Home > Political Philosophy and Current Events, Politics > Symbols of Freedom: Gadsden flag, circled “V” on Facebook, and more

Symbols of Freedom: Gadsden flag, circled “V” on Facebook, and more

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A topic that comes up quite frequently in discussion of libertarianism, market anarchism, and other pro-freedom circles is the symbolism associated with the movement against socialism, tyranny, and government as a concept. What kinds of symbols do libertarians use? Where do they come from? How do I get that “V” in a circle on my Facebook page? These are all legitimate – and important – questions. To help shed some light, I’ve compiled a number of popular symbols of freedom on this blog and explained their origin, meaning, and use today. I will not focus so much on the classical depictions of liberty such as the cuneiform amagi or the lady Liberty herself but rather on the more recent images and characters which circulate the internet today, such as the gadsden flag, the circle v, etc.

The Gadsden Flag

What is its significance?

This flag has a rich history dating all the way back to Benjamin Franklin who in 1751 suggested the symbol of the rattlesnake to represent American resistance against the British crown. Franklin was explicit in his revolutionary beliefs long before revolution itself seemed a realistic possibility, and chose the rattlesnake for the contrast between its generally non-aggressive nature and its ability to be extremely, violently forceful when stepped upon. When the myriad personal and trading vessels that formed much of the U.S. navy began intercepting British warships, they flew a flag designed by Colonel Gadsden which depicted a rattlesnake and the words “DONT TREAD ON ME” to indicate their defiance of government control. This formed the basis for the modern day Gadsden flag which has seen huge popularity during the Tea Party protests of the late Bush administration and the Obama administration. It is in some sense a patriotic symbol by association with the the American revolution, but it also serves as an alternative for the many Tea Partiers who refuse to fly the Stars and Stripes for the appeasement of tyrants.

Should I use it?

Probably so! In terms of recognition and historical significance, nothing beats the Gadsden flag. By choosing to fly an American flag which is not, and has never been, a flag of any government, nor ever been used as a symbol of conquest and imperialism, you can send a clear message that you are not proud to be ruled by an institution of regulation, control, and abuse. The only negative to flying this flag is that, due to its extreme popularity, not everyone who has adopted it is actually consistent with the original message behind the flag. It is at its core a symbol of defense and defense alone.

What are some uses and variations?

The Gadsden flag’s primary use is as a physical flag displayed at Tea Party protests. It has also become very popular as a Facebook profile picture and a bumper sticker. It is frequently combined with the conventional anarcho-capitalist flag to produce the Gadsden anarchist flag. One of the most interesting variations I’ve seen is the three-dimensional Gadsden flag. Finally, there are an increasing number of tattoos depicting just the rattlesnake and the words “DONT TREAD ON ME.”

The Anarcho-Capitalist Flag

What is its significance?

This flag is really quite simple. All of the anarchist flags are split diagonally, black on one half and another color on the other. This descends from the pure black flag of anarchy – since black is the absence of any color, it follows that a black flag represents the absence of any government. Gold is the color of anarcho-capitalism as a symbol of the prosperity which invariably results when governments do not interfere with the voluntary exchange of goods. Due to its simple elegance and very well-defined message, the anarcho-capitalist flag is extremely popular.

Should I use it?

Definitely. This symbol is free of any ambiguity, as it has never been understood to represent anything other than total non-consent to all government control and an absolute respect for the rights of individuals to retain or trade their private property at will. However, there is one drawback. It lacks somewhat in recognition due to the fact that there are no out-of-the-closet anarchists in high public office or on mainstream networks.

What are some uses and variations?

It’s not too common to see this flag actually printed and flown, because anarchists typically do not see a need to fly flags. However, the image has been very popular on the internet as a base for all kinds of creative expansion. It’s so very simple, each anarchist wants to add an idea or message that he or she feels needs to be declared.

V for Vendetta

What is its significance?

Perhaps one of the most hotly-contested anarchist symbols, the circled “V” drawn in blood red against a black backdrop originates from the 1980’s series of comic books V for Vendetta. The symbol became wildly popular shortly after the release of the 2006 film by the same name. In both, the protagonist identifies by the name “V” and draws the circled letter to represent his anarchist cause in resistance against a fascist state. However, the message carried by V goes beyond one of vindication and as far as vindictiveness. He is frequently depicted using aggressive force against people who seem at most incidentally related to the fascist regime, especially in the movie. Nonetheless, V does express regret for the collateral damage he causes and states that he believed it to be necessary to achieve a freer society.

Should I use it?

That depends on how revolutionary you are. If you are a pure voluntaryist who objects on moral grounds to all aggressive force, you probably should not use this symbol, because the “Vendetta” part of “V for Vendetta” clearly refers to a violent revolution with collateral damage. On the other hand, if you see freeing society from its tyrannical government to be a paramount goal towards which all feasible methods must be employed, this may be the best symbol for you. It certainly does have very high recognition and an umbrella of coverage due to including both anarcho-capitalists anarcho-socialists.

