Comics and the Alt-Right: A Response to "Kill All Normies"

Part 1: I Should Think of No Reason

I wasn't expecting my first response to Kill All Normies to be this sort-of dimensionalization of a rather minor point, but I think it's culturally fruitful to understand the context by which comics have influenced the contingent she's describing in the first chapter.

Nagle specifically refers to the utilization of the Guy Fawkes mask by Anon as an iconographical referent. There are a few aspects to this, and I suppose it's best to give as much context as possible first. The mask itself is a traditional adornment of the British holiday ironically celebrating the figure's implication in the Gunpowder Plot, a late-feudalism attempt to blow up parliament by Catholics angered that the government had pulled strongly Protestant. This was probably the first act of political dissidence that would have involved destroying a building with an explosive, not to mention that Guy Fawkes almost certainly a patsy utilized by the conspirators as a kind of martyr to show the peasantry you might successfully commit mass execution of the ruling class.

When it came time for Alan Moore and David Lloyd to determine an effectively inter-textual graphic for their anti-austerity comic book series V for Vendetta, the quintessentially British mask was effectively appropriated to show the malcontent that the anarchist Moore had for neoliberal economics, advocating for direct action and potentially even violent upheaval. My personal belief is that it was chosen to couch the story firmly in British political history and culture. While the book was successful in the US and other countries, its iconography was certainly designed to specifically speak to the abused English electorate, not to mention the appeal for a more active and oppositional left. Moore eventually abandoned his political work for more cerebral subject matter, and currently spends his time worshiping a Sumerian Snake god via a homemade sock puppet and writing porn with his wife.

In the turgid, unlikely culture of the mid-2000s, Hollywood was facing a dirge of their previously successful superhero franchises. Notoriously un-creative, rather than move onto other sources they attempted to revitalize the well of adaptable material by finding more and more absurd samples to spend $100 million dollars ruining into a summer movie. This allowed a certain amount of capability on the part of the insufferable nerds that would be charged to actually write, direct, and produce these movies. The Wachowskis hired their assistant director to direct an adaptation of V for Vendetta. Moore, having read the script, signed his check over to David Lloyd and washed his hands of the project. A liberal, sanitized version of the story, the ultimate thesis was (somehow) reclaimed from a nuanced portrait of the importance of direct action into a moral tale of the importance of free speech. The poster proudly boasted, "An uncompromising vision of the future from the creators of 'The Matrix' trilogy." Not only is it an adaptation that had been abandoned by its originator, and it was merely written by the directors of The Matrix, but it was edited to soften the politics a few weeks from release, so pretty much every part of that sentence is a lie.

What in the fuck

What in the fuck

A funny thing about comic book movies is that not only do studios expect a built-in audience for their trash-fire movies but they also expect "viral" (read: free) marketing to do much of the labor for them. Nerds will spend countless hours discussing at length their expectations and reactions to stills, behind-the-scenes, and trailers, in return for their free labor and paying unimaginable fees to attend promotional events (comic conventions), all they expect is plastic garbage to adorn their mouse wheel existence. When it came to V for Vendetta, the V mask was a highly desirable object. My brother got one at WonderCon that year, as did a few thousand other people. 

In 2007, Anon inexplicably targeted the Church of Scientology. Their goal was to revoke the Church's tax-exempt status, citing that it had insinuated its legitimacy through a weird black ops program in the 1970's. The organizers knew that the Church often used counter-political tactics against outspoken anti-Scientology figures, so 4Chan's emphasis on anonymity was readily utilizable. When they began demonstrating outside the church, they wore masks to express that anonymity. This was the originator of the use of the Guy Fawkes mask as a symbol for Anon, due individually to the fact that the neatest looking mask many of these nerds owned was the one they got at a convention sometime around when the film was released, not terribly long before the protests were organized. Hence you find the image of a not-well-known political dissident from centuries past becoming the icon under which a cult-ish religion was targeted by a bunch of sexless dorks on the internet.

The irony that Fawkes and his cohorts wanted a less democratic government which was more involved in Catholic doctrine, allowing for a religious hegemony in open contradiction of Anon's New Atheist tendencies that brought them to protest Scientology in the first place, seemed to be lost on them.

Continued in Part 2.