Deploy the Weapon

Elsewhere (94)

Theodore Dalrymple on the cult and conformism of the graffiti artist Banksy, an avowed “anti-capitalist,” albeit with means: 

The most famous of the street artists represented, Banksy… has painted a museum attendant in an old-fashioned uniform sitting near a single framed “picture” consisting only of the word PRICK (or, in another version, ARSE). The first of these versions was sold — though admittedly not by Banksy himself — for about $300,000. He has also produced a print of an auctioneer taking bids for a “picture” that consists of the words I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU MORONS ACTUALLY BUY THIS SHIT. Banksy sold about 1,000 of these prints for $180,000 in total, but they were soon selling at auction for $5,000 apiece. This reminds me of the curious fact that a placebo pill has a placebo effect even if you tell the person taking it that it is only a placebo.

Banksy has guarded his incognito so that it has become, paradoxically, an important part of his identity as well as of his commercial appeal. But according to those who have investigated his life, he seems to have been born in Bristol in 1974. He was privately educated, which suggests family prosperity. From an early age, however, he appears to have suffered not from nostalgie de la boue, for he had never hitherto known la boue, but from envie de la boue, a longing for the depths. This common desire results from two ideological assumptions: that somehow the poor are authentic in a way that other social strata are not; and that prosperity, at least in our society, is something to be ashamed of, the product of social injustice or exploitation. The vulgar language in which Banksy expresses himself, which is probably not native to his original social stratum, is thus a form of expiation for the original sin of having been born to the prosperous and inauthentic.

There’s too much worth quoting so do read in full. Okay, one more:

Banksy painted the words DESIGNATED GRAFFITI AREA in an official-looking way on three whitewashed walls in elegant areas of London, and they were shortly covered with the horrible and idiotic graffiti that usually targets only concrete walls and tunnels. Banksy argues that all public space should be available for self-expression by the people, forgetting that the majority of the people may want to express themselves by leaving elegant blank walls elegantly blank. But then, they are only people, not the people, a crucial distinction in Banksy’s mind.

For more on the subject of graffiti and the thinking of its apologists, see also this.

And a mischievous Zombie ponders where Marxism meets the Tea Party:  

The formula to determine how much each employee gets to keep for living expenses is called “the tax code,” and those who contribute to the national product are called “taxpayers.” The managers deciding how the pile is spent are “politicians,” who are chosen every two years in a shareholders’ meeting called an “election.” This system worked pretty well for quite a long time — until recently. It is only within the last few years that something remarkable happened: The number of contributing “taxpayers” in the country for the first time has fallen to approximately 50% of the population. Meanwhile, the number of unemployed, retired, disabled or indigent citizens grew, as did the number of citizens who earned so little in part-time or low-paying jobs that they paid no taxes, as did the number of people labouring in the untaxed underground economy, as did the number of bureaucrats.

The end result of this epochal demographic and economic shift is that for the first time in American history, the people who actually work for a living and contribute to the common good — the “proletariat” in Marx’s version, and the “taxpayers” in ours — no longer control the company. Vote-wise, the scales have tipped in favour on the non-contributors and the bureaucrats, and suddenly they are the ones making the decisions about what to do with our collective gigantic pile of money — while those who actually created the pile through their work and tax contributions have become powerless. It is outrage over this very power shift that spawned the Tea Party, which is essentially a movement of taxpayers angry that they no longer get to determine how their taxes are spent. Historically speaking, the Tea Party movement can be accurately defined as a workers’ revolution.

As usual, feel free to add your own links and snippets in the comments. 



We've mentioned the excellent Youtube videos of GirlwritesWhat on these pages. Through her involvement, I've been following an interesting YouTube kerfuffle between a user calling himself Snakepliskinist and some teenage UK feminists using a channel called "Those Pesky Dames"

'Snake' has been humourously critical of their somewhat tedious videos, which tend to be lectures on how we should think and speak. He also pushes his luck rather, making teasing remarks about maybe fancying one of the Dames, then changing his mind. He also swears from time to time, and calls people idiots.

