Sunday, June 23, 2013
Branding your movement: Think outside the mask
In his early writings, Gene Sharp recommends creating a strong movement identity, and fortifying it with colors and symbols. What he doesn't address so much is how those symbols will contribute to a movement's diminution if they are chosen poorly. The Anonymous mask is just such a symbol.
It so perfect that many of the masks--based on the movie 'V' that made a fair bundle of profits for Warner Brothers--are sold to corporate-hating demonstrators whose purchase sends further profits to that corporation. It's even more perfect that those who wear the masks to foil the police and intelligence services and to thus avoid being arrested, identified, or targeted in any way, brand the movement as scary, violent, and terrorist, thus tending to reduce recruitment into the movement from amongst the mass ranks even as the movement thus attracts more adrenaline junkies who come to confront cops rather than address specific issues. It is refreshing to see some stirrings in Anonymous to fix some of this:
Fawkes meant to do in 1604, at age 34, in the 'Gunpowder Plot' that was unmasked, got Fawkes arrested, convicted, hanged, drawn, and quartered. Only in Hollywood, of course, do the infantile male fantasies like this succeed. There we get to see lots of explosions, clearly meant to provide a juvenile catharsis for impotent young male viewers. Those explosions don't produce severed limbs on innocent children in their fictionalized perfection, just a wondrous blast in the name of freedom. It's such great irony that Fawkes was just the gunpowder guy in the plot of a small group of Catholic terrorists who only really wanted to kill off the protestant king, with hopes of the unlikely ascension of the child, Princess Elizabeth, to the throne.
Yikes. This is the character upon which the Anonymous strand of many movements is based? Well, no wonder they love threaten and attack, even if only as hacktivists living in their teenboy virtual world. Anonymous populates the YouTube site with video threats that simplistically set up others as 100 percent evil and therefore as legitimate and doomed targets of Anonymous attack. They usually boast that they will defeat opponents, from Obama to the Tea Party to the bloody ruler of Turkey. Really? "We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us." The omniscient assurances of certain victory over any and all opponents might appeal to a 'man' stuck in his development at age 12, but that persona will not build mass resistance; it will undermine it.
It's just a wee bit surreal to watch and listen as hackivists hiding behind masks, never giving their names, call for transparency and condemn hypocrisy. Seriously?
The Prime Directive in movements, the filter through which every decision should be made, is, "How will this affect recruitment?" This is not always easy to answer, but it is massively important and should elicit the movement's most serious evaluative thinking. Masks and anonymity are a net loss to movement numbers and should be generally rejected, in the view of this activist analyst.