The second part of book one of V for Vendetta continues to show how the different political spheres of the Norsefire regime work together to keep the people of post-nuclear London under their rule. Like their names suggest (the Mouth, the Nose, etc.), the different sectors all work as one cohesive body controlled by the Leader, who oversees/is also controlled by Fate, a super computer program not unlike Isaac Asimov’s “The Last Question.”
Other than V and Evey, we don’t see too much opposition to the government’s practices either in the community or among those working for the regime’s agenda. They have pacified the public through fear, and those on the inside know far too well what happens to those who don’t fit within the cookie cutter regimen of Norsefire.
However, what would it have looked like if someone on the inside had shed light on the questionable practices of their governmental leaders? In the graphic novel, it’s unlikely that such a thing would be able to get out. In the real world, we’ve seen in recent events that such occurrences might be on the rise.
In late January, two Norwegian politicians nominated Edward Snowden for the Nobel Peace Prize. Snowden, who came to the forefront of news pages across the world last summer, is a computer analyst known for leaking information to The Guardian regarding NSA surveillance. In providing information about the United States government breaching privacy and trust of the public, Snowden joined Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning, to name a few, as one in a handful of noteworthy whistleblowers critical of U.S. affairs over the past few years. Manning recently won the Sam Adams Award for Integrity and Intelligence, which Snowden also previously received.
Each has seen different consequences for their actions (I guess being portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch isn’t too shabby), and each has critics who think of them as traitors or supporters who champion their courage.
There have been points in American history when governmental scandals have been revealed where there was predominantly support in doing so. Students in the journalism school are quickly engrained with the sense of watchdog journalism and its importance. Woodward and Bernstein become models to base your work off of.
So then comes the question of what kind of information the public is willing to learn and what they’ll face when they realize maybe their political representatives don’t really have their best interests in mind.
The Atlantic recently did a story on why people can’t keep secrets. There are two main reasons to conceal something: either to save face, or for the other person’s “own good.” The piece cites an academic article by Clayton Critcher and Melissa Ferguson called “The Cost of Keeping it Hidden: Decomposing Concealments Reveals What Makes it Depleting.” For their work, the two examined the idea that concealing information while interacting with others caused “depletion of self-regulation.” They found through their research that the taxing effect of keeping a secret comes mostly from anxiety about concealing certain information (rather than the information itself), and participants showed cognitive, interpersonal and physical deficits after doing so. Not only did the individual suffer from the experience, but their relationship with others did as well.
From this study, we see that keeping information from others is, in general, bad for all parties and causes more division than unity in blissful ignorance. In the fictional world of V for Vendetta, it works fairly well, suggesting the moral corruption and dominant “repressors” within the regime. But outside of this created world, we see the effects that lack of transparency creates among the public. Even when that transparency is revealed, the people learning the information are not always willing to see it for what it is. It’s at this point that these groups “keep their secrets so tightly wrapped that they manage to hide them even from themselves.” And that’s when the V’s of the world are the most lacking, but also the most dangerous.