An Anonymous mask is a type of mask typically worn by members of the Internet group "Anonymous" during public protests and demonstrations. It is basically a Guy Fawkes mask, and has been adopted by the group based primarily on its use in the comic book and film V for Vendetta. Though this mask was initially associated with the actions of Guy Fawkes, its adoption by members of Anonymous has come to associate it more recently with their activities.
The meaning behind an Anonymous mask is somewhat complex, but it should be understood in terms that are separate from the history of the mask itself. Basically, an Anonymous mask is the same in appearance to a Guy Fawkes mask. Guy Fawkes was a Catholic in the late 16th century who was one of several conspirators involved in an attempt to destroy the House of Lords and assassinate the king of England. This conspiracy failed, and Guy Fawkes was executed for his part in the attempt; his image has been burned in effigy in England ever since, in commemoration of his failing.
The way the celebration of the failed plot is carried out is by people creating a “Guy” using old clothes and rags and placing a Guy Fawkes mask upon it, then setting the “Guy” on fire. Artist David Lloyd used this mask for a comic book series written by Alan Moore titled V for Vendetta, in which it was worn by a revolutionary anarchist who plots to overthrow a tyrannical and oppressive fascist regime. The original Guy Fawkes was in support of destroying English power to allow the Catholic Church to claim control over Britain, while the character of “V” was intent on overthrowing corrupt power.
This distinction is important, as an Anonymous mask is not meant to imitate or indicate the beliefs of Guy Fawkes, but is more closely aligned with the character of “V.” Anonymous is a group of individuals who formed on the Internet and have utilized a variety of tactics, not all of which are legal, to protest actions and governments which they believe to be corrupt or oppressive. In keeping with this viewpoint, members of Anonymous have adopted the Anonymous mask as the way they keep their identities concealed during protests and public demonstrations.
The term “Anonymous,” as used by this group, comes from the idea that the Internet provides anonymity and allows people to remain protected from those who might seek to control them. An Anonymous mask extends this sense of anonymity beyond the Internet and into the physical world. Rather than utilizing random forms of facial covering, however, the use of a specific Anonymous mask not only protects the identities of members of Anonymous, but reinforces the idea of a single, collective organization of individuals with a unified identity that lacks finite definition.