アノニマスの見解 Ep.2: 匿名が肝心

Hello again Internet.

Welcome back to another installment of ANONYMOUS NO KENKAI. After getting sidetracked by JASRAC earlier in February, I wanted to get back to some topics I’d originally planned to cover, especially a topic that I’ve wanted to talk about for a while now; anonymity.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that anonymity is important to us. Most people know by now that the name “Anonymous” comes from the English word for “without a name”, and arose from forced anon posting on imageboard sites like 4chan (before Hiroyuki bought it and turned it into shit).

What a lot of people in Japan might not appreciate, however, is the reason why anonymity is important. Now, this is just my impression, but I think most people in Japan associate anonymity with cowardice. That honest people wouldn’t be afraid to show their face or name, so anybody hiding their face or name must be dishonest and cowardly.

Other people might think that anonymity exists for self-protection. After all, if you say an unpopular opinion, you can get attacked rather viciously online by… certain people. I’d agree with this second point, but I feel it isn’t the most important reason for staying anonymous. I would argue there’s an even more important reason to keep your identity hidden when you speak online… that has nothing to do at all with the safety of the speaker. But before we can talk about that, we need to have a recent history lesson.

Does anybody remember the “WhyKaisan” website that appeared around 2014? Actually, let’s talk about that in a bit more detail, since some viewers won’t be familiar with Japanese politics. In 2014, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had a problem. His popularity ratings were dropping below 50% for the first time since his election two years earlier. There were a lot of reasons for this, mostly due to his failing Abenomics plan, and the negative effects of an unpopular tax hike earlier in the year.

His frightening ultra-nationalist plans and policies involving collective self-defense and rewriting the Constitution only made the situation worse for him. The problem was, his government still had at least two years left before the next mandatory election. With another unpopular tax hike scheduled in the near future, he ran the real risk of eventually losing government if he became too unpopular.

And so, in spite of it being unusually early and unusually sudden, he announced his intention to dissolve the Diet in November and call for a snap election in the following December. There was a lot of criticism about this decision, not least of all because it gave opposition parties almost no time to prepare, and that it was cynically timed to give himself a longer term before steamrolling more unpopular changes through the Diet without debate.

In the middle of this controversy, a certain website went viral in Japan. Called “Why Kaisan”, it was stylistically made out to look like questions from a ten-year old child, asking the Prime Minister why he was calling for this sudden election, and lampooning his policies. When I first saw it, I instantly assumed it was satirical. The idea that a ten year old child would make a website like this was so ridiculous, I figured only an idiot would assume it was meant to be taken at face value.

The backlash against the site was fierce. As people tracked down the owner, the Prime Minister himself called it “despicable” for “feigning childlike innocence”. (I can only suppose that he assumed it was meant to be taken at face value.)

Eventually 20-year old Yamato Aoki stepped forward as the creator, revealing that a website about parliamentary politics was not, in fact, created by a ten-year-old. How shocking.

But when Aoki stepped forward, I remember being baffled. Why would he do this? His message was obviously popular, and resonated with the public. The fact that Abe felt the need to personally respond only proved how effective it was. And yet, when Aoki revealed his face and name, the conversation immediately changed. It wasn’t about the topic anymore, it was about the person. While everybody was busy arguing about Aoki, the issues he wanted to put a spotlight on were drowned out.

Now let’s be perfectly honest with ourselves. Abe wasn’t shocked that Aoki was pretending to be a child, he was worried. Worried that organized public opposition might rally against him. Regardless of WhyKaisan’s format, the questions and problems talked about on WhyKaisan were valid and worthy of discussion. But the LDP didn’t want a discussion. They were desperate to distract from the message by focusing on the messenger. And by stepping forward, Aoki gave them exactly what they wanted.

So why am I bringing this up? Do I think what Aoki did was right or wrong? I don’t know. That’s for you to decide. It was certainly funny, and I like a good joke, especially at the expense of politics. But what matters here is what we can learn from it. And to me, the lesson is this:

The Messenger Distracts from the Message. Whether it’s motivated by ego or a misplaced sense of honor, putting your name on your message makes your message weaker and less effective. If WhyKaisan had used an anonymous registration service, if Aoki had used proper OpSec to hide his name and organization, people would have had no choice but to engage with his message. They might disagree with his message, but at least they’re still dealing with the message, not the person.

Satire is a powerful tool against authoritarianism of all types, but only if you deny the authoritarian a target to retaliate against. When we do our work, we should abandon our pride and our ego, and allow our message to stand…or fall…on its own merits.

This is why we promote tools that protect your anonymity and your privacy online. This is why we believe in using a mask. Because in the modern surveillance state, forcing your face and name to be attached to everything you say is just one more way to pressure you into silent, obedient consent. Don’t play their game. Stay anonymous. Not just for your own safety, but to preserve the power of your words.

This was ANONYMOUS NO KENKAI. And until next time…MACHI UKE NASAI.


メールアドレスが公開されることはありません。 * が付いている欄は必須項目です