The Visual Culture of the Occupation: Month One and Counting


Paralleling the range of targets identified by Occupy protesters, an equally wide array of tactics have emerged. Visual messages come in various styles, personae and distribution channels.

Tactic: Face of the Faceless

Protesters have found different ways of strategically articulating or masking their personal identities.


Some occupiers have taken up the imagery of Guy Fawkes, as well as the comic series (later adapted into a film), V for Vendetta’s appropriation of his likeness. This can be traced to the “hacktivist” group, Anonymous, which has been cited as another viable source for inspiring the first OWS protests and for the group’s ties to WikiLeaks.

The ties between these masks and the film ironically mean that every purchase of the mask adds to the coffers of corporate America—specifically Warner Bros and Time Warner, who produced the film, a critique not unfamiliar to those who identify at the movement.

Perhaps the most important aspect of Anonymous is the way it enables a shared collective identity – anyone who says they are a member of Anonymous, by nature of the group, is a member of the group.

The Face of the 99%

Social media efforts like destabilize the idea of the homogenized 99%. Americans, often anonymously, post and share their grievances. While the use of social media as a site of anonymous protest did not originate with Occupy (see’s health care protests from 2009), we can see it building and expanding in the wake of this movement.

These figures represent the everydayness and reality of personal suffering and hardship.

Unlike the farcical and carnivalesque Guy Fawkes masquerade, these figures embody a potent authenticity in their personal narratives and dour facial expressions.

The flip-side of Anonymity

Celebrities– such Kanye West– have found their way into the Occupy movements–paralleling their increasing role as activists tied to any number of social and political causes. Other celebrities who have made an appearance include comedian Roseanne Bar, doctumentarian Michael Moore, actor Susan Sarandon, music magnate Russell Simmons, philosopher Slavoj Žižek, actor Alec Baldwin. Public intellectual Cornel West, author Naomi Wolf, and former member of boy band 98 Degrees Justin Jeffre were each arrested at separate Occupy events in DC, New York, and Cincinnati.

On the otherhand, the involvement of celebrities has not been without critique. For example, Geraldo Rivera was shouted down by OWS crowds chanting “Fox News lies.”

Next: Tactic: Ready to Go and Ready-Made

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