13 August 2009

Anonymous -- Internet Golem

A golem* is a creature in Jewish folklore made by man out of inanimate material, generally soil. Much like Dr. Frankenstein's Monster, the best-known story of a golem ends with the creature betraying its maker.

I have jokingly referred to the Pillsbury Doughboy as a golem, and along those lines, so are the fabled Gingerbread Man and his comical form, the Stinky Cheese Man.

But what would an actual 21st century golem look like? A creature made from an inanimate material brought to life by its creator, and then being set loose to destroy order and harvest chaos?

I suggest the Internet-based Anonymous, a collection of web-users from the Something Awful forums, 4chan and 7chan, and any number of other sites that compose the basement of the World Wide Web. Anonymous is not a single person, but it is not really a group, either. Anonymous has no coherent membership, no leaders, and no common goal (in fact, it often turns on itself). It is self-aware, which is, granted, rather unlike a golem. But it has a mysterious life force -- like the magic words and combinations of letters which bring a golem to life, so anonymity gives Anonymous the ability to, for better and for worse, get away with what they do. Take away the life force, take away the creature.

Now, I'm not suggesting that we grab pitchforks and torches, form a mob, and take down Anonymous. Just trying to flush out a thought.

Rock on.

*The term means "cocoon", but also "silly" or "stupid". The Hebrew root for the Yiddish word means "incomplete substance". It's likely that Tolkien's Gollum is a reference to this phrase, slipping from Smeagol, his Superego and Ego, into Gollum, his Id, becoming a baser creature