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Meet the Man Behind WWP, the Web Home of Anonymous and Project Chanology

Edouard_Ravel_3

 
Recently, we got a story tip from a man named Edouard Ravel. The name didn’t ring a bell, and he had to explain to us that he was better known as “sue.”

As in the guy who owns and runs WhyWeProtest.net, the Internet home of Project Chanology, the anti-Scientology arm of Anonymous? Indeed, it was.

It turned out that Ravel had revealed his real identity nearly two years ago, but the news hadn’t reached us, and we hadn’t seen anything written about the man. So we thought it might be fun to have a talk with the guy who operates one of the more fascinating locations in cyberspace.

Ravel said he was chatting with us from France — he was born there, but also grew up in the Netherlands. He’s about to turn 29, he told us, and he got his screen name from the Johnny Cash song, which his father loved.

The following is the transcript of our chat, with some editing for clarity.

 
The Bunker: What were you doing when things went crazy at the beginning of 2008?

Ravel: I had just come out of a certification course as a system and network administrator. I had spent a few years in the Netherlands for employment but had returned to France.

The Bunker: And how did your involvement in Anonymous begin?

Ravel: I’ve been a computer enthusiast since an early age and grew up with the Internet. I’ve had some mischievous years and strong affinities with both the hacker and freedom of speech cultures. When the call to action came I didn’t bat an eye and pretty much uttered “let’s do this.”

The Bunker: So how did “doing this” start out for you? What were those early days like?

Ravel: I used some Google-FU and found the IRC [Internet Relay Chat] network(s) where the initial online attacks were orchestrated. I must say the sight was gleeful, the chaos and mayhem were very exciting to observe — but I felt there was much more to be done than causing site outages. I must admit Mark Bunker’s video came as a godsend, as it was exactly what was necessary for a change in tactics. After talking in the main channels my amateur web design background led me to #pr and #website [specific channels at IRC]. Little did I know that I was about to commit to many hours a day.

The Bunker: How was WWP born?

Ravel: It was born in #website. Essentially there were a dozen individuals who agreed it would be a good thing to formulate and present an introduction to Anonymous’s goals and objectives. All the while also educating the public of what lies underneath the surface of the Scientology organization. Someone had registered whyweprotest.com. A few, myself included, provided mockups and proposals for site designs. To our irritation at the time, the WWP.com holder could not formulate his expectations vis-a-vis presentation. Half a dozen proposals and two weeks later I called it quits and registered both the .net and .org extensions, and worked with two individuals to make the first iteration of WWP. This was done within days. Meanwhile, as I had done my end of the work, I was approached and became part of the (unduly) infamous Marblecake collective.

The Bunker: You’ll have to fill us in on that.

Ravel: To date it has been the most organized group I have collaborated with online. I wouldn’t exaggerate when saying the quorum of participants spent over 70 hours a week working on media projects, planning, PR, and brainstorming. It served both as think tank and production studio. Meetings were held near daily, assessments were made, notes kept and so forth.

 
Edouard_Ravel2

 
The Bunker: And these meetings and assessments, these were about planning protests and so on? And what about the site, how was it developing as a forum?

Ravel: The WWP site at the time did not serve as a forum or communication platform. Its sole purpose was to explain “why we protest.” Yes, meetings included local organizers, polling for local opinions, and discussing strategy. A lot was being proposed and often the “throw and see what sticks” approach was taken, and so we occasionally had two distinct projects running and whichever ended up getting taken up by the protesters would live.

The Bunker: It was a chaotic time, but fascinating.

Ravel: Shortly after the WWP website went online one of my parents died in an accident. Needless to say this made a great impact. I translated this anger and frustration into action wherever I could. Sometimes, I wonder whether I would have backed out were it not for those events. For quite some time I considered carrying on with this project as an homage — how twisted and odd it might seem.

The Bunker: And how soon after things got going did you realize that there might be risk — that the church might use private investigators to figure out who was behind the screen names?

