Thursday, November 5, the hacktivist collective Anonymous revealed a list of 350 alleged Ku Klux Klan members in a Pastebin drop. For a while, the hype took over the internet. Hours before the official list was revealed, Gabriella Coleman, an anthropology professor at McGill University and author of two books on Anonymous, stated, “If [Anonymous is] right, this is huge. If they’re wrong, it’s huge — they’re going to be massively discredited.”
I was curious to see who these people were, but I ended up being highly disappointed upon discovering that Anonymous’ top-secret names weren’t exactly as ground-breaking as I had anticipated. For the most part, the Facebook profiles I was linked to were of white, middle-aged skinheads clad in tacky WalMart brand camouflage and wielding some sort of weapon in their profile picture. Also, eagles. There were a lot of cartoon eagles and confederate flags. After recovering from the assault of red, white, and blue on my retinas, I was able to critically examine what exactly I had just witnessed.
Nothing revolutionary, that’s for sure.
Anonymous stated the reasoning behind their actions in their official Pastebin drop:
“We want to remind you: This operation is not about the ideas of members of the Ku Klux Klan, this is about the behaviours of members of KKK splinter cells that bear the hallmarks of terrorism … We do see their humanity, we respect their right to free thought, and we know their fear of others is wrong. We also know their behaviours strike fear, anxiety, and terror into others. This will no longer be socially tolerated.”
Yet this isn’t the early 1900s; the Klan isn’t infiltrating society anymore.
Anonymous claims that they “want to change the world,” yet from quickly scrolling through the footprints these bigoted people made on their social media accounts, it was easy to see that Anonymous didn’t quite yank the hood off of anyone, so much as put two and two together for those that somehow couldn’t see it. (Perhaps it was all that camo.)
In a statement, Anonymous proclaimed that they had used “human intelligence,” “digital espionage,” “social engineering,” and “publicly available information” to conduct their research, which turned out to be just a fancy way of saying, “Facebook. We scrolled through Facebook profiles that lacked privacy settings.”
An official Twitter account for Anonymous, @Anon6k, tweeted, “It’s important to know whom you’re working with, do you want a member of the KKK working in a school? Or as a police officer?” Employers should be doing background checks on who they’re hiring to begin with, and all the information Anonymous revealed is public anyway.
So far this leak has done more damage than good. It paved the way for the hoax leak that occurred on November 2, 2015. This false leak jeopardized the lives and careers of people who weren’t ever affiliated with the Klan. That list included nine US senators and other public officials. Anonymous was quick to deny their involvement with that list, but it raises the question of credibility regarding the official leak, which already has one found error: Ben Garrison, a libertarian cartoonist, who ended up on that list because one of his drawings was altered to portray white-supremacy (and was further spiralled into a meme on 4chan), which was what prompted Anonymous’ knee-jerk reaction to place him on the list of bigots.
All this being said, I respect Anonymous. I respect their rebellious badassery and refusal to conform to “the system,” which is probably why I was expecting more dirt. But so what? Now the world has a master-post of some racist individuals. What’s it going to do with it?