During the recent 2010 campaign in Montana, the ultra-right-wing legislative candidate Derek Skees and his gang were accused of extremism because they appeared at Tea Party rallies wearing masks of Guy Fawkes. Fawkes, you will recall, was an English revolutionary and terrorist who tried to blow up the British parliament.
It wasn’t just Skees. The Fawkes fad was a nationwide phenomenon among the far-right, and even the Republican party got into the action. The Republican Governor’s Association, in its fundraising material, featured Fawkes-mask wearers, like in this scary video named “Remember November” by the RGA, the title being a dual reference to election day and to the November 1605 plot by Fawkes to assassinate every member of Parliament. Throughout 2010, Fawkes masks were popping up around the right-wing circuit, on Youtube, and at Tea Party rallies. Time Magazine ran a brief snippet on the whole Fawkes business, but that was about it as far as media coverage.
When confronted about this apparent endorsement of anti-government violence (which is a sensitive subject in the Flathead, where some militia members reside in the deep countryside), Skees brushed off the criticism and provided a clever answer: he and his right-wing pals who pay homage to Fawkes are not extremists, and don’t condone revolutionary upheaval such as Fawkes practiced. Rather, they are just big fans of the movie “V for Vendetta,” in which the protagonist freedom-fighter wears a Fawkes mask himself (and blows things and people up, but as a good guy).
So what shall we make, then, of the deranged and angry gunman who walked into a school board meeting in Panama City, Florida, spray painted a giant red V with a circle around it (the logo for the movie) on the wall, ranted briefly about taxes and his wife losing her job, and then opened fire on the school board members? Police later found hard-core anti-government propaganda at the gunman’s house, and also discovered that his entire Facebook page was devoted to “V for Vendetta”.
In the immediate reporting after the shooting, virtually no major news sites made the connection between the Movie, the Masks, the Right Wing and the shooter, but it is very real.
Time and again, whether at abortion clinics or in Oklahoma City or now at a school board meeting, we see the end results of the right-wing’s number one reason for existence: make ignorant, simple people as enraged at the government as possible.
Of course, when someone acts violently out of his anti-government fever as this man did, and a liberal blogger makes the claim that the Right Wing’s constant efforts at incitement are partially to blame, conservatives will promptly declare outrage not at the shooter, but at the Left.