We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists

We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists

Directed by: Brian Knappenberger
89 minutes

New England Premiere

Thanks to Julian Assange and the infamous WikiLeaks, hacking and its potential ramifications have garnered more mainstream public attention in the last two years than ever before. Still, the subject has remained slippery, intangible, and mercilessly high-tech—never mind the scattered story of how it all began. In WE ARE LEGION, director Brian Knappenberger intertwines multiple, seemingly impossible missions: (1) to trace the genesis of computer hacking in its modern form, (2) to explore the evolution and activities of some of the world’s most clandestine hacking groups, and (3) to examine the psychology that drives one to hack, whether for fun or for social change.

Knappenberger’s primary subject is Anonymous, a rosterless body of internet users who perhaps see themselves as offshoots of the online world’s collective brain. If it sounds abstract, it should; Anonymous has meant many things to many people—everything from “monorail cat” to the Arab Spring—and has birthed a remarkably varied panoply of subgroups and crusades. Some members of Anonymous seek absurdity and escape; others seek historical relevance and the spread of democratic ideals. But one thing they all agree on is that freedom of cyberspeech is no one’s to trifle with.

Tracing the roots of hacktivism is no small feat; millions of Web surfers equals billions of pranks, memes, tweets, and handles—and that’s only what’s on the surface. But WE ARE LEGION digs past all that, plumbing the depths of a subculture that, right or wrong, has laid its virtual hands on nearly every aspect of our lives: religion, government, privacy, security, economics, identity, and the most basic elements of human connection.

—Sandra L. Frey