Hackers claiming to be from Anonymous (a claim disputed by others claiming to speak for Anonymous) have hacked Stratfor, releasing client lists and private information (including credit card information and passwords) from subscribers. They also defaced the Stratfor site, which as of now is still unavailable.
This is vandalism, pure and simple, however the perpetrators try to dress it up as some moral campaign and a blow for freedom. How, exactly, does it advance freedom to disclose the names and personal information of thousands of individuals who freely contracted with Stratfor, exchanging their money for Stratfor content? Individuals who do nothing but read what Stratfor publishes? How does exposing innocent individuals–private individuals–to substantial financial loss serve any constructive cause? Just because corporations and government agencies happen to be among the subscribers? Just how does that matter? Only to a warped mind which believes corporations and governments as inherently evil. But even putting aside that warped view, what about the collateral damage to individuals? Indeed, individuals, rather than the ostensible targets, are probably most vulnerable to damage from these disclosures.
And the hypocrisy of these particular vandals is breathtaking. They revel in their anonymity–they take the word for their movement’s/organization’s name after all–but cavalierly and callously take it upon themselves to deny others their anonymity and privacy. They presume to determine who has, and who does not have, the ability to maintain a zone of privacy, the ability to determine whom to reveal themselves to, or not.
There are certainly always reasons to be leery of government secrecy, and to challenge its necessity or appropriateness in particular instances. But the fact that secrecy is misused by governments at time does not logically imply the opposite–that it is never necessary, and that it should be compromised at every opportunity. That appears to be the twisted logic of the Anonymous set, and the entire constellation of conspiratorial wackos left and right. But that view is no more defensible than the presumption that the state’s right to secrecy is absolute and unchallengeable. What adults try to do is to figure out the proper balance, and to structure institutions and to inculcate values to maintain that balance.
The problem with government secrecy is that it can compromise accountability, thereby permitting those operating under its cloud to engage in criminal and unethical conduct, without fear of penalty.
And therein lay the irony: who holds the Anonymous types accountable? They take it on themselves to determine who and what is deserving of privacy, and who and what is not, but are answerable to no one.
These people portray themselves to be moral paragons, crusading for justice and holding those in government accountable. But those with accounts at Stratfor hardly fit that characterization. And moreover, if power wielded without accountability is inherently wrong, how is Anonymous anything but inherently wrong? To whom do they answer?
No, the simple fact is that these people are nihilistic narcissists. In their grandiosity, they presume to stand in judgment of others, and to be above judgment themselves. Anonymous, Bradley Manning, Julian Assange. All of a piece. Grandiose, narcissistic, nihilistic and twisted. Acting in the belief that they are somehow superior. Moral and intellectual avatars fit to hold others to account, but beyond being held to account themselves. True believers in the Stalinist creed that to make omelets you need to break eggs.
Then there is the question of why Stratfor? Perhaps this was just opportunistic: that real targets were too difficult to crack but these narcissists needed to feed their egos with some big splash. Perhaps there was something more deliberate about the choice. A friend and I have been puzzling over this for the last couple of days. Hopefully more on that later.