us to be anonymous online? How simple or difficult should we be making it to put on an electronic mask? What are appropriate punishments for doing so?
A large chunk of the film is devoted to linking DDoS attacks on websites to the sit-ins of our parents’ generation. A DDoS attack doesn’t permanently damage anything; no data is taken or corrupted. All such an “attack” is, is a large number of people jamming a website with so much traffic that “legitimate” customers can’t get through. And in that light, it is a sit in: you can’t shop from this store, because this group of people has decided to protest whatever policy by “sitting in” and making it impossible for “legitimate” customers to enter or shop. If we now are committed to the idea that we live parts of our lives online, we must also deal with how we can make statements of personal and political belief in that space.
We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists raises questions that we will have to grapple with as a collective society, and for that, it is worth seeing. There is certain to be something in this film that startles you, regardless of your opinion on Anonymous. And the issues raised by the actions of Anonymous do need to be grappled with collectively, not just all of us together here in the United States, but all of us together everywhere. The definition of local is changing, and we will have to accommodate it. Your opinion matters, no matter who you agree with or who you disagree with. It is having an opinion, and the ability to voice it effectively, that matters.
Don't Stop Caring
The thing I might disagree with is that Anonymous is a movement of very young people. I am 73 and I consider myself an Anonymous for the last 3 years. There are many of us, people of the older generation, who support Anonymous. Anonymous is a movement fighting for the truth and we all are sick and tired of lies, injustice, cults and bullshit in media, politics, banking, government, justice system and media.
The "Land of the Free" became a past legend and we all want it to be a real thing in our life time, not in a distant future.
We have confirmed release dates for We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists!
The film will begin it’s theatrical run on October 19th at the Quad Cinema in New York City, and in the LA area at the Laemle Pasadena Playhouse. Director Brian Knappenberger will be on hand with special guests in both theaters on dates to be determined. Our US theatrical run is also expanding, so stay tuned here for updates. This weekend we also began a 7 city theatrical tour of Canada, starting in Ottowa and then going to Montreal, Nova Scotia, Winnipeg, Victoria and in Edmonton and will screen at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema in Toronto on the 5th of November.
On October 30th, we go online with the final and official version of the film, preorders coming this week. It will be available for purchase here on the website as well as on iTunes and other broadband platforms. We are also very excited to announce that the film’s official DVD and BluRay will also be available directly from our website three weeks later on November 23rd.
Preorders are now available. In addition to the full film (with 5.1 surround sound) the DVD and BluRay will include an additional 22 minutes of material. The extras will have extended, in depth interviews with some of our film’s subjects, some prominent hackers not featured in the documentary, more analysis and thoughts on Wikileaks, further discussion about Anonymous member-turned-FBI informant Sabu, and thoughts from tech author and speaker Richard Thieme on how technology is re-wiring our brains and why we need to nurture our “dark side.”
As many of our friends, supporters (and the film’s subjects) know, making this film has been an ongoing journey. When we started the film Hosni Mubarek was still the President of Egypt! As new and interesting events transpired, we have gone back into the film and added them. That made this film a living, breathing document for most of the last year as we changed and altered it with the dramatic dynamics of Anonymous.
Also for us, the process of continually re-working the film as it has screened at festivals has been very unusual. Usually films are finished, then make the festival rounds and (if they are lucky) released. We updated this film continually throughout the year. A stirring example of this was the Occupy protests, we were sitting in the editing room cutting the film as protests (and people in Guy Fawkes masks) were marching by just outside our windows. It was surreal. We’re not sure a film has ever been made and screened in progress like this in such a short period of time, but we are finally finished. Anonymous will no doubt continue to evolve, but this film documents a particularly intense and dynamic chapter of it’s history.
Having said that, several of our early cuts have already appeared online. We expected this would happen and are excited by the rave early reviews, but so far those versions have been wildly out of date – all of them are missing huge chunks, key scenes and entire interviews. They are very much incomplete films, so we really hope you see the full version. If you’ve seen one of the older versions and like what we’ve accomplished over the last few years then come back and check out the final film, or support us by buying a DVD or BluRay, the film’s official poster designed by artist Michael Byzewski, or the unbelievable original soundtrack by John Dragonetti.
Or just help us by shouting about it from the rooftops! Independent documentaries made outside the studio system face huge challenges getting seen, and we’ve always hoped this film would have a long life with people beyond the already converted. Getting out the word really helps!
Also, in the spirit of the film, we’ve decided to donate a portion of any possible profits to groups we think deserve it and whose goals are in line with what we see as the principles of the film. To start, ten percent will go to the Electronic Frontier Foundation. We’re big fans of the EFF, who describes their mission as being the first line of defense “when our freedoms in the networked world come under attack.” Another ten percent of the profits will go to both help Free Anons – a passionate group of people who are currently facing charges for online protest – and to other human rights or technology groups we think are behaving well defending human rights or freedom of speech in a digital age.
Beyond that we will continue to make more disruptive independent documentaries about compelling people, groups and stories we think are reshaping our world. Stay tuned. We are firm believers in the ability of the internet to reach audiences in new and powerful ways, and to tell stories that are too challenging for (what is currently) a largely broken news landscape consolidated into a handful of companies deciding what you see. Between that and a blockbuster-driven Hollywood that is often tone-deaf to new technology (and supports draconian laws like SOPA) we think this is the moment where independent filmmakers can step forward with stories that aren’t getting enough attention and about which the world needs to know.
So support us. Come out and support the film. Support those who are fighting for our digital freedoms and support independent documentaries who are working to tell stories that need to be told.
I watched this yesterday, and I must say it is everything I could have imagined or hoped for. Chanology got a long run. Barret Brown didn't appear to be the tool he apparently really is. So many cameofags!
The end product is (for me at least) that "Anonymous"is an idea, a concept, a feeling. It is something that is only going to manifest and grow. An idea knows no demographic, no socioeconomic standing, no gender, no centralization.
But when an idea is secretly held by the masses, THEN the idea becomes fluid and directional.
Your futures don't seem so bleak to this oldfag.
Agreed that BB was pretty funny.
The documentary's creators just uploaded this.
We Are Legion - Trailer
Published on Oct 8, 2012 by WeAreLegionDoc
Hacktivist Documentary 'We Are Legion' Unleashes a Number of Internet Experiments Leading Up to (Legal) Release
It is no secret that YouTube is at the service of copyright holders. The site makes it easy to make a copyright claim in line with the Digital Millenium Copyright Act on their website.
If the filmmakers behind "We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists," which premiered at Slamdance earlier this year and went on to screen at SXSW, wanted a recently uploaded video of an early cut of their film to be pulled from YouTube, they could easily do so.
The trouble, of course, is that taking it down now is futile. It's out there, and what's done is done.
