Okay, Venezuela: wait for it. Once they get their troops back from Iraq and Afghanistan, you’re about to face the oldest, most PTSD’d army on the face of the Earth.
Hero. Revolutionary. Soldier. Assassin. Loser.
Guy Fawkes? Or Christopher Jordan Dorner?
Mainstream media and the general public reacted with understandable consternation to the news that Anonymous, or at least parts of the famously fractious internet hive mind, adopted accused spree killer the now-late Christopher Dorner as a new icon, a rallying point if not a hero. Dorner, a former University football star, LAPD officer and Navy pilot, was on the run from the police and accused of killing three people when he died of a single, allegedly self-administered gunshot as police burned the cabin in which he was hiding to the ground. A million-dollar bounty had been put on his head, and in a contentious move the government authorized the use of drones to locate, if not assassinate, him, one of the first times drones have been used against American citizens on American soil.
“One man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist.”
Dorner’s fame stems not primarily from his actions, but rather from his powerful manifesto shared on Facebook in which he stated his intention to kill as many police officers as he could, in what he said was revenge for institutionalized racism among the LAPD and the way he himself was victimized. His first two claimed victims, however, were guilty of nothing more than being related to an officer who had drawn his ire. Meanwhile, the LAPD seemed like a more-malevolent Keystone Kops, having failed to located Dorner, mistaking two little old ladies for the so-called “Chocolate Rambo” and firing on them.
At first glance, Dorner seems little different from many another political revenge killer, from Andrew Kehoe to George Sodini: above average intelligence, good training, strong work ethic, and a powerful moral center. A man, in short, with every reason to expect success in life, who nonetheless tragically failed at the goal closest to his heart, and snapped as a result. For Dorner, it was a career as an LAPD officer.
For Guy Fawkes, it was bringing about a Catholic revolution in Protestant England by blowing up Parliament.
Unlikely icons for any movement, however splintered and self-contradictory, but it is their very failure which makes them eligible for the role.
“Guy Fawkes, as far as Anon is concerned was chosen because he failed. Fight Club is much closer to Anon’s culture. If people wonder whether Anon supports Dorner (no, just the LAPD meltdown) because of Guy Fawkes, G.F. was always a joke. What’s clear here: the subtext. Drones, fear, Erin Burnett the shark jumping drone hawk, this is like with Kony: war mind games, the whole lot of it. We cut thru dog and Kony show early on. Same here. Dorner is LAPD’s karma. Guy Fawkes a failure.”
Anonymous’ public “face” was once a faceless stick figure cartoon known as Epic Fail Guy, a self-deprecating identifier for 4chan members, a group which at the time largely saw itself as basement dwelling wankers. But awesome basement-dwelling wankers. Anonymous emerged from 4chan, essentially evolving into its internet pranking arm. Not long after his creation, Epic Fail Guy stumbled across a Guy Fawkes mask, put it on, and the rest is history. Truly: English history.
Once OpChanology, the in-person protests against Scientology, was initiated in 2008, Anons needed a way to identify themselves as Anons while hiding their faces, and facelessness of the shiny green morph suit (another 4chan/Anon favorite) was not accessible to many people. The Guy Fawkes mask was chosen because, thanks to the anarchist (originally anti-Thatcherite) movie V for Vendetta, it was both affordable and ubiquitous worldwide. Revolutionary echoes handed down from Fawkes himself added to its appeal, as long as you didn’t look at the history too closely; however, the semiotics of the mask were actually directed at Scientology, intended to brand it a failure. Fawkes, after all, had to replace his gunpowder stock when the first stash deteriorated, failed in his attempt to get Spain to invade England or support his revolution, failed at this ultimate attempt to take out Parliament, and at last succeeded in killing himself. Score one for the revolutionary.
Instead of registering as a symbol of “Fail,” the heroic/outsider aspects of the mask were taken to heart by the public at large (who had no knowledge of 4chan’s history) and ultimately by Anonymous itself, which is not immune to the warm fuzzies given to our cultural icons. It’s better to be a lost, noble cause than a basement-dwelling wanker, no?
Remember: Epic Fail Guy = failure. Guy Fawkes = failure. Christopher Dorner?
