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Bradley Manning, Guy Fawkes, and the star chamber awaiting Julian Assange

You wonder what Elizabethan era failed coup plotter Guy Fawkes means to Anonymous. Their now iconic mask is actually an image under license from the film V FOR VENDETTA. The mask’s smirk connotes an elusive rabble-rouser and perhaps mocks Guy’s namesake bonfire holiday in Britain, meant to commemorate the burning of the would-be king-killer but ambiguously may also celebrate his near success. Anonymous wants to project an indomitable rebellious spirit, omniscient and untouchable, but Guy Fawkes most certainly met the death of revolutionaries immemorial.

If Fawkes had any reason to smirk it was because he was able to leap to his death to avoid the fate of his fellow conspirators, each hung until half dead, then castrated, disemboweled and dismembered while still conscious. Their torture was as much a punishment as a deterrent to anyone who would emulate their populist heroics. Today of course I think of the punitive treatment being meted to accused Wikileaker Bradley Manning, whose abuse would seem to be wholly unwarranted, considering he stands accused, not convicted, and for most of his detention, not even charged.

Guy Fawkes and his colleagues were found guilty by the Star Chamber, now the sinister pejorative for all subsequent secretive quasi-courts. It’s something akin to the Grand Jury mechanism being contrived to finagle the extradition of Julian Assange. Not to stop Wikileaks, but to bodily hurt Assange, have him drawn and quartered figuratively whatever, that the four corners of the kingdom bear the message, dare to defy authority and we’ll wipe that smirk off your face.

The Guy mask reminds me of the masks worn in the interrogation scenes of Terry Gilliam’s dystopian classic BRAZIL where the cherubic smiles masked unspeakably vile tortures.

Semantics aside, Bradley Manning must be freed, and Julian Assange protected. Why should our heroes be martyrs?

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