On December 16th the activist group Anonymous set out to support Wikileaks and its anti censorship / whistle blowing campaign by encouraging the public to take to the streets and paper the protest. Aptly named Operation Paperstorm, the group is utilizing, as their spectacle’s banner, the ironic play on the Bush-era lingo that classified (to the point of absurdity) each military attack led by the US and the UK on Iraq: Operation Desert Storm, Operation FRICTION (the passive yet uppercased Canadian offering), Operation Shield, and a personal favourite, Operation Calm.
This alternative media tactic is hardly new yet remains an arguably radical intervention in a socially cyborgic milieu in which the virtues of the “the paperless” and “the virtual” are extolled. Plainly stated, alternative forms of media interrupt the familiar with the unfamiliar – here, a piece of paper. The language of “tactic” is rooted in a militaristic discourse and “is a calculated action determined by the absence of a proper locus.” In other words, the sovereign doesn’t see it coming (de Certeau, 169).
The work that Anonymous is tactically applying is recognized by Michel de Certeau in “Making Do”: Uses and Tactics”:
… they subverted them from within – not by rejecting them or by transforming them (though that occurred as well), but by many different ways of using them in the service of rules, customs, or convictions foreign to the colonization which they could not escape. They metaphorized the dominant order; they made it function in another register … they diverted without leaving it (165).
The BBC has indicated that Anonymous have not only been translating the papering effort into different languages, but will also do a “drop” of sorts when citizens will be at their consumptive best – the Christmas shopping frenzy.
The art of “pulling tricks” involves a sense of the opportunities afforded by a particular occasion. Through procedures that Freud makes explicit with reference to wit, a tactic bodily juxtaposes diverse elements in order suddenly to produce a flash shedding a different light on the language of a place and to strike the hearer (de Certeau, 169).
The group’s ID is not without meaning: the word “anonymous,” appearing in the early seventeenth century, is from Greek anonymos or “without a name” and the activists use its disenfranchisement from the authorized social bracket of “being named” to its advantage. When considering Giorgio Agamben’s “state of exception” or that which is outside of the law, Anonymous is asserting a counterforce as “bare life” against the sovereign militarist state with its public dissemination of classified information while remaining within its guileful ruse of anonymity. Nice one.
Power is indeed everywhere (Foucault, History of Sexuality).