3.02.2009

Justseed's Josh MacPhee on the dearth of rightwing graffiti


At the 2009 Conservative Political Action (CPAC) conference this weekend, The Daily Beast's Max Blumenthal found a rare kind of artist: a conservative hip hop musician. Self-defined "Republican rapper" Hi-Caliber says he takes inspiration from the likes of Michael Savage and Rush Limbaugh to lay down lyrics like: "A socialist in the White House / what have we done? / You think Bush was bad? / Now the real fun has begun / The Democrats want to take my gun..."

But what Blumenthal found at CPAC, I haven't had much luck in finding in the visual arts: interesting street art coming from a right-of-center perspective. In my search, raised in my Thursday post, "Where's all the rightwing street art?," I got in touch with artist Josh MacPhee, who founded Justseeds, an artists' cooperative, online store, and blog. He couldn't offer examples of artists, but he shared his thoughts on the topic of why they're so hard to find.

He says the American political Left draws from a long history of visual agit-prop, whereas conservatives have used other vehicles. "When [the Right] is marginalized, it has built itself through local radio broadcasts, direct mailings, election to local office, etc.—channels that appear to be legal, mainstream, and legitimate," he says. "The Left has no problem appearing to be speaking from the margins (even if they are speaking from a position generally held by the vast majority, i.e. the anti-war position right now), but the Right always wants to speak from the center, to claim they are being marginalized, but simultaneously appear to be legitimate and supported by the majority."

He posits that illegal or guerrilla art has long been a way for people whose voices aren't represented by corporate media channels to be heard. "For most of the history of this country, and more specifically for the past eight years, the ideas and opinions of the right wing, and even the extreme right wing, have been common currency. They are seen in daily newspapers, heard on the radio, even spread across billboards," he says. "There is much less of a need for right-wing graffiti, when the right wing speaks to the hundreds of millions from TV screens and evangelical church pulpits."

1 comment:

Kyle Texas said...

I'd guess the reasons for the absence of right wing graff extend beyond the "liberal tradition of visual agit prop" to the structural nature of the medium itself, in relation to leftist and rightist ideologies.

Right wing is top-down, dig. It's focus is on values over ideas, heart over head. Governance *by* a few broad overarching principals -- The Fatherland, Love Yer Guns, No Taxes, Make Money. These values are broadcast from a few centralized authorities to the devoted masses. You respect the institution in right-wing thinking. You respect the pillars of society, the big, solid structures that are presented to you as the evidence of the justness of your cause. So naturally, you ain't gonna write all over the walls -- that's anathema to right wing. The walls are what you stand to defend against the godless, immoral graffiti writing hoards.

Left wing, meanwhile, is bottom up. The people direct the institutions. So naturally, one of the ways to inform the institutions of your discontent is to spell it out, in spray paint.

Of course, there's the negative tendency for rightwing powers to take on left-wing characteristics -- Bush mailing every American a $300 handout (cloaked in the language of a tax "rebate" check to make it politically palatable) -- or Stalinist Russia's oppressive hierarchy of de facto fascism.

But, at its core nature, Right is top-down, left is bottom-up. John Nance Garner's 1930's explanation of the difference between fascism and communism illustrates it best.

Fascism is where business improperly asserts itself over the sphere of government. Communism is where government improperly asserts itself over the sphere of business. That ain't an exact quote, so I didn't put it in quotes, but that's how JNG explained it, and I've always found it pretty illustrative.