See the Future, Be the Future

Faux-Propaganda poster ft. Mayor Bloomberg by Essam Attia
Faux-Propaganda poster ft. Mayor Bloomberg by Essam Attia; note the intentional misspelling.

by Gene Howington, Guest Blogger

“I was a peripheral visionary. I could see the future, but only way off to the side.” – Steven Wright

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

“Fanaticism consists in redoubling your effort when you have forgotten your aim.” – George Satnayana in “Life of Reason, Reason in Common Sense”

This last week an artist became the message of his own art. While this may be poetic, it is also an injustice and a abridgement of his 1st Amendment rights.  Fake Soviet style propaganda posters appeared around New York City corresponding to the opening of the U.N. General Assembly.  They are the work of 29-year-old street artist Essam Attia, who although he works anonymously like the street artist Bansky, did sign some of the works “Essam”.  The NYPD’s initial response seemed to be proportionate to the act when Police Department spokesman Paul Browne shrugged the stunt off with a bad pun.  “[It] appears to be NYPD critics subjecting us to a droll attack”, he said.  The actual disproportionate response has ended up with Essam Attia being arrested and charged with 56 counts of criminal possession of a forged instrument, grand larceny possession of stolen property and weapons possession – the last charge stemming from an unloaded and unregistered .22 caliber pistol under the artist’s bed.


In their disproportionate response, the NYPD effectively created a Streisand Effect not only drawing attention to the event itself, but to the underlying message of the artist.  In an anonymous interview with in September, Attia said “The meaning of the drone campaign? Well, to me it’s really about about starting a conversation. We’ve obviously seen a little bit of press in the last year or two about street signs I was involved with about the possiblity of the NYPD authorizing drones to fly in the sky domestically and I don’t think the conversation has reached a mainstream level where we are like talking about this at the dinner table and whether we want this to take place.  We have to remember that these are devices that right now internationally are being used to kill people. They’re armed.  They shoot missiles. [. . .] We need talk about whether that’s technology we want to bring to this country.”  In other words, the expansive security state developing in this country and the expansion of military technology into the civilian sector.

He also said, “That first night I couldn’t sleep at all. My heart was pumping and I kept waking up in a cold sweat. Bloomberg, Kelly and his cronies are not going to take this lightly if I get caught.”  The resulting arrest shows that Attia, unlike Steven Wright, was not a peripheral visionary but spot on in his prediction.

Although the grand larceny possession charges have merit as Attia posted the signs in spots sold for commercial advertisement, the rest of it reeks of him being punished for the content of his speech.  When you look at the posters, I think it is clear they are a parody/satire using the propaganda style of art to highlight an issue those in power clearly don’t want discussed.

“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.”

“If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.” – George Orwell

What do you think?

Kudos: Otteray Scribe for steering this story my way.

Source(s):, New York Magazine (1, 2, 3), New York Daily News (1, 2),

Disclaimer: All photos copyright of their respective owners, used without permission.

51 thoughts on “See the Future, Be the Future”

  1. An update on the blogger in Baltimore:

    Baltimore Spectator Blogger, James MacArthur, Surrenders to Police After Standoff

    The @BaltSpectator blogger broadcast his negotiations with police via his online streaming website.

    By Adam Bednar

    December 1, 2012

    (UPDATED) 12:12 a.m.—AF James MacArthur, who blogs as the Baltimore Spectator, live streamed negotiations during a standoff with Baltimore police in Waverly on Saturday night. MacArthur surrendered peacefully, police said.

    MacArthur was involved in about a four-hour standoff with police and he broadcast the event in its entirety via his account on before surrendering.

    According to electronic court records, MacArthur was wanted for violation of probation regarding gun charges filed in 2009. Police went to his address in the 400 block of McKewin Avenue to take him into custody. When he refused to answer the door, a standoff ensued.

    Eventually a police SWAT team was called to the scene because of police concerns about messages posted to MacArthur’s Twitter account during the past few days.

