Welcome to Otaku Country
They’ve been described as “a loose, decentralised group of like-minded computer users, who are almost impossible to track down”, a vigilante group born of the online gaming community determined to humiliate the corporate and government organisations they resent, not out of altruism but out of a malicious persecution complex, according to some, and according to others, an anarchic sense of fun. They have names like Anonymous and LulzSec (links between the two groups are disputed), they sometimes wear Guy Fawkes masks in public, and they are what happens when hacking tools are democratised.
For 50 days, the world watched as LulzSec, described as “a small group of between six and 10 people, with a clear leader (Sabu) and enforcer (Kayla), with a number of hangers-on”, claimed some of the highest profile websites in the world. First they attacked the Sony website, ostensibly as retribution for Sony’s attack on the jailbreak community. Then they went for Nintendo and a bunch of other gaming companies. The United States Senate website was next. But LulzSec was just getting started, showing up their victims' websites for their woefully inadequate security: they claimed the scalps of the CIA and the Serious Organised Crime Agency. Fox, the US TV show X Factor, and public broadcaster PBS were all victims. LulzSec took joy in their achievements, and so did some of us - their Twitter account has 260,000 followers.
Then it all began to unravel. An Essex teenager rumoured to have autism was arrested. A lone-wolf hacker called the Jester took down the Lulz website. The Guardian published the full chatroom logs. Finally, LulzSec announced it was to disband.
Is this what William Gibson termed, 15 years ago in his novel Idoru, otaku culture? According to Gibson, the otaku is “the passionate obsessive, the information age’s embodiment of the connoisseur, more concerned with the accumulation of data than of objects […] Understanding otaku-hood, I think, is one of the keys to understanding the culture of the web. There is something profoundly post-national about it, extra-geographic. We are all curators, in the post-modern world, whether we want to be or not.”