Street Art

If you’re someone whose social media feed inclines towards progressive politics, there’s a good chance you’ve seen someone making fun of Women Against Feminism. But if you haven’t bothered to visit that popular tumblr yourself, you may be in for a surprise. Because, while there are certainly posts of an explicitly conservative nature and plenty that seem ill-informed, others are harder to dismiss on principle. (More…)

Sadly, it’s not surprising that my social media feed this week has been dominated by commentary on a video that documents a troubling encounter between a black American and a white police officer. Whatever progress has been made towards a more tolerant United States, the nation still simmers with the legacy of racially charged conflict. Yet since this particular incident involved a professor, (More…)

Animosities can linger after they make any sense. But sometimes their persistence is less perverse than it seems. Almost as soon as its existence was secured, the twentieth-century welfare state began showing signs of wear and tear. Business visionaries celebrated the laissez-faire possibilities that would emerge from its demise. Futurologists such as Alvin and Heidi Toffler joined writers of science fiction like Neal Stephenson in predicting what would replace it. (More…)

The EU elections will be shadowed by paradox. Almost everyone agrees that the continent’s establishment parties will lose ground to insurgent ‘Euroskeptics’ on both the Right and Left, making it harder to conduct business as usual in Strasbourg and Brussels. If this happens, millions of people will have voted to devalue future exercises in supranational polling. (More…)

The best political slogans aren’t those you chant ritualistically, like a machine, but the ones that stop you in your tracks for a minute and make you think. Take this sticker from Brussels: “Democracy is always capitalism getting fat.” What makes this formulation so provocative is the black-or-white worldview that it expounds. (More…)

I do a lot of driving, most of it highly tedious. Two miles to the grocery store. Six miles to the mall. Twelve miles to work. The sort where every minute seems to count because the whole trip is so wearisome. In that context, it doesn’t take much to piss me off. I start stereotyping. Big pick-up trucks are driven by reckless assholes; European sedans by condescending elitists. (More…)

When you see them all lined up in a row, staring out at you with faces of cheer and goodwill, the pressure to identify with them is strong. To identify with them as Europeans. To identify with Europe. And that’s surely the point behind this ad campaign, because the bureaucrats in Brussels and Strasbourg who signed off on it need to cultivate a sense of continental belonging. (More…)

Despite what the longbeards growing arugula on their rooftops in Brooklyn — or Berlin — would have you believe, there may be nothing less sexy than sustainability. That’s no dis. We are programmed, whether biologically or culturally, to seek out the sort of bliss that is, by definition, gone right after it comes. And that’s a problem for any politics that wishes to depose the prevailing social order. (More…)

In a world where the reality principle has largely been conflated with the totalizing logic of capital, the most powerful messages may be those that repudiate common sense. Consider this provocative sticker from Brussels, one of a series popping up around the city: “If you are really cold, set fire to your house.” Like the Zen koans it resembles, this counter-intuitive advice has the potential to turn one’s thinking inside out. (More…)

As the situation in the Ukraine worsened last month, the usual right-wing suspects started to circle the White House. A strong President, they declared, would never have let things get so far out of hand. And now that Russian troops have moved into the Crimea, their attacks on the Obama Administration are becoming more forceful each day. In their eyes, he has become “Putin’s bitch”, (More…)

At first, you don’t even notice the pattern. You wander the streets of this city, looking for subjects to photograph: a political poster here, a billboard there, and, down the block, an impressively tagged stretch of wall. But then you notice, like Oedipa Maas in Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49, when she starts seeing muted post horns everywhere, that one message cries out, over and over: “Bored.” (More…)

The cars and trucks that draw my eye usually display an excess of public expression, with an array of bumper-stickers telling a complex and sometimes contradictory story of political and cultural allegiance. But sometimes I’m stopped short by a different kind of message, elegant as one of Ezra Pound’s Imagist couplets. Like this formulation: “Forget 911. I dial .357.” (More…)