Anonymous vs. the Zetas

Posted November 1st, 2011 at 3:30 pm (UTC-4)

And Taking the OWS Protests Online

Doug Bernard | Washington DC

Periodically we like to share a few of the stories and posts from across the web that caught our eye. There are no editorial threads implied connecting these items together, other than being interesting.

#1: Anonymous vs. the Zetas.  Over the last year, the hacker collective Anonymous has gone after a wide range of targets – the Sony Corporation, the CIA (the U.S. intelligence agency), and Barney the Dinosaur to name a few. But now, they’re facing a very different adversary: Mexico’s vicious Zetas drug cartel.

In several videos posted online, presumed members of Anonymous threaten the Zeta cartel with revealing the names and addresses of their top supporters, including journalists and police members, unless the Zetas release a member of the hacker group allegedly kidnapped.  “You have made a great mistake taking one of us.  Free him,” warns one masked messenger.

There are no confirmed details of the kidnapping, or little else about this story; which is no surprise, considering it pits a lawless “hacktivist” community against a powerful drug mob. One Anonymous spokesperson says the kidnapping happened in October in the Mexican city of Veracruz. In fact, that region is the power base of the illegal drug ring known as “Los Zetas.” The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency labels the Zetas as the most violent drug cartel and paramilitary operating in Mexico, and in the past the Zetas have kidnapped, tortured and killed several journalists and online activists working to expose the cartel’s activities. On the other side, it’s presumed parts of the Anonymous collective are working in Mexico and may have information on the cartel’s supporters, but because of the hidden and highly decentralized nature of the group, it’s hard to know for sure.

A screen capture from one of Anonymous' videos threatening the Zeta drug cartel

It’s also not unusual for online activists to do battle with the drug cartels.  “El Blog Del Narco” was one of the first, and still among the most popular, documenting the comings and goings of members and supporters of the Sinaloa drug cartel, a rival smuggling operation to the Zetas. And the cartels have violently struck back, recently hanging and mutilating several online activists from a bridge with signs warning that “this is going to happen to all of those posting funny things on the Internet.” The drug lords do not fool around.

But neither does Anonymous, which is why the threat is being taken seriously. If the group carries out its threat to post on November 4th, both members of the media and the drug cartels will work to confirm the information – the media to document it, and rival cartels to target their opponents. And spreading the risk around, any hackers the cartels have worked with in the past will also come under a shadow of suspicion. In the words of the masked Anonymous spokesperson, “Wait and see.”

#2: Taking the “Occupy” Protests Online. There are currently dozens of real-life protests in the real world streets of many major cities: New York, London, Toronto, Tokyo, and many others. Beginning in New York a few months back, “Occupy Wall Street” (OWS) protesters cite inspiration in part from the massive rallies of the Arab Spring earlier this year. While no governments have yet toppled, the protest encampments  quickly grew and spread, generating lots of media coverage but little else so far.

And now, again like the rallies in Cairo and Bahrain, protest supporters are working to document the movement online. The head of MIT’s Center for Civic Media, Ethan Zuckerman, writes of a new joint project between the People’s Production House, or PPH, and to bring civic journalism to the protest tent cities.

(AP Photo/John Minchillo)

People’s Production House is a nonprofit journalism training operation working to bring digital tools to the street and help individuals tell and share their own stories. PPH creative director Marisa Jahn, a self-described citizen activist, has joined with NewsMotion’s Julian Rubenstein, a former Washington Post reporter and longtime journalist and documentarian. Together they tell Zuckerman they’re launching a project tentatively titled Basta!, a web platform specifically designed to cover OWS from the protesters point of view.  Says Zuckerman:

“The platform seeks to combine original content and curated aggregation, to identify the best, most relevant and accurate sources, whether they’re official, unofficial or citizen sources. One of the key challenges of the system is finding a way to both tell the broad story – seeing the various points on a map where people are participating in the movement – and the deep story. The group is commissioning and serializing portraits of individuals to show off the complexities of these issues, with the goal of being able to tell subtle, multifaceted stories related to the issues.”

Many of the protests, including OWS, already have their own websites, and there are thousands of videos posted online by individuals taping events; perhaps most memorably when protester and Iraq war veteran Scott Olsen was seriously injured in a confrontation with police in Oakland, California. Basta! is not yet online, but you can view some of the coverage PPH has been assembling at their website.

Courtesy Aram Bartholl/Creative Commons

#3: “Open Intern@t” For years, the German artist Aram Bartholl has made the web – and our interaction with it – a major theme of his work. In “Dead Drops,” he embedded real, working flashdrives in buildings and public spaces, allowing daring passersby to upload or download documents. For “WoW,” he constructed enormous signs bearing the names of volunteers, who agreed to walk through major cities with someone else holding the sign above them, much as players do in the online game World of Warcraft (or WoW). Now in “Open Intern@t,” he’s carrying around those ubiquitous LED “OPEN” and “INTERN@T” signs seen hanging in shops around the world. And his signs don’t lie: he also carries a mobile 3G hotspot around with him, allowing people on the street near him to log onto the Internet for free. However, this is art…or a “public intervention,” in his words.  So part of the deal is that Bartholl keeps moving, forcing people either to follow around close to him or get pushed off the web.

As art goes, we’re not so sure. But we’re considering buying his “work” and taking it on trips with us.

OPEN INTERNET from aram bartholl on Vimeo.

