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Graffiti: Art or Hate Speech?

Posted by on May. 5, 2015 at 2:13 PM
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So, all these posts about art vs hate speech vs inciting violence, etc got me thinking - Is graffiti - such as a mural depiciting a swastika considered art or hate speech? Would graffiti of something offensive towards Native Americans be considered art or hate speech? Would graffiti of the slogan "God hates F*#@" over a field of daisies be considered art or hate speech? Would a graffiti of a black person being hanged by a noose outside a picturesque church in the background with a nasty message be considered art or hate speech? Should these be protected under Free Speech? Should such matters be criminal and go against Free Speech?

I am well aware that graffiti is considered vandalism. That is not the topic here. Let's say someone tagged these things on a queen size sheet and hung it in a public place. Is it art or hate speech? Or both? Where is the line where hate speech becomes illegal because it is inciting and slanderous?

Here are a couple of examples (some of them old articles)

NYPD Mistakes Graffiti For Hate Speech

By |

graffitiSome East Village graffiti by FARO has prompted a NYPD hate crimes investigation reports NY1. Police are reportedly looking into a piece which features a swastika (and an upside down cross). Building owner Alan Rabunski was upset after discovering the spray painted work on the side of his building, noting the “ingenuity, preparation, planning and also intent” it must have required.

Although the writer’s motivation is unknown, vandals routinely employ ancient symbols and many writers who use swastikas aren’t doing it to be anti-Semetic. But Rabunski wouldn’t know that and sees it different: “[I]t is pernicious, it’s hateful and people ought to see it and be aware that this exists.” |NY1|.


CAROL COUNTY – Maryland State Police have classified anti-immigration graffiti spray painted on the former Army Reserve Center in Westminster as a hate crime.

The graffiti was sprayed sometime Saturday night or early Sunday morning, according to Lt. Patrick McCrory, commander of the state police Westminster barracks. The graffiti said “NO ILLEAGLES [sic] HERE NO UNDOCUMENTED DEMOCRATS.”

It was spray-painted on the front of the Army Reserve Center, which recently became embroiled in controversy when the Obama administration considered using the facility to house immigrant children caught crossing the US-Mexico border illegally.

The Carroll County Board of Commissioners spoke out against the federal government’s plan on Friday during an emergency cabinet meeting. Commissioners attending the meeting pledged not to provide any assistance to federal agencies if or when they moved the children to the facility. […]

McCrory said the graffiti was being considered a hate crime because of its racial message.

A quick internet search pulls up many such articles

“I don't think..." then you shouldn't talk, said the Hatter.”― Alice in Wonderland

by on May. 5, 2015 at 2:13 PM
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