WE ARE LEGION: THE STORY OF THE HACKTIVISTS
ETHICAL EVOLUTION 2.0
by Ariel Esteban Cayer
Every week, I feel shame. Every week, I feel shame for the funny cat videos I watch on YouTube, for the memes and pop culture Internet jokes I complacently intake…but I always have a moment where I sit back and think: “it’s OK. You could be procrastinating on 4chan or Reddit, instead”. This somehow makes it OK. Hierarchizing the Internet somehow makes me feel like I’m the better person.
We Are Legion changes that. Having no idea Anonymous was born of one of the darkest corners of the web – 4chan, where every meme was born alongside all the tentacle pornography one might need – makes for an all-too gripping origin story, which is exactly what Brian Knappenberger’s We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists ultimately is. Tracing the entire, albeit short, span of time from Anonymous’ tumultuous inception to their involvement in the Arab Spring conflicts of last years, We Are Legion is documentary filmmaking at its best, most informative, viscerally entertaining and, most importantly, timeliest, providing much needed context and perspective on a force that is changing the very definition of ethics, activism and citizen intervention in the 21st century. Through interview with actual founding members of Anonymous (not that this sort of hierarchy is at all applicable for a group as flowing and ungraspable as Anonymous), We Are Legion provides an in-depth historical and critical overview that sets the record straight as to the symbiotic and constantly evolving nature of the collective – best described, in the film, as a enormous flock of birds, a web of individuals that might not all know each other, but follow more or less the same ethical agenda and, at times, move as one unit.
The tremendous role that the Internet, as a tool, played in the Arab Spring is contextualized, as is the Wiki Leaks debacle, making We Are Legion the most pressing – and useful – informational overview of the past year’s events for anyone desiring to be caught up. News coverage of most of these events is usually spotty at best, biased as worst (footage that Knappenberger uses as well to further contextualize things and cement “hacktivism” in popular opinion) and We Are Legion gladly fills in the blanks, also bringing the voices of philosophers, authors and professors to the discussion.
Perhaps most shocking about We Are Legion is how the moral awakening of a small group of individuals reflects, or rather shames, the still struggling ethical backbone of humanity at large. The film tracks the progress, the growth, if you will, of Anonymous as it morphs from an infant laughing at the sight of a funny picture to a fully thinking, aware, ethical individual, free – or rather forced to – make choices for itself and stand tall against adversity and corruption. Which is simultaneously beautiful and terrifying to watch: if one was to put human civilization at large (or perhaps its ruling elites) on a Kardashev-type scale of ethical awakening, then We Are Legion shows Anonymous, as a structure initiated in a sea of LOLcats and trolls, evolving faster than any community, country or culture; a chilling thought, to say the least but one that will give you hope for the future. The geeks shall inherit the Earth never rang so true.
Speculation aside, We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists is ultimately about the validity of your opinion. Timely, stunningly inspiring and informative, do the right thing and see it for yourself on July 23rd, at 22:00 in the Hall Theater.