The word of the week appears on the front page of today’s New York Times in an article on a crowd-sourced response to WikiLeaks: “the Internet assaults underlined the growing reach of self-described “cyberanarchists,” antigovernment and anticorporate activists who have made an icon of Mr. Assange, a 39-year-old Australian.”
You won’t find a cyberanarchist reference in my old copy of the Oxford English Dictionary. A search led me to a 1998 Chicago Law Review article considering the “fundamental question of whether the state can regulate cyberspace at all.” Another hit led me to a site called cyberanarchy.org, which I don’t recommend to my readers unless you’re really, really into repetitive heavy metal with uninterpretable words set to a screen-filling red anarchism “A” symbol comprised of tiny flickering 0’s and 1’s.
The origins of the compound word are a bit interesting. According to the on-line edition of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:
Cyber is a new prefix: “of, relating to, or involving computers or computer networks (as the Internet),” with first known use around 1991.
Anarchist is one who rebels against government or espouses anarchy, with origins listed: “Medieval Latin anarchia, from Greek, from anarchos having no ruler, from an- + archos ruler …First Known Use: 1539″
I searched for a deeper meaning of cyber and found little. The only credible thing I came upon in English is on Dictionary.com:
…the study of human control functions and of mechanical and electronic systems designed to replace them, involving the application of statistical mechanics to communication engineering.
I’ll let my readers and other word enthusiasts take it from here –
There is, of course, an @CyberAnarchist on Twitter, but as of this morning he or she has only 6 followers, tweets nothing and follows no one. A pre-emptive strategy?
The non-etymological, semi-medical lesson in this: be careful!