How Anonymous Got Westboro to Back Off Aaron Swartz's Funeral

Alexander Abad-Santos

Fresh off their most recent spat over the Newtown shootings, the left-wing cult  reviled hate group protestors at Westboro Baptist Church and the do-gooder hacktivists from Anonymous faced off over the ongoing Aaron Swartz suicide controversy on Tuesday — albeit briefly — and in a sign of Anonymous's growing power, the hackers won. 

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The folks from Westboro began the day telling everyone and anyone that they'd be picketing the funeral of the revered hacker Swartz, whom they called a "fag, Jew bastard whose entire life was an assault against God." But after an instant — and instantly successful — video and social-media operation from Anonymous, the excitable "church" group apparently didn't show up to Swartz's funeral outside of Chicago. The Anonymous Twitter account reported this police confirmation about Westboro's no-shows late this morning:

Police comfirm #WBC's lawyer contacted them and said the would not be protesting #opvigil #AaronSwartz #YAN…

— Anonymous (@YourAnonNews) January 15, 2013

Anonymous's tweet is confirmation enough that their pledge to defend Swartz's funeral worked out pretty well. You see, Westboro had been tweeting, pushing press releases, and marking Swartz's funeral on their schedule. Swartz's funeral is, in fact, still posted on their website:

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And that ugly talk got Anonymous involved, as the group pledged to protect their fellow hacker's funeral by asking people to form a human shield in a movement they called "Operation Angel," or #opangel. Anonymous posted this video Monday explaining their defense of the memorial service: 

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As we've seen with the ongoing impact of their involvement in the Steubenville rape case, Anonymous in 2013 is transforming from notorious to notable, and more than just the hacker community or close watchers of online controversies are starting to take notice on a wider scale. Perhaps Westboro didn't want to deal with that, especially after their plans to picket the death of some of the children murdered in Newtown, led to the hacking of Westboro spokesperson Shirley Phelps Roper's Twitter feed the leaking of personal information of its members. When Anonymous wins, it seems, their enemies just keep losing.