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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.”