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Friday Ephemera

It’s Cool When It’s Done to Other People

Being as it is the very yardstick of hip and edgy, the Guardian is once again defending criminality and antisocial behaviour. A few weeks ago, it was academic radical Alexander Vasudevan and his enthusiasm for the “seizure and reclamation” of other people’s belongings as “a potent symbol of protest.” Shortly before that, we had Sam Allen telling us that not being agreed with and obeyed amounts to being “silenced,” and that her associates “will act in a way that will ensure they will be heard.” Specifically, by setting fire to Tesco stores and terrifying their neighbours with all-night rioting, and then threatening to do it again unless their demands are met. Such are the privileges of fighting for “social justice.” 

Today, Lanre Bakare, recipient of a Scott Trust bursary, is applauding graffiti and its “rising popularity”:

Now graffiti’s more outspoken critics are being drowned out again by fans and supporters, such as academics at the University of Bristol, who want to see Banksy’s work receive listed status… The critics of graffiti and street art will keep saying they have no artistic merit and should be marginalised, not publicly funded. If Banksy’s pieces do get listed status the debate will be opened up again.

Actually, the strongest objections to graffiti generally hinge not on aesthetics, but on a more prosaic detail. Defacing and damaging someone else’s property - just because you can - simply isn’t cool, dude. “Street art” rarely suggests great artistry - more typically the impression given is of territorial scent marking and a kind of moral autism. A belief that something you’d find insulting and aggravating if done to you and your belongings can nonetheless be done to others because… well, because you’re so amazingly radical and important.

The millionaire “anti-capitalist” Banksy would have us believe that “crime against property is not real crime,” though residents and business owners whose property has been defaced and who’ve been left with the cost of cleaning and repair may take a rather different, less sophisticated view. Especially given that such crime tends to affect people who earn considerably less than Banksy. Lest we forget, graffiti, like broken windows, can act as a signal to other vandals and predators. And the residents of graffiti-blighted neighbourhoods, which can subsequently become blighted by other forms of crime, may find little comfort in the notion that their own taxes could soon be funding and legitimising more of the same.

Readers who wish to acquaint themselves with the actual politics of graffiti, as opposed to narcissistic posturing, could start with the essays of Heather Mac Donald, whose grasp of the subject – and of its defenders’ colossal hypocrisy - is both precise and entertaining. Those pressed for time may simply note the following comment by an unorthodox Guardian reader, who replies to Mr Bakare’s claim that the public “seems to be thirsty for more work to spring up in their areas”:  

Fine. Perhaps these members of the public could all post their addresses on a graffiti website if they’re so keen on it. That way, some little sod with a spray can will know what property to ‘tag’ next.

Mr Bakare’s previous Guardian contributions include an effort to persuade us that “the soundtrack to the credit crunch is being written by hip-hop artists,” whose “socially conscious” rapping should be acclaimed for its “focus on harsh economic issues.” Among these titans of radicalism is the well-heeled Atlanta rapper and offender of Bill O’Reilly, Young Jeezy, aka Jay Wayne Jenkins. Of whom, Mr Bakare says,

Jeezy concentrates on his own money issues, with lines like “I’m staring at my stack like where the fuck’s the rest at” and “Looking at my watch like it’s a bad investment," making it clear that even successful rappers suffer in an economic downturn.

Regarding the Tesco burning mentioned earlier and the delightful Ms Sam Allen - who wishes to be heard, whatever it takes - Mr Bakare describes her group and its activities as “a trenchant anti-corporate resistance movement.”



Regarding the Tesco burning… Mr Bakare describes her group and its activities as “a trenchant anti-corporate resistance movement.”

From Bakare's Graun article:

"That kind of solidarity is what makes Stokes Croft one of Bristol's most interesting areas."

Yes, the riots and burnt out supermarkets are a real cultural attraction.

Is the Guardian now making a point of hiring total dicks?

I know. Silly question...


“Yes, the riots and burnt out supermarkets are a real cultural attraction.”

Well, quite. And you can’t help but wonder how Mr Bakare would feel about similar “solidarity” and “trenchant resistance” if it were aimed at his property, or that of his family, or were informed by some cause he doesn’t find quite so congenial.

