Remember, Remember, the 5th of November


In honor of Guy Fawkes Day I’d like to bring attention to a few intriguing statements from Alan Moore (writer of the graphic novel V for Vendetta) on the connections between his fictions and reality from an interview he did shortly after the start of the Occupy Movement.

Via The Guardian:

I suppose I’ve gotten used to the fact that some of my fictions percolate out into the material world.

…I suppose when I was writing V for Vendetta I would in my secret heart of hearts have thought: wouldn’t it be great if these ideas actually made an impact? So when you start to see that idle fantasy intrude on the regular world… It’s peculiar. It feels like a character I created 30 years ago has somehow escaped the realm of fiction.

…And when you’ve got a sea of V masks, I suppose it makes the protesters appear to be almost a single organism – this “99%” we hear so much about. That in itself is formidable. I can see why the protesters have taken to it. It turns protests into performances.

The mask is very operatic; it creates a sense of romance and drama. I mean, protesting, protest marches, they can be very demanding, very grueling. They can be quite dismal. They’re things that have to be done, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re tremendously enjoyable – whereas actually, they should be.

I think it’s appropriate that this generation of protesters have made their rebellion into something the public at large can engage with more readily than with half-hearted chants, with that traditional, downtrodden sort of British protest. These people look like they’re having a good time. And that sends out a tremendous message.

The reason V’s fictional crusade against the state is ultimately successful is that the state, in V for Vendetta, relies upon a centralised computer network which he has been able to hack. Not an obvious idea in 1981, but it struck me as the sort of thing that might be down the line. This was just something I made up because I thought it would make an interesting adventure story. Thirty years go by and you find yourself living it.

I have no particular connection or claim to what [the protesters] are doing, nor am I suggesting that these people are fans of mine, or of V for Vendetta…So there’s always… Now I didn’t feel responsible, but…at the moment, the demonstrators seem to me to be making clearly moral moves, protesting against the ridiculous state that our banks and corporations and political leaders have brought us to.

…It would probably be better if the authorities accepted this is a new situation, that this is history happening. History is a thing that happens in waves. Generally it is best to go with these waves, not try to make them turn back – the Canute option. I’m hoping that the world’s leaders will realise this.

Vox populi, Voice of the people. And I think that if the mask stands for anything, in the current context, that is what it stands for. This is the people. That mysterious entity that is evoked so often – this is the people.

Read the full article here:

Last July Moore was interviewed by to talk about his new Kickstarter project, Jimmy’s End, but he also shared the following relevant observations about emerging NSA revelations, the surveillance state and technology:

There seems to be something going on, even from the briefest appraisal of the news, with the amount of events transpiring. This is such a connected world, it’s useless to isolate any part of it as a discrete phenomenon. You can’t really talk about the problems in Syria, because its problems are global. The waves of discontent and outrage — whether in the Arab countries, or in Brazil, or in America and Europe over the degrees to which its citizens are being monitored — are not separate phenomena. They are phenomena of an emergent world, and the existence of the Internet is one of its major drivers. We have got no idea how it’s going to turn out, because the nature of our society is such that if anything can be invented, then we will invent it. Sooner or later, if it is possible.

So the Internet is changing everything, but I wouldn’t yet want to say for good or ill. I suspect, as ever, that it will be an admixture of both. But we are all along for the ride, even those people like me who do not have Internet connections, mobile phones or even functioning televisions. I’m slowly disconnecting myself. Basically, it’s a feeling that if we are going to subject our entire culture to what is an unpredictable experiment, then I’d like to try to remain outside the petri dish. [Laughs] It’s only sensible to have somebody as a control.

To me, one of the biggest surprises of these recent surveillance revelations is how surprised people are. The level of surveillance we’ve had over here for the past 20 years now is ridiculous — and useless, I would add. Eerily enough, the security cameras on every street corner of Britain was instigated by the incoming Blair government in 1997, which was when I decided, back in 1982 or so, to set the first episode of “V for Vendetta,” which had cameras on every street corner. So yeah, we’ve had those for awhile; they’ve proliferated and multiplied for decades. More recently, there have been troops of police who have said that all these things are useful for is alienating the public. [Laughs] They are not actually useful in the prevention of crimes, or even actually apprehending their suspects.

Here’s the thing: If you’re monitoring every single thing that goes on in a given culture, if you have all the information that is there to be had, then that is the equivalent of having none of it. [Laughs] How are you going to process that amount of information? That’s when you get all these wonderful emerging paradoxes. Recently over here, there was a case where it was suspected that the people who monitor security screens were taking unnecessary toilet breaks and gossiping when they should be watching us. So it was decided that the only sensible thing to do was to put a security camera in the monitor room. [Laughs] This is answering the question that Juvenal asked so succinctly all those years ago: Who watches the watchmen? The answer is more watchmen! And yet more watchmen watch them, and of course it will eventually occur to them to ask: Can those people who are watching the people doing the watching really be trusted? Much better if they were under surveillance.

That’s the level of absurdity these Orwellian solutions bring to our increasingly complex world. George Orwell’s vision was 1947. Yes, the world was more complex than it had been, but nowhere near as complex as it was going to get. We currently have in Northampton — and I think we might be the first to have it — security cameras in some places that actually talk to you. “Pick that cigarette end up! Yes, you!” [Laughs] Which is so much like Patrick McGoohan’s vision for the Village in “The Prisoner,” all those years ago.

…Technology is always a two-edged sword. It will bring in many benefits, but also many disasters. Because of the complexity of our situation, we cannot predict what things will be until they happen. It’s just part of our responsibility as people in the modern world to do our very, very best to deal with them, and think them through, as they occur. While I’m remote from most technology to the point that I’m kind of Amish, I have played a couple of computer games — until I realized I was being bloodied with adrenalin over something that wasn’t real. At the end of a couple of hours of very addictive play, I may have procured the necessary amount of mushrooms to save a princess, but I also wasted hours of my life that I’ll never be able to get back. This is the reason I am not on the Internet. I am aware of its power as a distraction, and I don’t have the time for that.

Despite the constant clamor for attention from the modern world, I do believe we need to procure a psychological space for ourselves. I apparently know some people who try to achieve this by logging off, or going without their Twitter or Facebook for a limited period. Which I suppose is encouraging, although it doesn’t seem that remarkable from my perspective. I think that people need to establish their own psychological territory in face of the encroaching world.

Read the full interview here:

Despite the fact that Moore said he disowned all Hollywood adaptations of his works, in my opinion the quality of his writing can transcend limitations inherent in such attempts, retaining power and resonance even in “watered down” form. Though I was disappointed by the film version of V for Vendetta overall, many who would not have otherwise been exposed to Moore’s work were able to absorb important aspects of his message through it and viral clips such as this:

This entry was posted in Activism, Art, consciousness, culture, Film, History, Social Control, society, surveillance state, Technology, Uncategorized, Video and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Remember, Remember, the 5th of November

  1. Timeless message, and I rather enjoyed the movie–three or four times.

    • My expectations for the film may have been unreasonably high so I’ll concede that it’s Hollywood’s best adaptation of Moore’s work yet (not as bombastic as Watchmen and not as pandering or simplified as From Hell or League of Extraordinary Gentlemen). It also manages to retain most of the graphic novel’s important elements.

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