Friday, April 06, 2012

Doing it for the Lulz – The Trickster Gods of the Modern Age

Trickster gods such as Anansi, Coyote and Loki are a universal archetype. They weave their mischievous magic throughout countless narratives, always ready to turn preconceived notions of right and wrong upside down. They challenge authority and cause us to question the rules of society. They are the anarchists, the creators of chaos and they cause the unaware masses to shake off their shackles and see what is really going on around them.
Tricksters live life to the extreme. They are seductive, unreliable and usually fond of drinking to excess but the Trickster gods never need to redeem themselves by changing their ways or participating in alcoholism treatments. It is precisely their ability to think outside the box and to challenge the societal norms that (usually) leaves the world a better place. They want to create fun and havoc for their own delights but it is precisely this ethos that pushes the boundaries and leads us laughing through times of great change.

The Trickster archetype in popular culture

The trickster archetype calls to that innate sense of fun within everyone and is constantly revisited throughout modern storytelling. Some of popular cultures most cherished characters such as Bart Simpson, Captain Jack Sparrow, Han Solo and the Cat in the Hat are all tricksters in their own ways, although modern rules of narrative dictate that they must eventually reign in their mischievous natures and find redemption through love and stability. Tricksters are more than a work of fiction, however. At this point in history there is a new generation of tricksters who are not only entirely real, they are creating their own unique narratives that are helping to restructure the world that we live in.

Hacktivist groups such as Anonymous are arguably the modern day equivalent of the ancient trickster archetypes. They are purely in it for the lulz, but their techniques have become an awesome weapon in the changing of political ideologies and the awakening of the sheeple. They are a real force to be reckoned with and have repeatedly made headlines with their off the wall approach and commitment to humor which creates maximum chaos for the ruling elite.


The Trickster as Hacktivist

The first known act of political hacktivism was the infamous WANK worm in 1989. The message “Worms Against Nuclear Killers” was proudly emblazoned across the login screens of HEPNET, DOE and NASA. Defined as the “non-violent use of legal and / or illegal digital tools in pursuit of political ends”, Hacktivism has been around for as long as the internet. There are a huge number of groups and individuals who are coming up with increasingly hilarious ways to ruffle the feathers of government agencies and big corporations.
Anonymous is probably the most well known of these hacktivist groups. In 2010 they attacked MasterCard and Visa as a protest against the company’s refusing payments to Wikileaks. They hacked the computers of the Tunisian government in January 2011 as a response to censorship issues and supported the opposition to the Egyptian government by hacking their systems too. In July 2011 they managed to breach the database of GMO giant, Monsanto and pledged vengeance for the company’s crimes against humanity which include supplying Agent Orange to the US government and their reckless introduction of pesticides and GM products into the environment.

October 2011 saw the takedown of over 40 child pornography sites and the naming and shaming of over 1500 individuals, something which the so-called authorities have long claimed was out of their ability to enforce. Most recently in January 2012 they took down the sites of both the FBI and the Department of Justice, in response to the controversial SOPA piracy legislation and the shutting down of file sharing site, Megaupload.


The age of the Hacktivist is only just beginning

Anonymous is more than a group or a movement. It is not simply a collection of activists or an internet terrorist cell as the authorities would have you believe. Anonymous, for the thousands of hackers who operate under the pseudonym, is a total way of life. It is a culture which is filled with works of art, music, values and aesthetics. It is about schadenfreude, the joy that comes about from the misfortunes of others.
The lulz are the essential key to the movement. It makes you laugh when otherwise you’d scream with despair at the wrongs that are everywhere you look. Throughout history the trickster is only found during times of trouble. When things were going well the trickster will look for mischief elsewhere. There’s little wonder, then, that at this point in time instances of hacktivism are steadily increasing. Whether you perceive their actions as immoral or for the greater good, the age of the Hacktivist trickster is only just beginning.

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