[ by Charles Cameron — 2012, apocalyptic, AntiSec, impact of decent graphic design ]
The artwork above is taken from an AntiSec / Anonymous proclamation. It’s the A in “AntiSec”, and I think it’s quite striking, has a bit of a Cirque du Soleil effect, or Kokopelli maybe. As regular readers know, I’m a sucker for decent graphics no matter where they came from, so this particular logo (I’ve only shown you the first letter, the whole thing is huge) caught my eye, and was enough to set me scanning the rest of the 421-page document.
The document itself was provided to me and many others a little over a week ago by way of a link in an email purporting to come from firstname.lastname@example.org – i.e. George Friedman, the founder of STRATFOR, the “global intelligence company”. The email was headed “Rate Stratfor’s Incident Response” and told its readers (presumably people whose email addresses had been found in a Stratfor address book, which was downloaded in the “intrusion” in question):
We would like to hear from our loyal client base as to our handling of the recent intrusion by those deranged, sexually deviant criminal hacker terrorist masterminds.
The rhetoric here is interesting – “loyal client base” is phrasing I could easily imagine a bureaucrat using in a public document, while “deranged, sexually deviant criminal hacker terrorist masterminds” is way more fun but just a tad less, how shall I put it, official-sounding.
And with a come-on like that, I could hardly resist digging a little deeper…
So I clicked on through, and found myself looking at the long, long piece which opens with the striking graphic above. Okay, there was a lot of code, and I don’t read that — but the graphic at the head of the whole thing was neat, and in among the extended passages of code I found various paragraphs of English prose with enough lulz to keep me skipping and skimming, and…
Lo, I am rewarded. Because…
There’s a reference to 2012, and indeed specifically to 21 December 2012. I love those – they’re apocalyptic!
Apocalyptic movements are a major interest of mine, not least because they provide the many varieties of human with an immensely rich playground for our hopes and fears — our sense of an unjust and imperfect world in which we live and the utopia it might and by rights “should” be – that bridges mundane reality with heightened imagination. And they’re found, as Richard Landes shows in his masterful recent book, Heaven on Earth: the Varieties of the Millennial Experience, scattered across the centuries and continents.
21 December 2012, as you may have heard, is when the Mayan calendar allegedly runs out — or rolls over, and a “new age” begins. And the 2012 Mayan Calendar prediction has spawned a popular apocalyptic movement with enough leeway in it to attract survivalists, sorcerers’ apprentices, and those who are deeply skeptical about organized religion alike…
Just my kind of thing, eh?
This Mayan calendar / 2012 business looks to be a “bigger” apocalyptic event than last year’s two Harold Camping predictions combined, even though those spawned $100 million in billboard and other advertising worldwide, and had an impact as far afield as the Hmong montagnards of Vietnam, some 7,000 of whom are said to have gathered on a mountain to await the Rapture, and some of whom may have been “massacred” by security forces – the official response to these accusations apparently being that a group of secessionists were arrested.
Camping’s predictions were made in the face of a widespread (and Biblical) understanding that “of that day and hour knoweth no man” (Matthew 24.36) and agreement that “date-setting” of the Camping kind is therefore, in strictly theological terms, indefensible – not to mention that failed predictions of this sort tend to bring disrepute on religious narratives in general.
The Mayan Calendar “prediction” for 2012, on the other hand, appeals to a wide range of people who might identify as “spiritual, not religious” – there’s no scripture they’d all agree on available to disconfirm it in advance in the way that Matt. 24.36 disconfirms predictions like those of Rev. Camping – and it can be “read” as a date certain for the end of the world, of history, of “the world as we know it” — or simply as a convenient peg for a “turning point” not unlike the Harmonic Convergence which preceded it, the tipping point after which humanity comes to its senses, finally recognizes the futility of war, the need for global justice and ecological renewal, and all good things…
So it is interesting that certain persons Anonymous have picked that wave to ride… and are aiming to add a touch of their own mayhem – their word, not mine – into the mix.
