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November 5, 2011

Out Fawkes-ing the Mask

Occupy Wallstreet Businessweek

It’s one thing when you see demonstrators wearing it. But then, how odd is it to see the Guy Fawkes mask on the cover of Businessweek? Objectified this way, does it associate Occupy more closely in the public mind with Anonymous, the hacker-collective who popularized it in its Scientology protests? Or, does it more spiritually tie Occupy to it’s most direct source — the “V for Vendetta” comic, and it’s anarchist hero fighting a fascist totalitarian British government after a nuclear war?

Given the ambiguity right now over how to frame the movement; the tendency (as well as the right-wing and conservative media agenda) to hang the behavior of violent outside agitators on Occupy; and Occupy’s own aversion to elevating individual faces, the exhibition of the mask by corporate media serves as much to perpetuate an unease over Occupy (the face itself having a villain-ish twist) than an invitation to better understand it — especially when BusinessWeek takes a spray can to it.

What also creates bias here is the seemingly innocent anchor text statement: “Who’s Behind the Mask.” If there is something inordinately rare and impressive about OWS so far, it’s the transparency and inclusiveness under which they’ve been operating. That being the case, there is something suggestive that happens when you talk about people, in the political sphere, “being behind” something. BW can’t expect the phrase to be read practically here, not the way it suggests overseers or special interests (the way the Koch Brothers would be “behind” the Tea Party or discreet millionaires would “be behind” political PACs) which is the complete antithesis of what Occupy is.

And then, what’s with the spray-painting of the mask? I see at least two ways to look at it (given that Occupy – in contrast to those outside agitators – doesn’t endorse defacing property). One is the media defacing the movement. The other is a perfect snapshot of how traditional media deals with reality — whether we’re talking about movements, candidates and campaigns, or just about anything — which is to spray their own narrative on it.

(Photo: Jamie Chung. Type: Justin Metz)

  • futurebird

    Given the Mayor’s contentious and yet odd relationship with the protestors The word “bloomberg” is what caught my eye. 

    I don’t think most people know about /b/ or about V either. Most people will just think this is *scary* it’s a mask with “blood” on it. It radicalizes the protestors. They have NEVER hidden who they are so why the mask metaphor at all?

    They do not use a photo since the protestors are too easy to identify with when you look at them, they are being “othered” to enable hate and fear.

  • bks

    Every week that goes by without a mention of the Tea Party is, in and of itself, a victory for OWS.

        –bks

  • http://profiles.google.com/thomasgokey Thomas Gokey

    I’m a pretty enthusiastic supporter of Anonymous as a hacker collective. They sometimes screw up, but 95% of the time their targets are well chosen and they provide a way of bringing real scumbags to justice in a way that our criminal justice system simply doesn’t.

    But I have to admit that I’ve never really understood the appeal of the whole V for Vendetta/Guy Fawkes imagery. The movie was, as far as movies go, quite awful. The historical Guy Fawkes’s religious and political cause is just plain absent from the contemporary scene, and his means were terrorist. It’s a really bizarre phenomena when you think about it. Imagine having a time machine and, Bill and Ted style, go back in time to kidnap the historical Guy Fawkes and bring him to the 21st century to show him the film and OWS. He’d certainly be baffled.

    As best I can tell people gravitate to the film because they’re angry and the film stylizes revenge. This is hardly something that plays to our better selves. That and of course the mask provides anonymity. But I for one would just assume be done with Guy Fawkes. It’s a bit ridiculous.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/George-Mokray/767686527 George Mokray

    _V for Vendetta_ by Alan Moore and David LloydNY:  DC Comics, 1988, 1989ISBN 0-930289-52-8(193-194)  V:  ”It does not do to rely too much on silent majorities, Evey, for silence is a fragile thing.  One loud noise and it’s gone.”Evey:  ”But the people are so cowed and disorganized a few might take the opportunity to protest, but it’ll just be a voice crying in the wilderness.”V:  ”Noise is relative to the silence preceding it.  The more absolute the hush, the more shocking the thunderclap.  Our masters have not heard the people’s voice for generations, Evey, and it is much louder than they care to remember.”(195)  Radio:  ”The old Broadwater Farm Estate.  Tell Mr Creedy there’s fires…  Please respond.  Repeat:  victor-charley-niner…Evey:  ”All this riot and uproar, V.  Is this anarchy?  Is this the land of Do-As-You -Please?”V:  ”No, this is only the land of Take-What-You-Want.  Anarchy means ‘without leaders’; not ‘without order.’  With anarchy comes an age of ordnung, of true order, which is to say voluntary order.  This age of ordnung will begin when the mad and incoherent cycle of verwirrung that these bulletins reveal has run its course.  This is not anarchy, Eve.  This is chaos.”

    From the movie”"People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.”MIT4/29/11

    A conversation with the founders of the April 6 Youth Movement, Ahmed Maher and Waleed Rashed”Ahmed Maher, co-founder of the April 6 Youth Movement, is a civil engineer and a prominent participant in the anti-Mubarak demonstrations in Egypt in 2011. Maher is now one of Egypt’s best known youth activists, leading politically mobilized young Egyptians to develop their political consciousness through the skillful deployment of new technologies and social networking platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, Flickr and Twitter.
    Maher:  All foreign governments were unsupportive.  People to people revolution against all governments so we can speak together directly.  Movies like “Battle in Seattle” taught them how to use vinegar to wash away teargas, “V for Vendetta” taught them the power of setting a certain date.  Not political power but freedom and social power.  US academics refused to help.  People revolution not Internet revolution.
    ——————-
    Alan Moore, the author of V for Vendetta, refused to have his name associated with the movie.  He also, famously, considers himself a mage and magician (and probably one of the finest comics writers in history).  I wonder what he is grumbling into his long, long beard these days.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/George-Mokray/767686527 George Mokray

    _V for Vendetta_ by Alan Moore and David LloydNY:  DC Comics, 1988, 1989ISBN 0-930289-52-8(193-194)  V:  ”It does not do to rely too much on silent majorities, Evey, for silence is a fragile thing.  One loud noise and it’s gone.”Evey:  ”But the people are so cowed and disorganized a few might take the opportunity to protest, but it’ll just be a voice crying in the wilderness.”V:  ”Noise is relative to the silence preceding it.  The more absolute the hush, the more shocking the thunderclap.  Our masters have not heard the people’s voice for generations, Evey, and it is much louder than they care to remember.”(195)  Radio:  ”The old Broadwater Farm Estate.  Tell Mr Creedy there’s fires…  Please respond.  Repeat:  victor-charley-niner…Evey:  ”All this riot and uproar, V.  Is this anarchy?  Is this the land of Do-As-You -Please?”V:  ”No, this is only the land of Take-What-You-Want.  Anarchy means ‘without leaders’; not ‘without order.’  With anarchy comes an age of ordnung, of true order, which is to say voluntary order.  This age of ordnung will begin when the mad and incoherent cycle of verwirrung that these bulletins reveal has run its course.  This is not anarchy, Eve.  This is chaos.”

    From the movie”"People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.”MIT4/29/11

    A conversation with the founders of the April 6 Youth Movement, Ahmed Maher and Waleed Rashed”Ahmed Maher, co-founder of the April 6 Youth Movement, is a civil engineer and a prominent participant in the anti-Mubarak demonstrations in Egypt in 2011. Maher is now one of Egypt’s best known youth activists, leading politically mobilized young Egyptians to develop their political consciousness through the skillful deployment of new technologies and social networking platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, Flickr and Twitter.
    Maher:  All foreign governments were unsupportive.  People to people revolution against all governments so we can speak together directly.  Movies like “Battle in Seattle” taught them how to use vinegar to wash away teargas, “V for Vendetta” taught them the power of setting a certain date.  Not political power but freedom and social power.  US academics refused to help.  People revolution not Internet revolution.
    ——————-
    Alan Moore, the author of V for Vendetta, refused to have his name associated with the movie.  He also, famously, considers himself a mage and magician (and probably one of the finest comics writers in history).  I wonder what he is grumbling into his long, long beard these days.

  • psychohistorian

    This certainly is a fine example of media propaganda and your description is apt.

    Obfuscation is their goal.

  • http://profiles.google.com/thomasgokey Thomas Gokey

    I reread my earlier comment and I don’t like how concern-troll-y it sounds, which was not my intent at all. I think this article in the Guardian does an excellent job of parsing the symbol of the Guy Fawkes mask: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/nov/04/occupy-movement-guy-fawkes-mask

  • Anonymous

    I haven’t read the comic, but at the behest of (mostly male) students I have seen the movie. The theme was about getting the people to rise up against, well, the same kind of oligarchy we have now in the U.S. But the movie is extremely violent both on the “micro” level (lots of throat slashing and blood gushing) and on the “macro” level (with a greater series of explosions than Guy Fawkes could have imagined in his wildest dreams). That’s why it’s never made sense to me as an emblem of a movement committed to non-violent direct action.

    Beyond that, who is supposed to have “tagged” the  mask as OWS? Isn’t the point of that to mark a boundary, or to emphasize your ability to invade someone else’s space or to violate his or her stuff?

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