For "We Are Legion" director Brian Knappenberger, it was just a matter of time before the film was uploaded onto a mainstream streaming site. "I'm surprised it took so long though. What's been uploaded is an old version. I've been changing it a lot. When we started making this film, Mubarak was still in power. So much has happened during the making of this film. I have often felt compelled to change it and update it. It's a living, evolving, alive document. There's been some big revelations, one of the most prominent, most aggressive members happened to be an FBI informant."
As for the versions that were uploaded, a student in Italy was the first to upload the film, an old version submitted to an Italian film festival. "He was mortified that he had released the film, and he took it down himself. But by that point, it had already been out there."
Outside of YouTube, versions of the film were floating around as torrents. "A lot of anons have full versions of the film and chose not to put it on bigger sites," Knappenberger explained. "But I think for them, piracy is not about hurting an independent filmmaker. It's more about taking it to the corporate powers that be."
"A lot of films have been cautious about piracy and exactly this kind of thing, and I haven't been. I couldn't be. I wasn't being cavalier. It hasn't been a project done in secret. It's nice to finally be done with it. Honestly, I've done work for PBS Frontline and National Geographic, and a 23-part Bloomberg series. This is the film that keeps on evolving. It hasn't been the typical finish-it-and-get-the-film-out. But it's done now."
Will people be patient and wait to watch the film legally?
Knappenberger is hoping that people will line up when the film is released theatrically in Los Angeles and New York on October 19. The final, finish, legal film will be available on digital VOD platforms on October 30, including a spot on iTunes (pre-order just went live) and direct buy from the film's website using VHX.
I have had the privllage of viewing one of the early releases and all I can really say is WOW! & Well done! And fucking awesome doc!
I generally buy my movies from the discount bins and garage sales, this one I'll gladly pay full price for as its an effort I whole-heartedly support, I await the Canuck release with huge sack of popcorn.
Best of success to all involved!
If there is one idea that Anonymous members can agree on, it is a universal notion of sticking it to the man.
We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists, a documentary by Brian Knappenberger, does not seek to legitimize the group Anonymous. It does not create a platform through which they disseminate their beliefs of moral justice. What the documentary does instead is inform the audience about the methodology behind the online “hacktivist” group that has been popping up in news stories around the world for the last six years. The documentary consists of interviews with members and ex-members of Anonymous, many of whom are scholars, lawyers, and politicians. They all give their own account of what they believe the group to be. However, no two answers are ever the same. Instead, many interviewees tend to find solid ground on the basis that Anonymous fights against the subordination of any individual, group, and minority.
The documentary successfully recounts Anonymous’ actions of a human rights activist group. Fighting for governments and corporations to be honest with the masses, it’s hard to believe that the hacktivist group got its start on the infamous imageboard 4chan, a website that prides itself on allowing people to anonymously post explicit and sexually subversive material. While this naturally creates a space for some truly memorable GIFs and memes that eventually filter to other social networking websites, 4chan is also infamous for the amount of trolling that takes place on its message boards.
“Trolling is a fucking art,” one Anonymous member states. The art of trolling is meant to take the people who take the Internet too seriously, and try to anger them as much as possible. The result is often hilarious. Though Anonymous members admit that this part of 4chan can be particularly nasty, some of their projects have had good intentions. Back in 2006, trolling methods were used to cause Hal Turners’ site to drive up its bandwidth costs into the thousands of dollars. Hal Turner is an American white nationalist and Holocaust denier who runs a blog in New Jersey.
The documentary’s inclusion of this particular story is puzzling. Anonymous furiously supports freedom of expression and speech and adamantly opposes censorship laws, especially online. Despite Hal Turner’s unsavory views and severely limited perspective, Anonymous’ staunch protection of free speech should allow Turner to have his views. Regardless, this act of trolling saw Anonymous use their collective power for a cause.
Various landmark stories are covered, which include Anonymous taking on the Church of Scientology, spearheading many Occupy protests, crashing major credit card companies for pulling their support from Wikileaks and more. The documentary also covers how Anonymous was pivotal in teaching people how to regain internet access after the Egyptian government had put the country offline during its revolution in 2011.
The group of people hidden behind Guy Fawkes masks remind everyone of the important and terrifying truth of Anonymous: that Anonymous does not operate as a single person, but as an entire online world of hackers. One member puts the essence of the group in words.
“…sometimes [it’s] going to be terrible, and sometimes it’s going to be wonderful,” he said.
“But one thing I can promise is that it’s going to be interesting.”
Village Voice: http://www.villagevoice.com/2012-10-17/film/hackers-evolve-in-we-are-legion/
Future anthropologists might describe the first 10 years of widespread Internet use as a decade defined by the embarrassment of coming to terms with a new mass technology. Because embarrassed is how even the adventurous could sometimes feel: Am I doing it right? Are you sitting in your basement trolling for fun? Nerd. Are you green enough to be offended by a little trolling? Loser. A significant portion of early online communication involved everyone telling everyone else to get a life.
In We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists, former Frontline producer Brian Knappenberger's fascinating, incisive social history of the online network known as Anonymous, those early grapplings are the source of a strange and amorphous moral awakening. That awakening occurred within a nascent society with its own culture (with trolling its first art form), language ("lulz"and "moralfag" being two coinages), value system (freedom of expression and information above all), and sense of identity (where anonymity is claimed as a collective sensibility, political position, and moral imperative). Having aspired only to the expression of unmitigated id, its members began to discover and develop their power to effect real-world change along with good-time plunder.
That the beginning of this process looked a lot, as one hacktivist suggests, like a virtualLord of the Flies is not out of keeping with the history of either civil disobedience or computer science. Protests and pranks have always been close relatives, and as Knappenberger points out, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs got their start committing electronic mischief and outright theft. It's a spectrum, you might say. Certainly there is a spectrum of interpretation when it comes to seventh-circle portals like 4chan, which is described here as—for better or worse—"the sum of human imagination."
How the denizens of 4chan moved from disrupting Second Life games for lulz to taking on the Church of Scientology is the central hinge of Knappenberger's story. Appropriately enough, it started with a video, that Tom Cruise barn burner circa January 2008, which Scientology HQ worked swiftly to wipe from the face of the Web. It was theaudacity of that eradication that caught the attention of the 4channers who became known as Anonymous. Together, they targeted Scientology websites (a move that brought the FBI to the doors of several kids featured in the film) and organized international IRL protests, a move whose greatest success might have been getting a bunch of basement-dwellers laid.
