Another year, another fifth of November. Another time to explain so much wrong with everything.
This time, it does fit within the context of the things I’m in the middle of writing. I’m really not going to elaborate for once, which is a break from the typical entries on this site.
Who was Guy Fawkes? What was the Gunpowder Plot?
Those who are in the United Kingdom really already know this… and will spend majority of the 5th lighting fireworks, watching bonfires, and getting pissed (drunk), because it’s a holiday. (Not that you need a holiday to get pissed in England.)
Guy Fawkes was a member of a group that wished to blow up British Parliament in order to allow the Catholic Monarchy to gain control in 1605. Long story short, the Gunpowder Plot was a plan to install a Catholic theocracy (instead of the Anglican theocracy – but did allow some representation in Parliament).
V for Vendetta
Warner Brothers released a film in 2006 based on a comic book from the 1980s of the same name, in which the main protagonist wears a mask of Guy Fawkes. Alan Moore, the original writer of the comic books, read the script for the film and refused to see the film and distanced himself from the film. He requested not to even be credited in the film. In the film (and comic), the main protagonist is fighting against a fictional, fascist government of England in a future dystopia (a 1990s future).
The Guy Fawkes Mask
Today, the Guy Fawkes mask from the film V for Vendetta is used by protestors, mainly by those associated with Anonymous. As far as I know, it started with the Anonymous protests of the Church of Scientology. (I don’t feel it’s important enough to really investigate… meaning, I really don’t care when it started.)
Million Mask March
Today, Anonymous has planned the Million Mask March, on November 5. The problems with this are numerous. We cannot ignore the symbolism in all of this and ask, “What is the intent of this symbolism?”
Are they claiming to be in the spirit of Guy Fawkes? Are they advocating theocracy? It doesn’t seem likely, as they make numerous claims about freedom and democracy. The Million Mask March website states the following:
Anonymous is a truth movement advocating hacktivism as self-defense for unconstitutional government. It is our aim to shed light on corrupt government in order to set people free from oppression.
Personally, this sounds a lot like the platitudes of the RUF in Sierra Leone. A lot of meaningless phrases that sound really good but have no intrinsic meaning. Which governments are “unconstitutional”? What is their process of constitutional review? What constitution are they using?
Are they having this on November 5 to celebrate the execution of Guy Fawkes? Then why are they wearing masks of his likeness?
Are they supporting Warner Brothers? Proceeds from every mask sold go to Warner Brothers. (If WB makes 25 cents on every mask sold and they have a million masks, they just generated $250,000 for Warner Brothers.) Seems odd that a computer hacktivist group would support one of the largest supporters of persecuting “online piracy.”
The original story written by Alan Moore was a direct refutation against Thatcherism and a stand against fascism…. that is something that has a similar message to what they are claiming. I could probably buy that… but then they use the mask from the film that Moore has condemned as a bastardization of his story.
Signifier / Signified
All of this really comes down to symbolism. And symbolism is important. There’s a lot that could be said here. Let’s just make it brief. There’s Lacan’s Real/Symbolic/Imaginary and there’s the semiotics of the signifier and the signified… and then, Derrida. And Foucault. Fill in the rest… I’m not going to expound on that.
STRATEGY, STRATEGY, AND STRATEGY!
The reason I point this out, especially today, is the lack of strategy. What kind of strategy uses such polarizing imagery? Symbolism needs to be well thought out and complete. What is the symbol of the IWW? (Not the main symbol, but the common symbol.) It’s the “Sabo-Tabby” (sabotage) – it’s a black cat with it’s back arched defensively. It’s also the red circle with part of the globe in it and the letters IWW.
We also have the symbol for many far Left groups of the raised fist… a symbol of rebellion. It was the symbol of the oppressed. It has also been effectively utilized by the IWW since 1917. Groups that have used the “raised fist” include the Black Panther Party, the African National Congress, the Socialist Workers Party (UK), the PLO, the Jewish Defense League, and the IWW. It’s a widely recognized symbol adopted by many movements for it’s popular imagery.
The hammer and sickle is also an iconic image that has a long history of communist symbolism. It was created in the Russian Revolution as a symbol of the industrial workers (hammer) and the farming peasantry (sickle). It was a symbol of the workers and farmers united in alliance against reactionary movements. Today, this symbol still stands easily recognizable as a symbol of Soviet communism.
The swastika is also a common symbol in Hinduism (and much of Asia). It’s a symbol of auspiciousness. But no political movement in the West would dare utilize the swastika today, as it is primarily associated with the Nazi Party. Since the 1930s, the swastika has been relegated to Nazi movements politically (in the west).
The whole point here is that symbols matter. Symbolic significance matters.
November 5 was the day the British monarchy executed men for treason against the crown, as they were attempting to overthrow the monarchy and put the country under catholic rule. Guy Fawkes was a member of that conspiracy.
The movie V for Vendetta was a Warner Brothers production that made no real significant political statements.
So what is the Million Mask March about? I doubt we will ever know.