Barrett Brown, The Wild One

“What are you rebelling against, Johnny?”, he answers “Whaddaya got?”

Every prominent arrested Anonymous figure becomes the instant object of Photoshop transposition with heroic figures. In the case of the “Fuck Sabu” poster taken from freebarrettbrown.org, we see Brown’s face transplanted onto Johnny (Marlon Brando) from The Wild One, a stereotypical rebel biker without a cause. Our link to Brown is mediated through this character, and the qualities of the biker hero completely and utterly replace those of Brown. Similarly, Sabu’s identity is superseded by the role of a subordinate police officer who stands behind Brown, grinning victoriously. In the far background, the solemn parents watch the scene, powerless and blinded.

“Inasmuch as photography is an ellipse of language and a condensation of an ‘ineffable’ social whole, it constitutes an anti-intellectual weapon and tends to spirit away ‘politics’ (that is to say a body of problems and solutions) to the advantage of a ‘manner of being’, a socio-moral status … Photography is therefore above all the acknowledgement of something deep and irrational co-extensive with politics.” ~ Barthes, Mythologies

The ‘original’ image.

The faces of Brown and Sabu are such poor fits they indicate the mask of this myth with flagrant, blatant, and comedic effect. Sabu’s face is crisp, yet his body is blurry, as if he is seen but as yet partially unresolved. The beaten, remorseful face of Johnny is here covered with Brown’s bovine glance, which like Sabu’s is fixed knowingly towards the camera. These two are foils: Sabu smirking, self-satisfied, smug, contemptible, completely despicable, his head bizarrely enlarged, and Brown determined, resolute, now subtly smiling, now angered, his expression shifting with each glance like the Mona Lisa, the perfect image of a trickster, the cat with the canary. Brown wanted to be arrested, he has done something right to be in such a position. He’s been plunged into this quaint, inverted, black-and-white fantasy of yore where nothing is fair and the only figure unmolested by the Photoshopper is that of authority. The angered old sheriff, completely impotent without Sabu, castigates Brown before certain punishment; the powerless public stands by but cannot watch because their eyes are blacked out.

“SOLIDARITY WITH ALL ARREST ANONS” also appears to dispense with the mythical mask, perhaps in an attempt to show contempt for the slick, well-disguised myths propagated by the ‘opposition’. Yet such labeling is overt misdirection. The image denies Sabu, a former Anon, with solidarity only to contrast the glory and heroism of Brown. The subtitle, “Fuck Sabu,” delivers this denial again with a cursive flourish.

Solidarity is only denied to Anons after the fact, even in the face of solid evidence of wrong-doing and cooperation with law enforcement. Gabriella Coleman, academia’s most prominent media expert on Anonymous, said in regards to Sabu, “I knew he’d been arrested. But of course, I couldn’t tell anyone. And that was really hard.” She’s right, of course, as all who sounded the alarm about Sabu, including myself, were met with derision from the Solidarity police in Anonymous.

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