May 01

Gary Lang’s “Face of Anonymous” @HOT DOCS

By A.J.Lam

Gary Lang’s “Face of Anonymous”  tells the intriguing story of the hacktivist group Anonymous via the journey of Commander X,   the cyberwarlord Christoper Mark Doyon.  As author Ian Thornton says,  it is the story of the fall into the quicksand of hackers and activists and the “beautiful randomness of life.””Face of Anonymous”  asks “What’s an information terrorist?””How can I terrorize people with the truth?”Commander X’s words had power.  He was a guy who commanded attention,  and the entertainer in him made a good story.Anonymous became non-anonymous by the article The Masked Avenger, in the New Yorker, a profile of an American activist, Commander X.”Face of Anonymous” follows the story of Commander X.

 While growing up, he was fascinated by computers.  At times, he lived homeless by choice such as sleeping on a park bench in Cambridge, or in a park in Toronto.At first, he raised funds for ALF, ELF, then PLF.  by selling LSD at Gateful Dead concerts.Anonymous itself had its beginnings on the anonymous online bulletin board 4Chan.  Even in the early stages, the Internet has every frontier.Then in January 2008,  Anonymous became a movement.At that time, a Tom Cruise- Scientologist-  video was hacked.  Then re-uploaded after Scientologists took it down.Anonymous got mad.  Anonymous wanted to destroy Scientology.  “We will not forgive or forget.  You have nowhere to hide.  We are everywhere.”Anonymous was an army to arise from the internet and right wrongs.To have Anonymous outside but remain anonymous,  activists wore Guy Fox masks, initially from the movie V for Vendetta.  Guy Fox masks were chosen because they were available in the cities where Anonymous would organize thousands of people, including women and people of colour too for protests.Anonymous was now a force with authentic and good people.After a thunderstorm was fired at Wikileaks, Anonymous would avenge for Wikileaks.X said that there are 2 things a hacker needs, just a computer and a cool pair of sunglasses.Anonymous unleashed DDOS attacks, cyberattacks  taking down websites to avenge Wikileak’s Asante.A social justice protest was centred in Santa Cruz, California, where homelessness is illegal with even a ban on blankets in public places.  This led to arrests of protesters among them X, who had chosen to live homeless in Santa Cruz.Anonymous claims to be the most powerful force created by humanity.  Cyber is seen as the battlefield of the future,  with many thrusted into being activists,  and a catalyst for activism.As an example of the catalyst activism of Anonymous, Arab spring protests took place over 10 days instead of over 20 years like apartheid.But Anonymous was subjected to a FBI raid after Visa, MasterCard, PayPal websites got hacked.Even though,  the interruption was brief,  ” A joke will get you prison (in 2010).”Anonymous saw themselves as righteous hackers according to Commander X.But as the FBI surrounded Commander X he admits to be Commander X of Anonymous.   While out on bail, he escaped  to Canada, as an “older hippie guy.”He was now ostracized within Anonymous.  He was the face on the faceless Anonymous, the most powerful organization online.He had even called himself Batman.  Others said that he was a victim of his ego and that he should not have had a story in the New Yorker.Meanwhile Anonymous associate Barrett Brown was arrested and given 4 years in prison.Now in Toronto,  Commander X says “We are legion” and that Toronto was an awesome place to be.  He met author Ian Thorn who gave him much needed help.   In Toronto, he would sleep in the park with his  laptop under his head and go to a cafe during the day.His Operation Golden Eagle would make a dissident into a fugitive.  He decided to go to Mexico after hearing Trump’s views about Mexico.  

He eventually clandestinely walked, taxied and bused his way through the US to get to Mexico on Nov 5, 2019 for Guy Fox Day-Million Mask March in Mexico City. In Latin America, protesters marched against their governments with the possibility of overthrowing the government.Assange exposed corruption and war crimes.  There was respect and admiration for Assange.    

However,  the Mexico City Million Mask March disappointedly only had a few protesters wearing Assange masksEventually he ended up in Juarez which is controlled by drug cartels.  That fact depressed him but his world was saved by having a dog as a faithful companion.Meanwhile,  FBI raids drove hacktivism more underground.   For hacktivists, as a citizen of democracy, if you not understand the movement, you are part of the problem.  For them, freedom of information is the goal.Back in Mexico,  in a desire to win back his freedom,  Commander X  makes a request for political asylum in Mexico.  He proclaims that he is the first info activist to be granted political asylum.   He finally wins back his freedom in Mexico.The compelling Commander X will be remembered as iconic divisive figure.