Why the Olympics is worth protesting
Agent Maxwell from Space Hijackers explains why the anti-capitalist group has set itself up as the official protesters of the London 2012 Olympics.
(Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images for Omega)
On 23 May 2012, Twitter suspended an account belonging to the the Space Hijackers, a group of anti-capitalist “Anarchitects” who have set themselves up as the official protesters of the London 2012 Olympics. Their account was suspended after the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games complained about the group’s satirical use of the 2012 logo. Locog are known for being more than a tad touchy when it comes to use of their brand, and of course, protests against the Olympics. Agent Maxwell from Space Hijackers tells Free Speech Debate why the group is protesting the Games.
1. One of the reasons you give for protesting the London 2012 Olympics is its failure to protect free speech. Can you elaborate?
The Olympics have not simply undertaken a seven-year PR campaign to present a rose-tinted view of purported benefits of the Games whilst ignoring more problematic issues. It has actively sought to suppress criticism of the Olympics in a number of ways.
The Olympics Act 2005 gives police powers to enter people’s homes to confiscate material relating to the Olympics. Journalists have been threatened with legal action for publishing critical articles. One journalist was evicted from his home after publicising his opposition to missiles being installed on his roof.
Police have identified protests as one of four key “threats” to the Games, along with terrorism, thereby defining expression of opinion as a problem to be mitigated against. Police have already begun approaching activist groups to ask if they intend to protest and what their plans are, by email and even by approaching people in the street.
2. Your Twitter account was suspended in May 2012 because you used the London 2012 Olympics logo. Do you think Twitter behaved reasonably given it was complying with trademark laws?
Twitter was not complying with trademark or any other laws. We did not break any laws. Copyright laws protect brands from other companies from profiting by fraudulently trading off a false association with them. What we did was run a satirical Twitter account, which is very different.
The stated reason for Locog writing to Twitter to ask them to shut our account down was that we were “creating confusion regarding brand affiliation” – which we clearly weren’t when you see the jokey nature of our tweets. It’s perhaps not surprising in hindsight that they would choose to capitulate under pressure from such a large and powerful organisation as Locog (though we were extremely surprised when they shut us down!). But this position does seem somewhat at odds with their proud boasts of being champions of free speech, notably during the Arab Spring.
3. Why do you think the Olympics has inspired so many protests over the past century?
The Olympics have attracted many different types of protest over the years, maybe because they often manifest the underlying political tensions of the age – from the rise of fascism, to racism, to human rights abuses, to corporate wrongdoing.
The Olympics aren’t inherently bad – but they are a mirror for – and often exacerbate – other political and social problems. However, there does often seem to be a theme of something apparently neutral, like athletics, being used to mask the unpleasant actions of states and corporations.
4. What kinds of protest do you have planned this summer?
Watch this space!