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updated 3/14/2011 2:14:10 PM ET 2011-03-14T18:14:10

The hacktivists of Anonymous — or at least some of them — struck again over the weekend, jumping very publicly into the ongoing Wisconsin budget battle by taking down the website of some of Gov. Scott Walker’s most influential supporters.

Yet the significant change of direction — Anonymous has until now made it a point not to get involved in U.S. domestic politics — may be an indication of ideologically motivated infiltration by leftists of the always loosely organized, but vaguely libertarian, group.

For about four hours Sunday evening, a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack knocked the website of Americans for Prosperity offline.

Americans for Prosperity (AFP) is a political action group created by Charles and David Koch, billionaire brothers from Kansas who have been not-so-quietly funding the Tea Party movement.

The brothers and the AFP website have also been supportive of Walker’s efforts to strip Wisconsin’s public-sector unions of their collective-bargaining abilities.

Also knocked offline Sunday evening was a website promoting a brand of toilet paper produced by Georgia-Pacific, which is wholly owned by Koch Industries, the brothers’ privately held company.

“Today we, Anonymous, targeted only two pieces of the Koch brothers' vast empire of pawns,” said a press release posted at AnonNews.org. “It is the opening salvo of what has become a call to arms for the American people, to stand up and fight against the corruption that has been slowly, insidiously invading the Democratic process.”

Related postings called for boycotts of all Georgia-Pacific products.

United we don't stand

However, it seems like this operation, or #OpWisconsin as it was called on Twitter, may not be enjoying the support of all of the members of Anonymous.

“Leftist leeches, sucking the fun out of Anonymous,” read a comment on AnonNews appended to the press release. “Go play pretend-time somewhere else. Build a fort, and play United Nations, or worry about global warming and whatnot. Just stop trying to ride the Anonymous wave please.”

Until this latest action, Anonymous actions had avoided American domestic politics.

The group’s core issues have been Internet freedom of speech and freedom of information, which have been used to justify DDoS attacks on the websites of MasterCard, PayPal and Amazon (in support of WikiLeaks) and on websites belonging to the governments of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Iran (in support of pro-democracy demonstrators).

None of these earlier “actions” were framed as left-wing issues. If anything, Anonymous leans toward libertarianism, as is common among many of the American techno-elite, or “1337” (“leet”) — and shared, in its broadest form, by none other than the Koch brothers.

The press release announcing Operation Wisconsin seemed to have anticipated this argument, inserting this clause: “Anonymous is not interested in political parties. We are not Democrats, Republicans, or Tea Partiers. We are all and none of these.”

As noted in last week’s story about the Anonymous attack on the Westboro Baptist Church and its GodHatesFags.com website, literally anyone can “join” Anonymous, post press releases on its behalf or download software to launch DDoS attacks – even liberal activists previously disinterested in such matters.

The only tough part is enlisting enough people to join an “operation.” Hundreds, even thousands of individual PCs would be needed to take down a well-protected website.

Ominous Magnanimous

That’s where a previously unknown organization, “Magnanimous,” comes in. It jointly took credit with Anonymous for the takedown of AmericansForProsperity.org, and posted its own proclamation on the liberal blog DailyKos.com in which it identified itself as “a subset of Anonymous.”

If that’s true, then it’s a serious partisan departure from Anonymous’ normal “a-pox-on-both-your-houses” attitude toward the American political establishment.

Another indication of the change is a second press release posted Sunday, which called for an “action” against Fox News show host Glenn Beck — and which was also lambasted by Anonymous commenters.

If this left-wing co-option of Anonymous continues, it could be only a matter of time before a counter-splinter forms to attack left-leaning websites — for example, one belonging to George Soros, the ideological mirror image of the Koch brothers.

Until then, newcomers to Anonymous might do well to read the “ note to journalists ” posted on AnonNews over the weekend.

It pointed out that “opportunists have and will continue to try to tie their personal political agendas to the movement.”

It went on to list two dozen topics “Anonymous has no official position on,” including “abortion,” “collective bargaining agreements,” “the Tea Party,” “the Republican Party,” “the Democratic Party,” “George Soros,” “the Koch brothers,” “Fox News” and “the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

 

 

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