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Why The Internet Is Part Of The Graffiti Problem

Updated: Mar 2, 2020

Many people often say that it would be easy to stop graffiti. “Don’t allow kids to buy spray paint.” Good idea. Each city could pass a bylaw that restricts people under a certain age from purchasing paint, or require ID from people who purchase a large amount of it. This actually is a good starting point and could work in theory, but there are a lot of holes that are left unfilled with these ideas.

Similar to alcohol, underage people have found ways to purchase it. Either a friend buys it for them who is of legal age, or they find a cashier who they know will let it slide past them, or they’ll drive to another town and load up on supplies where they don’t have the same bylaw. All of these ideas create a barrier, but they’re not impenetrable. Many cities have locked up spray paints and have slowed down or even stopped some newcomers to getting into it as their new hobby, but it’s hard to quantify the effectiveness without doing extensive research in a variety of markets over a long period of time before and after the program starts. That being said, I’m not opposed to cities making the changes and trying to create barriers, especially for people new to tagging. If they can pass a bylaw and slow down the entry into becoming a tagger by 5%, then why not? If the local cost of removing graffiti to building owners and taxpayers is dropped by 5%, that’s a significant amount of money saved year after year. But is it enough to slow graffiti down to a point where it’s barely happening? If it was a federal law, would graffiti stop in the whole country? Definitely not. In fact, I believe there’s a possibility that it could actually get worse.

I’m sure you’re on the internet right now reading this, so try Googling “graffiti tools” and see what comes up. If you’re worried about being flagged, don’t worry, I’ve taken the risk and I’ll go over what happens. First there’s a few advertisements for graffiti or art stores, then it jumps a rather useful Q&A on how to start becoming a great tagger. Google has taken the FAQ’s and made it nice and easy to learn the ins and outs of tagging within 15 minutes. Once you’ve read through the “People also ask” section you can click on the online magazine that had an article topic of “Tools of the Trade: What’s in a Graff Writer’s Backpack”. I don’t know where to begin on this title even. Trade? Writer? Sounds like a career path rather than a vandal. The article definitely reads like a way of normal life.

“Nothing compares to the thrill of clambering down under a bridge with a rattling backpack full of fresh paint, but running through the basics might just scratch the surface for those of you who have never picked up a can.” … “Before we get started, I’d like to emphasize the fact that graffiti is dangerous. Be careful out there, many great street artists have been hurt or arrested trying to paint — you’re not an exception. Graffiti is also difficult, don’t expect to go out there right away and be the best; it takes work. Also, we are not advocating illegal vandalism; know the difference between art and vandalism and be respectful with your graffiti. And finally, graffiti is definitely an art — don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.” … “a bandanna protects your identity in case you get caught on the ever-present CCTV, as will inevitably happen. In an art as dangerous and illegal as this one, it is important that you aren’t recognized where you don’t want to be.” - Tyler Hakes. Above Ground Magazine, online.

I’m not a lawyer, but promoting people to do their graffiti art IS advocating for illegal vandalism. I’m sure he’s not a lawyer either. A persons mental state defines how they look at art, so calling all graffiti art is like saying every pushed over trash can is art. Anyways, if permission isn’t given, then how does content matter? Art in the eye of the beholder, I suppose.

Getting back to the google search…

The other search results came up with Pinterest, which gave a topic called “How to Create 3 Simple Graffiti Tools l Shoe Polish Mop”. I’m assuming Pinterest doesn’t care about posting topics on how to break a bylaw in any city I’ve ever heard of. They also provided a category called “People also love these ideas”, which is full of How To guides, equipment needed, sticker packs, stencils, new fonts, etc… all relating to being better at graffiti.

Now that you’ve been educated from Pinterest and an online magazine, you’re ready to purchase on the next website, This site is crazy. Sprayers with free shipping are on the top of the page with a never-ending inventory of masks, paints, markers, caps, books, stickers, clothing, etc… Who would even want to buy paint at a hardware store when these options are online? Nobody is going to look at you suspiciously, the options are endless and designed specifically for graffitiing, the websites don’t have to abide by any local bylaws, and there’s always free shipping if you send a certain amount of money (which really hooks the newcomer).

Without a legal barrier preventing online stores from selling products that would most likely be banned or brought up in a city council meeting, how is graffiti expected to slow down? Its culture seems to be growing with social media, online forums, and e-stores.

I never would have learned what I did without the internet on this blog. As a person who’s removed graffiti as a profession for over 9 years, I learned a bit more from researching this topic further than what I’d already known. The internet is far more informative and has a much better inventory of supplies than the hardware store who might have their paint locked up does. If someone can’t buy a can of paint locally, they might take a look online and get never-ending options for every graffiti situation you can think of. Once they buy their spray mask, why would they stop? If you rent a pair of skates for $8 and don’t like it, you probably won’t do it again, but if you spend $300 on skates, you might do it until you like it.

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