Like cavemen discovering fire, the group quickly split between those who wanted to continue illuminating important issues (including Wikileaks and the Arab Spring) and those who just wanted to watch the world burn. The Guy Fawkes mask adopted by Anonymous members (who reject the idea of a single leader on principle) is meant to intimidate as much as protect; theirs is an increasingly rare spirit of revolt. "Expect us," they say, though the meaning of that warning remains in flux; the evolution toward a consistency of ideals has proved as tricky as Knappenberger makes it engrossing and essential to watch.
How filmmaker Brian Knappenberger won trust of Anonymous for 'Hacktivists'
You’d expect an organization calling itself “Anonymous” to slam the door on any documentarian who came knocking. But with persistence and patience, filmmaker Brian Knappenberger was able to make the fascinating 90-minute documentary about the informally organized group of computer hackers in “We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists.”
Similar to many contemporary documentarians, Kappenberger self-financed the project for the four years it took to come to fruition. That’s why many documentaries are a labor of love, not a reach for profits. However, documentarians have been taking distribution efforts into their own hands, and Knappenberger is strategically raising awareness of the film through festivals such as Sundance and SXSW (South By Southwest), targeting screenings and eventually making DVDs available online Oct. 30.
Anonymous, true to its name, is hard to define. It’s a loose-knit group of internet users that organizes around taking action on such disparate activities from immature pranks to human rights protests. They’ve taken to trolling racist radio hosts, organizing street protests against Scientology and going so far as to play a critical role in restoring internet services during the Arab Spring and hacking into government emails on behalf of Wikileaks.
“They started as pranksters,” said Knappenberger. “I wanted to learn more about it. I was amazed how the internet called people onto the streets.”
Anonymous first came onto Knappenberger’s radar when the group organized protests against the Church of Scientology in 2008. Of course, committing a large portion of one’s life to a documentary featuring such an elusive cast can be somewhat ludicrous. So how did Knappenberger go about it?
“It was tricky, they value their anonymity but they want their voices heard,” said Knappenberger. “I started talking to tech writers and asking ‘Who are they and what do they want?’”
So Knappenberger started hanging out in the 90’s-style chatrooms, which he learned group members tended to frequent.
“The chatrooms were simple to shut down because they were always being breached by the Feds,” he said. Then he slowly started reaching out to individuals for interviews.
“It’s a group that’s suspicious and probably should be,” he added.
But slowly, the interview requests were granted. Some participants remained masked, but others -- some already facing criminal charges -- told their stories boldly on camera. It was not a fast process. To further complicate matters, some of the documentary’s storyline was developing even as the film was in production.
“Something that was unique to this film -- we were making the film as things were happening,” said Kappenberger. “The Sundance screening last January is a different film than what you see now.”
One of the in-the-moment challenges was to try to get an interview with a notorious member of Anonymous known as Sabu.
“I tried to get Sabu for most of the year until he was revealed as an FBI informant. I even flew to New York a couple times because he said he would meet with me,” Kappenberger said.
Similar to many contemporary documentarians, Kappenberger self-financed the project for the four years it took to come to fruition. That’s why many documentaries are a labor of love, not a reach for profits. However, documentarians have been taking distribution efforts into their own hands, and Knappenberger is strategically raising awareness of the film through festivals such as Sundance and SXSW (South By Southwest), targeting screenings and eventually making DVDs available online Oct. 30.
Knappenberger hopes to target the online audience and their hunger for more information on the origins of Anonymous. He hopes that it inspires online users and the organization to continue championing for human rights causes.
“Anywhere there is a human rights cause, you have this mask that people can pick up when they are outraged,” said Knappenberger. “You had the crypto wars that started in the 70’s that resulted in the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which fights for digital rights in a very serious way. I would love to see Anonymous go that way.”
The Montreal Gazette: http://www.montrealgazette.com/life/Review Legion primer hacktivists/7409177/story.html
Knappenberger became intrigued with Anonymous when Master Card, Visa and PayPal were attacked, and then decided to undertake the documentary. “They were on my radar with the Scientology protests — particularly because I live in Los Angeles, where there is a big Scientology presence. I thought it was an interesting, bizarre kind of scene: a church that was created by a science-fiction writer being protested by people wearing masks created by a science-fiction writer. There were lots of news stories, but not a lot of analysis of what they are as a culture. Then I hung out where they hang out or places online where they gather.”
Like many others, Knappenberger is uncertain how Anonymous will evolve. “I actually thought at one point that Anonymous would always be a Scientology-only protest group. So I was really surprised when they did the WikiLeaks protest, then marched on to a year and a half of just unbelievable activity to the point that you would see Occupy movements with people wearing Guy Fawkes masks who had no idea that Anonymous had ever attacked Scientology.
“The funny thing about Anonymous is that there are some within who are almost offended that people would think of it in terms of being a force for good. They see it more as just an army of people to wreak havoc on the Internet. I think the do-gooders have really predominated over the last year and a half. It’s a fascinating culture, so new to the human experience, and this documentary might be a sort of first chapter.”
Can a sequel be in the works? “Yes,” Knappenberger shoots back. “The Anonymous story is far from over.”
The story of Anonymous hasn't been told because it's probably just begun. But the documentary We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists is a really good beginning to that story. Told with interviews from actual Anonymous members, both masked and out in the open, filmmaker Brian Knappenberger delves into the humble origins of the group and follows its flirtation with nobility and notoriety.
Anonymous is an online community that has organized everything from creating armies of suspicious avatars in children's games to organizing real world protests against Scientology to shutting down Paypal.
"Are they good or bad? How are they evolving," asked Knappenberger when I spoke with him earlier this week. "Some of them realized the chaos can be used for something good, then there was a split."
Knappenberger wasn't part of Anonymous, so he was learning as he was making the documentary, which he started back in 2008 and is screening this week in New York and Los Angeles. The film will be available online on October 30th.
"What's surprising is how much discussion there is behind the scenes. It looks misleadingly organized," said Knappenberger. "They seem united when their stunts reach the public ... There's a lot of discussion as to what targets are OK to hit."
The ethical dilemmas are the crux of the documentary and what makes it such an interesting piece. Watch with friends because you're going to want to quibble over Anonymous's tactics. Are they Robin Hood or the Joker? Are they protectors of free speech or guilty of suppressing it? What role do they have in exposing government secrets and do those governments have the right to distribute harsh punishments for their crimes.
Knappenberger selects interesting interviewees, all very smart, some are the culprits in high profile hacks and are currently being prosecuted. Knappenberger weaves the story so that he's appealing to your sense of justice, even though you know that Anonymous' actions are illegal. The film blurs the line between these activists' online anonymity and their real world identity and makes you want to join the cause.
You may think you know about Anonymous, the decentralized online collective who have merrily pranked and disrupted high-level corporate and governmental websites, and gone to war with Scientology to boot. You don’t, proves Brian Knappenberger’s wildly new engaging documentary, “We Are Legion: The Story of Hacktivists.”
Over the past couple years, Anonymous has been associated with raids or denial-of-service attacks on hundreds of targets, from Mastercard, Visa, PayPal and Sony to the Motion Picture Association of America and cyber-security/intelligence firms like HBGary Federal. “We Are Legion” not only details their exploits, but also delves inside the roots and culture of the group, exploring early hacktivist collectives like Cult of the Dead Cow and Electronic Disturbance Theater before charting Anonymous’ birth and fitful “maturation” from an offshoot message board on the website 4Chan.
The film’s technical package is fairly unexceptional, save for two notable elements. Composer John Dragonetti’s contributions provide “We Are Legion” with some extra oomph, and Skype-recorded video chats with various masked Anonymous members — though perhaps tangentially reminiscent of terrorist videos to some — help give a rounded authenticity to the project. While tech authors like Richard Thieme and Steven Levy, amongst other talking heads, provide wonderful mainstream context and recap, it is these chats (and other more professionally recorded interviews with outed Anonymous members) that give Knappenberger’s movie a real personality, and charged sense of self-narration.
Anonymous started out pulling goofy stunts en masse — think videogame-crashing, Rick-rolling, LOLcats, and other popular Internet memes. Then, in 2006 and ’07, they turned their sites on Hal Turner, a white supremacist with a self-syndicated radio show. Internet-based pranks were paired with other means of disruption of his hateful messages, and a kind of greater activist consciousness was born. Some of its other battles — including its tangles with Scientology, over their serial harassment of not only ex-church members but also any journalist who deigns to write something critical about them – are epically hilarious, and their narrative recap here is fun and entertaining on a level completely devoid of any other sociopolitical context.
Still, while Anonymous’ support of WikiLeaks and its embattled founder, Julian Assange, got big press when the group targeted online financial companies who disabled their contribution buttons on the site, a lot of folks in the world at large don’t realize the group’s connection and indeed critical importance in not only fomenting the Arab Spring, but providing crucial support to besieged democracy activists in various Middle Eastern countries — validating SSL keys and certificates to help circumvent Egyptian shutdowns of the Internet, and sending out tips on how to make homemade gas masks, protective body armor and the like. The pat soundbite gained some traction even in the mainstream media — these governmental overthrows were made possible by Facebook, Twitter and social media — but “We Are Legion” shows that it’s no cliché.
For this reason and others, the governmental crackdown on some of these hacktivists should give freedom-of-speech-and-assembly town criers plenty of pause. There are sometimes laws broken, but a lot of what Anonymous does and supports could easily be described as civil disobedience. After all, we live more and more of our lives online these days, so do we not have a right and space to also protest online?
NOTE: In addition to its theatrical engagements, “We Are Legion” is available for digital download pre-order, and streaming. For more information, visit its website at www.WeAreLegionTheDocumentary.com.
The Daily Athenaeum: http://www.thedaonline.com/a-e/anonymity-has-a-name-in-new-film-1.2935377
Anonymity has a name in new film
‘We Are Legion’ tells the story of ‘Anonymous,’ a revolutionary Internet activist group.
The age of the Internet has brought us Google, Facebook, Twitter and a plethora of potential obstacles older generations view as mortal enemies.
They have reason to worry.
Anonymous is the Internet activist group that none of us – not even the members themselves – saw coming.
"We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivist" is a newly made documentary that shadows these nameless and faceless social activists and mischief enthusiasts.
What exactly is a "hacktivist?"
The term describes someone who uses computer networking to protest or promote political agendas.
While you were posting pictures of your dinner at Olive Garden to Instagram and tweeting about your roommate’s boyfriend, Anonymous was creating anarchy and a new age of revolution.
Former frontline producer Brian Knappenberger wrote, produced and directed the documentary following the beginnings of the revolution.
Anonymous, which started on 4chan, a message board site known for trolling long before Reddit swept the subculture, focused largely on the mischievous side of hacking until the later developments of the group.
Nonetheless, Anonymous has tackled some amazing feats since its inception.
The group has challenged the U.S. government; they’ve created backlash against the shutdown of Megaupload and they’ve disgraced the name of Scientology.
They’ve even dipped their hands into the whirlpool of anger and activism for which our generation is best known: Occupy Wall Street.
With the group stepping outside of their stereotypical dark basements, Anonymous has taken on an identity of their own, sporting masks of Guy Fawkes, the original anarchist made famous by the 2005 cult-classic film, "V for Vendetta."
Knappenberger, the mastermind behind the documentary, had plenty to say about the group in an interview with the Montreal Gazette.
"It [Anonymous] is definitely chaotic and decentralized and not nearly as organized as some might expect or what stories might suggest," Knappenberger said.
"We Are Legion" has brought us a glimpse into the complicated lives of our generation’s forgotten.
The New York Times gave the film a great review and said, "The film is most illuminating in showing how democratic practice can still find a new voice and innovative means with each generation. The fascinating efforts of Anonymous can be messy, but so are many freedoms when asserted so boldly."
Because Anonymous has no official leadership, the wants, needs and decisions of the group are at times unorganized.
"The funny thing about Anonymous is that there are some within who are almost offended that people would think of it in terms of being a force for good," Knappenberger said.
The documentary, which opened in film festivals earlier this year, was revered for its originality and cinematic beauty, and it is being released globally to the public Tuesday.
Knappenberger further told the Montreal Gazette that the story is far from over.
"It’s a fascinating culture – so new to the human experience, and this documentary is a sort of first chapter," he said.
Ro*Co plots theatrical release for 'Hacktivists'
iTunes to roll out docu in 20 territories
San Francisco-based docu sales and production shingle Ro*Co Films is set to theatrically release its first title, Brian Knappenberger's docu on civil disobedience "We Are Legion: the Story of the Hacktivists," in seven cities across Canada. iTunes will simultaneously roll out the docu in 20 territories.
The release is skedded for Guy Fawkes Day on Nov. 5. Fawkes, who attempted to blow up England's Parliament in 1605, became a symbol of the hacktivist group Anonymous after its members started using a Guy Fawkes mask during protests again Scientology in 2008.
"We Are Legion," which traces the evolution of early hacktivist groups, like Cult of the Dead Cow and Electronic Disturbance Theater, into Anonymous, preemed at SXSW and opened in the U.S. on Oct. 22.
British philanthropic group Bertha Foundation has recently come on board to finance the encoding of Ro*Co's catalog, comprising more than 100 documentary titles, and made them available on iTunes in 20 countries, including the U.K., Canada, New Zealand and Australia.
Oscar-winning doc "Born Into Brothels," a depiction of Calcutta's red light district, is the first Ro*Co title to be available on iTunes.
