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.