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Heather Mac Donald
Crime in the Museums « Back to Story

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Graffiti are the outcome of (and now justification for) a particular form of passive petrochemical huffing.

Get the paint industry to remove petrochemical solvents from spray paint--replace it with something that doesn't provide the bipolar neurological roller coaster of petroleum solvents (violent euphoria followed by deep chic anomie)--and I predict that graffiti will die down, if not out, very rapidly.

But as we know, these solvents--the cheap fractions left over from turning crude oil into its more valuable components--are toxic waste, and thus are injected into consumer products as a way of profitably disposing of them. Same is true for charcoal lighter fluid, which is why so many Americans can't go a summer day without lighting up a grill.

Passive but addictive petrochemical huffing is at the root of so many socio- and psychopathologies in our nation. Detoxify this, and a lot of problems would take care of themselves. There has been a lot of research on the effects of petrochemicals on human behavior and sociability, easily found with a PubMed search.

I hope the writer realizes that it's articles like this--as well as parent's lectures and the public's disapproval of graffiti--that fuels the fire and gives graffiti writers more reason to deface public property. The more you hate it, the more they love it. That's the whole point of graffiti. Like Gastman said in the article, if they painted on legal walls, they would be aerosol artists, NOT graffiti artists. Graffiti artists are vandals, their art HAS to be illegal, it has to make writers, teachers, parents, police officers and city officials upset. Otherwise, it just wouldn't be fun anymore. So, if the writer wants to rail the show for promoting vandalism, fine, but then the writer needs to take accountability as well. If you truly want graffiti to go away, then stop giving it attention, and stop getting paid per word to write about it.
If graffiti vandals are truly "artists," then let them compete in the marketplace with other artists. Nothing is stopping them from creating works on their own canvas or paper. If their work is truly art, it will have value on paper, not just on the side of someone else's building. Are graffiti vandals afraid of coming out behind their anonymity and having their work judged by others? If they are truly artists, then why can't they compete with the rest of the world's artists?

Graffiti is merely vandalism. If it is "art", it is art for the meek and unconfident.
Is the author a woman? Because I was confused by the viewer who "finds himself" near a "plethora" of photos.

Also interesting is the fact that the author is a fellow at The Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, "a conservative, market-oriented think tank." It's good to know that someone espousing the very same ideologies that collapsed the whole US / world economy, made millions of people unemployed, exploded the debt, and got us into an illegal war, is so concerned about the possibility that people will damage a few walls with some spray paint. Unbelievable.
Dear Heather Mac Donald,

Today, April 24 Sunday, the NY Daily News has a lead editorial criticizing L.A.'s Geffen museum for glorifying graffiti vandals as "artists", as you pointed out.


But the Daily News has been doing the same thing in their news stories for decades.

Just Google...

|"graffiti artist"| see dozens of news stories which include the term "graffiti artist".

So I'm emailing today, as I've done many times before (with no response), saying they should implement a permanent editorial policy *never* to refer to graffiti perps as "artists".

This should be in their official style manual for all editors and reporters.

Will you (and any other people who share such a view) help me hold their feet to the fire on this?

Thank you.

John B.
Graffiti is not art. Simply put,it is punks defacing public and private property. It has been a while since I took Art History, but of all the choices of artistic media, spray paint was never listed.
Blake, you and Bill "it-was-OK-for-me-to-set-bombs-because-the-US-did-bad-things-in-Vietnam" Ayers are birds of a feather.

sean: Could you please translate your post into standard English?

Calling graffiti "art" is just part of the general practice of "defining deviancy down."
Christiaan De Wet April 21, 2011 at 3:00 PM
As Cromwell said, "A few honest men are better than numbers." A minority of determined, civilized pioneer types can stand aloof and together as the barbarian morass sinks in savagery and devours itself.
No wonder there is so much graffiti anger in the US, these haters have the common sense of brick walls. Boo Hoo heather, get over it.
hahahahaha ...
I recently took a commuter train ride from northern Delaware into Philadelphia. It was approximately 25 miles where almost every vertical surface within walking distance of the tracks was plastered by graffiti. I couldn't help but think that the barbarians are winning, and that this is a portent of a failing empire. The graffiti vandals have declared that property rights don't matter, and the world is their dumping (or spraying) ground. Interestingly enough, destruction of property rights for the many is at least one thing they have in common with their Socialist comrades in Washington. Our founders understood--destroyed property rights mean the destruction of liberty.
As a person born in the 1970's, I've never seen a urban area without graffiti. Thankfully its not as bad as it once was when I was younger, some cities do a better job of cleaning it up faster. However it is still in far too many places, making far too many areas look dirty,ugly and unmaintained.

I am amazed by old photos of cities before there was large amounts of graffiti, and how people respected both public and private property far better then anybody does today.

Frankly graffiti has been tolerated far too much in society today. Making it into "art" doesn't help make life in an urban area more livable. It just shows that the criminals are still having the run of too many places.

That was an incredibly deep comment that has touched me in so many ways. The war started in Africa by the man you voted for has nothing to do with urban communities and the celebration of blight. The wars in "Mesopotamia" do not dictate the end of basic societal rules and the acceptance of all things that are viewed as "less bad" than war.

You cannot shoplift, assault others, litter, smoke in an elevator, or disobey a police officer because you object to American foreign policy (even if museums or historic buildings in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya are destroyed).

