I have never been one to keep up with the different trends that occupy the various corners of the internet. Websites like Reddit, 4Chan, and Tumblr have baffled me, and as soon as I feel as though I am beginning to finally understand what is happening, the internet does what it always does, completely evolve and transform to something new. While I have never been able to keep up with these ever-changing phenomena, others are able to harness it and use it to make huge changes in the world. The documentary We Are Legion casts a spotlight on these so called “hacktivists” and shows how these people who have always been considered outcasts have been able to affect the geo-political sphere without even leaving their living rooms.
Released in October of 2012, We Are Legion showed some of the key players and ideals behind the turmoil that had occurred throughout 2012, including the Occupy Movement that occurred throughout not only the United States, but the entire world. During this time, an activist group known as “Anonymous” was wreaking havoc on multiple companies that they deemed as corrupt, such as PayPal and MasterCard. Anonymous had been also heavily involved in the widespread unrest throughout the Middle East in the early 2010’s. We Are Legion focused on showing their audience that Anonymous was not a rogue group of hackers hell-bent on instituting widespread chaos, but a collective of people who wanted nothing more than to bring the concept of civil disobedience into the modern, digital age.
While statistics on the viewership of We Are Legion could not be found, the documentary portrays itself in a way that one can assume that it was meant for the audience of average people who do not know much about Anonymous, hacktivism, or the deep web. Throughout the film, the various experts and hackers that the filmmakers interviewed repeatedly brought up complex jargon that is commonly used throughout the technological community. In order for the average person to be able to understand the words they were using, the different experts explained what these words meant in layman’s terms so the audience could understand what was being said. This is one way the filmmakers make it clear who their intended audience is. However, the audience that was more likely to view this documentary were people who were already more familiar with this topic. Because this particular issue has not been covered as much in mainstream media, people who are less familiar with hacktivism may not be as interested in it, while the people who have been more involved in it might be more inclined to watch it in order to see how they are being portrayed in the film.
The purpose of We Are Legion was to inform the public about this elusive organization of hackers called Anonymous. When mentioned in the mainstream media, Anonymous is usually portrayed as a group of rogue hackers that target innocent people for the purpose of inciting chaos. However this film was centered on disproving this myth. One way Brian Knappenberger, the film’s writer and director, presented his argument was through ethos. He used many highly qualified experts on cyber security as well as many actual members of the group Anonymous. By using these different people, he established his credibility to his audience, proving that this documentary was accurate. Knappenberger also used pathos in his argument. He presented these hacktivists as a new wave of protesters much like the civil rights movement in the 1960s. Comparing Anonymous to these other groups shows the audience that they are practicing civil disobedience in order to stand up for what they believe in. However, one aspect that was left out of this documentary was logos. The director did not include many statistics in order to prove his point.
This film was originally debuted at the Slamdance Film Festival in January of 2012. Since then, it has been showed at various other festivals and is also available to stream on Netflix. By showing this film in these mediums, the filmmaker is narrowing his audience. These festivals are often only attended by people who are already very interested in these subjects, and by putting it on Netflix, it gets lost in the thousands of other documentaries and only appears when ones other interests correlate with this film. Also, this film is shown through the point of view of Brian Knappenberger, who has created other films in this genre before. His other documentaries also focus on the age of the internet and how it is changing society. This may create a bias because he is obviously very in touch with this technological community and is very invested in it.
Overall, I thought that while this documentary was very informative and taught me about a subject in which I did not know much about. However, they did not present their argument in a way that fully convinced me. Without using any aspects of logos in their argument, the filmmakers did not provide sufficient evidence. Also, the different people that were interviewed did not allow me to relate to them, which made their argument weaker. The bias of the directors could also be seen by the lack of a counter-argument.
I would give this documentary 3 1/2 stars because I did not think that it presented a strong enough case for their point and that there was a clear bias in their argument.