The recent disruption of the Olympic Torch ritual fascinates and frankly excites me. I’m glad to see China’s Tibet policies challenged and I also see this as part of a wider pattern.
I think they’ve been doing the torch run thing for decades and it never created much fuss. That’s because like many things surrounding the Olympics, the athletic energy has been turned into an empty, boring ritual.
And in a networked world, being portentous and boring is a massive invitation to those who have genuine passion. They can take your empty ritual and, with a simple intervention, fill it with energy and meaning. In London, perhaps the best manifestation of this was one man with a fire extinguisher. A simple visual act, and a simple sound bite accompanied by images of him being hauled off, and he’d engineered a PR coup.
Of course, his actions took place in the context of protests which were pretty well co-ordinated in what looks like a textbook Here Comes Everybody fashion.
As for the blue-track-suited Chinese security team, well they managed to look like heavies who’d been rendered weightless – a rather powerful propaganda blow for the regime, I’d say.