Ironically, as Guy Fawkes' central place in English custom has started to wane (few bonfires these days bother to include his effigy) his image has become a worldwide icon of rebellion against the state - primarily through the activities of 'Anonymous'
The movement can, to an outsider, appear inchoate - a freewheeling mix of political idealists and self-styled 'hacktivists' who seem to stand outside mainstream political debate. If anything can be said to characterise the movement, it is an all-encompassing belief that individual liberties are being systematically dismantled by collusion between business, media and the state. For some, this seems to be rooted in the classical socialist belief in class interests overriding the needs of the poor. At the opposite end of the spectrum lie those who believe that socialism itself overrides the liberties of the individual by subsuming them to the whims of the state.
Regardless of these disparate aims, there is an overarching belief that the political system and the media that is supposed to hold that system to account have been "captured" by vested interests. In some ways, this veers close to the kind of all-encompassing conspiracy theory that informs Bilderberg theorists, but actually represents something perhaps more profound: a statement that a person is not beholden to any organisation, system or clan other than themselves. As such, the mask's power to defy surveillance takes on real significance for those who believe that the extension of surveillance is itself abhorrent.
The use of the stylised Guy Fawkes mask originates in Alan Moore's seminal 1982 graphic novel V for Vendetta. The central character of the novel - known only as 'V' wears the Guy Fawkes mask to protect his identity from the all-pervading surveillance state which acts as the setting for the story. Like Fawkes, his ultimate goal is the destruction of the existing state - and the storyline includes him destroying a number of landmarks including the Houses of Parliament and the Post Office Tower.
The iconic drawing of V's mask was carried on into the 2006 adaptation of the book which carried the iconography to a far wider audience. Taking their cue from ending the film, the Anonymous movement has adopted the wearing of masks in public at organised events to protect their identities. On the internet, the mask has become an instantly recognisable symbol and is often used as an avatar for those wishing, for whatever reason, to protect their true identity.
"The Million Mask March"
The most iconic image from the film is perhaps the moment when a huge crowd gathers in London - everyone of whom is wearing the same stylised mask. In an attempt to recreate this moment in real life, the Million Mask March arose. Although the movement is quick to proclaim that there is no central organising body or 'leader' in any traditional sense, a website and various Facebook groups have been created to publicise the movement and its events - with, of course, the inevitable Twitter hashtag.
Fittingly, the date chosen for the Million Mask March is the 5th of November - previously a parochial celebration in Britain but now a resonant date for the worldwide movement which has adopted Guy Fawkes' image as its own.
'Official' Website All who claim anyone is in charge of Million Mask March knows little of Anonymous.
There is no official site, and nobody is in charge: it’s a movement, not an organization. [millionmaskmarch.org]