Bieber's Blunder

Critique and illustration by: Chris Talbot-Heindl

The grades are in:

  • Justin Bieber – D for dumbass douche.
  • “Journalists” – F for fucking failure.
  • Colombian police – F for fickle flunkies.
  • Colombian graffiti artists – A+ for amazing activists!

Justin Bieber hit the news stands again, this time for tagging a message of support for girlfriend beater, Chris Brown, spray painting, “Free Breezy.” As if Chris Brown needs freeing from rehab for anger management. In my opinion, Chris Brown should be a permanent resident of rehab and/or prison.

What makes this “message” all the more idiotic is where Bieber decided to tag it – in Colombia. In Colombia, graffiti artists have been harassed and even murdered by law enforcement. In August of 2011, a police officer shot at close range, in the back, and killed Diego Felice Becerra, a 16-year-old boy who was tagging a wall.

Not only did the police allow Bieber to tag the wall, they actively blocked off the street, protecting Bieber while he did it. A statement from Becerra’s father, Gustavo Trejos: “While graffiti artists here in Colombia get attacked and thrown into jail by the police, an international artist is escorted by the same police to do his art.”

Justin Bieber is an ignorant little prick.

This kind of ignorance grinds my gears to no end. You have North American/celebrity/upper-echelon exceptionalism at its worst. One rule for the rich, privileged prick; one rule for everyone else.

However, Colombian artists have taken this opportunity and matched Bieber’s idiocy with an equal portion of indomitable courage, and have taken to the streets en masse, armed to the teeth with paint.

In less than 24-hours, 300 artists came out of the woodwork and onto the streets of Bogota to create more than 700 separate pieces of graffiti art. The initiative spread and the following weekend, 70 graffiti artists occupied a street in a different city and sprayed for 24 hours. On Sunday, hundreds of artists took to Cali, and more cities are in the works for the future.

In some cities, the police threatened the graffiti artists, but the artists reminded them that law enforcement had helped Bieber.

In Bogota, where Becerra was murdered, the parents went to greet the participants who sprayed for the 24-hour event. His mother had this to say, “Our son was one of you. His death was very painful, but if the purpose behind this tragedy is to create a more tolerant society and to legitimize graffiti as an art, then Felipe from heaven will be satisfied.”

What pisses me off with media covering this topic is that so many so called “journalists” are crediting Bieber for this movement and making ridiculous claims of what his “actions” were. Some claiming “Justin Bieber had just served them with a golden opportunity,” “Justin Bieber sparks a graffi revolution in Colombia” (Huffington Post) and “Who knew that Bieber would be the face of a revolution?” (Complex); some claiming that he was doing some sort of service, tagging “several written bits of advice on how to ‘overcome expectations’ in one’s life” (Latino Daily News); some claiming that graffiti is perfectly legal and allowed in Colombia (E! News, Daily Mail, and Time Magazine); and some claiming his ridiculous tribute to his pet and horribly scrawled messages of support are evidence of Bieber and his pals “get[ting] their Banksy on” (MTV News).

As far as Bieber is concerned, this was one of a long string of idiotic, blundering cries for help.

As far as the police are concerned, this points to yet another gross injustice.

As far as the journalists are concerned, they should really just be incredibly ashamed.

But as far as the actual artists who have created a movement around it – they are incredibly brave and beautiful people, making the best out of a bad situation.

When an Occupy movement takes a foothold in a city, you don’t credit the corporations that spurned the action by providing a last straw. When you report on the graffiti movement, don’t you dare credit that affluent, socially advantaged prick, Justin Bieber.