It's by no means deeply offensive, but the Dames have repeatedly flagged many of his videos as "bullying" or breaking privacy rules. They apparently managed to get a few removed by YouTube, and now links to all his videos have been removed (some are still available if you know the URLs) In response, several YT users mirrored the missing videos.

I often wonder if I'm watching the slow death of free speech, and perhaps this is another example. The Dames continually lecture us on what we should and should not do, think or say. You might almost think they are enjoying a kind of power. Their attempts to silence critics just seem to come from the same attitude.

John D

But then, they are only people, not the people, a crucial distinction in Banksy’s mind.

I wish I was an anti-capitalist who speaks for 'the' people. Then I could do what I want to anyone else's property. Not for me, mind you, for 'the' people.



Not for me, mind you, for ‘the’ people.

It’s a standard manoeuvre, one we’ve seen before. More than once. Strange that people so swollen with self-righteousness should also want a kind of moral anonymity.


The Dames continually lecture us on what we should and should not do, think or say.

But scolding is the payoff for all that piety.

sackcloth and ashes

Charlie Brooker's take on Banksy:

[One of Banksy's works] featured that Vietnamese girl who had her clothes napalmed off. Ho-hum, a familiar image, you think. I'll just be on my way to my 9 to 5 desk job, mindless drone that I am. Then, with an astonished lurch, you notice sly, subversive genius Banksy has stencilled Mickey Mouse and Ronald McDonald either side of her.

Wham! The message hits you like a lead bus: America ... um ... war ... er ... Disney ... and stuff. Wow. In an instant, your worldview changes forever. Your eyes are opened. Staggering away, mind blown, you flick v-signs at a Burger King on the way home. Nice one Banksy! You've shown us the truth, yeah?

As if that wasn't irritating enough, Banksy's vague, pseudo-subversive preaching is often accompanied by a downright embarrassing hardnut swagger. His website is full of advice to other would-be graffiti bores, like: "be aware that going on a mission drunk out of your head will result in some truly spectacular artwork and at least one night in the cells". Woah, man - the cells!

He goes on to explain that "real villains" think graffiti is pointless - not because he wants you to agree with them, but because he wants you to know he's mates with a few tough-guy criminal types. Coz Banksy's an anarchalist what don't respect no law, innit?

One of his most imbecilic daubings depicts a monkey wearing a sandwich board with "lying to the police is never wrong" written on it. So presumably Ian Huntley was right then, Banksy? You absolute thundering backside'.


I do like the phrase you thundering backside.


Thanks Sackcloth. It took me about 3 years to get from 'that Charlie Brooker is really hilarious' to 'Oh Christ, what's that pompous pratt Brooker on about now?' and now I'm practically back to square one.

I suppose 2 minutes of the 10 O'clock show, or whetever it's called, will fix that.


Also, Norm Geras on communist cool:

Born in communist Czechoslovakia, Dalibor Rohac is unsettled by the continued displays of the symbols of communism by people on the political left. In view of the millions of victims of communist regimes, he finds it difficult to understand the surviving taste for the hammer and sickle, Che Guevara t-shirts and the like. Rohac mentions some possible explanations for this: that few people grasp the magnitude of the crimes of communism; that, whereas totalitarian fascism was always a poisonous idea, communism may be seen as a good idea that went wrong - one with clear links to principles of universal justice.

A good idea gone wrong as may be, communism didn’t just go wrong in some minor or insignificant detail, but on a vast scale, and the manner in which it went wrong wasn’t only the manner of what one calls a ‘mistake’; it became mired in the worst kinds of moral corruption and criminality. No one with a genuine attachment to humane ideals should want to be associated with, much less bear upon their person, the iconography in question. It should have been completely discredited.

Though, of course, communism – Marxism and its variants – was never a good idea. It is, and always was, a monstrous idea, a license for coercion, atrocity and horror - predictably so. And not coincidentally, it was conceived and excused by some very unpleasant people.


