The “V” mask has evolved from it’s humble origins as the placid face of a revolutionary anti-hero in the comic book “V for Vendetta” and the 2006 film by the same name. In the story an anonymous figure known only as “V” wears a mask meant to resemble Guy Fawkes, who attempted to burn down the British parliament in the failed Gun-Powder Plot of 1605. Fawkes was caught, captured, tortured, and executed, but through “V” his face has become the symbol of anti-authoritarian activism from the Occupy Movement to the Tea Party.
Hassan Fakhro is the Industry and Commerce Minister of Bahrain, and this week he’s issued a decree banning the importation of the V mask, which is now used by many anti-government protesters in the gulf states as well.
Anyone caught importing the V for Vendetta mask now faces arrest, and the pretense for this silly measure is that the mask allows protesters to remain anonymous. But that’s true of any mask, and a lot of the traditional headwear worn by the Arabs. It seems as though Fakhro is mistaking the symptom for the cause. People don’t resist their government because they have the mask of a fictional character who resisted their government. They resist their government because their government does stupid tyrannical things like ban a plastic face mask rather than respect the natural rights and autonomy of the people of Bahrain.
The other thing tragically short sighted about this decree is that there countless websites describing ways to create DIY V for Vendetta masks. Here are just a few.
We already know that prohibition never actually succeeds in making a product unavailable, but even if it did you can make masks out of plaster, or paper, or cardboard, or pretty much anything. This ban will accomplish nothing but motivating the people who want them to protest their government that much more.