If you are as averse to war as you seem look into Paleo-Conservatism. You could have peace and pleasant public spaces.
Thanks for some common sense finally on what graffiti is, what it does, and what it costs. Why the left is rushing back to find a lost 1971 is beyond me. Is there not enough disintegration without the left heaping more fuel on the fire? Build something for a change.
Brava to Heather MacDonald for telling it like it is, and refusing to subscribe to the fashionable view that graffiti is a positive art form. Whenever I see graffiti in a city, be in in Europe or America, I know there are inchoate voices who have no other way to express their distress, but to efface building (as an architectural historian I am pained by that) is unfortunate. But now when graffiti is just a trendy game it is particularlu heinous and stupid. I am not in LA and can't see the show but believe Ms MacDonald's criticisms and applaud them

Re-read the Communist Goals submitted in 1963 :

22) Continue discrediting American culture by degrading all form of artistic expression. An American Communist cell was told to "eliminate all good sculpture from parks and buildings," substitute shapeless, awkward, and meaningless forms.
23) Control art critics and directors of art museums. "Our plan is to promote ugliness, repulsive, meaningless art."
These people and their mentality indeed had their 15 minutes of fame and influence back in the Soviet Union in the 1920's. Vandalism as art. Sexual promiscuity as valued expression. (Read up on the social and academic anarchy in that country from Lenin's death until Stalin's solidification of total control. Its fascinating, and even scholars know virtually nothing about it today).
Then it all ended when Stalin decided to restore order, and had them all shot.
The man wasn't all bad.
A terrific article, I enjoyed reading it very much. Then again I enjoy reading any article that exposes the hypocrisy and overwhelming nonsense in todays art world. As with the debilitating graffiti in 1980's NYC the art world in general needs to be cleansed of the debilitating shysters that have commandeered the arts generally and the visual arts in particular. Art is too important to any community be hijacked by a motley few.
"... a stuffed dog urinating on a wall," representing a pretentiously stuffed Museum of Contemporary Art urinating on us all?

This excellent article by Heather Mac Donald made me think of the Tom Wolfe terms "Radical Chic" and "Mau-Mauing."

Of course it does not occur to these fashionable artsy terrarium dwellers what will happen to their own great-grandchildren when we reach an insufficient percentage of 'Father [and mother] Knows Best' grownups around to set standards and enforce them--and the sane center of Western civilization finally can no longer hold.

Most of us are well aware of the sins of the West, but it does not follow that we should aspire to become Port-au-Prince or Mexico City. The proof of this is inadvertently revealed in the museum exhibit itself, where everything within is kept lawful, neat and orderly, in the manner of public places preferred by modern Western European peoples, even as their elites cluelessly (and sometimes not so cluelessly?) race each other to the bottom, undoing the very civilization that so undeservedly rewards and protects them. All utterly reprehensible.
- - - -
Border Enforcement + Immigration Moratorium = Job, Crime and Eco Sanity.
Isn't art intended to convey a beauty that lifts our hearts, minds and souls??? How can anyone call graffiti 'art'?
I look forward to Heather Mac Donald's articles, and forward them on to friends. This one was particularly a joy to read. I am so glad she exposed the absolute nonsense of the Museum, the curator and the board. The duplicity, waste, and shallowness of thought is shocking. No wonder we seem so lost in our battles for civility. The story of the dinner party with urinators leaves me feeling quite sad. These are supposed to be preservators of civilizations and they in fact are the destroyers.
The Sanity Inspector April 18, 2011 at 12:36 PM
Graffiti is art, but it is the lowest form of art, boiling down very quickly to no more than simple self-assertion in paint.
Thank you! I could not agree more with Heather Mac Donald. She has written what I view as an expose' on the hypocrisy of graffiti art and all of its "leaders and followers". I work in the industrial part South of Downtown LA. This area borders with the residential area South of Washington Bl. I cannot tell you how many goofy white upper middle class kids I see getting their kicks by going into a poor area to paint graffiti all over someone else's apartment or business. When the police actually catch them, I have quite often seen them sobbing in the back of the police car wondering if mommy will bail them out of jail. Approximately one block south are the residents that live there, some of which, are LA's most violent gang members. These gang members rob, deal dope and kill for a living. They also splash their own community walls with a propaganda campaign of terror on their own neighbors and family. I wonder how come the very same "graffiti artists" don't go just one more block South and display their "communal" art in the gang territories? Maybe it would "open up a line of communication from the middle class to the poor." Doubtful and ridiculous. Just like the rich and pompous "artists" that produced "Art in the Streets". Growing up poor in a crowded urban area today is already tough enough, particularly, for those trying to rise from the ashes and improve their impoverished community. Meanwhile, you have the people who have it all and yet they choose to destroy the property of the have nots. America is truly becoming a sad country from the inside out.
Museums are stuffed with stolen artifacts, the plunder of some of the worst atrocities commited against mankind. The "criminal nature" of a kid writing their name kind of pales in comparison. Your tax dollars are at this very moment destroying Mesopotamia, launching air strikes aimed at the cradle of civilization, supporting illegal wars in North Africa and you are concerned with rallying against the "graffiti glorification industry"... but, hey, I guess you gotta choose your battles.
These spray painters are vandals...not artists, not expressionist....just plain old vandals who ruin other peoples property. See if the museum would let them loose inside with a couple of cans of black spray paint...if they are "artists" they should welcome them...if they won't then they are using a double standard.