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.
Okay, 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.
In 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?
Some 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:
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.