I cannot shake the image of Polly Toynbee of The Guardian writing anti-capitalist screeds from her villa in Tuscany.

There seems to be a plethora of such filthy rich people who rile against capitalism, sometimes getting rich BY riling against capitalism. For those rich people who demand greater wealth distribution, I have the same answer as for those who insist we must reduce global population: You first.


The nut of the appeal of wealth redistribution is the misunderstanding of the fundamental economic truth that the sum total of wealth is not a constant. Wealth can be created and destroyed. That the latter, the destruction of wealth, need not only result from riots and/or war, but also from neglect that comes from a blindness to the fact that the simple maintaining of wealth is itself a tremendous responsibility and requires considerable effort.

Witness how many "edcators" repeat to their students the lie that "war is good for the economy". Many, if not most, conservatives that I know also believe this. I blame Keynes, but what's the point? If the ideas of industry and Western civilization in general are to survive, there must be a concentrated effort on refuting this fundamental misuderstanding. Only then can the cleanup work of refuting communism/socialism/"philosopher king" ideology even begin to have an effect.

I've been preaching this to the wind for 20-30 years now. No one seems to get this, but I cannot see how this is such a hard concept to get across. I just suck at explaining it. Has anyone else tried?


I remember seeing a vid of some OWS lackey arguing with a Soviet-bloc escapee about socialism. The lackey freely admitted that Stalin was a brute, and his poor interlocutor wasn't sure how to counter that.

Here's the counter:

How did a brute like Stalin get to be in charge? The Bolshevik revolution started out as an idealistic intellectual movement, too, just like OWS. Why did they put a monster in charge of their movement?

Answer: They didn't know he was a monster, because he was a charming psychopath, and they found him irresistible. Charming psychopaths usually develop a cult of personality around themselves. Do you, Mr. OWS enthusiast, know how to spot charming psychopaths before they show their true colors? Because the Stalins and the Hitlers and the Maos and the Mussolinis are in your midst RIGHT NOW. Charming psychopaths are drawn to revolutionary movements like flesh-eating bacteria to open wounds: you can't stop them from joining up and working their way into the lead positions.

So, how many of these charming psychopaths has your movement identified and expelled? If you were to recognize that someone in your movement were a charming psychopath, and you informed your fellows (sorry: comrades), would they expel that charming, well-liked, hypnotic personality?

Or would they brand you a heretic and expel YOU?

It matters not a whit if socialism is a good idea on paper: the very fact that you are centralizing power means that you are putting everything into the hands of charming psychopaths, and charming psychopaths have absolutely no qualms about building gulags and death camps for their detractors (and imagined detractors) while glutting themselves on the labor of the impoverished masses.

THAT'S why any movement that agitates for destroying the old system in a revolutionary spasm will ALWAYS end with totalitarianism. You weedy little OWS pukes couldn't stop it if you wanted to.

Spiny Norman

And a mischievous Zombie ponders...

Mischievous, indeed. Zombie certainly rustled the jimmies of a great many of her/his readers.


That's beautifully put, Dicentra.

It always struck me as odd that these ‘revolutionaries’ of the Occupy movement are campaigning for ‘more’ government, not less.

They don't trust large unaccountable businesses, but they trust even larger, even less accountable governments.

They distrust, as you say, power. But desperately want to put it in the hands of fewer and fewer people.

They claim to speak for ‘the people’, but don't listen to what they are actually saying (which is generally: Fuck off!)

Your point about charming psychopaths is well made, but I think they are actually far less dangerous than the well-intentioned. Take the global warming movement. Apart from the parasites at the top who are — in some instances — using it to create a gigantic gravy train, I would imagine the vast bulk of those involved truly believe that dear old Mother Nature is in peril. You can feel it in the way that they speak. They just don't understand why you don't ‘get it!’ They don't understand why you've seen the evidence and haven't drawn the same conclusions.