    MacArthur decried what he said was a situation taken too far by police.

    “What we’re seeing going on is an abuse of SWAT. I’m seeing that the Baltimore Police Department … that because of something said on Twitter allegedly, we so quickly end up with a SWAT situation. This is highly disturbing to me as a citizen of this town. That it’s so easy to get a SWAT deployment,” MacArthur said.

    Police negotiator Lt. Jason Yerg contacted MacArthur via cell phone. MacArthur put Yerg on speaker phone and broadcast the negotiations for his surrender.

    MacArthur used the negotiations to air his grievances with Baltimore police about previous arrests as well as to convey his fears about being mistreated by police.

    “I’m going to come out. Whatever happens, happens. I’m prepared to die. That’s fine,” he said.

    At about 11 p.m. MacArthur agreed to exit his house and surrender to police, leaving his listeners with a recording of Rep. Ron Paul’s farewell address to Congress.

    “Folks, this is it. This is James MacArthur. I”m going out peacefully. I’m going to put a (music) clip in place and after that it will just be dead air,” MacArthur said before ending his broadcast.

    “I thank everybody for listening. I ask some of you, don’t abandon me after this. I have absolutely been railroaded. I’m going to need some help after this … those with legal expertise. We don’t need this kind of stuff to go on … This is a bunch of nonsense.”

  2. First they passed laws to take away my right to have an Unregistered gun, unloaded, under my bed. Then they create drones to fly over and watch all of our movements. Then they create laws to outlaw our right to depict their abusive laws and drones. When they came for the first round of guys who had guns, I had no gun so I did not speak up. When they came for the guy with the foreign name who exposed the drones and the police state, I did not speak up because I was not a drone and I was not really smart enough to know that I lived in a police state and I was not speaking out, so I did not speak out then. When they came for me there was no one left to speak up for me
    . –NYC the Armpit of Amerika

    The book NYC The Armpit of Amerika is available on DVD. But not in NYC.
    When are you people in that town going to get rid of your Mogul? He owns your media, your banks, your investment house, your courthouse. He has an army of Law Enforcement Offenders and you have no voices. What meek little whimps. Loud when Sandy came and silent in the face of your own tyrant.

  3. Mayor Bloomberg may not be responsible for climate change but he is responsible for his Chief of Police and his Law Enforcement Offenders. Yes the LEO accronynm is accurate here. This guy needs someone from the ACLU to put this properly in federal court. He needs Occupy Pigsty Movement to get off their arses in NYC. He needs the public to wake up and smell the pig artFays. But, then He is We. We need to do these things.

    Hotsie Totsie, I smell a Notsie.
    -Culey, The Three Stooges

  4. In my comment up-thread I forgot to mention another artist (included in the video) who drew chalk marks in NYC with one of those football field chalk machine they use to draw the yardage and out of bounds lines.

    She did a topography exercise, where she marked the high water marks that would be likely to become the real water marks from storm surge.

    As it turned out her “See the Future, Be the Future” was spot on. The water came eerily close to her visionary topography.

    Now she is doing that in Miami and other large coastal cities to get a message across that “those in power clearly don’t want discussed.”

  5. See the Future, Be the Future … an artist became the message of his own art … When you look at the posters, I think it is clear they are a parody/satire using the propaganda style of art to highlight an issue those in power clearly don’t want discussed … What do you think?

    When the commercial media and/or establishment journalists do not do their job, then often times artists have to do it for them.

    Whether in books, poetry, film, or poster art like in this case, they express “an issue those in power clearly don’t want discussed” in their own way.

    Sometimes this happens because of a tactical mistake on the part of those in power, for instance when they direct or manipulate the press to not cover it in any way, not even in a watered down way.

    Bradley Manning might be a case, but there is a certain case involving:

    More than 100 million people will die … by 2030 if the world fails to tackle climate change, a report commissioned by 20 governments said on Wednesday.

