Blink and you'll miss it. The Guy Fawkes mask flashes on the screen only for a brief instant, but it's there. Twice.
The iconic mug first entered pop culture in the graphic novel V for Vendetta, but has since been re-appropriated by internet collective Anonymous as well as Occupy Wall Street protesters.
That iconic mask, however, is now shorthand for hacker—and the enemy.
Anonymous has gained attention in the past few years for its protests and distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks against big business and Scientology. For many, the group has tinges of political activism, using their computer skills and savvy for "good".
The way that Anonymous stands for causes seems to impressed V for Vendetta's creators. After the mask appeared at last year's Occupy Wall Street protest, V for Vendetta's writer Alan Moore said, "When you've got a sea of V masks, I suppose it makes the protesters appear to be almost a single organism—this "99%" we hear so much about. That in itself is formidable. I can see why the protesters have taken to it."
The irony of ironies is that the rights to the mask are actually owned by Warner Bros. So for every mask legally sold, Warner Bros. gets a kickback.
However, the mask is being recast in a different light in Call of Duty: Black Ops II's promotional campaign. A series of documentary style clips tackle different elements of technology and warfare; in two of them, the Guy Fawkes mask appears on screen.
In a clip titled "Synopsis", Oliver North talks about his nightmare scenario, and when he says, "The enemy could be anywhere, and it could be anyone," an individual wearing a Guy Fawkes appears on screen. I don't worry about the guy who wants to hijack a plane," North continues. "I worry about the guy who wants to hijack all the planes."
In another clip, titled "When the Enemy Steals the Keys," the Guy Fawkes mask pops up again. The footage is slightly different—it's tighter, more of a close-up.
"You know, if there are guys out there who are smart enough to hack into our banks and people's personal information, then certainly, eventually, there's gonna be someone who's smart enough to hack into our aircraft," drone pilot Major Hercules Christopher says in the clip. "If you can hack a bank, you can hack a drone."
The moment the pilot says "gonna be someone who's smart enough", the Guy Fawkes mask once again appears on screen, seeming to insinuate indirectly that Anonymous members are going to be smart enough to hack drones—or even want to. And once again, the Guy Fawkes mask is cast as the enemy.
With in the past few years, the Guy Fawkes mask has become inseparable from Anonymous, and, in turn, from hackers. Not all hackers are good. Not all are bad. And for a group like Anonymous, free flowing and ill defined, it's difficult to pin down who is a member and who isn't. Anonymous is more of a concept than a card-carrying group per se.
Yet, that group—that idea—is now being dragged through the mud via comments directly and indirectly aimed at the Guy Fawkes mask. Those who wear the mask are the enemy. Those who wear the mask are hackers.
Oliver North is right: the enemy could be anyone. It could be me. It could be you. It could even be the folks on TV, trying to sell you a video game.
Update: The portrayal of the Guy Fawkes mask in these Call of Duty clips seem to have struck a nerve. Online group AntiSec is starting to mobilize.