In April 2011, a court in Mariwan, Iran, sentenced a male criminal to be paraded around in a red dress and headscarf as public humiliation. Protesting the choice of punishment, a group of Kurdish men posted pictures of themselves in dresses on Facebook. They attracted over 17,000 “likes,” international coverage, and eventually an apology from Mariwan’s police chief.
Like cute puppies, naked celebrities and cult movie stills, pictures of men in drag spread quicker online than essays of political philosophy. And since most political activists dream of crowds of people shouting their message to even more people, the Internet meme has become an increasingly popular tool for revolutionaries. On June 1, 2013, CNN Turkey aired a wildlife documentary about penguins, while the news channel’s international version had a live report from riots in Istanbul. User-generated images and jokes featuring the seabird soon started invading social networks and became a symbol of Turkey’s anti-government protests. That same month, a screenshot appeared online of US actor Samuel L. Jackson pointing his gun in the film Pulp Fiction with the text, “Say Sharia one more time. I dare ya motherfucker.” It was one of many Hollywood-themed images created to protest the enforcement of Islamic law by Egypt’s elected president Mohamed Morsi.
Internet memes first brought the members of Anonymous together. Since 2003, the global hacker collective has digitally raided targets including the Church of Scientology, US financial-services corporations Visa and MasterCard, and the now-deposed Tunisian regime, as well as lending its skills and signature Guy Fawkes mask to the Occupy protesters. In 2012, Time magazine listed it among the 100 most influential people in the world, but forgot to mention that its members met in 2003 on the “random content” section of 4chan – an Internet forum where people share and mimic, among other things, pictures of kittens, incest porn and racist jokes, most of them using the same nickname: Anonymous.
From the pages of COLORS #88 - Protest.