This paper discusses and explores the ways in which the political aesthetics of Anonymous can be linked to possibilities of arousing affect, create unity and mobilize resistance – that is, invite public participation in public affairs.
In the culture of Anonymous, political resistance is not considered as limited to rational tactics nor in accordance with the principles of intellectual/cognitive ‘reason’ (alone), but interplayed with ‘the lulz’ – a specific kind of political passion – that works as an affective political force; capable of inspiring an alternative (radical) imaginary. In this context, the lulz and the aesthetics of Anonymous are reflected in strategies of engagement deployed to challenge the hegemonic discourses promoted by political economy.
Anonymous’ idea of social change and counter-hegemonic strategies, where specific power structures are trolled by Anonymous’ technical capacity to break into servers and leak information, is connected to the sense of forbidden pleasure of standing up against power (a sense of thrill that is rewarding in its own right), as well as a form of pleasure of fighting for something meaningful, that which may give an increased sense of identity, belonging, and meaning to one’s life. For Anonymous, there is, hence, no opposition between the lulz and political engagement.
Anonymous’ decentralised counter-power does not ‘fight against the idea that power has become affective’ (Massumi 2002a: 234) and/or in opposition to a ‘theatrical and aesthetic perspective’ of politics (cf. Angerer 2013: 235); rather, they meet, as Massumi would have it, ‘affective modulation with affective modulation’ (ibid.). This in turn raises further questions on aestheticism and the mobilisation of affect as a mode of struggle. On this note, we suggest that rather than moving within the domain of moralism or protest alone, social movements seem to be in need of a strategy not only around the (affective) creation of social divisions (a ‘We-Them’ relation in which antagonistic frontiers are clearly defined; cf. Laclau 2005; Mouffe 2005), but also through the mobilisation and promise of pleasure.
Anonymous shows that cyber security is fragile and can always be challenged. This is symbolically important as when it comes to physical confrontation there is no civilian group which can ever match the institutional power-infrastructure. However, in cyber- or information wars those terms change – and this is where the potential of hacker-culture as a political movement comes into play.
For the Lulz: Anonymous, Aesthetics, and Affect.
tripleC 12(1): 238-264, 2014.
Rodrigo Ferrada Stoehrel & Simon Lindgren.Read Article