They announce this upcoming “Project Mayhem” — in the particular AntiSec / Anonymous zine we’re discussing — by way of publishing an excerpt from an unclassified (but “For Official Use Only”) Homeland Security document, claiming with some mix of irony and joy:
THEY R HIP 2 OUR MASTER PLAN…
Here are two of the relevant paragraphs:
• (U) “Project Mayhem,” (PM) was announced by Anonymous in August 2011, and according to their public website projectmayhem2012[dot]org, is set to culminate on 21 December 2012. The PM website ahs several links to YT videos, which appear to have been randomly selected and have no direct tie to PM or past / current / future Anonymous malicious activity. Furthermore, there is no dialogue or hints as to specific tactics, techniques and procedures (TTP) that Anonymous plans on employing on or prior to 21 December 2012. There are also several seemingly related internet wiki-style portals and web forums, operating under the PM name, devoted to random malicious acts – some involving physical disruption and some involving targeting information systems – but no direct discussion of attack scenarios.
[ … ]
DHS/NCCIC’S PM ASSESSMENT: While Anonymous’ PM will not likely be as spectacular as the activities it was named after in the movie Fight Club, little is known about their plans for this event. We anticipate several more YT videos and public statements via Twitter leading up to the culmination date of 21 December 2012. Based on previous incidents involvin Anonymous, we can expect DDOS, web defacement, SQL injection, and potentially in-person protests targeting worldwide government institutions and private corporations. Though the characters in the movie Fight Club who carried out their version of PM utilized deadly force and terrorist tactics, Anonymous is not likely to use violent force in their operations.
When Y2K rolled along, there was concern that what seemed on its surface to be a technical problem (a glitch in the ways in which un-remediated computers handled dates) might also prove an opportunistic moment for people with millenarian beliefs to take disruptive action.
So the conjunction of millennialism and disruption is not a new one.
In the event Ahmed Ressam, acting on behalf of Al-Qaida, tried to take advantage of the rollover between the second and third millennia to detonate a sizeable explosive at LAX on December 31st 1999 – a time when many other problems might be expected to be tying the hands of the authorities — and would likely have managed it had he not been intercepted and his bomb-making materials confiscated at the Canadian-US border on December 14th of that year.
This time around, it’s the ancient Mayans who have (allegedly) been doing the date-setting, and this time it’s techno-savvy black-hat hackers who may take symbiotic advantage of the predictions to make their own brand of mayhem…
Okay, as usual, the religious rhetoric angle is what intrigues me, so here’s some of their prose text.
In an act of loving egalitarian criminality, we used company credit cards to make donations to dozens of charities and revolutionary organizations, including the Bradley Manning Support Organization, the EFF, the ACLU, CARE, American Red Cross, Amnesty International, Greenpeace, some commies, some prisoners, various occupations, and many more unnamed homies. It took weeks of hard work, but it paid off: to the tune of over $500,000 dollars liberated in total.
That’s pure Robin Hood, isn’t it? Take from the rich and give to the poor? With some political analysis thrown in, and a touch of overturning the money-tables?
Note that phrase, “loving egalitarian criminality”!
I’m reminded of the Situationist Raoul Vaneigem‘s book, The Movement of the Free Spirit, of Robert Lerner‘s Heresy of the Free Spirit, and Norman Cohn‘s great The Pursuit of the Millennium which first introduced me to that most interesting of medieval heresies — and the antinomianism that runs like a thread through so many apocalyptic movements and moments.
Fascinating stuff, medieval heresy…
I’m guessing from the way the writers of the email from pseudo-Friedman described themselves that they enjoy the rhetoric that is deployed against them – as I said above, they seem to feature a heady mix of irony and joy, and clearly took some pleasure in being called “PUNKS and CANNIBALS!!!” by one of their detractors. Which brings me to their motto:
WE ARE ANONYMOUS. WE DO NOT FORGIVE. WE DO NOT FORGET. WE ARE LEGION. EXPECT US!
I’m betting whoever came up with that phrasing was aware that in the New Testament (Luke 8.30), Jesus asked a man possessed by demons what his name was…
And he said, “Legion,” because many demons had entered him.
So that word “legion” is an interesting a little trip-wire that would pass unnoticed by most people, but would be liable to excite the wrath of those who see the world we live in through the lens of scripture — another hint of the significance of apocalyptic rhetoric in times of social discord…
I started with a stunning graphic, I’ve been on about apocalyptic rhetoric all along, and I’ll end with two more apocalyptic graphics -– there are so many to choose from! — these ones come from a video on an extensive Christian site that’s set up to debunk 2012 theories in favor of the personal form of “end of the world” situation — cancer, heart attack, you know the story.
All of which might happen in 2012 – but then again, maybe not.
So there we go… whoosh!!