Guy Fawkes is perhaps the strangest day on the British holiday calendar: every 5th of November us Brits head out in the rain and the cold, light bonfires and set off fireworks, all to celebrate that some guy failed to blow up Parliament with gunpowder in 1605. Yet perhaps the most random twist in the tail is that in recent years Guy Fawkes Night has been taken over by the online activist group, Anonymous. Since 2013 Anonymous have been changing the meaning of the 5th of November and rewriting the myth of Guy Fawkes himself. Who are Anonymous? What do they have to do with Guy Fawkes? And what is the story behind that mask?
(Don't forget to read until the end, a special treat awaits ZenMate UK Users)
Who are Anonymous?
Anonymous began as a small online community of people on the website 4chan who worked together to pull off pranks on the internet, largely for their personal entertainment. Anonymous then entered the mainstream consciousness in 2008 when they targeted the Church of Scientology. From that point onwards they have been associated with online hacktivism and more politicised aims.
In recent years Anonymous members have protested and taken direct online action against many national governments, including the US and Israel. They have also targeted such diverse organisations as ISIS, the Westboro Baptist Church and Paypal. Anonymous began as and remains still, a decentralised network of people who work anonymously on the web to achieve collective aims.
What's Guy Fawkes got to do with it?
Guy Fawkes first became linked with Anonymous back in 2008 when protesters were encouraged to wear a Guy Fawkes mask to hide their faces during public protests against the Church of Scientology. The inspiration for this came from the comic book turned movie 'V for Vendetta', which centers around a vigilante's efforts to destroy the authoritarian government in a dystopian future Great Britain.
However, what started as a way to avoid being identified soon took on symbolic significance for members of Anonymous. Today the character of Guy Fawkes has become widely adopted by the organisation as they protest against groups in power. Therefore, the once despised historical figure who we have burned on bonfires every November for centuries, is being celebrated as an anti-establishment hero by many online activists.
What is the 'Million Masks March'?
As the figure of Guy Fawkes gained symbolic importance for Anonymous, it only made sense that the organisation stage an event on the 5th of November. Thus on November 5th 2013, Anonymous created the 'Million Mask March' by asking members to organise themselves to protest in cities all over the world. The protest has taken place every year since and while the biggest events remain to be in London and Washington D.C., in 2015 the protest spanned 650 cities worldwide.
In general, Anonymous calls for Million Masks March participants to protest against abuses of power, corruption and the erosion of civil liberties in both the real and online world. This year, Anonymous ask on their blog that protestors speak out against 'mass government surveillance, internet censorship, and the corrupt politicians who put capitalism before the people.' Of course the majority of Anonymous members will be adorning their Guy Fawkes mask for the event, creating a whole new meaning for Guy Fawkes night in our modern collective British memory.
Why should I care?
As the year of Brexit, 2016 has been a turbulent time in British politics and has left many people despairing about the direction the country is heading in. Anonymous UK members will be making a big scene in the capital this Saturday as they fight to have their voices heard. One thing in particular that Anonymous will be campaigning against is Theresa May's 'Snooper's Charter', a bill which experts are saying legitimises mass spying in the UK and Edward Snowden has labelled ‘the most intrusive and least accountable surveillance regime in the West.' To learn more about the bill you can read 'What is the Snooper's Charter and Why Should I Care?'
As spying online continues to intensify, it is commendable that Anonymous members are organising themselves to bring attention to the erosion of privacy in our modern world. So while you're out enjoying the fireworks this Saturday, don't forget there's more than one meaning to the 5th of November now.
To show solidarity with those who are protesting against the destruction of privacy online, ZenMate is offering a special deal to our users within the UK. For the next week only, new users can get their first month of ZenMate Premium for only 6p, before recurring at the regular price. To claim this offer click here and make sure to use the discount code 'GUY-FAWKES'.