Everyday Life

In Search of Anonymous: Down and Out in the Digital Age – Part II

This is the second part of Hackmore’s reflections. Part one was published on Tuesday. I wonder is this digital age the cynical society on steroids, fueled by a strange combination of uneven affluence and hopelessness? -Jeff

I leave the party, and wander through the casinos. These hackers, they’re mostly Millenials. As I walk through the various game rooms, I see faces, gaunt, pale, and bleary-eyed, but excited, some old, but most as young, or even younger than “the kid” at the Xerobank party. They’re here, living like kings temporarily in Vegas, but few actually gamble anything — we all saw the news about the stock market today.

How many of these Millennials really have jobs? When they were still in school, they lived up to their moniker, and watched the world in which they grew up come to an end. For some, their coming-of-age came when they watched more than three-thousand people die, on live television, on September 11th, 2001. Some fought the war. Others went to college. They saw their society torn apart by irrational ideologies on all sides. Whichever path they took, many Millenials found themselves, highly trained, with years of college or military service behind them, living back home with their parents, out of work, enjoying a far lower standard of living.

Is a mass technological movement like Anonymous really that surprising then, given the circumstances? Most of these hackers, who can afford to go to Vegas, seem to be successful. Most of them have managed to stay afloat by wits alone, riding the tech industry, or government service, which both continue to grow in defiance of the turbulence in other sectors of the economy. Despite this, more than a few of the down-and-out have managed to get to Vegas somehow, by road trip, or by spending months scraping together whatever they have. They sleep in cars, or on the conference floor, or in other people’s rooms, and share an identity based on hardship and civic engagement, however strange and threatening the mode of that civic engagement may appear.

For those Millenials less technically, and more violently inclined, there exist more extreme means of protest, the London Riots, or perhaps even the Arab Spring being a case in point. Can anyone really blame them, ripped from youth and into war and recession by what seem like indifferent older generations who have led the world astray?

As the turbines throttle up to one-hundred percent, the flaps retract, and I feel the G-forces push me into my seat. I watch Vegas disappear from the window of the plane. The perfect quadrangular geometry of the boulevards, and surrounding suburbs, artificially sustained squares of lush green, contrasting sharply the orange dust of the surrounding Mojave desert.

Have I found Anonymous? Lulsec? I mull the question over and over in my mind, as most of the other passengers click off their reading lights and attempt to sleep. I watch the canyons of Arizona, and the Rockies, and then the vast flat plains of the Midwest pass below. The kid was right. Anonymous is a faceless mass. I had gone looking for Anonymous in all the wrong places. I, like Siddartha, had journeyed to the ends of the earth, to find that I had been asking the wrong questions. On some level, we are all Anonymous. Whence goes the faceless mob, the stranger, the vague, and the poorly understood, there also goes Anonymous. The kid had been right, all along.