Ravel: This was quite quickly clear. I was relatively diligent and always used multiple combinations of proxies, identities, and pseudonyms. I’ve very rarely let details slip on accident including in “social contexts.” There have been many people who tried to identify me in the past years. Utimately I weighed the pros and cons of leading multiple lives and decided that remaining anonymous provided a form of leverage over me. In other words, the potential of being outed could be seen as threatening. So that’s why I decided to sign off with my own name. It was liberating and to this day carries benefits. I don’t lie awake concerned that someone might find out my identity. It’s out there and it was no thanks to anyone who hated my guts.

The Bunker: Wasn’t there some time when you went away from WWP?

Ravel: There have been several times when, for personal reasons, I have retired from the daily goings on at WWP. That said I’ve always remained available, but with a certain distance, were there some sort of emergency.

The Bunker: So let’s talk about WWP today and how it’s doing. We hear from people who say there’s a pretty heavy (and clumsy) OSA presence these days, particularly in the afternoons. Does that concern you at all?

Ravel: I am not in the least concerned, nor entirely convinced it’s OSA. WWP — or much rather I — have acquired a handful of detractors over the years. The patterns of bad behavior are incredibly predictable and use the same methodologies. When I say bad, it’s in all truth sad. I feel sorry for people that let themselves be consumed by hate and stoop to these kinds of levels.

The Bunker: What would these detractors say about you? We don’t know much (or care) about WWP’s internal fights, but is there a specific complaint your critics have about you, and how would you answer it?

Ravel: I don’t think there’s a particular complaint. Essentially anything that can be said to dehumanize or discredit can or has been said. I don’t bother responding to any of it, much less pay attention to it. I’m of the opinion people are free to believe what they want to believe and that no matter what is said, convincing them otherwise, besides impossible, is also not my duty. I guess you could say I don’t seek anyone’s approval or acceptance. I do what I do because I believe it’s the right thing.

The Bunker: It’s been a long time since 2008 and I imagine you feel like you’ve seen it all. But are there still things being posted that get you fired up?

Ravel: I think I am far from having seen it all. However, I normally try to isolate myself from conversations or what happens on the site and stick to reports from moderators. I have found that doing so resulted in less immediate — and thus less emotion-driven — action. I often hear about something that was a big deal after the fact. I stick to computer terminals, e-mails, and development, and only step in when the team feels an executive decision or guidance needs to be made or given.

The Bunker: You fundraise to keep the site going, right?

Ravel: Correct.

The Bunker: And WWP’s future is secure? We know nothing on the ‘net is forever, but for now, it looks good?

Ravel: It will keep going for the foreseeable future, yes. One of the less appreciated dilemmas I face is cutting between longevity and exclusivity. Over the past years as other initiatives were brought up on WWP, some felt as if it were somewhat of a disloyalty to Chanology. My main concern has been that it is inevitable for movements to reduce to a dedicated core, lowering the amount of those who can contribute financially to keeping communication infrastructure going. I have tried to diversify to allow for a broader audience to support the infrastructure. Which means Chanology would be less out of pocket. Unfortunately, this wasn’t always well received. All this aside, I’ve done 5 years. I can do 10.

The Bunker: Has WWP had direct legal threats from church attorneys?

Ravel: Never, nor will David Miscavige e-mail me.

The Bunker: Yeah, he doesn’t send us e-mails either. Is there anything else? What would the users of WWP wish we’d asked you?

Ravel: Interesting question, for that I’d have to try and place myself into their shoes. Well, I can imagine some are under the impression that this position is the most awesome thing in the world, or that it’s a great deal of power, or what else have you. To which — with some evil laughter — I’d say their tears are delicious. (I kid, I kid.) From my perspective it’s none of those things. Or they might ask whether I’d give them up, which I think my continued perseverance and dedication should speak for itself. The above being said, I would like to say managing this project has proved to be invaluable, experience wise. Especially on a personal level.

The Bunker: Thanks. We can’t wait to see what a couple of assholes they call us over at WWP for this stupid chat. It’s how it works.

 
[Jon Atack will be back next week with another episode of Scientology Mythbusting.]

 
——————–

Posted by Tony Ortega on June 22, 2013 at 06:30

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