By Yonatan Gordon
Disclaimer: As with our other articles, this entry is based solely on Torah sources. We do not know anyone affiliated with Anonymous or any other “hactivist” organization.
Much can be said about a name. Especially about a name which isn’t really a name at all. Whereas the heroes of Jewish history have had volumes written about them, sometimes it is those untold stories that seem the most compelling. Such was the case during the Purim saga (as related in the Book of Esther), where God’s name was not mentioned explicitly even once in the megillah.
Maybe then it would be much better for all of us to be called anonymous? As we explained in our Facebook vs. Tumblr article, maybe we should all keep our secret identities of ourselves? To the world we are Clark Kent, but secretly we really have untold super-powers.
Indeed, in Jewish law, sometimes it is most praiseworthy to do things anonymously. For instance, when giving tzedakah (charity), it is virtuous to do so discreetly so as not to embarrass the recipient. In general, those mitzvot (commandments and good deeds) done unnoticed, seem to have a greater potential to be carried out altruistically.
So on the surface, naming your activities “anonymous” doesn’t seem intrinsically wrong. In fact, it could be something most virtuous.
Two Types of Anonymous
Returning back to the Purim saga, we can observe two representations of the “anonymous” concept. But as is the nature of most Purim related discussions, they tend to reside on opposite sides of the spectrum. On the good side, as mentioned, is the “anonymous” nature that God played during the story. Before the miracle of Purim, God Himself “hid His face” from His children Israel. By initially hiding one’s true identity, pretending to be someone else, the innermost essence of one’s true identity becomes revealed. On Purim we reach the level of the “unknowable head” (“the head that does not know itself nor is known to others”), the state of complete existential hiddenness of self from self, for the sake of “giving birth” to one’s ultimate self anew.
It is clear, whether they consciously realize it or not, that this is the attraction behind the Anonymous group name and logo. But the source for the attraction to this concept doesn’t jive well with some or all of their activities. As mentioned, the purpose of this first type of anonymous is to ultimately benefit the world with a greater state of revelation. Individually, this means being able to reveal your secret identity in public; to “give birth” to your superhero self anew. On the macro level, this means making the name of God explicit from within a state of concealment. For out of the darkness of their trial, Mordechai, Esther and the entire Jewish people witnessed and revealed great Divine light to the world.
So if “anonymous” is to be capitalized, the best reason would be to reference the word to the “hidden face” state of God Himself during the exile of the Jewish people.
While it is true that some of the activities seem (at least on the surface) to present signs of altruism, many other activities are not mitzvot or good deeds at all. Such was the case with their #OpIsrael April 7th campaign timed to coincide with Holocaust Remembrance Day. They had promised to “launch a coordinated, massive cyberattack on Israeli targets with the intent of erasing Israel from the Internet.”
The timing and wording of their campaign seems to relate almost verbatim to the plot of the wicked Haman during Purim “to destroy, kill and annihilate all Jews, from young to old, infants and women, on a single day, on the 13th day of the 12th month, the month of Adar.”
While the date of the 13th of Adar was selected by drawing lots (the name “purim” is Persian for “lots”), Haman was very happy with the results. Adar was a month without Jewish holidays. Also the 7th of Adar was the day when the great leader of Israel, Moses, passed away. What he failed to realize, however, was that the 7th of Adar was also the day when Moses was born. Such began the reversal of fortune that led to Haman and his sons being hanged on the gallows that he himself built.
It is explained at length in Chassidut, how the motivation for casting lots is the drive to reach a place above choice. Instead of choosing the month and date, he was attempting to reach a state above nature and reason. So too seems the case with this campaign from this formless hactivist group. While the organizers realize (in one way or another) that the God of Israel protects His children, they are hoping that this date is similar to the “month without holidays” of the Purim story. Whereas Haman realized that the God of Israel protects His children when they are observing the festivals, he had hoped this the 13th of Adar would be different. Additionally, the timing of this campaign prior to the start of Holocaust Remembrance Day on the 28th of Nissan, seems to relate to Haman’s happiness at knowing that Moses passed away in Adar.
But likely unbeknownst to them, the 28th of Nissan, in some ways, is the most auspicious time of the year to counter and transform the threats and trials leveled against the Jewish people, and reveal our super-powers. This is the day when the Lubavitcher Rebbe handed over the task of bringing Mashiach to us.
(To read a translation of that talk delivered 28 Nissan 5751 (1991) please read here: http://a-farbrengen.blogspot.com/2009/04/28-nissan-rebbe-pours-out-his-heart.html)
So who is Anonymous? There are two extremes. There are those well-meaning individuals, who are trying to make a difference in the world for the better. Then there are the hate mongers, who are using this cover to carry out their nefarious plans. Unfortunately, one doesn’t need to look far to see the greatest representation of Haman today (Just instead of the Persian Empire, we now call it Iran). So those leading this campaign likely most associate with Iran (whether they presently live there or not).
The other observation is that this and other similar campaigns has left idealist hackers feeling homeless. Increasingly, they are looking for a place they can call home apart from the hate mongers. This explains the recent interest in legitimizing and legalizing certain forms of hactivism.
The final lesson from our discussion is that just as this campaign was targeted at cyber or virtual space, the other threats coming out of Iran and others are just as virtual.
Ultimately, the great reversal of fortune will occur, and much like the Purim story where “the Jews experienced light and joy, gladness and honor” [Esther 8:16], the same will occur again speedily in our days.
With help from material on Inner.org