They are the ones who are the most dangerous. They are the ones who will do what they're told by the parasites and the charming psychopath. They are the ones who will put handcuffs on you, take your children away, stop your free speech, man the watchtowers, run the prison canteen, dig ditches and cover your body with quicklime.

They're saving the planet. They're good people.


"Once the Plebs discovered that they could vote themselves bread and circuses, the Republic was doomed."
-- Always scribble, scribble, scribble, eh Mr. Gibbon?


"Between 1945 and 1965, the decline in worker-to-beneficiary ratios went from 41 to 4 workers per beneficiary. The Social Security program matured in the 1960s, when Americans were consistently having fewer children, living longer, and earning wages at a slower rate than the rate of growth in the number of retirees. As these trends have continued, today there are just 2.9 workers per retiree—and this amount is expected to drop to two workers per retiree by 2030."


I am, as far as I can tell, one of the few people in the world who thinks Banksy is little more than a moderately able cartoonist who happens to paint his reasonably witty images on other people's walls. But as always, the images can never point a finger at the left or the idiocy of socialist hypocrisy and excesses.

I do have a problem with graffiti as I think it is all, almost without exception, pretty poor and certainly isn't art. The people who spray their name on walls don't know how to build a wall, nor do I expect them to know how to make an aerosol can. The sprayers are just end users of capitalist products, even if their purchase is funded by the largesse of 'the state.' At least, I don't think paint cans filled with gas are the product of a revolutionary workers collective, but I may be wrong.

One last observation: there seems to be a sort of common law where if someone has sprayed their name on a wall they do not own then another spray-monkey cannot spray over it. Who knew kiddy-anarchism had such rigid principles?

Spiny Norman


...there seems to be a sort of common law where if someone has sprayed their name on a wall they do not own then another spray-monkey cannot spray over it.

Since most of the graffiti we see is street gang "territorial scent marking", as our host has so aptly named it, spraying over it is tantamount to a declaration of war... or at least a challenge to a fight. So, in order to preserve some temporary "peace", certain rules must be obeyed.

Spiny Norman

Perhaps I should amend my last comment: I was writing from an American perspective, and what I understand is that most European graffiti taggers are not necessarily street gangsters, but are aping their customs without knowing the reason for them.

There are 2 things America has given the world that have made the rest of the world an uglier place. No, not the atomic bomb and McDonalds, but paint in aerosol cans and MTV. The first gave the vandals ::cough:: street artists the means; the second, their greatest inspiration.

Please accept my apology on the behalf of my fellow countrymen.


far less dangerous than the well-intentioned

Without the Useful Idiots, the Charming Psychopaths never get into those high positions, because the Useful Idiots are so easy to charm and gull and hypnotize. The Useful Idiots don't know the tells, or if they do, they cannot bring themselves to denounce the Charming Psychopaths as Charming Psychopaths.

I cannot bring myself to call them "well intentioned," because in my book, unless you are willing to do your own homework and to follow the truth wherever it leads, and to discard all falsehoods or half-truths that support your case, and to scrupulously weed out your fallacious reasoning, your intentions are not good; rather, your intentions are to Not Be Mocked By The Cool People.

A kind of intention that ranges from pathetic to despicable. Followed by downright psychotic:

Rich Rostrom

WTP: ... the simple maintaining of wealth is itself a tremendous responsibility and requires considerable effort.

The mentality of socialism was formed in the early to middle 1800s, when the chief concentration of wealth was the inherited landholdings of hereditary aristocrats, who had done nothing to earn it and did little to maintain it.

Under those conditions, resentment against wealth is a bit more understandable.


Under those conditions, resentment against wealth is a bit more understandable.

Not to mention that it was illegal to partition off your land and sell a bit or to split it among your heirs.

The system was definitely rigged to maintain the status quo, definitely designed to make sure the rich stayed rich and the poor never got uppity.

The fact that people resented an entrenched, unjust system isn't the point: Socialism replaced the old rich overlords with new rich overlords, and those resentments were weapons in the hands of the ambitious "outs."


WTP: ... the simple maintaining of wealth is itself a tremendous responsibility and requires considerable effort.

