04 April 2013

Anonymous vs. North Korea: Playing with fire?

Depending on where you live, I suppose, most people dream of tweaking the noses of the powerful and pompous. The idea of embarrassing a tyrant appeals to many. It was probably inevitable, then, that the alleged hacking collective known as "Anonymous" has turned its attention to the kingdom of North Korea, where the Kim dynasty has made a mockery even of Leninism and the latest Leader is apparently trying to consolidate his power by putting the country on a war footing. According to reports, Anonymous, or its South Korean branch, has attacked an official North Korean news site and stolen passwords from the country's university system while calling for Kim Jong Un to step down and a freely elected government to take his place. All this activity may give us an indication of how easily provoked, how paranoid and how dangerous North Korea really is at this moment. The government there claims that all its recent belligerent measures are responses to provocations from South Korea and the U.S. If the Kim regime is as paranoid as most people assume, won't they assume that the Anonymous antics are yet another imperialist provocation? If they're as irrational as many people assume, what's to stop them from treating these pranks as acts of war? This seems like the wrong time for stunts like these, though Anonymous has never been known for diplomacy. But if North Korea doesn't overreact -- and I'm unaware of any reaction from state media so far -- it might prove that the Kimocracy isn't as absolutely unreasonable as many observers believe. If the North does overreact -- if these pranks can be seen in retrospect as having pushed the country any closer to foolhardy aggression -- it'll be worth noting that none of these brave "hacktivists" will likely have suffered the immediate consequences. If all of this now looks like a blow for freedom of speech, we might remember later that talk if often cheap.

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