A colleague and friend of Dorner’s was interviewed on KPFA’s Hard Knock Radio, and claimed the benefit of small-A anonymity, calling himself “Ben.” When asked why, he said, “I have an interest in raising my children. Someone might have an animus against me for speaking the truth, and that’s what I don’t want to happen.” And that is what Chris Dorner was talking about.
A new Facebook manifesto, written by former LAPD officer Joe Jones, has surfaced, and echoes many of the accusations of racism and nepotism that Dorner made. Jones, however, repeatedly stresses that taking lives is not the answer, is never the answer, and is clearly not about to “go rogue.” Respect for the rule of law is currently unfashionable, and is insufficiently controversial to make Jones a renegade hero, however much courage was involved in speaking out with honor about dishonorable truths.
Was anyone, ever, willing to put money on Dorner’s achieving the goals of his manifesto? To eliminate institutional racism in the United States, to retroactively win his police hearing, to clear his name, and yet to simultaneously die while killing as many LAPD officers as he could? Would he ever have been embraced, even conditionally, if people truly believed that there were any chance of his ultimate success? People prefer dead (or obviously doomed) martyrs to live, inconvenient revolutionaries. They are easier to incorporate into political narratives. They are less likely to repudiate their earlier beliefs.
They are simply more convenient.
Christopher Dorner the man had already passed into legend long before his mountain hideout was surrounded and burned.
“Whatever pre-planned responses you have established for a scenario like me, shelve it. Whatever contingency plan you have, shelve it. Whatever tertiary plan you’ve created, shelve it. I am a walking exigent circumstance with no OFF or reset button.
The only thing that changes policy and garners attention is death.”
“The real story here is that methods of oppression by our corpos are now coming home. From PERF to drones, we. let. it. happen.”
But when it comes to what Hunter Thompson used to call the shitrain it’s always easier to watch a movie than to look in a mirror.
I’ve been procrastinating this for thirteen hours now, but I can no longer put it off. I have to write the obituary for a friend of mine, a great man, and a hero to millions.
Spencer Cox, founder of ActUp, and one of the key reasons an HIV diagnosis is no longer a death sentence, has died of pneumonia.
There is literally no way to explain the impact he had on people, including me. He was a righteous warrior who gave no quarter, not an inch, to those he felt were in the wrong. He was (rightfully) called the Dorothy Parker of HIV, and was a sensitive enough man to take that as a cue to be kinder, although he never shied away from dishing out what was due.
He was the kind of hero who, when asked about his participation in the documentary How to Survive a Plague, could say the following:
One of the visceral things the film brought back for me is the rage that is still almost as fresh as the days when I first discovered it. Footage of virulently homophobic North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms reminds me even today of how much I hate (present tense) this man. I found out he’d died a few years ago when a ‘porter called me to ask for a comment, and while usually I’d ask for fifteen or twenty minutes to compose my thoughts, on this particular occasion it came slipping out before even I knew what I was saying. “It’s too little, too late.” I wanted him to suffer, and I deeply regret that the last few years of his vicious life were spent deep in the fog of senile dementia, leaving not enough consciousness for genuine suffering. His colleagues, including New York’s John Cardinal O’Connor, Mayor Ed Koch, the Reverend Jerry Falwell, Patrick Buchanan, even the low-level Reagan press staffer who, in a transcript of an early White House daily briefing, is asked about AIDS, and reduces it to a smutty joke worthy of a quick chuckle. Karma be damned – I hate these men, and probably will until the day I die.
I met (“met”) Spencer in the comments section of Gawker, which was, for a time, the Algonquin Round Table of the 21st Century. That was some time, and a whole comment model, ago, but back in the day genius could make itself felt, and Spencer‘s always was. He didn’t throw his weight around: hell, in a pseudonymous world, none of us knew who he really was. We respected him because he was visibly wise, visibly kind, visibly passionate, and visibly a marvellous human being. He was also funny as hell.
He would get a kick out of the fact it took me two double Martinis and thirteen hours to bring myself to write this.
Eventually we became Facebook friends, and he read my blog from time to time. I’ll never forget the counsel he gave me about Occupy. “Make sure to have fun,” he said. “Don’t trust a movement that has no room for fun,” remarks he expanded on in his column in POZ.
