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.
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.
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?