Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Anonymous Smacks Down the Westboro Baptist Church...Again

Once again, the Westboro Baptist Church has been punted off the internet by the hacker group Anonymous.  Under normal circumstances the name of the church would be a hotlink but right now there's no point.  It doesn't go anywhere.

That's mostly good news, as anything that shuts up the WBC can't be all bad.  In the wake of the recent school shooting in Connecticut, the WBC had announced plans to protest at the school of those murdered children.  Stay classy, WBC.  Way to share God's love.

In response to their announced plans, Anonymous took them down.  Google the WBC and click the homepage link and nothing happens.  Eventually the connection times out.

But Anonymous is also publishing personal information of WBC's representatives: home addresses and phone numbers.  That's pretty hypocritical, for one thing: you'd think a group that calls itself Anonymous would have a bit more respect for the sovereign privacy of individuals.

If Anonymous keeps up its attack and keeps the WBC off the internet pretty much forever, I'm totally down with that.  As much as I'm for the First Amendment, I also think there should come quite a bit of responsibility along with such power.  And abusing that power to terrorize, demonize and ostracize should result in the loss of that right.  It's like prison for your mouth.  Commit a few crimes with your body, and society sends your body to jail.  Commit a few with your mouth, however, and you get to keep talking.  Except Anonymous is meting out a little civil justice - or editing, at least -  and I'm totally okay with it.

But while we're talking about abuse of power, Anonymous is robbing itself of much of its credibility by digging further into the WBC's databanks and completely exposing them to all and sundry, essentially exposing those people to retaliation from angry victims.

I'm not saying the WBC's people couldn't stand to receive a few righteous slaps, but we're talking about people who have been insulted and harangued even as they were experienced some of the worst moments of their lives.  As bad as the WBC has been, you can see how frustrated rage could stew and fester in a grieving parent and then suddenly Anonymous is holding out this poisoned apple, "look, here's where they live.  Go get them, punish them."  I can understand where that parent would be coming from even if he/she went through the entire WBC's directory and killed every member...but then imagine the horror and anguish that person would have to go through when it was all over.

Anonymous has been reckless with its power in the past and again it would appear a large dose of hypocrisy is evident in Anonymous' activities.  The stated motivation behind the above cited attack, for example, was to "teach a lesson in security," without actually teaching any lesson.  Anonymous punishes, but doesn't correct or guide.

In the real world, that's called bullying.

In fact, that cited example Anonymous calls out the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe for having been compromised by the Russian Mafia.  If Anonymous really has serious concerns about that, they might have more and better results by taking down the Russian Mafia's computers.

Just a suggestion.

So silencing the WBC isn't a bad thing, not in my opinion.  But Anonymous is bruising its own already damaged image by going too far in this instance.  They wield tremendous power with something approaching impunity; I hope they realize they have the potential to do tremendous good, and are wasting it.

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