Law in Contemporary Society
I'm in Livorno, Italy taking a break in a coffee shop. Yes, it's amazing! I've seen political graffiti all over the place today and thought I'd pose a question for discussion: Why is there so much more political graffiti in Europe than in the United States?

I know we have some. But at least in my experience growing up in downtown Sacramento (where we have plenty of graffiti), rarely did I see political graffiti. Here, most of the graffiti includes political messages.

Is it because the populations that spray graffiti in Europe are more politically active? Informed? Generally better educated? Or maybe lower classes in Europe are more influential within their political systems and thus have a less defeatist attitude towards political engagement.

Does the United States do a better job of making oppressed populations complacent?

I personally think it's a bit of everything above, coupled with the fact that non-hegemonic countries are more resentful because they see themselves as less responsible for the world's problems. But that alone wouldn't explain the commonplace political graffiti directed at domestic issues.

It could be that a political graffiti culture grew out of a resentment towards countries like the United States and evolved into addressing domestic issues as well. Evidence of this is that even when addressing domestic issues, the common language used is English, regardless of country. One could interpret that to suggest that the messages were originally directed towards America/Britain and English over time became the political graffiti culture's default language.

Or maybe politics are just more frustrating in Europe than America. Maybe none of the above.

Sorry for the stream of consciousness post. I'm low on remaining wi-fi minutes. Ah, Europe.

What do you think?

-- KippMueller - 25 May 2012

Perhaps it depends on how you define politics. I can't call myself an expert in graffiti by any means, but it seems that much or at least some graffiti in the US is gang based. Gangs are essentially local politics, who gets what share of the local resources. On a more individual level, graffiti in the US is at least an individual attempt to gain status and recognition within and beyond the localized political system.

But that begs the question of why is it all localized, how come in Europe people attempt to send wider messages to a general public through graffiti. Knowing nothing about Europe, and something about voting statistics of the US, minority groups do not turn out to vote in the same numbers as the white majority. So maybe and actually, yes, minority groups are disenfranchised in the US.

There are a number of possible reasons for this. FEELING disenfranchised is certainly one of them. But there are a number of logistical barriers as well. As a Hispanic woman who has worked several elections from grassroots to senatorial to presidential, there is always much discussion as to how to turn out the minority vote. As a poll place protection worker, I've seen polling places have police officer's outside to discourage through their threatening presences, minority groups. But besides this overt and covert tactics, there are also structural barriers.

It is no mystery that minority groups are more likely to work longer hours, have multiple jobs and all for less pay. Minority here, should no way be limited to race. There are people in racial majority in the economic minority. Elections happen on week days, require one to take time from work. People in minority groups simply can't afford to take off work. Or even take off work for the loss of a close friend/co-worker (see InLovingMemory)

Then think about your polling place. Do you know where it is, right now? I don't. How do I found out? I google it. I have a certain level of technical literacy that not everyone has. Not to mention mere access to a computer. Even if some people want to vote, they may have no idea where to go. That they needed to have registered. How about people with no address to provide on their registration?

I don't know if this is unique to the US, in fact I it is likely turn anywhere to a certain degree, but the structure of the system itself makes minority groups less likely to be heard. But that may not always be the case, white now account for under 50% of births in the US ( The genetic makeup of America is starting to radically change

-- YvetteFerrer - 25 May 2012

I'm not sure about the extent to which low minority turnout is unique to the US, but for what it's worth, Australia has a compulsory voting system that votes on weekends and has historically produced on average around 95 percent turnout for federal elections, although the numbers are significantly lower in the rural and indigenous-dominated Northern Territory (around 85 percent). Despite being compulsory, It's still possible to donkey vote or not vote at all (the penalty is a relatively nominal fine and you can be exempted for a range of reasons, including in my case an "all-day orchestra rehearsal"), so there is very little concern over governmental coercion even on the right. Quite the opposite, in fact - from my experience it's largely considered a civic responsibility akin to paying taxes and following speeding regulations. We also have an alternate vote system similar to what was recently proposed and rejected in the United Kingdom, which while not as directly representative as multi-member proportional systems, does provide more opportunity for third-party challenges without the Nader-esque problems of first-past-the-post (as seen with the significant upswing in Green votes in 2010).

-- RohanGrey - 25 May 2012

Italy was my first thought when I saw the title of this topic. I think that, in general, people in Italy are more informed about politics and especially international politics than people in America. Whether the information they're getting is accurate is a whole other issue. They still mainly get their news from television and the state controls three large channels and Berlusconi owns another three, meaning during his time in power he pretty much decided what people saw. He also exerted influence over media channels he didn't own. As more people in Italy took to the Internet to dissent (which happened surprisingly slowly), general frustration over only getting Berlusconi's versions of things grew. Furthermore, Berlusconi's version of government was a complete spectacle. It was all about appearances and beauty and putting on a good show, and the public very much internalized this. So it makes sense that objections or complaints or commentaries would be manifested visually, through graffiti, more so than in a place like the US where we mostly consume our news online and digest it and spit it back up, there, too. If anyone is interested in this stuff, I can provide more info about sources to check out once I'm back on my own computer, but in the meantime Google "Videocracy" and "Il Corpo delle Donne."

Kipp, your idea about the reason for the graffiti being in English is interesting, but I think you're overlooking another very simple reason: in Italy, English is "cool."

-- SamanthaLiTrenta - 7 June 2012


Webs Webs

r5 - 22 Jan 2013 - 19:58:13 - IanSullivan
This site is powered by the TWiki collaboration platform.
All material on this collaboration platform is the property of the contributing authors.
All material marked as authored by Eben Moglen is available under the license terms CC-BY-SA version 4.
Syndicate this site RSSATOM