But non-reciprocal presumption runs throughout this kind of posturing. One graffiti enthusiast joins the Guardian comments to insist, flatly, that commercial billboards are “corporate vandalism,” which somehow makes actual vandalism totally okay. Another claims that vandalising other people’s property is “democratic” and thus to be encouraged. A third enthusiast says if people don’t like it, “tough.”

Clearly, graffiti attracts a better class of people.


Once again the Guardian defends people with an inflated sense of entitlement.


...commercial billboards are “corporate vandalism,”...

Another beautiful example of when the use of an adjective is necessary since the concept being presented has little or relation to the noun. If it was vandalism, you wouldn't need to prefix it with "corportate".

Prime, Grade A1 classic example: Social justice.

The irony in this case of course is that the "graffiti artists" (oh look, another example!) are perfectly within their rights to hire billboard space upon which to deposit and exhibit their work. Commercial enterprises, on the other hand, are not at liberty to randomly flypost their advertisments upon any conveniently-located vertical surface. That would be vandalism.



“‘graffiti artists’… are perfectly within their rights to hire billboard space upon which to deposit and exhibit their work.”

Indeed. But that wouldn’t be radical, which is what Mr Bakare seems to find so exciting.

What Bakare takes care not to mention is that most graffiti – almost all of it – consists of crude, narcissistic ‘tags’ and inane, barely legible slogans. The bulk of the graffiti we see doesn’t even pretend to be art; it’s just territorial scent marking by arrogant little shits. I can only assume Bakare has never been targeted by people who find it amusing to deface someone’s home, neighbourhood or business premises just because they can. I’m guessing Mr Bakare has never had to repaint his place of work at considerable expense, or have new windows fitted, then, days later, have to paint it again, and again… all because of antisocial misfits who presume much as he does.

Years ago, I worked at a recording studio in Nottingham. Graffiti soon appeared across the front of the building, which was repainted - only to be defaced again. And this repeated vandalism sends a message to the victim and to others – “we have violated your first line of defence – i.e., social propriety.” To some, this is an invitation to further transgression, further violation. Several attempts at burglary soon followed.

The Unspeakable In Full Pursuit Of The Unreadable

Would the Graun like graffiti just as much if it displayed edgy, radical statements like "Socialism kills" and "Che was a tosser" as well as "Polly cannot write sense" painted on their office walls?

No, I thought not.

Mark G

Is Banksy's work exhibited? Would it become more genuine if someone were to make an addition to his art?


Has anyone got Banksy arrested yet? The public schoolboy is easily googlable. I might even chip in if someone would like to start a prosecution.


If one is a member of a designated victim class, there is little one can do that The Guardian will not excuse.


Some days The Guardian seems like little more a bunch of a Marxists critical theorists lecturing Britain on how to deal with the oppressed classes from the vantage of their Tuscany summer villas.


What’s interesting is that Bakare’s article, like so many others, doesn’t even acknowledge the broader social fallout of graffiti and the signals it typically sends, especially in poorer neighbourhoods. Apparently there are no victims of graffiti to consider and no-one’s life is ever made miserable or more dangerous by its enthusiasts. Instead, he talks of “graffiti meccas” as tourist attractions (if only for poseurs and other graffiti practitioners). The fact that graffiti more typically repels business and investment passes unremarked. It’s all about artistic “legitimacy,” the “scene” and the philistines who don’t get it because they’re fusty old dinosaurs, unlike Guardian readers. People who aren’t thrilled by graffiti – or by the public sanction and funding of vandalism – are portrayed as stuffy and unhip. And Bakare highlights some harrumphing from Brian Sewell precisely because it’s a diversion from more serious objections.

sackcloth and ashes

'What’s interesting is that Bakare’s article, like so many others, doesn’t even acknowledge the broader social fallout of graffiti and the signals it typically sends, especially in poorer neighbourhoods'.

Which tells you all you need to know about the Grand Canyon-wide gap between the Guardianistas and the more disadvantaged members of society.

