Discourse Around Graffiti in the Media

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MTA (Metro Transit Assassins) are a major LA ‘tagging gang’ kept a close eye on by police

US media and news outlets practice agenda-setting, which is defined as “ability of the news media, to influence the salience of topics on the public agenda.”  They chose to mold and twist stories to make them more interesting or to alter the publics view of a certain subject or conflict.  Historically the news media has been incredibly influential during times of war and times of political importance in molding our views and dementing our own ideas.

Graffiti has historically been jumbled into the category with criminals, minorities, and inner cities ‘gangs’ or ‘punks’.  It has been categorized as vandalism, with ideas that suggest a decrease in property value, or in turn very poor areas.  Rachel D’Cruze from hackwriters, explains that “Rather than look at graffiti as a form of urban expression it has generally been seen as a sign of urban decay, the decomposition of middle class values.”  The media morphs our mind to believe that graffiti artists are linked with these predators, whose actions completely violate the law.

The only stories depicted on national news are those that depict the gang related violence associated with “tagging gangs”.  None of the good that has been done through graffiti is explained, and the success of graffiti movements are often ignored.  These news reports coincide with how news media usually reports crime by depicting mugshots of minority members and grouping all taggers together into a category of violent, disobedient, members of society.

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Graffiti in an art gallery in NYC

Modern artists in cities such as Miami, are embracing graffiti as a legitimate art form, trying to enhance the reputation of graffiti artists.  These art movements are empowering the youth instead of discouraging and revitalizing community alliance.  Although modern graffiti is now becoming a commodity, most will still not recognize the form as anything other then vandalism.  If the discourse around graffiti became more positive, we could minimize racist policing in the US relating to these tagging gangs.

–Erika Hoekstra

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