    (Doha, Qatar). The strategy those in power use in the establishment media on that one, a story of the equivalent of a holocaust each year for the next 17 years, is to talk about the U.N. Meetings in Doha, but water down the issues the meetings concern.

    An artist did a documentary as a way to counter the cover-up and denial and submitted it to Sundance where it was well received.

    Some in the main stream media skipped over the traces and in a sense promoted the artwork. No arrests yet, but sometimes they will smear the source of the artwork when they have no legal case against the artist.

  6. If in fact somebody is telling his story and nobody cares and nobody believes him, he will not be arrested without charges, held 40 days, hidden, and denied all his constitutional rights, or threatened, endangered or eliminated. If, however, somebody is telling his story and PEOPLE BEGIN TO BELIEVE HIM and PEOPLE BEGIN TO CARE, then there’s a big uh-oh. There will be a concerted effort to marginalize, discredit, and ultimately eliminate him. MAKE NO MISTAKE ABOUT IT. That is what we are seeing. It is nothing new. Who, after all, do we think we are? Paragons of virtue? Protectors of freedom?

    We have a government of thugs. Liars and thugs. And it’s the only game in town.

  7. yea, feemeister, 40 days in jail for a legal weapon? wtf? Now a swat team visit for a court date he says he was never notified for?
    Is this a regular practice if you miss court?
    Now seems to be going back to jail for blogging about 40 days with no charges? all artists under attack, writers, visual artists, radio DJs.

  8. Interesting that they feel they must come down so hard on this street artist.

    Why? It makes them look like jerks, makes people think of a waste of money when more serious crimes should be investigated instead.

  9. I have a friend at work who was a kid in Philly when the MOVE bombing happened; it was not too far away from where he lived. He was very affected by it. When he told me about it, I didn’t believe him. I thought he had facts mixed up or misremembered. I had to go home and look it up on the internet before I believed him.

    Has the MSM been reporting about all the drones that are coming, or is just alternative media reporting it? (I don’t listen to MSM at all, so have no idea!) Do people really know and understand what these drones will be doing? Or was this artist getting the message out to people that are clueless about all this?

    I started listening to the Baltimore thing. I made it about 15 minutes, then had to turn it off. It makes me nauseated to listen to it. I’m not liking our wonderful new police state so much.

  10. Bloomberg ‘s NYC is noy the one I grew up in. Being able to spend $100 million to run for Mayor give you the power to do as you please. Having that power corrupts whatever good intentions you might have once had

  11. Roger J.
    I see you are familiar with the concept of a “drop gun.” It definitely would not be the first time.

  12. A political poster is both an expression of speech for which there is no exception under the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment, but it is also an aspect of Petitioning The Government for hte Redress of Grievances Clause. The separate clauses or prongs of the First Amendtment, when taken together in this instance are protected. To arrest him for posting this political statement is an offense for which they will be liable under the civil rights act. His arrest by a “state actor” is a deprivation of his liberty interests and an attempt to stop his free speech and his petition of the government for hte redress of grievances. What we need here is for the young folks in NYCity to Occupy The Mayor’s Office and the police stations. Occupay Pigsty and they whould all wear tee shirts which mimic the poster. Wake up you Americans, you are giving up your special rights.

  13. Bloomberg seems as hostile toward the First Amendment as he is toward the Second. Dollars to doughnuts the cops planted the gun that will send the artist to prison even if the other charges are dismissed.

  14. This is what you get when you have an administration that wants to bring prisoners in gitmo to trial in New York on one hand and with the other drones two U.S. citizens in Somalia without their day in court

  15. OS,

    How can you have left something if we are living in the broad stroke of the same insanity……

    But hey…. PA wants to use drones for traffic surveillance in thar hills….

    Good article…. To the both of you….

  16. junctionshamus,

    Thanks for the reminder. I had forgotten about that bit of jackbooted thuggery.

  17. When I see and hear stories like this, I am reminded that 1984 has come and gone. We are now living it, in many ways.

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