The mentality of socialism was formed in the early to middle 1800s, when the chief concentration of wealth was the inherited landholdings of hereditary aristocrats, who had done nothing to earn it and did little to maintain it.

Under those conditions, resentment against wealth is a bit more understandable.

Well that may excuse the idiocy 200 years ago on that side of the pond, but we've had fairly open access to land over here since the earliest of days. Even vacant land has ownership costs and taxes paid to the govt to protect the rights to that land from scoundrels both foreign and domestic.

While there is some truth in what you say, Marxism's rhetoric is strongly to the "workers" over the "industrialists". But that's history. Again, if Marxism can spread its ignorance so far and wide in 200 years, why cannot the simple truths of wealth creation not gain traction even amongst many of the educated "conservative" masses with all the communication tools we have available today?


why cannot the simple truths of wealth creation not gain traction even amongst many of the educated "conservative" masses with all the communication tools we have available today?

Because it's not the path of least resistance.

The Homestead Act was a wonderful opportunity for the masses in Europe who were doing back-breaking labor anyway; they figured they might as well do it in America, where they could keep the fruits of their labor and build from there, no class consciousness to keep them down. They knew they risked failure, but it was worth it to them. And in most cases, it paid off.

A sad consequence of our wealth is that we're like the astronauts in the Space Station: in the absence of gravity, we WILL lose muscle and bone mass.

Fact is, way too many people would rather turn their lives over to a powerful oversoul who removes the scary risk of failure. Standing on your own two feet doesn't appeal to those who got participation trophies and never experienced failure or hardship.

Human nature unfortunately causes us to regard good fortune as What We're Entitled To, and now we Spoiled Westerners think we can have the good stuff without the sweat and without the risk.

Wealth creation requires imagination, risk-taking, hard work, and plenty of setbacks and failures. Those whose temperaments make them likely to succeed under those conditions are eager to jump into the game. The rest of the populace would rather be taken care of.

Free ice cream or cold, hard reality. Reread "The Grand Inquisitor" and remember how much luck Christ had selling the same options.

Why would we fare any better?


I know I diverge (slightly) but in my view a significantly more odious example of this theme is the man of the people Billy, the working class hero, Bragg.

I really have trouble saying anything about him in a reasoned I'll stop.


Ok, I'm an engineer. A 1s and 0s kind, son of a bridge builder, so this alphabet thing y'all communicate in is definitely not my forte. I'm not comunicating my point well, if at all. I do have a much better understanding of history, though. I know people are lazy, yattayattayatta. Though perhaps you're on to something there with. "The path of least resistance".

You'll note that above I indicated that the understanding that wealth can be created, that war is, in aggregate, BAD for economies, is not understood even by many, if not most, of those who work hard. When these subjects arise, the standard "conservative" rhetoric goes to the confrontational of " those lazy bastards.." Etc. not that it's wrong, but I have yet to see it make an impact. But I suppose it does make some conservative types feel good about themselves, and it is easier than trying to create an understanding, EVEN AMONG CONSERVATIVES, of basic economic sense. I have yet to see, outside of a university classroom(ironically), any seriuos attempts to communicate a basic understanding that for one person to get richer, another must not necessarily get poorer.

Do you get what I'm saying?


"because the Useful Idiots are so easy to charm and gull and hypnotize"

Dicentra, I take this as a given because the left is heavily populated by those who respond most to the principle of "do as I say, not do as I do." Lefties are uniformly muddled and unoriginal thinkers (their critical reasoning often lies with the ramblings of a Victorian gentleman long since buried in Highgate cemetery) but as they cannot reason things for themselves they thrive on being told what to do. The fact they sometimes agree among themselves about how to do what they are being told gives them the self-delusion of intelligence and choice.

They wait to be told and can only act on instructions alone. Thus when a Charming Psychopath comes along they are positively salivating at the promise of well-spoken fresh orders, especially if it involves the thrill of a lot of red flag waving too.


