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The Ideas Of The Million Mask March

Our writer Jim has spent the last few days giving fair coverage to the fact that the Million Mask March would be taking place today in many locations around the world. There have been protests going on all day, in a remarkable number of nations, from Australia to Armenia. Now, as the world turns toward darkness, the line of protests is moving toward Anaheim.

protest to protestOkay, so we understand that there’s a big series of protests going on today. Even more important, however, is to understand what the Million Mask marches are all about.

For many participants, the purpose of the protest seems to be to have a protest. That was the message I got from many photographs from the protests, such as this image from London, showing a sign reading, “United as one, no power can stop us.” That message is loud and clear: Nothing can stop the Borg. The question is, what do the Borg want?

Some good REM sleep, suggests another protest sign: “If they don’t let us dream, we won’t let them sleep.” Has someone been stopping people from dreaming? Who? How? Is sleep deprivation an ethical protest tactic? It sounds like the kind of torture that has been conducted in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay.

Questionable protest tactics are at the foundation of the Million Mask March. It was planned for Guy Fawkes Day, in commemoration of a terrorist conspiracy by Catholic Englishmen who, when they saw that the government would not meet their demands, decided they would kill everyone in Parliament with a gigantic bomb. The enthusiastic embrace of Guy Fawkes – the man of the mask himself – as an inspiration has led to some hesitation among supporters of nonviolence.

mask protest swordsIn one city, protesters pooled their money to buy space on big billboards, for images of Guy Fawkes masks on top of unsheathed swords. Swords? Who is going to get cut?

Threats. There were many threats in the protests today, like this one: “People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.” Let’s pause, and think this through, please. Do we really want out governments to be afraid of us? Why? People who are afraid usually act impulsively, and make terrible mistakes. I want my government to respect my freedoms and be receptive to my opinions. That’s not the same thing as fear.

The rhythm of the slogan, in which one idea is turned around into its opposite, seems to be popular. Witness “We are not anti-system, the system is anti-us.” We do not want the government to be watching us, but want us to watch the government. We are not breaking the law, the law is breaking us. We do not argue with the validity of elections – rather, we elect the validity of argument. I get it.

Looking at the Million Mask March events around the world today, there were some slogans that were just plain bizarre: “Unfuck the World”, read one sign. Was it anti-sex, or just against everything being all fucked up, or was it merely about getting a thrill from carrying a big sign with the word “fuck” on it?

shutdownSome protest messages seemed to have a local, rather than global, relevance. This protester, in the Philippines, for example, seems to be addressing Internet censorship that’s taking place there. “You shut down our Internet, we shut down your government.” Fair enough, although the ideal in a government is that it isn’t really somebody else’s. My concern with this sign is for how the message transfers over to politics in the United States, where it has been right wing fanatics who want to shut down the government, mostly in order to keep pushing for lower taxes for corporations and the wealthy, and in order to avoid environmental protections.

I see many messages from protesters saying that they’re protesting against corruption and for justice, but those are very general positions, much like saying that they’re protesting bad things, and marching for good things. I actually don’t see many messages of protest against NSA spying, though some suggested that would be the dominant issue.

I’m searching a huge number of sources created by the protesters themselves to try to discover what the Million Mask March seeks to achieve, but most of what I find seems to be an expression of a raw feeling that protests need to be taking place, and that a demonstration of outrage… against stuff… needs to be made. So we find ourselves with the widely distributed sign carried today by people across the world, reading:

vague protester

The corrupt fear us.
The honest support us.
The heroic join us.

For what? To fight for honesty? Okay, I’ll be honest. I had a doughnut this morning, and I should have told my wife about it, but I didn’t. Is that the kind of honesty the Million Mask March is looking for?

Really, if the heroic join you, and the honest support you, what role is there in your protest movement for the confused, who are watching you, and noting that something seems to be going on, but don’t want to be co-opted by a movement that may end up supporting questionable political ideals and tactics?

At this point, the Million Mask March is like a petitioner showing up at the world’s front door with a blank piece of paper, asking everyone to sign their names in agreement, or be counted among “the corrupt”.