"We Are Legion" and Kirby Dick's Sundance audience winner "The Invisible War," which sheds light on the epidemic of rape in the U.S. army, will hit iTunes next.
"Access to the iTunes platform along with Bertha's support marks a milestone for Ro*Co in its mission to broaden audiences for important documentaries," said Annie Roney, the shingle's founder and managing topper. "We're now able to bypass traditional gatekeepers, make our content available in over 20 countries, and position Ro*Co as a consumer brand in the global retail market."
Roney added that Ro*Co could choose to withhold distribution on iTunes for select titles if a local distributor is willing to purchase all rights for a theatrical release.
"We Are Legion" was just picked up by pay TV distributor DTS in Spain, and satcaster YES/DBS in Israel.
Glad to hear that the seniority can help the collective, your experience is more than welcome, and your quest is all Anons ones: Transparency, Fight against Hypocrisies, War against the Corrupted System that consists of a small minority domination regardless the vast majority of this world (earth, people, creativity, open source and so on).
DNA of Brain ?
For the story, this one sounds quite good 4 me:
On Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009PCXGQY/
I think grugg should relay the "anecdote" of what happened to the cafe express profiteers.
For a hypothetical never happened parable it would make for that great film making / chilling story telling scene you only get when you film skanks on greenpoint blvd.
Any ways, happy trails!
Do tell. Or link me up.
Part of the r3x and 7chan drama.
Long Island Press: http://www.longislandpress.com/2012...he-hacktivists-brian-knappenberger-interview/
He’s not exactly the kind of person you’d expect to be able to infiltrate, or even be interested in infiltrating the underground world of Anonymous, but filmmaker Brian Knappenberger did just that, with his documentary We Are Legion: The Story Of The Hactivists. And though the players in that world remain secretive and necessarily so in the film with no big reveal, Knappenberger—who more typically probes a very different masked realm of the One Percenters in projects like Bloomberg Television’s Game Changers—audiences are provided with a rare glimpse into hacktivist culture more likely demonized in the conventional media. During this conversation with the director, he describes getting in touch with his inner gumshoe to scrutinize members of Anonymous, both indicted and otherwise. And what it all has to do Scientology, epilepsy, hide and seek pranksters versus political activists, and soccer moms.
1. How do you go about making a movie about a world that is so secretive and underground, and understandably so?
Basically, we just started kind of hanging out at those places on the Internet where Anonymous hangs out. A lot of them communicate on Twitter and other kinds of things like that. So we just started talking to them that way.
2. Now for purposes of identification related to making this documentary, are you or have you ever been a hacktivist?
Have I? No! I’ve worked as a journalist for the Discovery Channel, National Geographic and PBS Frontline. And I just finished a 23 part series for Bloomberg Television, called Game Changers. You know, I’m very much coming at this as a journalist. So yeah, that’s my perspective. I’ve never worn a Guy Fawkes mask! In my life. So I’m very much not a secret Anon.
3. How do you see the Anonymous hacktivist culture as emerging from this moment in time?
That’s a really interesting question. And that’s one of the things we try to do with this film. But Anonymous is a lot about civil disobedience. And comparing the acts they do now, with other acts of civil disobedience in history, is really interesting. And essentially what we tend to say in the film, is that they’ve redefined civil disobedience for the digital age. Like they do things such as denial of service attacks, which they define as a kind of virtual sit-in. Just like in the ’60s that would protest a war. But these are things that are happening online, in order to make a political point. So I think the question of how they fit into the big history books, in hacker history and technical history, and just plain civil disobedience history, is a really vibrant area for study. And one of the big reasons why I made the film.
4. As you’ve come to know them through your movie, what do you think the hacktivists would be up to, if there were no Internet in existence?
I don’t know! It’s very hard to tell, because they are very much children of the digital age. And they’re not all children, with certainly a range of age groups. But they rise up most forcefully, when they perceive threats to online communication. And abuses of power through technical means. So what they’d be doing without the Internet, who knows! But those are the waters in which they swim.
5. Well, do you think they might have followed in the footsteps of the old school activists instead?
Yes, I do think that. Because there is a very significant part to this movement, to Anonymous and to hacktivism, that is very non-technical. They are about civil disobedience in a new world, where we all live online. But part of it is about defending traditional values, in a way. Freedom of speech is a traditional kind of value. And the right to protest and assemble, to air grievances, these are things that they seem to be about. And suturing those traditional values into the skin of the digital age.
6. Do you think your own personal feelings about hacktivism influenced your documentary? Because your film work up until now, has been very much within the system.
Yeah. I guess! But I felt that there had never been a piece that actually listened to the people involved. And my thought was that, people either love or hate Anonymous. And both probably have good reasons. But the truth is, this is a phenomenon. And it’s one of the more interesting phenomenon happening on our planet right now. And a lot of the news stories that I felt I was seeing about Anonymous, were just simply that they’re criminals. And I just kinda thought, there’s probably something more to it. You know, I wondered what their side is. What are they getting at, what do they want. And I thought there was value, in hearing their story. And this is what they’re going for. Now you may hate them or disagree with them. But I think there’s value in articulating where they’re coming from.
7. In the process of making this film, did you change your feelings about them in any way?
Well, yes. Mostly because Anonymous changes dramatically all the time. It’s a very dynamic group, and tends to tie journalists and filmmakers like me, they tend to tie us in knots! So standing back and getting a picture of, what is this culture, what do they want and how are they changing, has been a very unsual experience. And way different for me. Because I ended up changing the film several times, when significant events changed. So that made it more complicated as a filmmaker, than certainly anything I’ve ever done before. You know, usually you finish a film, and it’s done. And with this one, sometimes we were so close to the action, that I felt that we have to go back and include this, or include that. Because the dynamic was always changing.
8. How do you feel hackivist culture will change the face of activism in the long run, and into the future?
I think they already have changed it dramatically. And I don’t think it’s ever gonna go back. Like with their Scientology protest, they used the Internet to call people into the streets all over the world. And that was one of the first times the Internet had been used so effectively, to call people into the streets. And now, that’s just how it’s always done. And how most activist communities now organize. And I think the activists have begun to define what civil disobedience means for our time. It’s new, but it s also a traditional kind of protest.
9. Speaking of which, We Are Legion seems to also indicate a division within the hactivist community, between pranksters and political protesters.
Absolutely. That’s a really interesting point, and something I’ve always been fascinated with. As one person says in the film, Anonymous is not unanimous! And that there are always factions going into different areas. One significant split happened just after the Scientology protests. And that was that some saw it as just being pranksters, and the cool force of the Internet. And the idea that protest could be a force for good, was almost offensive to them. So you had other people who had joined the protest, because they were upset about the Church of Scientology. And those people saw Anonymous as something that could make a difference. And you know, that forces of disruption and spectacle could kind of focus on areas that could help people. And this became a very serious split. But some who were angered by the sort of do-gooder wing of Anonymous as we show in the film, split off and attacked epilepsy websites. And defaced the sites. You know, just to make their point that hey, we’re not a force for good. We’re disruptive. And we wreak havoc when we can.
