A protestor adorned in a Guy Fawkes mask, outside the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (Courtesy of CNBC)

With the Occupy movement gaining steam in polls, and coverage, it is coming under an increasing amount of critical scrutiny from Fox News (and a lack of scrutiny from CNN), and certain bloggers, like Brendan O’Neill in The Telegraph, who claim that “Occupy Wall Street is a fashion show masquerading as a political movement”, media organizations are trying to find new and interesting angles to the narrative.

Recently, the New York Times’ Fashion Section, much to the chagrin of O’Neill, released a few pieces, including a slideshow, on the fashion (of a select few) of the protestors. A couple of protestors, such as students from (traditionally “arty” schools like) the New School and NYU, talked about their garb, and he concluded that the main population of the movement, consisted of dunderheaded boobs.

Despite his clearly biased position, which focuses on anecdotal (as opposed to quantitative) evidence, to generalize about the majority, he does bring up an interesting notion. Has the movement become a fashion show (a mask-querade), that has eclipsed and co-opted the political movement?

A Guy Fawkes effigy being burned (Courtesy of Mydisguises)

It is hard to judge, based (solely) on one soft news item. I think, however, that if O’Neill were to focus on another piece in the Times’ Fashion section, he would have found a spark of intellectualism, or, at least, political symbolism, elsewhere in movement.

An article entitled “Guy Fawkes Gets a Last Laugh, 500 Years Later“, the Times give coverage to another (more sinister) adornment to the movement: the seemingly ubiquitous Guy Fawkes mask.

The masks, a pale face with rosy cheeks, two eyebrows arching downward, a black pencil mustache and goatee, serve as a reference to Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta series, where an anarchistic vigilante named “V” dons the mask, while conspiring to overthrow a totalitarian government. Wearing the mask, aligns oneself as sympathetic towards anti-government sentiment, even through Guy Fawkes, an English folk hero, is a sort of a muse in popular culture (Fawkes’ treasonous plot, was one of the inspirations for Macbeth1). For instance, every November 5, Britons burn an effigy on Guy Fawkes Night, a rough equivalent to Halloween.

All this says is, that the media (see CNN’s coverage above) is treating Occupy Wall Street like Halloween, i.e., not seriously (at least so far). It’s not like there is a lack of support from intellectuals. Dr. Cornel West, noted civil rights activist and Princeton professor, was arrested in at an Occupy protest in New York, just days after being arrested at an Occupy Supreme Court protest in Washington, D.C. Columbia University economist professor Jeffery Sachs was at the Occupy movement, lending his expertise and support to the movement, as seen here, in his discussion with media members. Julian Assange, Wikileaks apparatchik, showed up at the Occupy London protests wearing, you guessed it, the Guy Fawkes mask, and later addressed the protestors.

Julian Assange, right, being detained by police (Courtesy of Sociable.co)

So with the movement gaining momentum, (and with Halloween going) media outlets might have to turn over a new leaf, in their coverage. Of course, the goal of the protest isn’t, necessarily, to change the media outlook. However, since their message is filtered through media to the general population, the media does play a role in the movement. Possibly, with an increasing public awareness of the Occupy movement, perhaps the coverage from traditional media coverage will change, to reflect public sentiment. It wouldn’t be an easy victory, but it would be a start. As Macbeth said, “there would have been a time for such a word. To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow.”

Alan Moore's foray into commercialism (Courtesy of Comicvine)

William Shakespeare’s Macbeth was filled with literary allusions to the event. Take, for instance, when Lady Macbeth implores Macbeth, “Look like th’ innocent flower, but be the serpent under’t” (Macbeth 1.5.65-66). Back in 1605, when Guy Fawkes and his cohorts attempted to blow up Parliament, King James I crafted a medal with a serpent, to commemorate the failed attempt.

And according to Shakespeare Online,

“Even more significant is an obvious allusion to a Jesuit priest named Father Henry Garnet, who had concealed his knowledge of the conspiracy. When Father Garnet finally confessed, he insisted that his previous perjury was not really perjury because he lied for God’s sake. For this bit of spin doctoring he became known as the great “equivocator” and was promptly hanged. Sure enough, in Act 3, when Macbeth’s Porter wonders what kind of people would enter the gates of hell, he declares:

‘Faith, here’s an equivocator, that could swear in both the scales against either scale; who committed treason enough for God’s sake, yet could not equivocate to heaven. O, come in, equivocator’. (3.2.9-12).”

Who watches the watchmen? (Courtesy of the New York Times)

Courtesy of the New York Times

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