The Masked Avenger: Occupy Anonymity

December 12, 2011

Political action


Those who have seen the film “V for Vendetta” are undoubtedly familiar with the main character, “V”, and the Guy Fawkes mask that he wears throughout the film. If you aren’t familiar with this masked smile, you are about to become very well acquainted. The mysterious Guy Fawkes masks are cropping up all over the world, beginning to be associated with the hacker group “Anonymous” and becoming a symbol for a large movement, Occupy Wall Street.

Masked Man at Occupy Rally

Guy Fawkes was an English Catholic in the mid-1500s infamous for his “gunpowder plot”. He led a campaign, in the face of religious persecution, to blow up the House of Parliament, therefore bringing down the Protestant monarchy. On November 5, 1605, Guy Fawkes and his followers’ plot was discovered by the Parliament and the traitors were hanged, drawn, and quartered.  England began celebrating this day to remind the British to defend England from traitors, especially Catholics.

However, Guy Fawkes, and his day, have come to mean quite different things since then. Thanks to “V for Vendetta”, originally a graphic novel from the 1980s, Fawkes has been transformed “from [a] traitor to [a] hero fighting an unjust state”. Although I believe Guy Fawkes can be considered a terrorist of his time, the ideas behind his actions have become glorified to the point of reverence.

If we want to understand exactly what kinds of effects Fawkes is having on our world today, it is necessary to take a look at the two, very different, groups that have begun wearing these mysterious masks: Occupy Wall Street and the hacker group Anonymous.

Masked Occupy Demonstration

Occupy Wall Street is a very public movement, holding massive gatherings in protest of the supposed 1% of people controlling the wealth, for the benefit of the 99% of people who do not see the benefits that they should. While the hacker group Anonymous lives in the shadows of cyberspace, never revealing their identities, and making unplanned attacks on people’s personal information, leaking it to the world.

However different the tactics of these groups are, it seems as if the two groups are working together under the smiling mask of Guy Fawkes.

Occupy Wall Street has been able to embody the unifying aspect that wearing the Guy Fawkes masks brings to their cause, making them seem more united. But, Anonymous has made mask look threatening and foreboding. While both groups attract attention while wearing the masks, it is in my opinion that Anonymous is not attracting positive attention with their ploys. They are making themselves appear as unfriendly rather than as a unified front.

Martin Luther King, Jr. strongly believed that non-violent “direct-action” resistance is the way to create an effective political change. He believed that legitimate action will, in turn, lead to a legitimate change. He was opposed to acting (or reacting) in a violent manner, which will only escalate the situation where there will be no negotiations made to benefit either side. Do you believe MLK would approve of the tactics used by Occupy Wall Street and Anonymous? Would he find Anonymous’ scare tactics an effective way to garner the change that they want? In general, which movement do you believe will have best outcome and what kind of outcome do you think that should be?

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One Comment on “The Masked Avenger: Occupy Anonymity”

  1. verlong Says:

    To be honest, I had never even heard of Anonymous. I follow what’s going on Occupy Wall Street, but have never seen anything on Anonymous. All I know about them is the video you just posted. Personally, I like the tactics that the Occupiers are using better than those of Anonymous. I think that MLK would also agree with me. Scare tactics are never a good way to get your point across, and to make people sympathetic to your cause. It only causes more hate and anger on both sides, when working for a compromise of some sort should be the goal. However, I do think that MLK would prefer those who are wearing a Guy Fawkes mask for Occupy Wall Street to stop. I know I would. I think that showing everyone’s face makes people understand the mass amount of numbers coming out for the cause. Trying to have one unified front is a good goal, but that doesn’t mean that there needs to be “one identity.” There are many within the Occupy movement, which is part of what is making it as strong as it is. Plus, this is their own movement, not one that happened 400 years ago. Comparing won’t gain as much sympathy, especially to those who don’t know of Guy Fawkes (or the mask). It will isolate a group of people who might be sympathetic to the present cause. That’s just my opinion though. Very interesting post! Thanks for sharing. I had no idea, and will definitely look more into it.

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