Friday, 10 February 2012
Anonymous, Vendetta, Alan Moore
Interesting to find Alan Moore writing for the BBC on the influence of his graphic novel (and film) V for Vendetta and the deployment by the hacking protest group Anonymous of the Guy Fawkes style mask. Catholic Guido Fawkes was, of course, one of the Gunpowder Plot conspirators whose aim was to blow up the English Parliament in 1605. His failure is still celebrated every year on 5 November as Guy Fawkes Night, and more recently 'Bonfire Night'.
Children can be seen in some parts of the country with a comic-grotesque stuffed effigy of Guy, for whom, from adults, they demand 'a penny for the guy'. The sad creature is often led through the streets on a wheelbarrow or in a mock procession prior to being immolated on the celebratory fires.
Terror and uprising is one mode of resistance, but humour and laughter, as Bakhtin has demonstrated can be subversive too, and perhaps more effective in the long run, with less blood, and fewer dead bodies. Clowning-style protests as an antidote to monolithic brutality and totalitarianism have been in fashion for some time now. Monstrous, unstable, comic metamorphosis is being used as a subversive unpicking of immobile unresponsive authority.
Linking the mask with the protest Alan Moore has stated that "It also seems that our character's charismatic grin has provided a ready-made identity for these highly motivated protesters, one embodying resonances of anarchy, romance, and theatre that are clearly well-suited to contemporary activism, from Madrid's Indignados to the Occupy Wall Street movement."
Alan Moore explains the Revolutionary link in which the transgressor is adopted in a more redeeming guise as a potential liberator from tyranny: "At the start of the 1980s when the ideas that would coalesce into V for Vendetta were springing up from a summer of anti-Thatcher riots across the UK coupled with a worrying surge from the far-right National Front, Guy Fawkes' status as a potential revolutionary hero seemed to be oddly confirmed by circumstances surrounding the comic strip's creation: it was the strip's artist, David Lloyd, who had initially suggested using the Guy Fawkes mask as an emblem for our one-man-against-a-fascist-state lead character."
If you take a look at the images of processions, gatherings of crowds, and ritual burnings there is a messianic (end of the world) feel to them that sits uncomfortably with the fireworks, toffee apples and celebration. history is open to multiple interpretation, and reliving it can be a perilous activity of radical and revolutionary transmission. Raising spectres is a dangerous business.
Alan Moore concludes:
"Then, a depraved neglect of the poor and the "squeezed middle" led inexorably to an unanticipated reaction in the horrific form of Oliver Cromwell and the English Civil War which, as it happens, was bloodily concluded in Northamptonshire.
Today's response to similar oppressions seems to be one that is intelligent, constantly evolving and considerably more humane, and yet our character's borrowed Catholic revolutionary visage and his incongruously Puritan apparel are perhaps a reminder that unjust institutions may always be haunted by volatile 17th century spectres, even if today's uprisings are fuelled more by social networks than by gunpowder.
Some ghosts never go away."