Anonymous vs. Scientology

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few days, you probably haven’t heard of the declaration of war that the internet entity “Anonymous” has declared against Scientology.

This was the first video to hit the interwaves:

A new one has recently come out, though similar in content. There have been some threads on social news sites following the release of these videos. One comment in particular in this Reddit thread struck me as quite interesting. User notany says: “Anonymous might be the first real Stand Alone Complex.”

Spoiler-ish description of Stand Alone Complex behind the cut.

While originally intended to “underscore the dilemmas and concerns that people would face if they relied too heavily on the new communications infrastructure,”[1] Stand Alone Complex eventually came to represent a phenomenon where unrelated, yet very similar actions of individuals create a seemingly concerted effort.

A Stand Alone Complex can be compared to the copycat behavior that often occurs after incidents such as serial murders or terrorist attacks. An incident catches the public’s attention and certain types of people “get on the bandwagon”, so to speak. It is particularly apparent when the incident appears to be the result of well-known political or religious beliefs, but it can also occur in response to intense media attention. For example, a mere fire, no matter the number of deaths, is just a garden variety tragedy. However, if the right kind of people begin to believe it was arson, caused by deliberate action, the threat increases drastically that more arsons will be committed.

What separates the Stand Alone Complex from normal copycat behavior is that the originator of the copied action is not even a real person, but merely a rumored figure that commits said action. Even without instruction or leadership a certain type of person will spring into action to imitate the rumored action and move toward the same goal even if only subconsciously. The result is an epidemic of copied behavior-with no originator. One could say that the Stand Alone Complex is mass hysteria-with purpose.

This is not unlike the concepts of memes (refer to the conversation between the major and the Puppet Master in the manga) and second-order simulacra. It also has ties to social theory, as illustrated in the work of Frederic Jameson and Masachi Osawa.

Pretty interesting to see this phenomenon play out in real life. Though, depending on the liberality of your definition, it’s debateable whether Anonymous is really the truly first Stand Alone Complex. Probably in the sense of utilizing the unique opportunities for identity malleability that the internet offers.

One thing that I’m interested in seeing is how a phenomenon like Anonymous defends itself from subversive tactics, if it can. As a distributed conscious, with no overriding control, it seems rather vulnerable to attacks that attribute other malicious activities to it.

One Response

  1. >>it seems rather vulnerable to attacks that attribute other malicious activities to it

    There are few actions (if any) that you could attribute to Anonymous that are any worse than the depraved behavior Anonymous already exhibits in his own home. If you are unfamiliar with’s /b/ I suggest you visit at least once. As it’s been put so many times: Trying to troll/invade /b/ is like pissing into an ocean of piss. The very ideal of Anonymous is to exhibit any and every example of anti-social or politically incorrect behavior. Racism, sexism, religious intolerance, malicious cruelty and deliberate ignorance are all the rule of the day. The basic premise is: If it creates an amusing response from the target, then the ends justify the means.

    tl;dr: Anonymous does it all for the lulz.

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