"Anonymous Prepares to Enter the News Business." This headline may seem almost meaningless, but in fact it's hugely culturally important.
You see, Anonymous is not the same as anonymous, and it also doesn’t exist in the way you may think it does. We don’t know which individuals are in the Anonymous collective, and probably many of those who use the tag don’t either. It isn’t a company, and it isn’t in any other way incorporated. There may be groups using the Anonymous tag that have bank accounts, but Anonymous itself? No chance.
Anonymous is not an organization, it is a pure meme. There’s a name, an image of Guido Fawkes lifted out of a graphic novel, and the idea of anonymous individuals using the internet to take on the world’s established powers by exposing their corruption. The Anonymous meme is still very much associated with hacking, but it is now becoming increasingly used by non-hackers who see the power of the brand.
The newest development in this story is that Your Anonymous News, which has a Twitter and a Tumblr account, is now planning to launch an independent website using $54,000 it raised on crowd sourcing site Indiegogo.
The group describes itself on Twitter as “a news network that supports Twitter,” but importantly it states that “official accounts do not exist, we’re an Anonymous account amongst many.”
Both the idea that the account is part of Anonymous in any organizational sense and the idea that it is a mouthpiece for Anonymous are false. It is unclear what it would mean for a news agency to be either of these things, since Anonymous is really just a very successful idea.
Your Anonymous News (YAN) is just another new-media organization controlled by individuals who are sympathetic to the idea of harnessing the power of the internet to challenge the powerful.
The press release promoting the new site emphasizes its dislike of the mainstream media’s focus on celebrity, and its focus on ensuring that important stories can be reached by everyone, even where mainstream media are unwilling to broach the issues.
None of this is new, and it could have been said by a thousand different new-media sites. However, what’s important about this story is that it demonstrates the 21st century evolution of branding. The 20th century saw the rise of the huge corporate brands that came to dominate whole markets and make the brands owners huge sums of money. Anonymous offers a template for a new kind of brand that allows those with relatively few resources to broadcast their ideas to a huge audience. The Anonymous brand isn’t owned by anyone, but that doesn’t stop it from being able to penetrate into millions of homes, or reduce its potential to change the world.
Whether Your Anonymous News catches on or not, Anonymous with a capital A is here to stay: writing the news, maybe; making history, without a doubt.