Does New GOP Ad Try to Evoke Guy Fawkes?

The strange political legacy of a man who tried to blow up Parliament

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The Republican Governors Association has released an ad for its new Web site, Remember November, that has bloggers in a frenzy. The ad itself takes a familiar approach: clips of President Obama and others speaking, intercut with menacing music and subtitles. It ends with a logo reading "Eleven Two"--11/02/10 is the date of this year's congressional elections--and a call to "Remember November."

A number of authors on the left have interpreted the phrase "Remember November" as a reference to Guy Fawkes, the Catholic radical who tried to blow up the U.K. Parliament in 1605 and whose memory is preserved in the traditional English rhyme "Remember, remember the fifth of November." Their counterparts on the right argue that this is just an ordinary get-out-the-vote spot and any evocations of anti-government terrorism are coincidental.

  • The Fawkes Echo Is Pretty Unmistakable, thinks Michael Scherer at Time. "The classical music, the near-apocalyptic crises messages, the suggestions of totalitarian intent, the imagery of Castro and marching soldiers, the sound of a ticking clock all points to a well established online narrative, where Fawkes thrives as a sort of folk hero for all ideologies." Having said that, Scherer points out that "the tale of Fawkes has been so thoroughly appropriated by so many that it is just not right to associate the latest appropriators with the intent of the original criminal in 1605. The RGA is not calling for a violent uprising here. It is tapping into well-established online anti-government memes."
  • Can We Talk About the Racial Deck-Stacking? wonders Michael Tomasky in The Guardian. It doesn't escape Tomasky's notice that the ad prominently features "Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Congressman Alcee Hastings and Al Sharpton. In other words, three black men and a woman (who happens to represent a bunch of gays). Hastings and Sharpton being a long long distance from having positions of top leadership in the Democratic Party, I think it's pretty clear why they were included, and it's not because their first names start with A."
  • They're Just Rhyming Two Words, says Hot Air's Allahpundit. "If I had to guess why the RGA chose the name they did, I'd inch out on the limb and conjecture that it's because it rhymes ... But then, 'it rhymes' is a much duller narrative than the GOP playing on 'let's blow up parliament' sentiment." Allahpundit, like nearly everyone else who's written about the ad, praises it from a technical standpoint: "Between the HD, the F/X, and the editing, the production values are light years ahead of the usual DNC/RNC crap. If they're looking to get attention, this'll help."
  • An Intellectual Mess of an Ad, is Gabriel Winant's verdict at Salon. "It's not really obvious that it is an attempt to evoke Fawkes," Winant says of the ad. "What is apparent is that it's equally incoherent and indulgent of supporters' fantasies ... The video is an attempt to import the whacked-out radicalism of the [Ron] Paul campaign, and its successors in the Tea Party, into the GOP's mainstream, in service of a thoroughly banal and conventional goal: picking up vulnerable governorships in a midterm election. But this is an area where the GOP just can't have it both ways. We're living in a dystopian action movie, or we aren't."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.