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99% Invisible-42- Recognizably Anonymous

Roman Mars on December 09, 2011 02:44

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    Anonymous is not group. It is not an organization. Rob Walker describes Anonymous as a “loosely affiliated and ever-changing band of individuals who… have been variously described as hackers, hacktivists, free-expression zealots, Internet troublemakers, and assorted combinations thereof.”
    But when Anonymous came up against the Church of Scientiology, a small, non-hierarchical collection of Anons decided to take the disparate phrases, images and ideas circling around the 4Chan /b/ message board (where Anonymous has its roots) and combine them into a very engaging and effective “brand identity” (for lack of a better word).
    The over-the-top, ominous voice of Anonymous was codified by an online video and manifesto directed at the Church of Scientology.
    The Anonymous logo is comprised of a headless man in a suit, with a question mark where the head should be, juxtaposed against a UN flag. According to Walker, the logo is “a cleverly subversive, and ironic, appropriation and exploitation of paranoia about Big Brother-style faceless power.”
    And then there’s the mask. Appropriated from the graphic novel and movie “V for Vendetta,” the V mask has become the de facto public face of Anonymous, and it serves as such a powerful image that it has skipped over into other street protests like the Occupy Wall Street movement.
    In this episode, Rob Walker explores the origins of the meme-like images in the Anonymous “visual brand” and explains why these icons so powerfully define a phenomenon that eschews definition.
    This piece was produced by me and Rob Walker based on his article “Recognizably Anonymous” in Slate.


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