The Mask is a symbol of truth. This mask has been an important recognisable asset of AV's street-activism campaign (Cube of Truth) since 2016.
It has been used by Anonymous, as well as by thousands of people around the world in the past 13 years, as a unifying symbol against the forces that still promote discrimination, corruption, injustice and oppression in any form in our society today. Thus, when AV activists bear the mask in a Cube of Truth campaign they are a part of modern History:
By wearing the mask, activists are together with the trillions of animals that are cruelly abused and killed every year by the globalised animal-food industries.
We're voicing the unspeakable.
The interesting question is how did this mask got this status? And who decided that it should be so?
HISTORY OF THE MASK
In 1605, almost 400 years before The Iron Lady's rule of the 1980's, catholic Guy Fawkes and his rebellious catholic Gun Powder Plot group was fighting against the protestant monarch James I for the same reasons. This was a time of strong divide between Catholics and Protestants in England where Catholics were often persecuted, beaten, shamed and/or ruthlessly killed in the streets.
Fawkes tried to change this by attempting to blow up the House of Lords and thus assassinate both the protestant king and the ruling Protestant elite of nobles all gathered at the State Opening of Parliament, November 5th.
Unfortunately, Fawkes was discovered hours before detonation of the 36 barreIs of powder he had hidden under the House of Lords, and a couple of months later, he was tortured, dismembered, gutted and killed on public square together with 8 of his peers in the plot.
The failure of Guy Fawkes' and his peers' plans was initially celebrated with sermons, ringing of church bells and it ultimately developed into the creation of the Bonfire Night (still celebrated to this day!) established by King James I every November 5th. Dolls with masks of the villain Fawkes were burned. During following decades and centuries, as this feast grew in popularity all over England, fireworks were added, but the Fawkes masks were always a constant asset, in different forms, shapes and materials.
But during all this time, the Fawkes mask somehow paradoxically kept symbolising the celebration of the survival of a cruel, corrupt government ( as originally established by James I ), and the masked dolls that were burned on bonfires aII over EngIand, the capitulation of an idealistic cathoIic fool.
V for Vendetta
The Fawkes mask has been around for 400 years since the times of King James I of England. But this Fawkes mask, as we know it today, goes back to the beginning of the 1980's when two graphic novelists David Lloyd and Allan Moore decided to create a mask for the fictional freedom-fighter character “V”, inspired by the 17th century catholic renegade Guy Fawkes, for their graphic-novel "V for Vendetta".
The graphic-novel "V for Vendetta" was released in stripes in different publications between 1982-1989, the years in which the ultra-conservative rule of Margaret Thatcher (1979-1990) was in place in England.
These were harsh times for Britain. The Iron Lady (as Thatcher was known) created a tremendous widespread feeling of social injustice mainly among low and middle working-classes, a strong feeling of persecution and constant repression. Under Thatcher, unemployment rates were sky-high, violence in the streets was common due to the desperation felt by a large majority in the population to which her harsh, oppressive, authoritative rule didn't shy away from often responding very aggressively against.
With "V for Vendetta", Lloyd and Moore created a dystopian metaphor of Britain's reality in the 80's setting the story in an Orwellian totalitarian England of a future post-apocalyptic nuclear time, in which their masked character V would use any means available to fight against tyranny and oppression.
"V for Vendetta", quickly became a cult-novel and the mask (as we know it today) became here for many, for the first time, a clear embodiment of the IDEALS of freedom and social justice the British population aspired to.
Anonymous: Cyber Hackers
Later on, in 2006, the last scene of the Hollywood film-adaptation of "V for Vendetta" written for screen by The Wachowkys ("The Matrix Trilogy"), came to inspire the cyber-hacker leaderless group Anonymous in its first worldwide street-action the same year against the Church of Scientology who was pressing YouTube to remove statements that Tom Cruise had made on the religious organisation.
For Anonymous, the choice of mask was obvious at the time since a disruptive cyber-meme of the Fawkes mask had already been circulating within the Anonymous' network, the film was in everyone's minds and had already become a part of popular culture at the time, moreover the righteous freedom-fighting character V and his mask were now clearly and unmistakably already understood as symbols of justice, democracy, freedom of speech and freedom of information.
With the financial crisis in 2008/09, the Arab Spring in 2011-12 and the Occupy movements worldwide between 2011-13, the use of the mask became common in protests worldwide and acquired a global impact as a form of progressive, socio-political expression.
Anonymous for the Voiceless
In 2016, when establishing the very first actions of AV in Melbourne, the choice of mask for Paul Bashir and Asal Alamdari seemed obvious since the Guy Fawkes mask represents today a global movement in the XXI century that is in alignment with the values of the organisation they wanted to create: - the mask stands for stamping out oppression, it represents the fight for truth, it is against all sorts of injustice and discrimination, thus against speciesism as well.
All text by João Løbo (AV Chapter: Copenhagen)
For more information, please watch João's Lecture on AV's work and the Guy Fawkes mask: