Remember, Remember: Guy Fawkes, V for Vendetta, and Anonymous

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Tomorrow is Guy Fawkes Day, a British holiday which commemorates the foiling in 1605 of an anti-royalist conspiracy to blow up the House of Lords. Traditionally, it was celebrated with bonfires and burning effigies of the treasonous Fawkes. It’s ironic that the image of this historical villain has been transformed into a heroic symbol of anarchism and the liberty movement.

This is because in V for Vendetta, the graphic novel by Alan Moore and David Lloyd, the anti-government protagonist wears a Fawkes mask to hide his identity. This work and its popular movie adaptation led the hacker group “Anonymous” to adopt the Fawkes mask as its symbol. In a case of life imitating art, they have staged protests with masked members, just like in the movie. This brings up the question of extralegal political action. When is it justified and in what fashion?

On one end of the spectrum, we have violence against people, including political assassination. While this may be justified in the case of a Hitler or Stalin, it is almost always counter-productive. As the Who put it, the “new boss” will be “same as the old boss.” Terroristic and retaliatory violence is similarly flawed. If an organization is willing to sacrifice innocents in order to gain power, how will it behave after the battle is won? If we expect them to change, we will surely be disappointed.

At the other end are peaceful protests, including the non-violent civil disobedience advocated by Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. Such tactics are more likely to achieve lasting change, but they may require members of the movement to sacrifice their freedom or even their lives. Furthermore, nonviolence is less effective against authoritarian governments, which is why Iran’s “Green Movement” did not achieve its goals.

In the middle, we have destructive but non-violent action, such as sabotage, computer hacking, and release of secrets. This may be the only option when peaceful and legal channels are blocked. In the US, the release of state documents by Wikileaks has done tremendous good in revealing the machinations of the power elite. Cyber-attacks against institutions that kill innocents and violate our privacy, such as the CIA and NSA, would also be morally justified. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that hackers could win those battles. This is why the rebels have focused on easier targets such as corrupt politicians and thieving bankers.

I believe that extralegal action is sometimes necessary, even in a “free country” such as ours, because democratic systems are prone to capture and manipulation by the rich and powerful. Those who participate in such actions must be aware of the risk. Consider, for example, the steep price Chelsea Manning is paying for blowing the whistle on US atrocities in Iraq. Violent actions, such as Fawkes’ “Gunpowder Plot” are not just wrong, they are damaging to any positive goals one might have.

If you’re a “V for Vendetta” fan, you’ll love my books. Check them out on Amazon.

Image is from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anonymous_%28group%29

Man Up, Mr. Obama

Mr President, everybody is talking about your address to West Point graduates. Republicans and other neoconservatives are upset because you showed an insufficient degree of blood lust. Anti-interventionists like myself are upset because you persist in keeping America in its role of global policeman. I’m aware that you Democrats seem to have a psychological need to prove you’re as “tough” or more so than the Republicans. But why? Let me humbly offer a suggestion. You can be much tougher by doing a 180 degree turn and, in the manner of statesmen from George Washington to Robert Taft to Ron Paul, renounce foreign entanglements completely.

This is, after all, one of the main reasons the American people elected you in 2008, because we were already weary of George W Bush’s constant war-making and intrusions on our civil liberties. Not only that, but you promised us “one of the most transparent administrations ever.”

Here are my top 10 suggestions:

1. End all US military operations in the Islamic world, including support of rebels in Syria and the deployment of “advisers” in Afghanistan, thus removing a major motivation for terrorism.

2. Announce an end to the use of weaponized drones, with a pledge to never again to deploy them absent a Congressional declaration of war.

3. Issue sweeping restrictions on NSA spying, as required by the Bill of Rights.

4. Close Guantanamo – not just the prison, but the entire naval base, and hand it back to Cuba, as part of an unconditional normalization of relations with that country. Release all prisoners against whom the US has no evidence, which, according to terrorism experts, would be all but a handful.

5. Announce your intention to veto any extension of the USA PATRIOT Act or the NDAA.

6. Normalize relations with Iran, and end sanctions immediately in return for thorough and frequent inspections of nuclear facilities.

7. Issue executive pardons for Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden, and James Risen. Terminate any ongoing prosecutions of government whistle blowers.

8. End all US aid to and special bilateral agreements with the apartheid regime in Israel. Prohibit all US arms sales until illegal settlers are removed from Palestinian land. Alternatively, all Arabs, including those in the occupied territories and refugees living abroad, should be granted full rights and equal status with Jewish citizens.

9. Abandon the “Pivot to Asia.” Support negotiations between China and its neighbors to fairly divide claims to the Senkaku Islands and mineral rights in the South China sea.

10. End all sanctions against Russia and invite them to talks between the Kiev government and rebels in Donetsk and other Russian speaking areas. Support the notion of Ukraine as a neutral, decentralized buffer state with good relations with both Russia and the EU. Recognize the annexation of Crimea as consistent with Russia’s historic claims to the region.

Contrary to the assertions of the corporate-owned media, all of these actions would have substantial public support, some of them overwhelming majorities. I assure you that if you take even one of these actions, everyone, including Republicans, will have to admit you have the cojones. Furthermore, the United States would no longer be seen as the bully of the world, but would once again be “the shining light on the hill.”

Proud to Be an Amurrican

In honor of Independence Day, and inspired by Lee Greenwood’s famous song, I’ve written a new patriotic ballad with lyrics appropriate for 2013.

If tomorrow I lost my car and cash in a random traffic stop

And I found myself in prison ’cause I talked back to the cop

Well I wouldn’t dare get angry; I’d have no cause for alarm

Cause the flag means domination, and it’s keeping us from harm

 

Well, I’m proud to be a corporate slave. I’m so happy on my knees

And I’d like to thank the ones who died to make profits for GE

Yes I’d lay my life down so Israel can annex more land today

Cause we’re fighting for democracy and the oil we need to play.

 

From the data mines in Utah to the groping TSA

To the heroes fighting Hadjis in some godforsaken waste

To the clerks who read my emails, so I know that I’ll be safe

Let’s go kill those brown-skinned foreigners

Who all hate us ’cause we’re great!

 

Oh I’m proud to drink the Kool-Aid, and believe what Rush tells me.

I’m so glad Chuck Schumer drops the boom on all who dare to leave

And I’ll meekly shelter inside my home when the mayor tells me to stay

‘Cause they know me better than my mom: God bless the NSA!

 

Copyright 2013 by Vaughn Treude

Permission to republish is hereby granted provided that proper attribution is given.