10. Well, differences aside, looking behind that mask both literally and figuratively, if you were a psychological profiler, what would you say is the profile of the typical hacktivist?
Hmm. Interesting. I don’t know. I mean, I can only take a stab at a profile. But in my experience, having met a lot of them, who can say. Like one of them who has been indicted and who came to one of my screenings, is a soccer mom! You know, she’s not at all what you would consider a typical hacktivist.
11. What would like hope audiences understand about the hackivists and Anonymous, through your movie?
I guess how complex the group is. And how interesting their culture is. And how much of it is going on behind the scenes. They’re a fascinating group. And they have yet to fully define themselves. But I think they do so almost every day. And I think they’re something new in the human experience. So many people who have managed to gather together all around the world, and with similar thoughts and ideas. And with their concerns about the world. And it’s not often that we see something like this, so entirely new in human experience. But this is one of them. And where it’s going, we’ll only find out. But I can promise, it will be interesting.
Long Island Press continued:
12. How do you feel this new generation of Internet rebels has also been influenced and motivated by a very new and different world they face today? And one so controlled and dominated by corporations and the government in every aspect of life?
I guess one way of answering that, is when people tell me, I was a protester in the ’60s. And you know what? We showed our faces. You know, we stood up as ourselves at these protests, and took credit for it. And that was very much a part of what we were protesting. Like, that was me getting arrested. And that was part of my identity. And Anonymous is hiding, right? Hiding behind the Internet. But I think one of the big points to be made about Anonymous, is that the mask is part of the deal. The hiding is part of the point. Because the Internet, as amazing as it is, can also be used as a tool for surveillance. And people have genuine concerns about that. Also, Anonymous is making the case for anonymity against corporate intrusion into everyone’s lives. And how they try to gain control of your personal information.
13. What about economically, and the fact that youth today face such a huge financial crisis?
Anonymous did spring into action with the Occupy movement. Not in the leadership, but as a kind of tech support! So yeah, those issues are huge too.
14. On that note, how do you feel Karl Marx might have redefined his own ideas if he were alive now, in terms of say, the masses today seizing the means of virtual production?
Wow! You caught me off guard. Um, you know, I really don’t know.
15. Okay, here’s a trick question. Should film critics like me be fearful of getting hacked if they give your movie a bad review or diss the hacktivists in your documentary?
Ha! I don’t think so. But maybe I should pretend that they would get hacked, so I can get good reviews!
Anonymous: The New Generation of Internet Rebels™
You can buy and download it from http://buy.wearelegionthedocumentary.com
Updated Anonymous Doc We Are Legion Gets Online Release
We Are Legion explores the history of Anonymous and traces the hacktivist group’s influence on current political movements.
It’s amazing the Anonymous documentary We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists ever saw the light of day.
It’s not that no theaters wanted to show it — it performed well at film festivals — or that filmmaker Brian Knappenberger didn’t want to release it. He just couldn’t finish it. And that’s just the way it goes when you’re making a documentary about an ever-expanding and ever-evolving group like Anonymous.
“There’s that whole thing where it’s not done, it’s just due,” Knappenberger said in an interview with Wired. “I often wonder if I started the film now if it would have the same feel and tone. Anonymous has changed and evolved a lot. When we started, [former Egyptian President Hosni] Mubarak was still in power, and none of the last 45 minutes of the film had even happened yet.”
Nevertheless Knappenberger, who directed, wrote and produced the film, has finally put a bow on his documentary and is ready to release it to the world. The film can now be bought — DRM-free, naturally — through the We Are Legion website. It is also on iTunes and available for purchase on DVD and Blu-ray.
Releasing We Are Legion into the wild could prove to be a watershed moment for the public’s understanding of what Anonymous is and what the group does. Not only could the documentary help the outside world understand the mask-wearing revolutionaries at Occupy protests, it could serve as a sort of Rosetta stone for those looking to understand activism in the 21st century, if Anonymous’ style of online civil disobedience becomes commonplace.
Since the film celebrates a group that vehemently opposed SOPA and PIPA, it only seems right that its creators should release it online and without copyright protections. But that doesn’t mean Knappenberger didn’t talk to Hollywood about distributing We Are Legion through traditional means, like a theatrical run or a stint on a cable network.
“We turned down a couple of big offers, actually, because we wanted to do it digitally, just to do it Louis C.K.-style from the website,” Knappenberger said, declining to name which studios or networks he turned down. “A couple of them were kind of painful to walk away from, but I felt like it had to be a digital download with this film.”
We Are Legion began shaping up in earnest after Knappenberger became fascinated with Anonymous’ actions against banks that banned WikiLeaks, but the film goes all the way back to the early days of hacking, with activist groups like Cult of the Dead Cow and Electronic Disturbance Theater.
Tracing that history forward to Anonymous’ beginnings in 4chan, the documentary digs deep into the world of the hacktivists, talking to real Anons about their defense of WikiLeaks, their campaign against Scientology, and their influence in political actions, from Occupy Wall Street to the uprisings of the Arab Spring.
Following a debut earlier this year at the Slamdance film festival in Utah, We Are Legion has gone through a lot of edits and changes, Knappenberger said. New interviews with sources like Wired contributor Quinn Norton, as well as a whole section about the LulzSec-leader-turned-informant “Sabu,” were added to the film.
Part of what made the film so hard to complete was the sheer magnitude of the hacktivist collective’s actions, with Anons in various corners waving the Anonymous banner for very different reasons.
“I remember going to Occupy Wall Street protests asking people in Guy Fawkes masks about Anonymous and having them just not know anything about Scientology, not a clue that Anonymous had ever attacked Scientology,” Knappenberger said. “It’s a bizarre phenomenon.”
Knappenberger is taking something of a risk releasing his film the way he is. The filmmaker, who had an earlier version of his documentary posted online (he didn’t go after the leakers), won’t reveal what his budget was for We Are Legion, but noted that there is “definitely concern” that the film won’t recoup its costs.
“The traditional method is a lot safer,” said Knappenberger, whose next project is focused on LulzSec and Sabu. Still, if the film makes back its costs, 10 percent of the profits will be donated to the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
The direct download and stream of the movie is being handled by online video platform VHX, which ran a similar release Indie Game: The Movie earlier this year.
“I always joke when I talk to them that we have similar audiences, only mine is angrier,” said Knappenberger.
Why are you limiting Anonymous to the Internet ?
