#MillionMaskMarch, Global Civil Disobedience, and a Crowd-Source Democracy

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. Twitter hashtag #MillionMaskMarch became the banner that united people across borders. From saying no! to Monsanto’s GM foods to calling for an end to the global mass surveillance by the National Security Agency, this legion goes beyond political and ideological allegiance 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 their 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.

A 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 balance 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 Whistle-blowers, and a new prevalent culture of transparency”, Housh recognized this growth of a peer-to-peer network of legitimate insurgency empowered through the internet.

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. He addressed the dangerous trend of 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 government 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 actually now the largest and most egregious hacker organization in the world. Reports from the NSA 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. 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.

While ignoring their 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 Nov 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 recently prosecuted. It was a sit-in, an act of civil disobedience in the digital age. The government says they all broke the law, but all these dissenters did was to call attention to the larger crimes of government and 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 in August. They said he was suspected of involvement in ‘terrorism’ 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.

On November 5th, Guy Fawkes masks popped up around the world. When the rule of law breaks down and the political, economic and social systems become deeply exploitative and unjust, it is a sign that the global political system itself is beyond repair. Perhaps, these spontaneous waves of crowd-source activism are simply a manifestation of a new global civil disobedience.

Last time we saw such a global outburst of civil defiance was the onset of the Occupy Movement that 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 DC, a participant standing next to the White House expressed his indignation regarding the government response to the financial crisis and bank bailouts that rewarded those that defrauded billions from US citizens. It is clear that the people 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 idea is still alive. Anonymous is not so much a group as it is an idea. It has been around for years and shows no signs of fading. Crowd-sourced action is everywhere. While the true value of the dollar is spiraling into the abyss, Bitcoin, the global digital currency is thriving. Bitcoin is an Anonymous-like movement of crowd-sourced defiance to the international banking cartel. No one can arrest an idea whose time has come and no one can stop this crowd-sourced civil disobedience.

In London’s Trafalgar Square, there was a familiar face among the crowd. Comedian and actor Russel Brand recently gained a viral global spotlight for his passionate, open call for revolution. In his interview with Jeremy Paxman of the BBC, he spoke about the reasons he has never voted, expressing his total disaffection with the failed political system. Brand was spotted 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.’

— Poet Percy Bysshe Shelley in “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 true global civil force. By wearing masks, people are remembering their own power and enlivening the ideas in the heart that can never be vanquished. The future of democracy is crowd-sourced and organized through peer-to-peer direct action. This movement is an antidote to corporatocracy and global civil disobedience is just the beginning.

You can view images from #MillionMaskMarch here.

Dr. Nozomi Hayase is a former WL Central contributing writer who has been covering issues of freedom of speech, transparency and decentralized movement. Her work is featured in many publications. She can be reached at: nozomimagination@gmail.com. Read other articles by Nozomi.