Sorry, Graffiti Artists, You're Actually Helping 'the Man'

Greg Beato: They give governments an excuse to expand powers

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff

Posted Jan 25, 2013 4:13 PM CST

(Newser) – Much is written about the glory of graffiti artists, those honorable souls who act as a "liberating force that allows individuals and communities to reclaim public space," writes Greg Beato at the libertarian Reason. They're sticking it to The Man. Beato, though, has a few counter arguments to offer. While the best of graffiti is "amazing," the vast majority is crap; the rise of graffiti has given rise to the under-reported business of graffiti abatement (figure $20 billion a year) that cashes in on, and even encourages, the cycle; and worst of all, this proliferation of taggers is giving "local governments a pretext to expand their coercive powers."

In California, for instance, just carrying a felt-tip marker can get you 6 months in jail unless you've got a plausible excuse. Cities are using graffiti-tracking apps and databases, holding parents liable for their kids' scrawls, and demanding that private homeowners quickly get rid of any markings that show up on their property. "Every time a tagger scribbles his name on the back of a bus seat, he may be reclaiming a few tiny inches of worn plastic for The People, but he’s also empowering the expanding apparatus of the state," writes Beato. Read his full column here.

A can of spray paint is left on the ground in an industrial area of the central Los Angeles.
A can of spray paint is left on the ground in an industrial area of the central Los Angeles.   (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
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