Karen M

even successful rappers suffer in an economic downturn.

One for the 'classic sentences' file...?

sackcloth and ashes

Talking of hypocrisy, Johann Hari is going to get away with his plagiarism and fabrications with a slap on the wrist. Surprise, surprise.

Ted S., Catskills, NY

Well, quite. And you can't help but wonder how Mr Bakare would feel about similar "solidarity" and "trenchant resistance" if it were aimed at his property, or that of his family, or were informed by some cause he doesn't find quite so congenial.

Well, I would have suggested defacing the Guardian's headquarters. Why go at one of them when you can go at all of them?

Could you imagine rioters storming the Guardian or the BBC?


There's a name for wall art which is created with the consent of the owners of the wall. It's called a mural.

Is it possible that the Guardian doesn't know the difference between graffitti and murals or is it just the sheer naughtiness of graffitti that gets them off? If Banksy were to paint something by invitation then it would presumably somehow become less. Less what I am not sure. Just less.

As for 'murals' the quality and content of these is not always top notch.

Ted S., Catskills, NY

I don't know if this belongs here or in the "Elsewhere" thread, but here's a great example of defacing the luvvies' virtual wall in the "wrong" way:

Suddenly when it's done to them it's not funny. And this is only a virtual defacement.



Heh. “Associate Professor in Hyborian Studies and Tyrant Slaying.”

I fear it’s time to gird our loins and revisit this.


So buy your own wall, mister street-artiste. Hell, even Leonardo bought his canvases and panels.

IF IT'S NOT YOURS DON'T SPRAY IT ya jerks. Sheesh.


or is it just the sheer naughtiness of graffitti that gets them off?

Yes. Next question...


If you can find a tape of it, C4's 'Graffiti Wars' doc is well worth a watch. It details the 'war' (snigger) between art-house darling, Banksy, and keepin'-it-real, self-acknowledged legend of serial defacing, Robbo.

You would have to have a heart of stone not to laugh.

Apparently (according to some graffiti anoraks) Robbo practically invented UK graffiti by spraying his nickname in a big ugly font on things. But when Banksy, and all the other sell-outs, came along and ruined it for him, he retired. Years later, when they met unexpectedly in a pub, Banksy failed to offer the due deference expected by Robbo (who styles himself King Robbo). So Robbo, "...giv 'im a bit of a slap".

Banksy then painted over one of Robbo's works of art.

The outrage expressed by the Graffiti cognoscenti in the program was a joy to behold. Irony is clearly an alien concept to them as they explained their disgust that anyone would DARE to paint over, or deface something that belonged to them. Think of it. The cheek! The disrespect!

Words like vandalism were bandied around.

It felt like a Chris Morris mockumentary.


Associate Professor in Hyborian Studies and Tyrant Slaying.

Conan T Barbarian's Ph.D thesis: "To Hear the Lamentation of Their Women: Constructions of Masculinity in Contemporary Zamoran Literature."


phantom menace

The fact that graffiti more typically repels business and investment passes unremarked.

One of the few good Graun comments:

"Regardless of the merits of graffiti, my main dislike of it (apart from most of it being rubbish) is that it is a bringer of fear and a pointer to poverty. Walk down a brightly lit walk way, clear and clean of graffiti and you will feel safe, in a civilised, affluent area and relaxed. Allow that same walk way to be covered in graffiti. You will feel unsafe, believe the area is dodgy, poor and dangerous."

No-one picks up on it (obviously).

Spiny Norman


“In 2011/12, he will be teaching on the following courses: ‘The Relevance of Crom in the Modern World’, ‘Theories of Literature’, ‘Vengeance for Beginners’, ‘Deciphering the Riddle of Steel’ and ‘D.H. Lawrence’.

Who says comedy is dead?


"Corporate vandalism"?

Oookay, then here's a modest suggestion in the spirit of turnabout-is-fair-play: Let's treat all leftist speech as "leftist vandalism" that must be defaced and destroyed By Any Means Necessary. Being fair-minded people who are always ready to see the other person's side, I'm sure our leftist friends will embrace my suggestion with all the respect that is their best known characteristic.

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