The Manifest Destiny of Shepard Fairey

The completely expected ridiculous hypocrisy of “manufacturing dissent” against capitalism as a corporate brand

So-called street rebel artist Shephard Fairey, a man who made his name vandalising private property to make statements about government oppression and injustice has trademarked for exclusive use not just the word “Obey” (stealing cult science fiction film-maker John Carpenter’s work) but “Disobey”, too.

That’s right. The word “disobey” is Mr. Fairey’s private property.

Disobedience is no dinner party. It has very real consequences.

When students protested fee-hikes and dismantling public services in the UK, David Cameron’s government “kettled them” with mounted police. They were kept in the streets for hours, in the cold and without toilet access, just because they had dared to come out. Many people are shot dead, as they were in Nigeria last week, at the time of writing. Dissidents in Hong Kong, fighting for basic civil rights, are being disappeared into China’s vast political detention program. In India, people, especially Muslims, are being put behind bars without trial, under the National Security Act, for simply criticising government policy. Many people have died in the protests that have followed police killings and other government excesses in America. Others have been maimed, and suffered life-altering injuries.

As I dug deeper, I found that Shepard Fairey has some form and history when it comes to intimidating other artists — when almost his entire oeuvre is based upon simply appropriating other people’s work.

Fairey’s work has been acknowledged by Barack Obama and allegedly hangs in Emmanuel Macron’s office. Weirdly, he advertises himself as against the political establishment. As is common to hypocrites like Shephard Fairey, he can’t palate what he dishes out. Fairey has a long record that includes intellectual theft and bad faith litigation, even being awarded community service for abusing the legal system through lies and fabricating evidence. As Mark Vallen summarises the problem:

Most well known for his “Obey Giant” street posters, Shepard Fairey has carefully nurtured a reputation as a heroic guerilla street artist waging a one man campaign against the corporate powers-that-be. Infantile posturing aside, Fairey’s art is problematic for another, more troubling reason — that of plagiarism.

From the moment of its inception, with the enclosure of the Commons, Capitalism has rewarded outright theft. Bill Gates did it with code, stealing work that had been written for community use, and converting it into private property — today, he walks around pretending like he’s a healthcare expert. Fairey seems to think graphic culture is his Columbus’s America, and the art establishment has rewarded him for some extremely problematic behaviour.

Far from smelling daisies and singing kumbaya holding hands besides bonfires, the arts are an absolute shit fight. And, nobody is a bigger capitalist than anti-capitalist artists, like Shephard Fairey — who make enormous mounts of money “manufacturing dissent” against capitalism. What idiot pays money to wear an Obey logo anyway, that too in the completely wrong typeface. No, thanks. I’d rather hand a riot-gear kitted policeman a Pepsi as a peace-offering.

Indian Gekiga.

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