What Anonymous, Medical Marijuana, Bit Torrent, and Occupy Wall Street Have in Common
Sometimes you have to stand back a bit to appreciate things, to see them for what they really are. Sometimes you have to look past the headline or past the placard waving protester to see the reality of a situation. You have to pay even closer attention to see the meta trends or overall patterns that truly define how things happen in the world.
I find it even more important a lesson when looking at why things succeed or fail. The pattern of a failed movement or organization often comes as a result of certain actions, or certain types of changes that come to something over time. There are magic points along the way where things happen, the people change, and the movement or idea is lost forever.
I think that the most powerful one at the moment is the California medical marijuana situation. There are a reasonable number of researchers, doctors, and patients who will say that weed has certain positive effects when it comes to things like general pains, certain specific issues like eye problems, and can apparently help those with cancer and other ailments to have a better quality of life. I won’t go into all of it here, except to say that while all of that is being bandied about, it’s still clear that nobody is even making a passing attempt to make “pot medicine” in any meaningful way. However, I don’t begrudge the supporter of using wacky tabacky to help with the pain or to handle a terminal illness. Heck, I might want it to.
It’s isn’t the good intention of medical marijuana that are meaningful to me. Rather, it’s the “pile on” effect that has happened. Medical weed as a concept has pretty much been hijacked by the “legalize weed in general” community, who are using the medical weed laws as a way to get around police action and to be able to “buy legally”, by getting sympathetic doctors to “prescribe” weed for these potheads. The good of medical marijuana (if any) has been quickly squeezed out of the debate, as the dispensing locations have turned into a big business, a legalized dime bag business that can still charge “street drug” prices, and apparently avoid legal prosecution. All it takes is a doctor willing to see these “patients” and write them a script. The process has been hijacked, and will likely as a result become very restricted or perhaps even shut down if the current pattern continues.
Anonymous is another example of this sort of thing happened. The 4chan anons were literally in it for the lulz, for the laughs, and the pleasure of tweaking a few noses without being trackable. They have had particular fun over the years dragging Scientology back and forth through the mud like it was college hazing time. Amusing to watch, probably extremely frustrating for Scientologists to have to shadow box against an opponent you can never hit. Anonymous has been perhaps the most original farce ever created.
That has changed in that last couple of years. Even though the anonymous people will tell you they have no leaders, it really isn’t all that true. Anyone can be a leader, and with enough followers, it defines itself. Since the whole Wikileaks situation, Anonymous has become a sort of V for Vendetta type revenge group, organizing DDoS attacks on Paypal, Mastercard, and the like. Recently, the group was pinned for having jacked a large number of credit cards from a certain agency they oppose, and using those cards to drive funds to some organization. There are no more lulz to be had here, just a hardcore group of disruptive people using their power and their control over others to inflict pain on those they do not agree with. The lulz are long gone.
Bit Torrent is a technology that has gotten the same sort of shaft. Good or bad, “torrent” is pretty much synonymous with “pirated” or “illegal”. It didn’t start out that way, but the masses have spoken, turning what may have been a potentially very useful way to distribute information, and instead turned it into the brand name for illegal pirate activity.
Occupy Wall Street is perhaps the best example of what goes wrong with these sorts of things. OWS suffered all of the major illness combined: Lack of focus, lack of leadership, “feature creep”, and so on. Most importantly, in many cities the occupy locations really just turned into a place where the homeless or street kids would set up tents and hang out. They would chant the vapid slogans, but really aren’t in either the 99% or the 1%, they are outside the system entirely. Essentially, the anarchists and the “we oppose everything” people moved in and took over pretty much every city outside of New York.
In the end, many good ideas are eaten up by those who seek personal profit from them. OWS saw it’s message (whatever it might have been) lost to the homeless squatters looking for a place to pitch a tent and anti-government activists looking for a place to throw rocks from. Medical Marijuana loses because those looking for a legal way to support their pot addictions try to subvert the system to legalize their actions. Anonymous fails because whatever the goal, extremist from inside and outside hide under the banner of anon and go past protesting to black hat hacking and full on illegal acts. Bit Torrent is a good technology lost to those who use it to pirate. We all end up losing because, whatever the good idea, whatever the noble goal, it is lost to the extremists who infiltrate every day.