Anonymous: The New Generation of Rebels™
Anonymous: It' a floor wax! It's a dessert topping!
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Brian Knappenberger's reddit IAmA: http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/12cflu/i_am_brian_knappenberger_director_of_we_are/
I first heard about Anonymous when they attacked the Church of Scientology in 2008 and I was totally mesmerized by those raids - it was a weird scene. Living in LA (where those protests were particularly intense) I started wondering where this group came from and what they wanted, it seemed like the first time the internet had called people into the streets in those kinds of numbers all over the world. That is when I started paying attention, but this documentary didn't start until December 2010 with the DDoS attacks on Mastercard, Visa and Paypal - that's when I knew things were changing and evolving in really interesting ways.
One of the things that inspires me about Anonymous is how much they stand up for what they believe in - just relentlessly getting out the word. You may disagree with them, but you can't fault their passion. No matter what you believe, it's good to stand up and make your voice heard. In the end really apathy is the biggest problem.
I remember having dinner with a big protester/activist from the 60s who talked all night about how kids today didn't care and didn't get angry about anything except maybe not finding the color shoes they liked. This was about 3-4 years ago, I just sent him a copy of the film and said "check this out."
I think Anon could go any number of different ways. Since there was a time when I thought they would always be a Scientology-only protest group I'm careful not to make any broad predictions. But in the film Josh Corman talks about this worry specifically, one of his lines is his warning that "whoever fights monsters should see to it that they don't themselves become one." I think he's got a point, though I'm a bit more optimistic. I think people passionate about the sorts of things Anon cares about could easily morph into groups or organizations that might be someday be like a future EFF.
Movie Habit: http://www.moviehabit.com/review.php?story=wea_ka12
We Are Legion begins by looking at the culture on bulletin boards and web sites that gave rise to Anonymous and LulzSec. Sarcastic, outrageous, and transgressive, self-proclaimed nerds pranked each other for bragging rights. Then their trolling started to spill onto other web sites and even other media. Back in their own forums, common attitudes about turf, humor, respect, justice, and freedom started to crystallize, and groups began to form.
Specific members (and former members) of various groups are interviewed. Some give clean, well-lit, on-camera interviews. Others seem to be speaking via Skype, wearing masks. What they offer, more valuable than any technical jargon, is their own attitudes and motivations. Some hack from a sense of justice, others from a sense of recklessness or misanthropy. Hackers run the gamut between chaotic good and chaotic evil (says one hacker, quoting the D&D handbook).
We Are Legion draws a useful (if arbitrary) distinction between Anonymous, who targeted specific corporations they saw as serving censorship and repression; and LulzSec, who was more careless about hurting innocent bystanders.
We Are Legion doesn’t have a specific agenda to promote. Instead, the movie is more an educational introduction. “Here is something you’ve read about in the headlines,” it says, “and here are some of the people behind it. This is what they think, and this is why they do it. Here’s what you should know as an informed citizen.”
As an information-industry professional who follow the news, I found We Are Legion enlightening and interesting. As a film critic, I didn’t find a lot to love about the documentary. It joins a whole host of documentaries with interesting subjects with little value as cinema.
And that’s okay. Just know that if you buy a ticket for We Are Legion you are buying a computer-age civics lesson, not a fiery sequel to V for Vendetta.
$10? A bit pricey for a download of a low-budget documentary.
$3.99 for a 3 day rental: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009YRFGKY
But I'm the star!
Man, I Love Films: http://manilovefilms.com/reviews/2012/11/indie-spotlight-we-are-legion-the-story-of-the-hacktivists/
Brian Knappenberger has directed one of the smartest and most timely documentaries that I’ve ever seen. We Are Legion is the story of Anonymous, the group of hackers who have received a lot of notoriety, praise, and media attention over the last several years. This doc is not only topical, it’s structured in a way that really reaches the viewer.
This film is structured to explain the early days of computer intrusion, and how the hacking community formed. In fact, if you have a relative who doesn’t understand hacking or how Denial-Of-Service attacks work or what 4chan is, then this movie is perfect. WAL neatly describes all of these aspects, explaining the individual and group dynamics that have garnered so much attention recently…
Especially now, it’s astonishing to understand how closely-involved Anonymous was with movement called The Arab Spring. Hearing about the Tunisian government’s censorship of online activity, Anon sprung into action. But they didn’t only block some websites or pass along twitter comments from Tunisians who were barred from doing it themselves – they found manuals for dealing with tear-gas attacks and other first aid techniques, then passed those along to their fellow hackers in Africa. And they did it all again in Egypt, as well…
This picture takes you through the involvement of Anonymous with the blocking of donations to WikiLeaks, Sony’s Playstation Network removing the ability to use Linux, and other forms of protest enacted by the world’s most infamous hacking community. Any news article that you might have skimmed about these events becomes fleshed-out – fairly and credibly – so that you understand what these activists were fighting for, in addition to how and why.
The interviews include current and former members of Anonymous – masked or not – as well as people in education, Wired and PBS writers, and folks who opposed this online activism. Every one is well-filmed and informative. You hear about the guy who was sentenced to a year in prison for helping to shut down one website. A young hacker talks about the look on the faces of arresting officers when they discovered they were arresting a teenage girl.
But you don’t just get the “us-against-the-world” stories. You hear about an early gathering that was focused on the Church of Scientology. Members of Anonymous were offended by that Church’s use of lawsuits to censor their critics, and arranged to stage a picket line. Using footage taken at the time, we see our young activist first scared that he’s all by himself – until he realizes that 200 of his fellows are on the other side of a park in New York City. You hear how this group targeted an overtly-racist man who published his opinions over radio and online.
One of the things that We Are Legion does so well is to convey as much as it can about the mindset of people who do this sort of stuff. We’re talking about educated men and women, but ones who enjoy playing pranks and don’t mind sharing in a crass/bizarre sense of humor. They are moral people who don’t mind exerting their power – but with a purpose.
Almost all of the movie is told from the perspective of the people it tries to reveal (and probably, justify). This wasn’t a problem, as I felt this documentary did give attention to both sides of the argument here. You see how these sorts of internet activists can come across as bullies or people who get off on what they can do. You understand how they can cause problems that result in real-world damage to a person’s finances and reputation. But most of all, you get a sense that – like any group – we’re talking about individuals who can take unfair or unwise action, but who can also work together with the best ideals in mind.
And rather than coming away with the opinion that Anonymous (and other hacktivists) are cyber terrorists, I’m instead driven to understand that (a) it’s complicated to ascribe one purpose to large communities and (b) there are some very real, very life-or-death concerns that are being addressed by outlaws.
