The point of Anonymous is that it’s anonymous and every Guy Fawkes mask looks like every other Guy Fawkes mask. That creates an uncertainty factor around a threat by Anonymous that is, in itself, a force multiplier. I report that Anonymous has come down on the side of the people standing in the way of the Black Snake, the Dakota Access Pipeline….because a person in a Guy Fawkes mask says so in a video posted to YouTube.
The person behind the mask also has released what he claims is personal information about some individuals opposing the residents of the Sacred Stones Camp. Because I do not feel comfortable publishing the information—having no way to verify it—I will not be linking to the Anonymous messages.
The latest communiqué that claims to be from Anonymous and carries the customary symbols addresses “the world” but quickly focuses on North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple.
The masked individual who calls himself Sergeant Anonymous and may or may not represent the hacktivist collective calls Gov. Dalrymple’s decision to mobilize the National Guard against peaceful protestors “a fit of cowardice,” a description hard to dispute. The next statement gets to the nitty-gritty, claiming that the governor stands to make “millions” on the pipeline project and the Indians are standing between him and this stack of money.
Anonymous warns the governor to back off or they will release documents showing the conflict of interest and then goes on to say that if one protestor on the Indian side is harmed, Anonymous will “release docs on” the individuals responsible.
While translating that threat—which extends to individual Guardsmen—is perilous, it has in the past involved monkey wrenching individual credit ratings, cancelling credit cards—electronic mischief ranging from embarrassing to harmful.
Isn’t this kind of hacking against the law? Of course it is. That’s one reason Anonymous is anonymous. But of course doing harm to peaceful protestors is also against the law.
The ultimatum to Gov. Dalrymple came a day after Anonymous posted news and documentation of attacks on protestors by private security forces with dogs and pepper spray, mostly footage from Democracy Now! For those who remember, it was like the second coming of Bull Connor, except the dog handlers were hired muscle rather than paid directly by the public.
The protestors prevailed against private security on camera and they did it without breaking the discipline of nonviolence. In addition to the Democracy Now! footage and other news items, Anonymous published a picture of the head of the security firm on YouTube as well as his home address.
Mobilizing the National Guard was a significant escalation.
Anonymous, should they carry out their threats, will be taking defensive action beyond the abilities of the people being attacked.
Of course, if there are no documents showing a conflict of interest, then the threat is as empty as if the person behind the Guy Fawkes mask were not part of the affinity group of hackers that calls itself Anonymous.
Only Governor Jack Dalrymple knows if he is doing private business with public assets. If he is, he has to wonder how much Anonymous knows and what documents they intend to drop. If he is not, he has nothing to fear.
Whoever the person behind the Guy Fawkes mask is, his claim puts the governor in an interesting situation. The power to force that issue without producing evidence out front is another reason Anonymous is anonymous.
Steve Russell, Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, is a Texas trial court judge by assignment and associate professor emeritus of criminal justice at Indiana University-Bloomington. He lives in Georgetown, Texas.