Virtual Arkham: Explaining Anonymous, Lulzsec, and Antisec Animus in Our Digital Gotham City
Personae Dramatis: The Rogues Gallery
In this post I would like to show you what I have been seeing with regard to Anonymous the other groups that have spawned from it. Increasingly over the last year or two I have been seeing analogies both literally, and figuratively between the forces at play and I feel that all of it is directly affected by the comic book world of Batman. The analogies that I am making come from observing not only the actions of the parties but also the methods that they use (down to the imagery in word and graphical) to get that message out to the masses.
In the case of Anonymous and their spin off groups, I have observed a shift in personalities that could be termed an evolution in motivations and thought. Generally though, the game plan seems to be just a general way for the groups to sow anarchy while feeding their narcissistic needs through media attention. This is the crux of the issue I think as the core groups don’t seem to be solely motivated by ethical or political change. Instead, it all seems to be focused on a few drivers;
- Lulz Just for the hell of it, or a desire for amorphous anarchy
- A feeling of power over other forces (government/law) that subsumes their feelings of powerlessness
- A need to fulfil the narcissistic tendencies by sowing havoc and seeing it in the media (like some narcissistic serial killers Denny Rader for example)
Equating this with the world of the Batman has been in the back of my mind for some time, especially since my dealings with Jester. His logo and his persona of the “joker” from the last Dark Knight film set the stage for me to start to think in this vein. A more recent video by the History Channel solidified all of this for me. The video, “Batman Unmasked: The Psychology of the Dark Knight” struck me as not only as being the zeitgeist of this article, but, also seemed to show a generation of comic book and movie goers that are internet denizens that want to emulate this last iteration of “The Joker” specifically.
The Heath Ledger portrayal of Joker seems to have been the catalyst to me, of many an internet anarchist. The media surrounding this being his last role as well as the way the character was re-written in this story arc, hit a common nerve with the masses. So much so, that seemingly, the Joker became the more emulated and lauded character in the story over its real hero, Batman. It is from this realisation that I derive the rest of the analogies made here. Of course these are gross generalities, but, I tend to think that given the recent activities (riots in the UK and flash mob thievery in the US as well as all the lulz) there is a strong correlation to be made.
First though, lets look at the Rogues Gallery that end up in Arkham Asylum…
Ra’s Al Ghul and The Shadow Assassins
Ra’s is a control freak. His agenda is to have order but his means to get that order mean subjugation of the masses and removal of anyone that does not conform to his sense of right and wrong. This order that he wishes to impose comes from his shadow assassins and their lethality without question.
The Riddler is a pure narcissistic criminal genius. His narcissism though, is usually his undoing as he cannot perpetrate any crime without leaving overt clues in an attention seeking pathology. It is this pathology, the need for the attention that drives him altogether and is his undoing.
The Penguin & The Joker or PenguiJoker
The Penguin (Societal and Governmental corruption) and The Joker (pure anarchy) are two rogues that have become one in this scenario. Within the world of Batman though, each attacks the order seeking to destroy it for their own ends. In the Penguin we have someone looking to corrupt the system. Meanwhile, the Joker, is pure anarchy diametrically opposed to the order (aka Batman) Joker’s need is fuelled by a nihilistic world view twisted with a good deal of insanity.
All of the Batman wannabes in hockey suits
Lastly, we have the Bat-men, the would be vigilante’s who want to be the Bat, but, don’t have the tools to really be of use. This character set was added from the last film (The Dark Knight) and I generally attribute to one player in the real world (if you call it that) version of Gotham Knights being played out on the internet. That individual(the afore mentioned jester) oddly enough aligns himself visually much of the time with “The Joker” but, he is more like the hockey suit wearing would be Batman.
Now that I have laid down the Batman’s Rogues Gallery, I will move on to the real world players and their motives aligned with my premise.
Anima & Animus:
The shadow, in being instinctive and irrational, is prone to projection: turning a personal inferiority into a perceived moral deficiency in someone else. Jung writes that if these projections are unrecognized “The projection-making factor (the Shadow archetype) then has a free hand and can realize its object–if it has one–or bring about some other situation characteristic of its power.”  These projections insulate and cripple individuals by forming an ever thicker fog of illusion between the ego and the real world.