What are some uses and variations?

The circled “V” is sometimes drawn on protest signs along with the anarchist clenched fist to stand out from a crowd as opposing both “sides” of a political issue. The Guy Fawkes mask worn by V is also popular to wear to protests because it protects the identity of the anarchist. This, however, can lead to police becoming agitated for no good reason.

V for Voluntary

What is its significance?

This image was created just a few short years ago by a passionate libertarian after the “V for Vendetta” film was released, and it has taken off like a rocket. Its success can be attributed to the elaborate amount of thought and attention to detail in what appears at first to be a remarkably simple design. The “V” is split into half gold and half black with the anarcho-capitalist flag in mind. However, instead of simply depicting a split or divison as both the letter “V” and the anarcho-capitalist flag do, V for Voluntary actually joins back together at the top to complete a circle, representing the unity and cohesion that follows from a non-violent society. Most impressively, the joining of prosperity with anarchy is actually a handshake – the gold side folds over the black side as two hands gripping one another, which draws attention to the literal contract theory of a capitalist society and also to the brotherly harmony of voluntaryist thought. Thus the ultimate message conveyed by V for Voluntary is “In freedom, people become united and prosperous.”

Should I use it?

I can’t think of any good reason not to. It does not have extremely widespread recognition due to having been created just a few years ago, but voluntarism is a growing philosophy and you can help it along.

What are some uses and variations?

Profile pictures! Probably the best way to help others understand the message of freedom is to utilize social networking, both in the literal sense of sharing content with friends and also by highlighting similarities between libertarian thought and people’s personal views. Voluntarism is the perfect path for this because the right to make choices without being forcibly controlled is valued by many people who are not politically active. The purity of this message also makes V for Voluntary tattoos a good choice for the long run.

Circled “V” and circled “A” characters

What is its significance?

This topic amuses me because it draws the plurality of all searches to my blog. The presence of circled “V” and circled “A” on Facebook names recently has caused quite a stir. They are gaining rapid popularity as more and more young people have come to realize that the government cannot be trusted to give them happy lives. The “V” stands for “voluntary” and the “A” for anarchy, with all the usual implications of those words.

Should I use it?

As long as you are comfortable sharing your political views on Facebook, go for it. It will probably get some attention from your friends and will allow other freedom advocates to identify you on community pages. You may get some random friend requests from people you don’t know who also bear the symbols, but that can be fun and informative.

How do I get the circled “V” or circled “A” on my Facebook page?

These characters are Unicode 9398 and 9419. In case you don’t know what that means, just copy and paste them from here: Ⓥ Ⓐ

From your Facebook home page, click on “Account” and select “Account Settings.” Find where it says “Name” and click “change.” Add the character of your choice to the end of your name and click “Change Name.” Voila! You are now a certified freedom advocate.

So which ones do you use?

I use the Gadsden flag and the circled “V” symbol on Facebook. I haven’t found anything creative to do with any of the others yet, but I may eventually get a V for Voluntary tattoo when I have way too much time and money.

If you liked this post, please share it on your Twitter or Facebook page. You may also like Gadsden and American flags merged in public domain. Check out the index page for more from the Worst-Case Scenario!

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  1. September 23, 2010 at 10:25 PM

    Just tried this and am told it contains invalid characters. Hmm…

    That being, Ⓥ after my name.

  2. Somebod
    November 7, 2010 at 7:42 PM

    I think you’ll find that the Ⓥ symbol on Facebook is actually most commonly used to denote veganism.

  3. Daantje
    June 8, 2012 at 5:29 PM

    Anarchy IS a socialist idea. It’s a Utopic-socialist movement just like communism but is in fact quite the opposite of communism in a way. Vendetta has nothing to do with anarchism, it’s a capitilist movie which made a lot of money.
    Do yourself a favour and pick up a book by such authors as Bakunin, Goldman, Proudhon or Stirner or any other real anarchist philosopher before you write such crap again.

    • March 27, 2013 at 8:17 PM

      From Murray Rothbard in “Society Without A State” (1975):
      “I define anarchist society as one where there is no legal possibility for coercive aggression against the person or property of any individual. Anarchists oppose the State because it has its very being in such aggression, namely, the expropriation of private property through taxation, the coercive exclusion of other providers of defense service from its territory, and all of the other depredations and coercions that are built upon these twin foci of invasions of individual rights.”

  4. May 3, 2013 at 12:30 AM

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  5. Vilhelmo
    August 26, 2013 at 2:45 PM

    Amagi “return to mother”, refers to debt cancellation.

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