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Saturday, 21 June 2008

Well done, whoever you are!

We now know who they are. Well, not exactly who, but the type of person they are. I refer to a loose-knit but seemingly well-organised, Internet-based campaign called Anonymous, whose avowed target is the Church of Scientology.

This crazy cult has drawn a lot of criticism, and on at least two occasions in recent weeks police have blocked free expression.

But have a look at this UK Times article. It makes fascinating reading.

"Their target", says The Times "was the Church of Scientology – and this was an altogether new way of protesting." It continues:

It was all so different from how it used to be. For more than a decade, a small group had gathered opposite the Church's London offices to stage lonely demonstrations. Some were former Scientologists, some just angered by an organisation that they claimed split up families, extorted money and employed its followers as slave labour. Leafleting passers-by, explaining themselves to the police and countering – they claimed – the harassment of the Scientologists, they were happy if a dozen turned out.

Then, earlier this year, something odd happened. Simultaneously and apparently without warning, in London, Toronto, Sydney, New York and other cities worldwide, young men and women began protesting en masse. They wore strange clothes, spoke their own dialect, distributed cake and operated under the name of Anonymous. They returned the next month – and the month after.

The paper asks, "Who were these people?", and answers thus:

To the police, watching last Saturday's London protest, they are a quirky bunch of middle-class kids. “These are the nicest protesters I have ever had the privilege of policing,” one said. “They even bring lunch.” Sure enough, behind the barricades, there is a large table of crisps and soft drinks. Demonstrators offer biscuits to passers-by. One of their placards reads: “We have cake, they have lies.” The police description is broadly accurate - most Anonymous members are indeed middle-class teenagers. They see themselves as guardians of free speech, fighting a malign organisation that bases its ideology on stories about aliens. They cover their faces because they are scared of reprisals. But also because anonymity is, well, what they do.

There's more, for those interested in this debate, and what Anonymous stand for.

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