Anonymous, leaderless resistance and Scientology

January 26th, 2008

Leaderless resistance is defined on Wikipedia as

“…a political resistance strategy in which small, independent groups (covert cells) challenge an established adversary such as a government. Leaderless resistance can encompass anything from non-violent disruption and disobedience to bombings, assassinations and other violent agitation. Leaderless cells lack bidirectional, vertical command links operating without a hierarchical command.” (link)

It’s challenging to combat a leaderless resistance because one can’t use the usual methods to discover participants by exploiting the social networks of known members.

Today’s new communication infrastructures make it easier for such distributed resistance movements to take hold and grow. Information, instructions and loose coordination can be spread via Web pages, Blogs, text messages, IRCs, mailing lists, etc.

A colleague Chris Diehl at JHU APL suggested the Estonian cyberwar might be a good example to study how the Blogosphere was used for this by combining sentiment analysis, geotagging and temporal analysis. This cyber attack was a subject of a recent colloquium at APL. It’s a great idea, but one made more challenging by the fact that the attack is over and would involve dealing with content in Estonian, which, although not exactly a low-density language, is also not one that has been extensively studied by computational linguists.

But maybe there is another example of an Internet-driven leaderless resistance, going on right now, that would be good to study as it unfolds. A group that calls itself Anonymous has announced it intends to launch an online DDOS attack on Scientology as part of a campaign against the organization.


The message is spread in part by YouTube videos starting on 21 January. There is also the Wikipedia page on Project Chanology which was created on 24 January 2008, an Anonymous Scientology Widget that counts down to (I suppose) when participating members should take action, and lost of mentions on forums, blogs and other forms of social media.

Linuxhaxor has instructions for what to do, which are offered only for educational purposes.

“This guide is for information purpose only, I, the site owner, do not encourage people to go about and follow these steps or Chanology in anyway to carry this attack, or any attack to any organization or any person. If you agree to follow these steps and help them carry this attack you are fully responsible for any consequences whatsoever. This act is illegal in many states and countries. ”

Wired just ran a story on this leaderless resistance effort, Anonymous Hackers Shoot For Scientologists, Hit Dutch School Kids, and there are plenty more online.

Finally, you can track the online interest through this Blogpulse trend graph comparing Blogosphere mentions of (1) “Tom Cruise” (2) Scientology and (3) anonymous+scientology and also the Google Trends graph comparing Google searches for the same three terms. Click on the graphs to see the current results.

Mentions of scientology, tom cruise and anonymous via Blogpulse

Google searches for scientology, Tom Cruise and anonymous

Tom Cruise is in there because he’s rumored to be the second most important person in the Church of Scientology and his recent Scientology indoctrination video that surfaced on YouTube may have been the tipping point for some.