Anonymous loves to present itself as an unstoppable facesless monolith that moves through the real and online worlds under the cloak of anonymity. At least, it does until one of its members does something stupid. Last week, we reported that a twitter user named TheAnonMessage posted the name of a police officer it said was responsible for the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. That information turned out to be incorrect, and now the rest of Anonymous' heavy hitters are distancing themselves from TheAnonMessage.
According to a user named Cryptonomous, and TheAnonMessage's own tweets, the user acted unilaterally, releasing the name of an unrelated officer on the assumption that releasing the wrong name would eventually result in Ferguson's Police Department releasing the correct one.
No matter what we do, it won't be as bad as killing a kid and leaving him to die on the street, covered with his own blood. #Ferguson— SEIZED (@TheAnonMessage2) August 15, 2014
Face it, @StlCountyPD, we're forcing it out of you.— SEIZED (@TheAnonMessage2) August 15, 2014
TheAnonMessage was eventually suspended from twitter, but quickly popped back up,
This story speaks to Anonymous' greatest weakness. As a decentralized collective, anyone with a Guy Fawkes icon as their avatar becomes a member, but blame for that person's behavior falls on everyone who happens to identify as Anonymous. No matter how much distancing one does, with no power structure, people will act autonomously under the umbrella of Anonymous. Which, to be clear, can be great - it has spawned innumerable, well thought out, and creative protests. But it also brought us this inaccurate information.