The Salford Star first came across the Anonymous movement when followers from the city joined protests in Manchester's Deansgate against the Church of Scientology. That was in 2008 (see Salford Star issue 8). Brian Knappenberger, the director of We Are Legion, also noticed the Anonymous people doing similar protests at the same time.
He became fascinated with the Guy Fawkes-masked campaigners and has followed them through to the present, where Anonymous has become synonymous with online campaigning, pranking and hacktivism.
"Over the last year I've been following along as Anonymous and various other
collaborative or spin-off hacktivist groups have been `sailing the seas' of the internet, generally wreaking havoc and causing mayhem" says Brian Knappenberger "Usually it has been done in the name of free speech and internet liberty, though occasionally it has been done for the `lulz' – for the sake of pure chaos, hilarity or Schadenfreude. Those moments can make you cringe or laugh out loud, usually both.
"I'm the journalist on the boat scribbling notes, carrying a camera, meeting people and trying to make sense of who they are, where they've come from and where they're headed" he adds "We don't know where they are going, but we do know that a leaderless, decentralized group has been able to come together in shockingly cohesive, powerful and consistent ways."
Virtual political mischief is the hallmark of Anonymous… It's followers have attacked the Motion Picture Association of America, helped with the Arab Spring and the Occupy movement, attacked the websites of Mastercard, Visa and Paypal for cutting off financial services to Wikileaks and have hit corporate targets like Sony, and cyber-security firms like HBGary Federal.
Meanwhile, offshoot groups like AntiSec have taken down police and government domains, compromised their servers, dumped files, seized millions of internal documents, and released private emails and passwords in an offensive called `Fuck the FBI Fridays'…
In a real world that's getting duller, more austere and more poverty stricken, Anonymous light up the times. As security strategist and philosopher Joshua Corman says in the film… "individual, young, nameless, faceless folks are having geopolitical impact. It's both exhilarating to realise that and terrifying to realise that. It kind of depends on how that power is wielded. Whether you think it's bad or not is irrelevant, it's not going away."
We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists examines the roots and culture of Anonymous, and explores early hactivist groups like Cult of the Dead Cow and Electronic Disturbance Theatre. The documentary film also features interviews with current Anonymous hacktivists, some recently returned from prison, others currently awaiting trial.
Are they `hackers on steroids', terrorists or the new freedom fighters? This documentary should go a long way to answering it and is not to be missed.
Weirdly, screening alongside We Are Legion, is a short film, Escape Plan C, starring that well know hacktivist, Clint Boon, with a cameo from Salford's answer to Guy Fawkes, er, Bez…
We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists
Escape Plan C starring Clint Boon and Bez
Kino Independent Features at The Black Lion
Wednesday 14th November 7:30pm £5/£4
For more details of the screenings click here