FeminismSkepticism

Anonymous Co-Opts Black Issues (Again) to Punish Iggy Azalea For Co-Opting Black Issues

Rappers Azealia Banks and Iggy Azalea have been feuding off and on for a couple of years now, and much digital ink has been spilled on the matter. For those of you who haven’t followed their spat, let me catch you up. Rapper and woman of color Azealia Banks has continuously called out rapper Iggy Azalea (best known for the white girl hip-hop anthem, “Fancy“) for appropriating black culture. Iggy Azalea was just nominated for four Grammy Awards, prompting Banks to make the following remarks:

I feel like in this country, whenever it comes to our things, like black issues or black politics or black music or whatever, there’s always this undercurrent of kinda like a ‘fuck you. That Iggy Azalea shit isn’t better than any fucking black girl that’s rapping today…The Grammys are supposed to be accolades of artistic excellence. Iggy Azalea is not excellent.

This isn’t the first time Banks has accused Azalea of  profiting off black culture while simultaneously ignoring black issues. Their dispute was re-ignited earlier this month when Azealia Banks called out Azalea about her continued cultural appropriation:

https://twitter.com/AZEALIABANKS/status/540299044464369664

But, what does this have to with the internet hacktivist collective, Anonymous? In their infinite wisdom, Anon decided to get involved in the feud by threatening to leak Iggy Azalea’s sex tape if she doesn’t apologize to Banks. You heard me right – Anonymous’ punishment for Azalea’s appropriation is to appropriate back, slut-shame her, and violate her consent by posting a private sex tape. It’s the cultural appropriation equivalent of “I know you are, but what am I?” with some bonus misogyny to top it off. To be clear, as of this writing, no tape has been leaked. It’s entirely possible this is just another publicity stunt for Anonymous, who seem to have no shame when it comes to hijacking black issues for their own gain. Talk about two wrongs not making a right.

You might remember another time Anonymous attempted to co-opt black issues, when they trampled all over Feminista Jones’ #NationalMomentOfSilence by organizing their “Day of Rage.” Adrian Chen wrote in The Nation:

This past August, as the outcry grew over the killing of Michael Brown, the unarmed black teenager who was shot by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, the hacktivist collective Anonymous took up the cause. On August 14, an Anonymous member posted a YouTube video calling for a “National Day of Rage” to protest the shooting. A computerized voice warbled over an ominous Carl Orff–ripoff score: “We call upon the citizens of the United States to collectively gather in support for those who are suffering in Ferguson.” News sites heralded the heroic arrival of Anonymous. Initially, few of these reports noted that the exact time, date and locations of Anonymous’s National Day of Rage corresponded with a previously planned protest, the National Moment of Silence, spearheaded by black feminist blogger Feminista Jones. Jones was dismayed by Anonymous’s attempt to co-opt her peaceful demonstration and the media’s eagerness to help. “I was bothered that they chose this moment to be destructive, but it showed people just how little they care about the safety and well-being of Black people,” she later told the blog Visual AIDS. “As a Black woman, I’m also used to the historical erasure of our work and theft of our labor.” It only went south from there, after Anonymous’s dramatic claim to have identified the police officer who shot Brown turned out to be wrong.

Chen’s entire piece is well-worth a read. He’s been covering Anonymous’ shenanigans since the internet tough-guys forced an 11-year-old girl and her family into police protection back in 2010. It highlights many of the problems with Anonymous’ self-appointed role as the Sheriffs of the Internet, and the issues with the media’s framing thereof. As Anonymous continues to cannon-bomb their way into social justice issues, it’s important that we give credit where it’s due – and credit is rarely ever due to Anonymous.

As we learn how to exist in a digital age we need to ensure we aren’t too quick to praise seemingly well-intentioned internet vigilantism. We live in a world where women who talk about video games have to cancel speeches due to gun threats, and online hackers get $44 million movies canceled a week before release (of course, only one of those scenarios is decried by mainstream media as terrorism  – a post for another day). As skeptics and feminists, who should deplore Iggy Azalea’s grotesque appropriation profiteering, we shouldn’t hastily praise Anonymous. When their tactics are anti-woman and repeatedly stomp on the work of black activists, they need to be called out as such. Iggy Azalea is an extremely problematic artist, but Anonymous won’t right her wrongs by doing the very thing they accuse her of.

Featured Image by Laura Murray

Courtney Caldwell

Courtney Caldwell is an intersectional feminist. Her talents include sweary rants, and clogging your social media with pictures of her dogs (and occasionally her begrudging cat). She's also a political nerd, whose far-left tendencies are a little out of place in the deep red Texas.

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10 Comments

  1. Anonymous has made me nervous since they claimed credit for the Arab Spring. I guess it’s one problem of their complete anonymousness, for lack of a better word. Maybe they helped, maybe they didn’t. It’s hard to say.

    But I always get nervous dealing with people who know what’s best for me, and if I don’t like it, no problem. We have ways.

    Cthulhu save me from those who would save me from myself.

    I come from a family of control freaks, so it’s one of my issues.

  2. Agree with all of the above, although it’s worth pointing out that this completely misguided (to put it charitably) Iggy Azalea and Ferguson stuff was not the work of the “real” Anonymous, to the extent that that can be defined. See, for example, http://hackread.com/anonymous-not-leaking-iggy-azaleas-sex-tape/ and https://twitter.com/AnonyOps/status/546986376529711105, where more thoughtful and established branches of Anonymous dismiss whoever did this as a troll and an idiot.

    Which of course means that organizing your activism around a name that anyone can adopt for anything is maybe not the best strategy, but I do think there are many Anons who are better than this.

    1. Again, that’s part of the problem. Was it Anonymous, or was it Anonymous’ twin brother. Looks just like him.

      I would think, I could be wrong, that they have to capability to expose someone else speaking in their name, instead of just saying “Wasn’t me. Can’t prove it was me.”

      1. I’m not disagreeing with you — this is certainly part of the problem, that’s what I meant about the issue of organizing around a name that anyone can claim. I guess they could try to expose the real names of people claiming to be Anonymous, but given that there aren’t membership lists or anything this wouldn’t prove much unless the actual Anonymous weren’t anonymous. So it comes back to the same issue that the whole model is problematic.

    1. Well, there was t3hj3st3r and Backtrace. LulzSec (the ones who told the Tunisians “Yeah, everyone else hates your government too.”) was really the offspring of Anonymous and the old Antisec movement, though.

      Note that the origin of the name Backtrace should tell you all you need to know about 4chan.

  3. … I don’t know, at one time I would have personally freaked over the idea, even as a guy, of having a sex tape leaked. Now… I think my reaction is, “I wish I had a cause someone hated, and was female, so I could say, ‘F you, I don’t give a damn!’, and release it myself.” Now, I understand how other people might not see it that way, especially if in a position where the existence of such a tape, never mind its release, might cause other assholes to create problems for them, but.. I think my reaction to that happening would also be F-U. Just saying.

  4. What’s bad about this is, I wouldn’t have even cared about two celebrities beefing. I would’ve probably made a comment about how Azealia Banks could at least get the hemisphere right and gone on my merry way. (Seriously, igloo?)

    But yeah, their answer seems to be to threaten sexual assault.

    But I might point out the Emma Watson sex tape hoax. Yeah, it’s still proof of how horrible the internet is to women, but, in (grudging) fairness to Anonymous, it wasn’t them.

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