Around the same time, Carnes established his alter ego, and began posting YouTube rants under the handle Mr. Fetch. Unlike his attempt at reality-show stardom, the clips of Carnes melodramatically reeling in his bedroom, bath, and kitchen did earn him a relatively significant degree of fame. In 2008 he uploaded a video titled "ANONYMOUS Stand Down!!!", in which he blasted the ubiquitous hacker group best known for waging street and cyber war on the Church of Scientology. The clip features Carnes, sporting a white wife-beater and with images of murderous jihadists edited in behind him, hollering that Anonymous is "evil," and accusing them of burning houses down. "Let me tell you something," warns Carnes. "This is your one chance to surrender . . . If you don't stand down, we will be left with no other choice but to unite as one tube together and fight you!"

It's unclear whether Carnes knew who he was fucking with; judging by the multiple amateurish Web sites he manages for various causes, his computer skills would hardly put him in the general Anon echelon. Nonetheless, his anti-Anonymous debut — and follow-ups like "ANONYMOUS Where's Yo Brain At?" — were enough to poke the hornet's nest, and the Internets fired back with a vengeance. Within days, dozens of spoof and threat videos took aim at Carnes, and offended Anons broadcasted his family's personal info on chat boards, right down to Social Security numbers and insurance-access codes. The group became so pre-occupied with Carnes — calling his house, soiling his online identity — that one video, made by an Anon for other Anons, begged legionnaires to "not fall for his meager tricks . . . for [they are] having a devastating impact on this organization and its people."

Instead of taking a hint, Carnes saw opportunity in the proudly leaderless Anonymous, and attached himself to it like a boil. Carnes began declaring himself as the head of Anonymous. As recently as a few months ago, he claimed to have helped Anonymous hack entities ranging from the FBI and CIA to Bank of America. In a September presentation at the Boston New Tech Meetup, held at Microsoft in Cambridge, Carnes claimed that Anonymous had "grown up" since he took the helm. "They might embarrass you," he said, "but they're not going to blow up your house or anything."

Organizers of the Boston New Tech Meetup say that the crowd couldn't figure what to think of the self-proclaimed hack star and his lack of basic Web knowledge. But that's a common reaction to Carnes, whose online persona morphs regularly from religious zealot to motivational speaker to crazed slayer-turned-leader of Anonymous. Even Gawker took notice of the bipolar fantasies that he embraces with the gusto of a kid playing cops and robbers, and in 2008 ran a blog post titled, "Paul Fetch Is the New Andy Kaufman. Unless He's Just Really Really Unfunny." The article pondered: "If the videos by this YouTube user are parodies, and his entire online persona is a character, then we must all bow down to the new king . . . But chances are he's just a terribly unfunny douche."


'THEY FORCED OUR HAND'

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