The corrupt don’t fear you, dear ones. The corrupt ones chuckle at you for a second, then get back to their business. Get your thoughts organized, and then the corrupt may start to take notice.

5 thoughts on “The Ideas Of The Million Mask March”

  1. John Lewis Mealer says:

    Well written J Clifford.
    What kind of doughnut was it? I mean… If it was one of those chocolate cream filled things, you are no friend of mine! However, the apple crumbles are front line material…

  2. Dave says:

    I see by your outfit that you are a protester.

    You see by my outfit that I am one too.

    We see by our outfits that we are both protesters.

    So get you an outfit and you’ll be one too.

  3. Tom says:

    I wonder if (or how soon) the gummint will plant some (or a) guy(s) in (a) mask(s) and arm him (them) or have one leave a suspicious duffle bag with an m-80 in it somewhere so that they can claim the protesters are violent and start gunnin’ ’em down or arrestin’ ’em in large numbers.

    1. Bill says:

      I think it will be quite some time before we see something like that, Tom. For that to happen, someone would first have to take these guys seriously, and they’re a long, long way from inspiring that.

  4. Tom says:

    Well, here’s the results. And it looks like the gummint took them seriously enough to redirect the “framing” in the media.

    Coverage of the anti-NSA Protest is an Example of a New Way to Disseminate Government BS

    Redirection to Water Down the Potency of Dissent

    On Saturday, October 26th several thousand people gathered near the Capitol Building in Washington to protest National Security Agency spying against Americans. As juicy news, it didn’t amount to much: no violence, no surprises. Politically, it marked an unusual coalition between the civil liberties Left and the libertarian Right, as members of the Occupy Wall Street and Tea Party movements stood side by side. But that’s not how it was framed.

    The way U.S. media outlets chose to cover the march provides a fascinating window into a form of censorship they often use but we rarely notice: redirection.

    The message of the marchers was straightforward. According to the British wire service Reuters, the protesters carried signs that read “Stop Mass Spying,” “Thank you, Edward Snowden” and “Unplug Big Brother.”

    USA Today reported another sign — “No NSA mass spying” — and that marchers chanted “no secret courts” and “Hey hey, ho ho, the NSA has got to go.”

    The message of the marchers was unambiguous: they demanded that the NSA stop spying on Americans, or be shut down. If the signs and the slogans and the things marchers said weren’t clear — “this isn’t about right and left — it’s about right and wrong,” USA Today quoted Craig Aaron — the group that organized the event is called “Stop Watching Us.”

    Not “Keep Watching Us, Albeit With Increased Congressional Oversight.”

    Stop laughing. I know, I know, no one in the history of protest marches has ever called for half-measures. U.S. Partly Out of Vietnam! Somewhat Equal Rights for Women!

    Yet that’s how the media covered the anti-NSA event.

    First line of USA Today‘s piece: “Thousands rallied against NSA’s domestic and international surveillance on Saturday by marching to the Capitol and calling for closer scrutiny of the agency as more details of its spying are leaked.” [My italics, added for emphasis.]

    Associated Press headline: “NSA spying threatens U.S. foreign policy; protesters demand investigation of mass surveillance.”

    MSNBC: “‘Stop Watching Us’ sees a chance to reform the NSA”

    It is true that “Stop Watching Us” sent a letter to Congress. But there’s no way for a fluent English speaker to interpret their statement as “calling for closer scrutiny” or “reforming” the NSA. “We are calling on Congress,” the group wrote, “to take immediate action to halt this surveillance and provide a full public accounting of the NSA’s and the FBI’s data collection programs.”


    “Stop Watching Us” didn’t call for “reform.” Nor did the October 26th matchers. They called for the NSA to stop spying on Americans. Some of them called for the NSA to be closed.

    No one called for less than a 100% end to domestic surveillance.

    USA Today lied about the rally. So did the AP. As did MSNBC.

    They did it by redirecting a radical, revolutionary impulse into a moderate, reformist tendency.

    (read the rest)

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