How Anonymous Works:

Anonymous is not a well-defined group of computer hackers. It’s not a club of anti-social geeks hiding in their parents’ basements or well-trained, militaristic outlaws hiding in shadowy bunkers equipped with high-speed Internet access.

Depending on who you ask, Anonymous is a digital consciousness, a worldwide hive mind, a culture, a political and social movement or an online collective. It’s really all of the above. Anonymous is a massive group of users of varying computing abilities who have a lot in common.

Anonymous achieved undeniable celebrity status in 2008. That year, a rather unflattering (and creepy) video of Tom Cruise rambling on about his Scientology beliefs was leaked to the Internet, to the anger of church leaders.

So the church attempted to do the impossible — it tried to remove the video from the Internet. In doing so, they raised the ire of Anonymous, which saw these attempts as a form of censorship. Anons also took issue with the church itself, which it views as a money-grubbing cult.

Thus, Project Chanology was born. Anonymous gathered its collective abilities with the intention of removing the church from the Internet. In a move that would become a hallmark of Anonymous missions, the group broadcast its intentions in a YouTube video.

Then the project began, first as DDoS attack that interfered with the church Web site. Next, there were prank phone calls and orders for unpaid pizza sent to church offices all over the world — anything to disrupt day-to-day functioning. Of course, these tactics weren’t exactly legal, and as a result, risked sealing Anonymous’ reputation as law breakers and vigilantes.

Then Anonymous had its moment of clarity, sparked by non-Anonymous Scientologist critic Mark Bunker, who pleaded with the group to use non-destructive and legal means to accomplish its ends.

Thanks to his suggestions, Anonymous shifted from illegal tactics to more legitimate actions, sending thousands of protesters out in front of the churches, all wearing Guy Fawkes masks, the likes of which have become a visual hallmark of Anonymous.

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