Tuesday, November 8, 2011

That Mask

"A cartoon-like man with a pointy beard, sly smile, and mysterious eyes - The Mask is a stylized version of Guy Fawkes, an Englishman who tried to bomb the British Parliament on Nov. 5, 1605.  But history books didn't lead to the mask's popularity: a nearly 30-year-old graphic novel and a five-year-old movie did.  "V for Vendetta," the comic-based movie whose violent, anarchist antihero fashions himself a modern Guy Fawkes and rebels against a fascist government has become a touchstone for protesters.  Yet whether the inspiration is the comic, the movie or the historical figure, the imagery - co-opted today by everyone from Wikileaks founder Julian Assange to the hacker group Anonymous - carries stronger connotations than some of the Occupy protesters seem to understand.  While Fawkes' image has been romanticized over the past 400 years, he was a criminal who tried to blow up a government building.  It would be hard to imagine Americans one day wearing Timothy McVeigh masks to protest the government or corporate greed.  Fawkes was a Catholic insurrectionist executed for the bombing attempt.  In the years immediately following his execution, Nov. 5 was England's official celebration for defeating Fawkes. Gradually over the centuries, the meaning has dramatically changed. Nearly two years after the film was released, the hacker group Anonymous wore the Guy Fawkes masks depicted in the movie during protests against the Church of Scientology.  Then came Wikileaks and the Occupy movement.  Few wore them Thursday afternoon because of the arrests of masked activists.  But they weren't gone - just hidden." (T. Lush, AP)

The Good News:  We arrest masked protesters but not those wearing the full-face niqab.