Not many conservatives can explain conservatism eloquently?

No, no they can't.

And neither can Lefties explain their ideology beyond bumper-sticker blurtations.

But the Conservative side can't be expressed in bumper-stickers except to the converted; Leftism is nothing BUT emotive slogans.

Furthermore, Lefties are utterly promiscuous in their preaching: they never pass up an opportunity to flash their gang colors, whether it's in a university class, a rock concert, a TV series, or a Facebook profile. Show me a sticker-covered car and I'll show you a left-wing ideologue.

Conservatives prefer to keep politics out of the conversation unless invited to opine. Students at uni can detect conservative profs more by what they don't say than by what they do.

Oh, did I mention that the Left plays dirty? That they mischaracterize our position but we don't return the favor? That they use social intimidation and peer pressure to make sure everyone knows that only the mean old meanies are conservative?

The relationship between Left and Right often resembles that between Petulant Teen and Long-Suffering Parent. The Left thinks that the only answer to every question is YES: there should be no restrictions, no judging, no limits, no rules, no self-control. Their response to any suggestion by the Right that a well-placed NO might be in order is that we're being mean and unreasonable and bigoted and stuffy and not with-it.


'...forgetting that the majority of the people may want to express themselves by leaving elegant blank walls elegantly blank...'

I like Dalrymple, he's a fine writer, and he makes a good point, but that line just reminded me of this, from The Producers:

'Now, Der Fuhrer - there was a painter! He could paint a whole building, two coats! In just one day!'


Not many conservatives can explain conservatism eloquently?

I didn't say that, and that's not my point. I just think that it would be more efficient to see the ignorance of a specific economic fundamental addressed before attacking the idiocy on which it is based.

Not wanting to get into a discussion on the relative virtues of conservatives vs. leftists, and not that I disagree about much of what you state regarding the left, especially the far left, but if you don't see many similarities between leftist ideologues and conservative ideologues, you may need to take a step back.


doh...meant to say "before attacking the idiocy which is based upon it."...damn interruptions...


Although I'm unashamedly biased on such arty matters, Dalrymple eloquently surmises my, and probably a fair few others, opinion on the paradoxical Banksy. The 'Pimpernel' of the grafitti world is undeniably imbued with enviable talent and bountiful intelligence but the 'politics' behind many of his works betray a perma-defiant childishness infused with a partisan ethos that unmistakably derives from privileged origins. Indeed, subconsciously (or deliberately) seeking affiliation with the working-class via artistic endeavour invites desirable association with the average 'oppressed', 'impoverished' citizen thus theoretically generating the 'credibility' your ever self-conscious 'trendy' covets above all else. The elusive Banksy is evidently no exception to such specious desires.

Still, genuine credit must go to him for successfully maintaining his anonymity in spite of the incessant acclaim, recognition and accolades his works invariably generate as it must be an immense challenge to continually resist revealing himself and indulge in the kudos that egocentric artists have a near-insatiable hunger for.

In many ways Banksy is effectively 'living the dream' for many of his middle-class, left-leaning admirers, namely: He gets to publicly proclaim his defiantly naive and blinkered (though often wry and pertinent) opinions and observations on Capitalism, society, law enforcement, privilege et al and everyone who's 'cool' thinks he's cool for doing so. Win!


'Still, genuine credit must go to him for successfully maintaining his anonymity in spite of the incessant acclaim'

True.... though paradoxically his very carefully maintained anonymity is paradoxically, an astonishingly effective self-promotion technique. It's brought him fame, if not fortune, something that many artists long for. (Yes, it really is about showing off). It's not exactly anonymity of course, but his story is a much better sell because we think of it as that. These days art seems to be much more about the maintenance of a media-friendly identity than about, say, originality or ability to master artistic technique: it's a version of Thomas Edison's old dictum: art is one per cent inspiration, ninety nine per cent masturbation.


Wow. My first sentence has a paradoxical paradox. In the history of tautologies, that has to be the most.... er.... tautological.... um.... hey, look over there!

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