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August 10, 2014 | by  | in Conspiracy Corner Opinion |
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Conspiracy Corner – Starbucks in the Hub 2015

In case you missed the quickly removed posters, “Reclaim the Hub” is/was the grassroots campaign to re-establish the Hub as a student centre in protest against its encroaching commercialisation. For instance, VUWSA was prohibited from serving free soup during study week because it was unfair competition for Hub businesses. Which brings into question who exactly the Hub exists for: the food corporations who stock its walls like an airport lounge, or the students for whom their coffee and textbooks are essential to their existence?

There are those who believe that the Hub is a student centre and should be reserved for student interests only. Near as I can tell walking through it, you’d be convinced that we’d fall into anarchy if the sushi place ever closed down. And still you get the odd demand for a Subway or some other corporate bread-and-circus. Point is, it might not be made for you exclusively, but it knows what you want. So how do we reconcile this conflict of interest? The want to protest but the need for easily available foodstuffs? Fear not! You don’t need a Subway, just a Dumb Starbucks.

‘Dumb Starbucks’ was a venture set up by American comedian Nathan Fielder for his Comedy Central show Nathan for You. By using a loophole in American parody law, Fielder opened up a parody coffee enterprise in the heart of LA under the globally recognisable corporate banner of Starbucks. The result: ‘Dumb Starbucks’, which simply appropriates the brand and shoves the word ‘dumb’ in front of everything. You can buy a dumb espresso or a dumb chai latte, buy dumb merch and or protest against “dumb plastic” single-use cups outside. The point is complexly twofold; to test the fringe of parody law, and to fool others into finding ironic meaning out of a business that was merely there to make money. Unfortunately, the venture was shut down for not operating with a proper health permit, but not before it made the news cycle, claiming it was everything from an anti-corporate protest to a legitimate business with a self-aware twist. This was, however, exactly as Fielder intended. It stands for nothing and everything.

This, I propose, is the solution to ‘Reclaim’. The one setback is that currently, New Zealand’s parody law may not allow it (however, a new Bill put forward by the Greens is set to bring it to USA’s standards), but a place like Dumb Starbucks would hardly seem amiss in a place of such self-appreciated irony and smug intellectual appreciation as a university, and could serve as a compromise between the corporate types and the students want to drink their coffee ironically and still protest corporatisation. Wake up the sheeple with caffeinated beverages, I say!

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