Anonymous Vs. Steubenville

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But he had a nascent vigilante inside him. After seeing a bully dangerously punch a kid with a bad lung in the chest, Lostutter "just snapped," he says, slugging the bully so hard that his tooth busted through his lip. Then one day, he came home to find his mom getting beaten by her boyfriend. Lostutter went ballistic, grabbing a knife and piercing the guy in the stomach. Referring to another violent episode, he says, swilling his bourbon, "I spent the next four days cleaning blood off the floor. That pretty much changed me from the quiet nerdy kid to what I am now. And I haven't been able to shut it off since."

Steubenville City Schools Superintendent Michael McVey
Michael D. McElwain/Steubenville Herald-Star/AP Photo

Lostutter had to drop out of high school and help support his mom and brother by working instead. After a tough break-up, he spent several months homeless and drunk, then floundering in odd jobs after moving with his mom to Kentucky. When he saw the documentary, We are Legion, about Anonymous, on YouTube last summer, he identified with the portrayal of underdog geeks fighting the Man. "I watched that and I just went ppffff," he tells me, splaying his fingers on either side of his head like an exploding bomb. "My mind was blown," he says, "I was like, 'there's people out there like me, thousands of people out there like me.'"

It didn't take long for Lostutter to become Anonymous. He bought a cheap Guy Fawkes mask on eBay, and opened a Twitter and a Facebook account under the nickname KYAnonymous. There was no initiation to endure nor dues to pay to join the group. Like anyone else, he was in simply because he said so. But a $2 costume and a social network weren't enough to make a difference in his or anyone else's life. He needed an Operation. 

Lostutter didn't have to look far to find some bullshit to rally against. The Clark County, Kentucky, school board was embroiled in controversy over allegedly mishandled funds and a superintendent who allegedly fired a football coach for not playing her grandson. (The superintendent denied those allegations.) But despite stories of rats in the cafeteria and untreated black mold at an elementary school, nothing changed in the small town. And, like a self-ordained superhero with a new mask and a mission, Lostutter thought the power of Anonymous could help win. "Bullying pisses me off," he says, "even workplace bullying."

Anonymous Operations begin with a declaration — usually either by a video manifesto on YouTube or a post on Internet forums. One night last fall after getting home from his job as a car mechanic, Lostutter launched his first one, OpEducation, posting as KYAnonymous that the school board had "put the students second and monetary gain first," but now Anonymous was on the case. He included a list of the school board member's family names, cell phone numbers, and home addresses — a bit of hacking known as a "dox" — to prove it.

Lostutter had tapped a vein of outrage that needed a masked avenger, and received damning files — internal emails, expense reports, and other incriminating records about the district — which he then disseminated online. Some thought his methods reckless, and Twitter suspended his account for distributing doxes. But when superintendent Elaine Farris eventually retired after being "under fire from a citizen's group," as the local paper put it, Lostutter chalked up his first victory.

It wouldn't be his last. When a friend told him that an ex-boyfriend had posted a naked picture of her on a revenge porn site run by a swashbuckling scumbag named Hunter Moore, he had his next target. On November 30, 2012, KYAnonymous tweeted a threat to Moore that Anonymous would be shutting down his site if he didn't do it himself. But Moore only incited him back by replying "try it." The next day, KY posted a dox of Moore and declared a OpHuntHunter against him. "Sad part is that could be your friends sons or daughters or brothers and sisters that get victimized by @huntermoore," KY tweeted. When the Op went viral, instantly taking down Moore and his sites, one blogger credited KY with ushering in a new phase of Anonymous. "It sure seems like the White Knight faction of Anonymous is ascendant," he wrote. 

Anonymous' Deric Lostutter
Thomas Prior

For Lostutter, his fledgling life in Kentucky suddenly had purpose. "I kind of felt like I was meant for something more," he says, "And then I get involved in Anonymous, I'm like 'This is what the hell I'm meant to do.' I was just like a pitbull, anything that pissed me off, I was after." On December 15, he found his next target: Westboro Baptist Church, who announced a plan to protest the vigil for the children killed in the Newtown school shooting.

That night, he went into his living room alone to record a YouTube manifesto for what he called OP Westboro. "The basis of any good Op is a video," he says, a "good enough video that catches people's attention and gets them riled up and then, once that happens, it's kind of like poking at a beehive. You know? They all come out." Lostutter stuck with Anonymous' Orwellian cinematic style, dubbing a computerized rant over a video of rumbling dark clouds. "Hello Westboro Baptist Church," Lostutter began, "Allow us to introduce ourselves. We are Anonymous." He railed against the Church's "pseudo-faith" and "hatred," warning that "your downfall is underway." 

But finding a hot-button Op didn't mean the faceless legions had his back. As the Westboro video spread, influential sites such as Your Anonymous News cautioned against it. "One idiot has decided to post a press release against Westboro?" The site's webmaster posted, "I have a bad feeling about this operation. Everyone's watching us now, but this bullshit is taking away valuable resources that could be used, you know, actually fighting dictators, not failtrolls? THINK BEFORE YOU SAY SOMETHING STUPID." However, it went on, "there's no way Anonymous can go back on it's word now."

That weekend, Anonymous doxed what it claimed to be every adult member of the Westboro Church, and took down the Church's website, God Hates Fags, as well. They also urged Anons to sign a petition against Westboro's tax-exempt status. As Westboro planned its rally at Newtown, Anons tweeted the address of the Motel 6 where the group was staying. Lostutter organized the rally which he called Occupy Newtown, soliciting the help of plainclothes cops, as well as Hell's Angels, to form a human wall around the funeral. The protest of Newtown made international news, and further catapulted the mysterious hacker known as KYAnonymous into the spotlight. But while Lostutter watched the reaction with great satisfaction, he was careful to remain in the shadows. "That's the first rule of Anonymous," he says, "don't trust anybody."

It was a couple nights before Christmas in Lostutter's farmhouse, and not a creature was stirring. As his girlfriend and brother slept, he took his Guy Fawkes mask out from under his clothes in his bottom drawer and slipped quietly into the living room. Opening his laptop and aiming his webcam toward him, he pulled the mask over his face, and pulled his black hoodie down above it. Then he hit record on his computer, and began shifting his head from side to side, silently, as if he were talking. He made sure to "look intimidating," he recalls.

While Lostutter had recorded Op videos for Anonymous in the past, this time he was recording the first one in which he, as KY, would make his debut. Lostutter spent about a half hour crafting his words, which he ran through a text-to-speech program, Cepstral David, to disguise his voice. He matched the audio track along with his video of him gesticulating in his Guy Fawkes mask. "Greetings citizens of the world, We are Anonymous," he began, "Around mid-August 2012 a party took place in a small town in Ohio known as Steubenville…"

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