According to Jung and even Freud, the darker side of the psyche can drive our actions solely by the shadow self. One can see hints of their theories in the actions of each of the groups we are talking about here. Even the subtle connections made from overt symbolism can be made through the icon of Antisec itself. As seen at the top of the page, the connections are there to be made between the characters of Penguin, Joker, and Riddler, even if the original core image came from another source altogether (V for Vendetta) I believe that the collective unconscious here latched on to the images of Riddler/Joker/Penguin and co-opten them, if they didn’t actually do so overtly and with forethought.
So, with all of this said, I will make the claim now that I believe the movements and the players have been created out of vainglorious motives and have not changed at all since taking on the mantle of ethical and political change through civil disobedience. To that end, here are the players aligned to their characters from the world of Gotham as well as their psychological underpinnings.
Anonymous: Ra’s Al Ghul and The Shadow Assassins
Anonymous started out as a group of people who inhabited the 4chan group but wanted to do something different for ‘entertainment’ This loose idea was co-opted when they began to commit civil disobedience for their own purposes either political or for the aforementioned entertainment value. Either way, their animus is wholly about the control which they can wield over others. This should never be forgotten, that the core of the group ethos has nothing to do with change or moral/ethical betterment. It is in fact all for their own enjoyment.
Lulzsec: The Riddler
Lulzsec came into being because they felt that the ethos and moral constructs of Anonymous were too weak and they wanted to escalate the ‘lulz’ for their own enjoyment. The take away here is that just being pranksters was not enough, instead they wanted to show everyone they were smarter than everyone else AND that they could do so and get away with it. All the while, they performed these acts in an exceedingly narcissistic way. A key player in this that has been caught would be Topiary. It seems that even in the face of prosecution he thumbs his nose at authorities as well as seems to be enjoying the limelight (philosophical book in hand for the cameras)
Antisec: The Penguin & The Joker or PenguiJoker
The love child of Anonymous and LulzSec are #Antisec. This agenda or perhaps subgroup (I tend to think there are cells of Antisec) has chosen a logo that decidedly shows the melding of at least two of the Batman Rogues Gallery (Joker and Penguin as you can see at the top of this article) This too follows into their attitudes about what they are doing and why they are doing it. They really have no rhyme or reason for what they do other than their own entertainment and attention. This is a classical narcissist behaviour and by all communiqués laid out by LulzSec, they fully enjoyed their ‘voyage’ in the lulz sea.
Antisec also has a Penguin side to them too. By using the system against itself (i.e. using the governments lack of network and system security) they poke them in the eye by subverting their own data to shame them. This is a lesser characteristic as I see it, but it is still important to note as well as point out the imagery (homage) to the Penguin in their logo whether it was overtly done or by proxy of some unconscious connection made by the designer.
th3j35t3r: All of the Batman wannabes in hockey suits
Finally, we have the jester. A character who wants to be the Batman, but fails to actually affect any kind of real change in the battle. For all of the attempts made, the efforts fall flat and to date, nothing has been attributed to him that substantially made a difference against the Anonymous/Lulzsec movement. I believe he does this as well as his other DDOS actions out of a self described sense of helplessness. Jester makes the claim that he had to do something as he saw his comrades dying at the hands of Jihadists. He made similar remarks about why he was attacking Anonymous, as they were outing data that could harm those in the field of battle.
Either way, his motivations seem to be tainted with a bit of narcissism as well, seeking the attention of the media as he has in the past makes him part and parcel to the overall problem.
And so it goes on… The Anon movement has begat others who have agenda’s of their own (or perhaps pathos is a better word) As the movements lose interest in the day to day grind of operations, they will increasingly seek to up the ante. As the media winds down on them, they will need to seek even bigger targets and outcomes to end up back on the top of the news, all the while feeding their collective need to be the centre of attention. The flip side of this will be that the authorities, unable to cope easily with the problem at hand, will create new and more stringent laws that will harm us all. Though this will not matter to the groups.. Because this is unimportant to their end goal of satisfying their needs. It will keep going round and round and the outcomes are likely not to be good. There will be a lot of collateral damage and in the end, no one will have profited at all from it all.
So what is the end game here? Will there be any good outcome from this?
Not if it keeps going the way it has been. More indiscriminate hits against targets without showing anything for it along the lines of showing corruption or malfeasance will only lead to more knee jerk reactions by authorities. I imagine some will be caught and tried for their actions, others will escape and perhaps go on to other things… Overall though, it will not make a better world. It will only have fulfilled the dsires temporarily of the ones perpetrating the acts against.. Well anyone and everyone.. Until they get put into Arkham.