No Ads, No Masters

by Hogre and Double Why 

July 10th 2017, around 10.30 AM. Central Police Station, Rome.

Double Why: I am being interviewed. They are asking me about a phone call that was made a week ago from my cellphone. Hogre and I called the webmaster responsible for the management of the website (now offline), after he had been interviewed by Digos.

Digos is an Italian law enforcement agency charged with investigating sensitive cases involving terrorism, organised crime and serious offences such as kidnapping and extortion. They know we were responsible for the ad takeover that happened ten days ago and had created scandal among the conservative and catholic circles. Seems like they have taken the situation quite seriously.

Since Double Why and Hogre are pseudonyms and are not related to any real identity, the investigation started from what they could find online, and that was the webmaster’s data. He decided to “collaborate with justice” – as he told us on the phone – and so he did, giving the cops my number. I understood they were serious when my mother called me worried as hell because the police came looking for me (in Italy the sim card is necessarily related to a real ID). And that’s why I’m here in the Digos’ office, after having gone through a dress-up pantomime to look like a regular citizen, answering with bullshit stories to their bullshit questions.

July 10th 2017, around 1:00 PM. Small internet cafè in Quadraro neighbourhood.

Hogre: Luckily the webmaster didn’t know my last name. Too often people are using their real identity on social networks. I’m writing to some friends involved in the ad take over and tagged in many incriminating posts to urge them to change their account names.

The poster that I’ve drawn was entitled “Paedophile Jesus” by the press. It depicts a man with caucasian features and a visible erection under his tunic, standing in front of a praying kid. It caused a more violent reaction in public opinion than its subject matter: the accusation of paedophilia against Cardinal pell, arrested two days before the posters were out in the streets.

On the morning of 1st July, a politician from a right wing party saw the posters and, as he believed it to be an authorised communication, asked for the Mayor’s resignation. Great reaction. After that I was contacted by the national newspaper La Repubblica for an interview. I spent a whole hour explaining the meaning of subvertising, arguing for the destabilising aspect of satire. The journalist replied that it wasn’t possible for them to publish that information, but they will write something about these facts anyway (I call it censorship, don’t know about you). The article they came up with caused a wave of moral panic and the beginning of our trouble with the law.

2 PM. Quadraro.

Double Why: Coming out of the police headquarters, I decide to go looking for Hogre. They’re not in the internet café where they’re supposed to be. I start panicking.

Before I could get home, I am arrested by a police officer who takes me back to the central police station. I’m thinking, Porca Madonna. And I wasn’t thinking about the notorious pop singer: Porca Madonna is a popular expression rooted in the Italian language and it refers to the virgin holy Mary. The Madonna has a key role in Italian culture, representations of her are everywhere, from the corners of the streets to the highest examples of pictorial art. Sadly, if we investigate the reason for this popularity, we find it’s all reduced to her role of mother. Mary’s function in the gospels is merely of a fecundated uterus. The poster I’ve drawn showing two lesbian Madonnas, who have control of their lives and bodies, reverses the historically passive role given to women, so explicit in the virgin Mary’s story.

After four hours, I am released with a charge of aiding and abetting. I guess they finally started to figure it out.

3:30 PM. Central Police Station.

Hogre: A police officer is going bananas because I’m keeping a No Comment attitude even though they have all the evidence against me: records from cctv cameras, the witness of my (ex–) webmaster – they even got me while I was connected to my email. The police chief complains because he says he’s wasted too much time (a week has passed since that infamous phone call) “for such a stupid case”.

That’s how I finally find out what my charge is: Article 404 of the Italian Penal Code, “offence to a religion”, which means blasphemy. I laugh. Digos are not supposed to investigate this kind of offence. If they are doing so, it’s because of some higher pressure.

Porco Dio (translated as “God is a pig”) is a rich expression, rooted in the Italian language, with many levels of meaning. You can use it to describe your feelings when you get hurt, when you are late, when spaghetti are overcooked, or if you are under arrest… You also can use it to insult the imaginary figure of an old, white man with a long beard, who lives on a cloud, the ruler and creator of the whole universe. Perhaps God is just an idea, to brainwash us into the hierarchical organisation of life. Maybe he is as imperfect as the creatures he creates, who believe he is thinkable. Maybe he also has to die. Actually it looks like he has been dead since a century or more. If this expression and all its multiple, colourful and glittered definition are still forbidden in Italy, it’s because of the Vatican. To be more accurate: Blasphemy Laws come from the “Lateran Pacts”, the accord struck between the church and the state at the time of Mussolini.

5.15 pm. Double Why’s home.

Double Why: Hogre’s sister is calling me. She is doing her shift at Caritas (“the charitable arm of the Italian Bishop Conference”) and was surprised to see Hogre in front of her, escorted by a tall, fat cop in plainclothes. She was even more surprised when they asked to borrow her keys to their flat. This will avoid the front door being broken and subsequently repaired at our expense, Hogre quickly explained to her. I think about the days before, all the time we spent cleaning out Hogre’s house of everything that could be used as evidence. That means anything with the Hogre tag on it, and that means tons of drawings, stencils, posters, years of work – most of it thrown out in the rubbish bin.

Around 5.30 pm. Hogre’s home.

Hogre: Using a special protocol called “suspicion of possession of weapon”, the police search my room. They can’t find much, but still they seize a few things – a poster and a screen-print. This is the Society of the Spectacle, where the appreciation or condemnation of a symbol can determine the fate of a whole empire, and a drawing can be considered a weapon.

Hogre and Double Why are artists and outlaws.

Artwork by Hogre

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