If I have one piece of advice for young, aspiring activists, it is to always hold on to the joy, always make it fun. If you lose that, you have lost the whole battle.
And now, if you’ve never met Spencer Cox, allow me to introduce him.
This is what you call a Storify, and I’m not at all sure it will embed in a WordPress.com blog, even with all my tricks, so bear with me if I’m constantly editing this mofo.
Long story short: Heather Marsh, head of The Global Square, who is one of the most brilliant people I’ve ever met in my life, has come up with a possible link between the US pressure on the UK to invade the Ecuadorian Embassy and the economic interests of American oil companies in Latin America, including a possible debt for votes swap.
Okay, now that I’ve posted it I see it’s ugly as hell. I encourage you to read it on the Storify Site, where you can get an embed code to put it on your own blog, as long as it’s not a WordPress.com blog.
Being the smart, well-informed engaged citizens that readers of the ol’ raincoaster blog tend to be, you’ll no doubt be aware that at literally any moment Julian Assange’s fate is to be decided. The Supreme Court of the UK will either send him to Sweden (which will presumably roll over obediently and hand him over to the US for a lifetime of confinement and probable torture) or they will set him free after more than a year under house arrest. For review: he has not been charged with a crime in any country, although the US has a Grand Jury inquiry ongoing that leaks like a sieve. If it doesn’t, how’d I find out about it? I’ve got better things to do than hang around streetcorners in Alexandria, Virginia.
Above is a poster from the Australian branch of Friends of Wikileaks. If you’re at all inclined to support WL, go ahead and sign up for this interesting new activist network, but expect it to be significantly more IRL than most. Below, I’m posting a link to Christine Assange‘s 60 (yes, 60) talking points, as well as the full text of a letter to British MP’s Nick Clegg and Teresa May. Initially I said those letters wouldn’t have an effect, but I stand corrected; as the author reminded me, things are indeed different now. Politicians may be no less self-interested than ever, but their self-interest now lies in listening to the Will of the People; they can hear the tumbrils approaching.
Christine Assange’s 60 Talking Points: a sample:
Christine Assange, mother of WikiLeaks founder and Editor-in-Chief Julian Assange, has spent many long months reaching out to supporters and urging them to contact their local political representatives. Recognising that many politicians do not even know the true story behind WikiLeaks and her son’s legal battles, she asks supporters to give them the facts as well as requesting their assistance.
Christine today used her Twitter account and the #fact4mp hashtag to post 60 important talking points for supporters to disseminate:
1. Wikileaks and Assange have not been charged with any crime in any country in the world. See http://justice4assange.com
2. WikiLeaks and Assange have been recognized for quality investigative journalism with many prestigious awards. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julian_Assange
3. WikiLeaks has a perfect record regarding information reliability. No government has denied the authenticity of any documents.
4. WikiLeaks redacts its documents, so to date not one person has been physically harmed by its publications.
5. WikiLeaks exposes government and corporate corruption, fraud, shady deals, war crimes, torture, and kidnapping. It is in the public interest to know these things.
6. WikiLeaks partnered with The Guardian, New York Times, Der Spiegal, Le Monde, and El Pais to publish Cablegate. Why target only WikiLeaks?
7. WikiLeaks acts in accordance with traditional journalism. It publishes information given by various sources.
8. WikiLeaks acts like traditional media but protects its sources with a secure anonymous Drop Box.
9. WikiLeaks is a legal, legitimate, online news publisher, recognized as such by other journalist organizations worldwide.
10. WikiLeaks is a non-profit independent publisher funded by donations from ordinary citizens from around the world.
You can view the whole list by clicking on the link above.
If you’d like to poster or protest outside your friendly neighborhood Australian embassy for their abandonment of a citizen abroad, here is a handy-dandy roundup thereof, worldwide.
If you’d like to do it anonymously, we’ve already featured some instructions on making an Anonymous mask, but here is a great roundup of more, complete with security features eg telling you to wear gloves when sculpting clay, so you don’t leave fingerprints.
There is an Avaaz petition up to support Julian and tell Australian politicians that they have a duty to their citizens abroad. A duty they have noticeably not performed in this case.
and now, the Letter to MPs: