#MillionMaskMarch: towards a crowdsourced democracy

  • November 6, 2013

People & Protest

The global day of action staged by Anonymous is a testament to the growing strength of peer-to-peer direct action. And it is only just the beginning.

Remember, remember the 5th of November! On Tuesday, November 5th, protesters wearing Guy Fawkes masks gathered all around the world to rally in over 400 cities. The Twitter hashtag #MillionMaskMarch became the banner that united people across borders. From saying no! to Monsanto’s genetically modified foods to calling for an end to the global mass surveillance by the National Security Agency, this legion goes beyond narrow political and ideological allegiances to call out government and corporate corruption.

Guy Fawkes masks were everywhere: on the streets of Barcelona, Istanbul, Wukan, London, Milan, Amsterdam, Budapest, Beirut, Prague and Tokyo, this growing movement seized the day and staged decentralized spontaneous demonstrations both online and in the streets.

While following this global event, Professor Gabriella Coleman tweeted: “Anonymous is unpredictable at root … Which is why #MillionMaskMarch is taking people by surprise”. “Behind this mask there is more than flesh. Beneath this mask there is an idea, and ideas are bulletproof”. This line from the film V for Vendetta has become the Anonymous motto. In past years, this loosely knit international network of activists took on the Church of Scientology, rallied in support of whistleblowing site WikiLeaks, anti-dictatorship protesters in the Middle East and the Occupy Movement.

real-time map was uploaded that showed all the locations in which masked citizens were coming out in droves around the world. @YourAnonNews summed up the gist that guides the hive: “#Anonymous is the universal theory, the idea that connects us all. #MMM #MillionMaskMarch.” Behind the masks of open defiance against a system run amok, a commonly shared idea is embodied: that this system is inherently corrupt and it is time to start anew. People simply won’t take it anymore and are stepping in to address and transform the decay of political representation that has been steadily infiltrated by unchecked corporate greed on a global scale.

In his recent article, The Vacuum That Created Anonymous, Wikileaks, and the Whistleblower Explosion, activist Gregg Housh pointed to the system of checks and balances implemented in the founding of the United States. He described the separation of powers into three branches of government, with the press as the unofficial fourth branch, usually identified with the term “the Fourth Estate”. He noted how the decline of true investigative journalism and the failure of the press in holding the government accountable has created a vacuum. “That void grew for years, and finally when we could stand it no more it got filled … by Anonymous, Wikileaks, new whistleblowers, and a new prevalent culture of transparency.”

In an interview with Russia Today, Housh spoke of this global protest movement as a way to get more people active and awake. When the host pointed out how Anonymous is notorious for their ‘hacktivism’ and asked whether this might actually alienate people, Housh emphasized the distinction between what is right and what is legal: “What is right and what is wrong is not exactly in line with what is legal and what is illegal.”

In late October, a statement from Edward Snowden was read at the “Stop Watching Us” rally against mass surveillance in Washington, D.C. Snowden addressed the dangerous trend towards the government subverting the rule of law:

“We are told that what is unconstitutional is not illegal, but we will not be fooled. We have not forgotten that the Fourth Amendment in our Bill of Rights prohibits government not only from searching our personal effects without a warrant but from seizing them in the first place.”

Another NSA whistleblower, Thomas Andrews Drake talked about the government’s use of secret law and interpretations of law, noting how in this way “the US has abandoned the rule of law” itself and “unchained itself from its very own Constitution — the mechanism by which we govern ourselves.”

After Snowden’s revelations, no one can deny that the US is now actually the largest and most egregious hacker organization in the world. Reports from the NSA’s secret files show how they tapped into Yahoo’s and Google’s cloud networks and targeted civilian infrastructure in Hong Kong and mainland networks such as universities, public officials, businesses and students. They have also hacked Mexican and Brazilian government emails as well as countless other governments’ communications for years, including the cell phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. These revelations show how far the overarching power of this empirical national security state has gone, as well as the hypocrisy of the US government for going after Anonymous.

Ignoring its own criminality, the Obama administration has aggressively prosecuted courageous whistleblowers. After revealing US war crimes, Chelsea Manning recently began serving a 35-year sentence. Snowden has been charged with espionage and exiled from his own country. Chicago-based activist Jeremy Hammond has been in jail for more than a year and his sentencing commences on November 15th at Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York, where he may receive up to a 10 year sentence.

The ‘PayPal 14’ who engaged in the 2010 PayPal DDoS (distributed denial of service) over the banking blockade of WikiLeaks were also recently prosecuted. It was a sit-in, an act of civil disobedience in the digital age. The government claims they broke the law, but all these dissenters did was to call attention to the larger crimes of the government and the corporate abuse of power.

British authorities recently accused of Glenn Greenwald’s partner of participating in espionage when he passed through a London airport carrying documents from the former NSA contractor back in August. They said he was suspected of involvement in “terrorism” and was potentially to act against UK national security. It appears that the US and its allies have now redefined terrorism to include acts of journalism. The world appears to be swiftly moving toward tyranny with a burgeoning global police state.

And so, on November 5th, Guy Fawkes masks popped up around the world. When the rule of law breaks down and the political, economic and social system becomes deeply exploitative and unjust, it is a sign that the present world order itself is beyond repair. Perhaps these spontaneous waves of crowdsource activism are simply a manifestation of a new global civil disobedience.

The last time we saw such a global outburst of civil defiance was the onset of the Occupy Movement, which resonated around the world. As the occupiers reclaimed public space by pitching tents and creating communal zones, protesters were arrested and met with a massive physical police crackdown. The movement was eventually worn down, yet the legacy of the 99% lives on.

At one of the biggest #MillionMaskMarch rallies in Washington D.C., a participant standing next to the White House expressed his indignation at the government’s response to the financial crisis, in particular the bank bailouts that rewarded those that defrauded billions from US citizens. It is clear that citizens are not going to accept the rising inequality and corporate power that Occupy exposed in 2011. More and more people are becoming aware of this extractive economy and corrupt political system. The NSA extracts everything in secret, sucking all communication and personal data. Banks in collusion with governments are out of control with predatory practices and de facto debt slavery.

Occupy in its original form might be gone, but the ideas for which it stood are still very alive. In its own way, Anonymous is not so much a group as an idea. It has been around for years and shows no signs of fading. Crowdsourced action is everywhere. While the true value of the dollar is spiraling into the abyss, Bitcoin, the global digital currency is thriving. Bitcoin is a decentralized movement of crowdsourced defiance to the international banking cartel. No one can arrest an idea whose time has come — and no one seems capable of stoping this crowdsourced civil disobedience.

In London’s Trafalgar Square, there was a familiar face among the crowd. Comedian and actor Russel Brand recently gained a place in the global spotlight after his passionate call for revolution went viral online. In his interview with Jeremy Paxman of the BBC, Brand spoke about the reasons why he has never voted, expressing his total disaffection with the failed political system. Now, Brand was spotted in London wearing a Guy Fawkes mask and joining the march. His message resonated with many around the world and was loud and clear: electoral politics are dead and are not coming back. We cannot vote our way out of this mess.

Rise like Lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number —
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you —
Ye are many — they are few.

Percy Bysshe Shelley, The Mask of Anarchy

The 5th of November is a day of celebration — of shared ideals and solidarity. The #MillionMaskMarch marks the rise of a truly global social force. By wearing masks, participants remember their own power and enliven the ideas in the heart that can never be vanquished. The future of democracy is crowdsourced and organized through peer-to-peer direct action. This movement is an antidote to corporatocracy and a paragon of global civil disobedience. And it is only just the beginning.

Nozomi Hayase

Nozomi Hayase is a writer who has been covering issues of freedom of speech, transparency and decentralized movements.

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Source URL — https://roarmag.org/essays/million-mask-march-anonymous/

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