Monday, 12 March 2012

Becoming Anonymous must be a fundamental right in a free society

Becoming anonymous is a powerful tool for anyone trying to change anything in society. It comes with some pretty major advantages: the sublimation of ego gives a certain purity to any protester's message - it also helps activists not to get caught if they end up doing anything illegal.

But it also has its down sides: principally that your anonymous identity can be tarnished by anyone at all (we saw an example of that just yesterday, when it emerged that a hacker claiming to represent ther uniquitous 'Anonymous' group was working alongside anti-abortion campaigners here in Brighton.

The 'Anonymous' group - such it has any consistent identity at all, is more usually identified with action against Governments and banks than health services. I think it's pretty unlikely that the group - such that it is a group at all - would be involved in a pro-life campaign in the first place. But hey, that's one of Anonymous's great strengths, really, that you just can't tell who's doing what.

That's why repressive regimes around the world - and the police here in the UK - have tried so hard to outlaw the wearing of masks, balaclavas or anything which grants anonymity to protesters, demonstrators or anyone opposed to existing power hierarchies.

None of us asked to be born into a particular society - that's just one of those accidents of fate that befall us all during the crazy journey we call life - so it does seem pretty fundamental that we should have the right to act anonymously.

Anyway, I'm only writing this as an excuse to share this brilliant photo, which shows Green MEPs wearing 'Anonymous' masks during a recent debate at the European Parliament on some pretty nasty proposals to change copyright law across the EU.

And to talk up one of my favourite book/film combos, V for Vendetta, which includes a glorious scene in which tens of thousands of ordinary citizens, protected by the anonymity of wearing identical Guy Fawkes masks, descend on the House of Commons and manage to topple a brutal Tory dictatorship in a UK of the near future, and one of the best lines of political philosophy ever:

"People shouldn't be afraid of their Governments. Governments should be afraid of their people."

Here's a clip. I don't pretend to own the copyright. If anyone who does wishes me to take it down, just get in touch and I will. I've no wish to go to prison or have my life destroyed or anything for violating intellectual property laws.

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