On the other hand, you also understand that some of these folks made gifs that were intended to cause epileptic seizures, and then posted them onto epilepsy websites. That Neo-Nazi radio guy may have been awful, but he was forced to pay for things that were ordered to him by Anonymous, and this cost him a lot of money. PBS was attacked because online hackers didn’t quite like the way their documentary treated Anonymous. There is a fine line between standing up to bullies and becoming one; this doc lets you see how these complications can exist, all in group, all at once…
I liked the call-back to these sort of super-genius games, whose origins are said to be with MIT’s annual pranks. We’re reminded that Steve Jobs was working on cracking the phone lines to make free calls, and that Bill Gates may have “borrowed” quite a lot of other people’s material in order to create MS-DOS. But the documentary’s strengths aren’t in its story alone.
WAL is beautifully, from interview segments to graphics and text, to little vignettes in real life. Brian Knappenberger is a very strong film-maker, and I look forward to seeing more of his work in the future. I strongly recommend this picture – it’s my first 5-heart review – and I think you should check it out as quickly as possible. This is a story that won’t die, and that won’t get old – it’s too relevant to events that have happened in the last few years, as well as events to come in the future.
We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists is available online now, thanks to FilmBuff. It’s received many solid reviews. Theatrical screenings are still being held throughout North America, as well as around the world. For your convenience, however, you can purchase WAL on ITunes. I’ll update this space if other online retailers pick it up in the near future.
On Friday & Saturday in NYC, Writer/Director Brian Knappenberger was joined by film participants Gregg Housh, PokeAnon, Sethdood, & Vendetta for panel discussions following the screenings.
The Times Colonist: http://www.timescolonist.com/entertainment/Unmasking hacktivists/7523676/story.html
Unmasking the hacktivists
A new documentary probes the murky world of Anonymous and other cyber pranksters and freedom fighters
Who is that masked man? A member of a worldwide collective that's been deified, demonized and a source of confusion, that's who. Participants have even been compared to terrorists who use keystrokes, not bombs, to wreak havoc.
They are Anonymous - the radical, leader-less global network of "hack-tivists." These pranksters and freedom-fighters have hacked their way to infamy, using cyberspace as a powerful, wide-reaching forum for civil disobedience in the digital age.
Whether you view Anonymous as well-intentioned Robin Hoods or dangerously anarchistic variations on The Joker - an image prompted by the Guy Fawkes masks that many wear to protect their identities - one thing is clear.
Anonymous and other new media protest phenomena, such as the Occupy movement and WikiLeaks, have let the genie out of the bottle.
It's no wonder, as someone says in Brian Knappen-berger's documentary We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists, that such groups "scare the s---out of the powers-that-be."
We Are Legion, which screens Nov. 14 and 15 at Cinecenta, is a fascinating, albeit lopsided, primer on the prankster roots of hacker-activist groups such as Cult of the Dead Cow and Electronic Disturbance Theatre that gave rise to Chris Pool's site 4Chan.
Known for its extreme, anything-goes message boards like "/b/", 4Chan spawned Anonymous.
What was once a cyber curiosity now has its own culture and even language, with terms like "moralfag" - newbies mocked for wanting to use their tools as a force for good rather than laughs. It has also entered the mainstream with high-profile hijinks.
Determined to protect free speech and obliterate oppression, Anonymous in 2008 famously mobilized massive real-world protests against the Church of Scientology for infringing on freedom of speech, a testament to its widespread support online.
Its "cyber sit-ins" include targeting Sony, cyber-security firm HBGary Federal and The Motion Picture Association of America, and bombarding websites for Master-card, Visa and Paypal with distributed denial-of-service (DDos) attacks that shut them down.
The goal of Operation Payback was to retaliate against the companies for refusing to process donations to WikiLeaks.
This amorphous group has also taken aim at openly racist New Jersey radio host Hal Turner, and assisted the Occupy movement and revolutionaries in Tunisia and Egypt during the Arab spring.
"Egypt broke us emotionally," says Commander X, founding member of hack-tivist group the People's Liberation Front, recalling how hacktivists worked with foreign volunteers to restore Internet access when former President Mubarek shut it down to quell dissent.
"Watching people get massacred in real time on live feeds we set up - I have never in my cyber-activism wept before."
We are Legion could have used more dissenting voices, such as input from hackers who embrace LulzSec, an extreme offshoot that pulls more vicious stunts. LulzSec hackers resent Anony-mous's perceived abandonment of just-for-laughs mischief for newfound activism.
Still, Knappenberger, a former Frontline producer, effectively melds striking footage and commentary from scholars and various "Anons" - from masked vigilantes with distorted voices to the likes of Mercedes Renee Haefer, an "Internet denizen" arrested for her alleged involvement in Operation Payback. It neatly puts the loose-knit network's existence into historical perspective.
"Your opinion matters," says Haefer, whose alleged online activism with Anonymous, which has hijacked the websites of organizations including the CIA and FBI, could land her 15 years behind bars. It's a jail term the cheeky but articulate activist ironically notes is longer than what a pedophile would face.
Colourful commentary from interviewees, including Joshua Corman - a security strategist who cautions, "Whoever fights monsters should see to it that they themselves don't become one" - is complemented by compelling factoids.
Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, we're reminded, were once electronic mischief-makers themselves.
Knappenberger's on-camera subjects include Aaron Barr, HBGary Federal's former CEO, who was on a crusade against WikiLeaks and who allegedly recommended attacks on Anonymous and media supporters.
In retaliation, AnonOps hacked into his Twitter account, released thousands of internal emails and brought down his website.
"I have to give him some credit for being in the film. It's kind of gutsy," says Knappenberger. "I don't think anyone that loves WikiLeaks is going to listen to Aaron and say, 'I hate WikiLeaks now,' but he has the right to say what he's feeling."
It was surprisingly easy for Knappenberger to "find and engage" Anonymous members. "There's value in understanding where they're coming from," he said. "It doesn't necessarily mean you agree with them. It just means you're listening."
He denies being too sympathetic. "I think we criticize Anonymous a fair amount," he said.
"Attacking the press, for example, is absurd for a freedom-of-speech group.
The large-scale Ddos-ing of people's personal information, even if it's trying to prove that some big bad corporation isn't a good steward of your information. ... It still has a lot of collateral damage, and that's not great."
His biggest challenge? Keeping up on the action.
The film was finished before the hacker group revealed the identity of the alleged New Westminster-based online bully they believed drove Port Coquitlam teenager Amanda Todd to commit suicide.
"Anonymous comes from a kind of pranking, some might even say bullying, kind of culture," he said.
"This girl was harassed and they were deeply offended by that. It's a very interesting case. It could become a short film itself."
BuzzFeed interview: http://www.buzzfeed.com/nowthisnews/we-are-legion-the-story-of-the-hacktivists-749g
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