"We are anonymous. We are Legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us." So ends an eerie video by a group of hackers calling themselves "Anonymous," which puts the Church of Scientology on notice.
Since this initial video release, there have been several developments and new videos updating Anonymous’ progress, clarifying positions and some from others defending Scientology.
For what? is the natural question. The inner workings of a tech-terrorist’s mind may be about as mysterious as the inner workings of a Scientologist’s mind (or anyone’s mind, for that matter), but both usually have motivations for their beliefs and actions.
In general terms, Anonymous claims its actions are motivated by the justice it believes the church deserves, due to Anonymous’ claims of human rights abuses on the part of the church.
According to Anonymous, "We want you to know about the gross human rights violations committed by this cult. We want you to know about Lisa McPhearson. We want you to know about former members of Scientology’s private navy, SeaOrg, who were forced to have abortions so that they could continue in service to the church. We want you to know about Scientology’s use of child labor and their gulags … we want you to know about all these things that have been swept under the rug for too long."
Although these reasons are being used as justification, according to Cnet News, it was the Church of Scientology’s pulling of an internal video featuring Tom Cruise from YouTube (due to copyright claims) that finally provoked Anonymous.
The timeline of this virtual war has progressed as follows:
Jan. 21 – Anonymous posts its first video notice, "Message to Scientology."
Jan. 22-25 – "Denial of Service" attacks from Anonymous take down several international Web sites of the Church of Scientology. Service regains intermittent status as the church responds. Anonymous begins publishing what it claims are Church of Scientology secret documents, acquired through infiltration online. Church of Scientology issues a statement indicating, in part, that those interested in learning about Scientology have the right to visit its Web sites. Anonymous releases a second video on Jan. 25, specifying that attacks are not directed at individual members of Scientology but at the organization itself.
Jan. 27 – Anonymous releases a third video explaining that Anonymous is not simply a "group of hackers" but individuals from "all walks of life: lawyers, parents, IT-professionals … " and more. They also indicate that something big is being planned for Feb. 10.
Jan. 28 – The Church of Scientology seems to have restored its Web sites to full working order.
There are so many elements at play that this so-called "War on Scientology" may reveal the current status of cyber law enforcement, free exercise of religion and counter-culture.
Policymakers in Germany have already succeeded in banning the Church of Scientology there, stating Scientology to be "an organization that is not compatible with the constitution."
Will other countries soon follow? Will this group of hackers make any significant impact on the multi-billion dollar church; or will law enforcement soon get the upper hand?
Perhaps this struggle is simply bringing to light growing counter-culture movements, such as "Project Mayhem" or the "Cacophony Society," both of which seem to have values related to those of Anonymous.
Certainly there will be many from both sides closely watching, if not participating, in the developments of this new-style vigilantism.