Circle A and corporate media’s new cash cow

The people rise up, claiming freedom for themselves. The oppressive state goes down, literally in flames. And we’re left thinking, “Huh, so I guess violence really is an option for jump-starting social change.”

I don’t buy it. The film V for Vendetta misrepresents anarchist thought, turning it into pre-packaged, barely digestible nonsense offered up for your entertainment by the largest media conglomerate in the world, Time Warner.

The film, over which I’d expected reviewers to make barfing, gagging noises, reifies a steaming pile of simplistic stereotypes: Anarchists as ridiculous youths who prefer the law of the jungle over order, who dress like punks and like to riot.

News flash: Anarchists aren’t all about throwing bricks through Starbucks’ windows. Those I’ve talked with over the past few years tend to be non-violent types who would never pack a train with explosives and send it on its merry way to blow up a government building.

“The greater the violence, the weaker the revolution,” wrote pacifist anarchist Bart de Ligt in 1937. “The violence and warfare which are characteristic conditions of the imperialist world do not go with the liberation of the individual and society.”

Corporate media developers at Time Warner likely thought their so-called “revolutionary” film was a grand, financially lucrative idea. I imagine the brilliant plan was sparked by market analysts trained to spot trends: “Hey, look at the kids with circled A’s on their Jansport backpacks. Why don’t we exploit a kiddie version of ‘anarchy’ in our next film? The soundtrack will go multi-platinum.”

Not that V for Vendetta references anarchy exactly. But the symbols are all there, thanks to Andy and Larry Wachowski of Matrix fame. The hero, V, is a mask-wearing thug, not likeable, who seeks to save society by destroying a media superstar and elected officials who chemically abused his helpless teenage self. Like Zorro, V leaves swashbuckley marks on walls, swish-swishing a circled V (for vendetta) that looks nicely like an upside-down A (for anarchy).

I couldn’t resist checking out the film, though I knew anarchist types were annoyed over its flawed representation. Some called for protests. Hopeful types built a counter-film Web site at

I was expecting an edgy, mind-twisting work of art like Sin City. I was sorely disappointed from the moment the mad masked V kicked his first requisite ass. Yawn.

The film is based on a graphic novel by Alan Moore, who considers himself an anarchist of the pacifist variety. He’s repulsed by the film, telling interviewers that his version of V was more morally ambiguous. “I actually don’t think it’s right to kill people. … The central question is, is this guy right? Or is he mad? What do you, the reader, think about this? Which struck me as a properly anarchist solution. I didn’t want to tell people what to think, I just wanted to tell people to think.”

Anarchists are a diverse bunch, but many share a belief that people are essentially good—and if institutions like law enforcement, schools, churches, elected officials and the corporations that pay to get them elected left us alone, we’d be better off.

Most individuals who get serious about anarchy do lots of reading, starting with early thinkers like Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, who wrote that “property is theft.” Consider skipping the Anarchist Cookbook and find better things to read at the AK Press,

More importantly, before you pick up a brick, consider what you’re doing to cooperate with government control. Wrote 18th century thinker William Godwin: “All government is founded in opinion. Men at present live under any particular form because they conceive it their interest to do so.”

The government we have? It’s the one we wanted.