The Thinking 

The Bleak Nihilism of Graffiti

April 23, 2012



ALAN writes:

One of the most remarkable characteristics of modern Americans is their propensity to neglect the local and concrete while fawning over the distant, alien, and abstract.

Recently in St. Louis, thugs used spray paint to deface buildings and a hundred-year-old monument in a city park. The reaction was predictable: The pathetic weakness of “law enforcement” was nicely conveyed in a newspaper photo of two police officers (Christine and Kyle) gaping at spray paint on the wall of one park building. The headline read: “St. Louis park hit by pro-Occupy graffiti.”                         

This headline illustrates the decadence of modern journalism:

1. The passive voice used in preference to the active might be proper in the case of a tornado. But spray paint vandalism is not an act of nature; it is something that people do – something that criminals do. “Criminals vandalize public property” would be the headline used if that Left-leaning newspaper had any regard for the truth.

2.  Use of the word “graffiti” shows how Americans accept the vocabulary promoted by the Left. The first obligation of a reporter is to call things by their right name. Defacing other people’s property with spray paint does not cease to be a crime because ten thousand hip art critics or Marxist professors call it “Art,” or because a museum in Los Angeles presents an “exhibit” of such vandalism and calls it “Art” [ as chronicled here], or because law enforcement agencies are foolish enough to accept and repeat the misrepresentation.

To yield the choice of words and premises to our enemies is to surrender territory even before the battle has begun. Orwell wrote in 1946 of how imprecise or pretentious words and politically-approved, ready-made phrases are a sure sign of cultural degradation. “The whole tendency of modern prose is away from concreteness,” he wrote (in “Politics and the English Language”). His targets were the preference for the passive voice, the abstractions, and the pretentiousness that were so common in newspaper journalism.

Imagine what he would think if he were here today and could see that nothing has changed. No less than in the 1940s, modern reporters agree to use buzzwords and phrases prescribed or approved for them by their Political Correctness guidebooks, rather than plain words whose meaning is concrete and understood by all.

But, Orwell also wrote, it should be possible to make such pretentiousness unfashionable if we become conscious of it and choose no longer to use it or sanction it by accepting its use by others.

I suggest that “graffiti” is a word so drenched in mendacity that we should abandon it entirely. It is a buzzword favored not by decent men and women or by those who produce “art” worthy of that name, but by Modern Art racketeers and their flunkeys. Spray-paint vandalism is and should always be treated and described as a criminal act, not as any kind of “art.”

It is astonishing to observe the inaction of “the law” in response to the tremendous increase in spray-paint vandalism in recent years. Hundreds of places are now defaced with such vandalism – city parks, bridges, walls, buildings, railroad cars, trucks. Many of them stand thus defaced and in plain sight from highways year after year. “The law” does nothing. There are no penalties. No flock of sheep could show a more supine response. What does this teach children? What does it tell tourists? What does it reveal about Americans in comparison, for instance, with the Japanese, in whose cities it is almost impossible to find spray-paint vandalism. (This, according to Jared Taylor, who has spent much time in Japan.)

I once overheard two librarians talking about railroad cars that were thus defaced. Some of the surfaces were pretty, one of them said to the other, but others are just vandalism. The principle of property rights – the fact that all of it was vandalism – the fact that no one has a right to deface other people’s property in the name of “art” – were not mentioned by either of them. Such is the Modernist mindset. Ten colorful, slick-paper books promoting spray-paint vandalism as “art” can be seen on a shelf in the “Fine Arts” department of their library.

But spray-paint vandalism is not the only decadence that lies in plain view every day but that modernists will do nothing to oppose or punish. A stone wall more than a hundred years old stands alongside a cemetery in south St. Louis on a street with heavy traffic. The cemetery is owned by the city. Vandals have worked in the dark of night, year after year, inch by inch, to dislodge some of the large stones in the wall at the cemetery’s entrance. I have watched this happen over the past ten years. It is calculated vandalism, and the vandals show more dedication to their work than “the law” shows to its responsibility to apprehend and punish them.

Are there people anywhere on this planet who are more morally obtuse than modern Americans?

I can imagine my grandparents saying: “Why don’t Americans tend to their own property, landscape, and cities and keep them neat, clean, and attractive? That is their proper business. Why do they neglect those things and persist in meddling in nations on the other side of the planet? That is none of their proper business.”

But modern Americans are another species entirely: They cannot or will not police their own cities and defend their own property against thugs with spray paint– yet they imagine they are going to “build nations” on the other side of the planet. My grandfather would get a hearty laugh out of that.

                                     —– Comments ——

Buck writes:

Alan writes:

But modern Americans are another species entirely…

I would put it another way. The modern U.S. citizen, which in declining numbers, has American ancestry, is not a new species. They are simply more of what already existed, but had been self-restrained within the context of America’s founding ethos.

Put a certain bacteria in a petri dish and add an anti-bacteria. When most of the population dies, yet some lives and then thrives on the nutrients provided by the now dead remains of the former majority, because they are equipped with the necessary enzyme that allows them to survive; the now dominant strain of bacteria is not something new, but it is rather something that has always existed, but has always been held in check.

We slowly but steadily removed the constraints and modern liberalism flourished. Just like Marx said about Communism; that it can not come into being without the wealth provided by capitalism; modern liberalism couldn’t thrive without the prosperity and freedoms provided by classic liberalism.

There is something endemic, something weak and recessive in the traditionalist gene. We have to find out what it is and come up with the proper enzyme.

N.W. writes:

One could argue that the bleak nihilism of modern architecture invites such abuse upon itself. It does anger me though, when some idiot with an attitude and a spray can vandalizes a beautiful old building, monument or natural feature.

I was watching a documentary once about some major city’s subway system and recollect feeling just a little twinge of schadenfreude when a ‘graffiti artist’ returned to an unsolicited mural he had painted and found some ‘vandal’ had defaced his work. Appalled at the callous disregard of beauty evidenced by his fellow man the poor fellow spray painted a brief epitaph over the vandals work and his own, “This I cannot forgive.”

I do kind of feel sorry for people like him. Much like a lot of the OWSers and many others of my generation, this man realized there was something terribly wrong with the world, but became a bit lost in the sauce trying to formulate some eloquent response to the chaos. He was well-intentioned but lost and misguided.

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