Death & Taxes
Saturday, January 22, 2011
After Homeland Security’s launch of the PSA campaign “See Something, Say Something,” activists are taking the ‘V’ symbol to the streets with the V for Victory campaign.
What is it about the letter ‘V,’ though, that inspires the human imagination in underground movements and subversive activities?
Well, in the Middle Ages it was the “archer’s salute,” which they held aloft and palm outward to identify friendlies. It later became a symbolic hand gesture with palm inward to signal “f**k off” or “f**k you.”
‘V’ also shows up from time to time in photographs as the rabbit ears behind a friend or family member’s head, or to signal that one person is watching another.
So where did the current V for Victory Campaign acquire the symbol?
During World War II, Victor Auguste de Laveleye, former Belgian minister of Justice and director of the Belgian French-speaking broadcasts on the BBC, suggested that the Allies use the letter ‘V’ as a symbol in a psychological warfare campaign against the Nazis. Laveleye said in the broadcast:
“[T]he occupier, by seeing this sign, always the same, infinitely repeated, [would] understand that he is surrounded, encircled by an immense crowd of citizens eagerly awaiting his first moment of weakness, watching for his first failure.”
The ‘V’ symbol starts popping up all over France, Belgium and the Netherlands, and was later adapted by Churchill in a campaign that involved using an audible ‘V’ with Morse Code, by using the first four notes of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony. It was used as the call sign by the BBC in their broadcasts across occupied Europe during the rest of WWII. Recall that the first four notes of the 5th symphony were meant to represent fate knocking at one’s door. Isn’t psychological warfare fantastic?
The idea that the symbol could be infinitely repeated is interesting, as is the idea that it suggests a permanent sense of being surrounded though the occupying force is technically in control.
And so the V symbol has been adapted yet again from its shining moment in the Nazi occupation. It is being used by Infowars activists to protest the Department of Homeland Security’s new campaign “See Something, Say Something,” which encourages Americans to report suspicious behavior. Infowars interprets the PSA campaign as a totalitarian move by a state that is already a mirror of Big Brother’s Oceania “1984.”
“Homeland Security is now trying to mimic the way of all oppressive regimes, by turning the American people against each other… We need to invoke the spirit of the French who were occupied by the Nazis in World War Two. The V for victory campaign in Paris and elsewhere helped the occupied to understand that the resistance against tyranny was legion. It gave the victims hope that they were not isolated and that their community was bonded in freedom, reducing fear that they would be reported to the authorities by collaborators as a subversive or terrorist for expressing dissent against their occupiers.”
“Resistance V’s appeared all over the country….The V campaign meant ordinary people could feel they were doing something, however symbolic, to protest against the Occupation.”
“The British radio has called on people to write V for victory everywhere, and they are all over the place, even on shop fronts. They are also written on blackboards, on tables – everywhere. Even better, there’s a new badge: a V made with two crossed pins and worn on the lapel. Yvette and I counted seventy-five in five minutes!…On the Rue d’Astorg, I scribbled a V on a German car. I heard the sound of boots behind me, and moved off quickly.”
The Resistance, by Matthew Cobb.
Click here to download all the V for Victory posters in PDF format.
This article was posted: Saturday, January 22, 2011 at 6:46 am