10 Responses to “Anonymous vs. the Zetas”

  1. jen powers says:

    Will Anonymous’ efforts to bring down the drug cartels legitimize them in the public mind?

    • Doug Bernard says:

      Interesting question. Probably depends on where the public is coming from: those who applaud the group for fighting back against corruption and secrecy, those who revile them for creating turmoil and economic harm, or those who find the entire Anonymous phenomena a bit overblown and self-serving. And everyone else, for that matter. – Doug

  2. Anonymous says:

    We are not making threats. We are telling “Los Zetas” what they can expect to happen on the fifth of November if they do not release the member of Anonymous that they kidnapped. The action they chose has within it measurable consequences, which shall be exercised if they do not release the Anonymous member. A simple solution has been proffered for their consideration, release him or those who are their servants shall be exposed.

    The result of that exposure shall reverberate throughout their operation. None who chose to accept their bribes and payoffs shall be safe. This is designed to cause those most at risk to place all pressure at their disposal to effect the release of the kidnapped member of Anonymous.

    We are not committing any criminal act in this operation. We are shining a light into the dark recess of a criminal organization and exposing the rats and vermin that do their bidding. There is no criminal code within the United States or the United Mexican States which prevent or restricts this act.

    We Are Legion. We Do Not Forgive. We Do Not Forget
    Expect Us

  3. Anon Supporter says:

    Remember, remember the fifth of November
    The gunpowder treason and plot.
    I know of no reason why the gunpowder treason
    Should ever be forgot.

  4. Victor says:

    I’m really not sure what Anonymous thinks this will accomplish?

    Everyone knows who is working for the Zetas already… Among them is Calderon himself. So really, until they piss off the wrong person and someone from the USA puts a boot up their ass (or flies a drone up it) the Zetas have nothing to worry about.

    Really, Anonymous, if you all are so smart, why do you always attack pawns, and never go for the Kings?

  5. Fight4Life says:

    There is a common theme running I keep hearing…
    Would you take on a Mexican Drug Cartel?

    Most rational people would say “Hell NO”, but isn’t that the point? Why would average citizens ever have to do such a thing? They shouldn’t. As our government has sat back watching this cartel grow through intimidation, we now have a serious problem on our hands. This is our neighbor, how could they let this get so far? Too busy saving the rest of the world? Or their oil?

    Who will stand up to these murderous bullies if not our governments? That is the question that needs to be asked. WHO?

    You can sit back and criticize Anonymous, but before this, I haven’t seen one attempt from any military force trying to stop this disease. Do you think they are only in Mexico? That they haven’t crossed our borders? We are being infiltrated and it is going to be too late to do anything unless action is taken now.

    Let’s start by looking at NAFTA trucks, which as of October 21st have free access to US highways. When President Obama cancelled the first free roam in 2009, Mexico implemented $2billion of tariffs on 99 US products such as Christmas trees, onions, oranges, apples, juice concentrates, toothpaste, deodorant, sunglasses, among others.

    How long will it take before the Zetas are freely shipping whatever they wish with the permission of the US government through these trucks, as Mexico holds us hostage with their tariffs.

    Is this what my country has become? Giving up jobs to drug cartels so we can peddle our Christmas trees free of tariffs?

    I don’t know about you, but I am very disappointed about all of it, and frankly feel helpless.

    I cheer on Anonymous, we need change, serious change. What we have been doing isn’t working, so now it’s time for a new approach.

    Be strong Anonymous, holding the weight of the world on your shoulders will always be hard, there will be sacrifices, deaths, imprisonments, but that is what you must be willing to endure to save billions. Where are all the heroes in this world filled of villains? Behind a keyboard? I for one hope so.

  6. Victor says:

    Personally my question is not about whether they should take on the Zetas. It is whether they should do it with such a weak attack. Releasing names is not going to accomplish anything. Everyone– the government, and rival gangs– already know who they all are. They are simply afraid.

    Our government cannot do anything at this point. Seriously, Americans have no balls for war half-way across the planet. Some idiots in this country honestly believe that building a wall will separate us from the mess a few miles away. What happens when we start kicking the shit out of the Zetas, and they come across and torture & murder an American? Most people don’t want to deal with what is going on.

    Until the Zetas screw up and take an American on American soil, nobody wants another war… especially not one in our back yard.

    Personally I agree, there are some serious problems with the way we are dealing with Mexico in general, and the Zetas in particular. But politicians, who spend most of their career trying to get re-elected, don’t have what it takes to stand for change, when most fast-food Americans can’t stomach what it takes.

    I do not criticize Anonymous for what they do. I support many of the things they have done, and I support this as well. However, there is a simple rule in any kind of combat: To attack successfully you must first have enough preparation, attack with enough force to get the job done, and attack some weakness in the opponent.

    I don’t know how prepared they are against the Zetas, but I do know that merely releasing some names is NOT enough force and it is NOT a weakness in the cartel’s organization. Perhaps if they stole all of their shipping information, or screwed with the delivery times and names, that would cost them millions of dollars. But just releasing names? Everybody knows who they are, including rival cartels and the highest levels of Mexican government, and nobody cares, because the sheeple are scared, or they are a part of it, or both.

  7. truth seeker says:

    I’m an atheist too but I’m just wondering… How would it know about abortion, poverty, an end of the world theory, how to build a boat, etc…

    And how would the Koran know about the big bang as it claims a god named Allah did?

    I’m really confused about this part, but just wondering.

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