Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Season’s greetings

Christmas is coming. The roads are full of drink-drivers weaving their merry way home. The gutters are awash with the puke of tanked-up revellers. Random unprovoked street violence is about to reach its annual peak. It’s time to hope for peace on earth and to wish goodwill to all men. Or just the white ones, if you’re the author of the message seen above.

With the dated slang it uses and the perverse message it preaches, the graffiti in this picture looks like it could’ve been penned in an era when such views were commonplace, and when airing them in public barely raised an eyebrow.

The BBC’s news and current affairs archive contains some astonishing old footage of reporters collaring passers-by to quiz them on their views on immigration. A succession of young men and women, flustered mums, middle-aged businessmen and pensioners are all stopped in the street, and they all happily spout their opinions into the camera. Many precede their views with the phrase “I’m not a racialist, but…” and then the bile spills out, patently proving their disclaimer to be wrong.

Despite appearing to be a throwback to those days, today’s image is brand new. The slogan appeared on a bus stop in the shadow of Musselburgh’s Brunton Theatre in December 2006. It’s our first foray into the seedy underworld of racist graffiti, and what a depressing place it is.

At the top right-hand side of this page, you'll see a short paragraph outlining the intent of The Filthy Pen. It explains that TFP "is dedicated to highlighting some of the finest examples of childish, crude, foul-mouthed and dim-witted scrawls seen in public places". Each of those descriptions can be applied to the slogan featured in today's image. It’s clearly odious too, but that’s no reason to disqualify it from being posted.

There are no taboos in graffiti, so there can be no taboos at The Filthy Pen either. Sometimes, self-censorship might seem tempting, but it's not a realistic option. Not featuring scrawls like the one above, no matter how nasty and unpleasant they are, won't make them go away. And it will take a great deal more than the concerted effort of the council's specialist clean-up squad to manage that.

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