Most readers of this blog are probably familiar with those self-important spray-painted graffiti slogans seen around St. Louis, most often on abandoned buildings in poor neighborhoods south of Delmar (we presume the taggers are among the many members of the No-Go Club). The lines include chauvinistic slogans like "work is terrorism" and more cryptic poser lines like "pouvoir assasains." (Probably a good thing that the tagger doesn't go north of Delmar.) Most often the tagger leaves behind the single anarchist "A" in a gesture of iconographic masturbation. The hand on these lines seems similar, so I assume that the same person or group is responsible for the graffiti.
Disturbing has been the recent trend of this tagger to jump from marking abandoned buildings to occupied or under-rehab houses and cars. Using abandoned buildings for tagging is itself problematic, especially when the tagging comes from outside of the neighborhood. The sloganeering is close to advertising in its style and tone, and is not much different than the Jesus billboards and Seagrams ads one can find all over the city on streets like Florissant, Gravois and Natural Bridge. The aim is to incite poor people to do something that would serve a middle class ideology, be it the expenditure of pocket money on booze or fast food or enlistment into the anarchist or Christian armies. Either way, the message is a command from without and, in class terms, above -- a sort of semiotic attempt at colonization.
The new tags spotted on buildings being rehabbed by do-it-yourself owner-occupants and on people's sidewalks marks a new tactic: warfare on the supposed "yuppies" who are "gentrifying" the city. The tagging presumes that these people are wealthy, which is quite a stretch for people trying to fix up shells neglected by years of ownership by oh-so-lumpen neglectful owners. Nevermind that spray paint really doesn't come off of brick without damaging the brick; that'll show the rich to stay out of the city that rightly belongs to the black-clad sons and daughters of the middle class who are playing at revolution for a few years.
The silliest tag has to be "Smash HR 4437" written on the Montessori school on South Grand (see photo here). Most passers-by don't know the bill, which would restrict immigration, by number. The kids at the school can't "smash" the bill by voting against the bill's supporters in Congress (although I guess the taggers probably hate voting). What's the point? Defacing a school? Scaring kids and parents and making them feel bad about their school?
Do the taggers even care what the point is? This is an act of selfishness that is a diversion from real social change, which involves consent as well as consensus -- not force and ignorance. Real social change also comes unexpected and strong, because it springs from within a society. Change is mass action, not unitary proclamation that assumes there is an audience ready to be lead.