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. The Spanish had been in New Mexico for 400 years. I knew a man who still had a parcel of land that was a land grant to his family from the King of Spain.
    The white retirees like Arizona better because they do not have to deal with Spanish descendants having government power.

    They only have to deal with a few Native American reservations where they can gamble. More golf courses and milder winters.
    So you see the conservative mid west and California immigrants having political power in Arizona. Who has the money is the only factor in Az. They might have started with a second home to escape bad winters, but they end up retiring in AZ.
    People who choose to retire in New Mexico are a somewhat different bunch.

  2. Shano,

    I am very impressed, but I know so little. You seem very au courant, as if I should know. We have a good photo museum here. Saw an exhibition of Mapplethorpe there last summer. Now it is showing a Swedish photographer doing, as´the announcements reveal to the discerning eye, an exhibition of B/W photos of trans persons. Had seen his stuff at a little exhibition some 20 years ago. The ads don’t say it, but a careful examination of the facial bone structure reveals a lot.
    Speaking of performance artists, Laurie Anderson, who has it together with Lou Reed is the only one I know. Saw her some 30 years ago. Her “O Superman” is superb…..then. Have you seen it on the Utube. Don’t know how these fantastic experiences pop up. She was at her height then, I feel.

    So, if I may ask, why AZ instead of NM? What with Taos and all. Are there self-sustaining communities in AZ. You have real roots in the soil or a farm in practice. Great.

    I had fantastic potatoes at our cottage for 3 years, but did not rotate and the soil gave out. It was the rest of a starvation farm in the archipelago here. That’s this gutter boy’s farm experience, although Kerstin was a real knees on the ground harvesting sugar beets farmer girl. She left that behind for the university and a degree in mathematical something or other.


  3. “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. “

  4. idealist, the arts in America hmmm, we make great films. Young people like Josh Fox always coming up.

    We have bizarre performance artists, like Reverend Billy, who predicted the recession from globalization. And Code Pink is pretty much performance art. The Yesmen.
    Notice these are all documented on film. Rev. Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping had a major motion picture a few years ago. He also ran for Mayor of NYC against Bloomberg.

    We have weird geographic art like ‘Spiral Jetty’ or the installations in Marfa Texas. Lightening Field in New Mexico etc. There are pockets of arts supporters in sustainable communities, when you consider politics affects they ways you can live, is a form of resistance.

  5. Shano—-apologies. I read sloppily.
    Art for the free soul and minds sake. Maybe that is why it is cut off from the curriculum. Should be daily obligation (opportunity?) from pre-school to the twelfth grade. It would sharpen our eye for soul, bullshit, and other false values—-dangerous as hell.

    I live outside of Bethpage a few months in ’64. Never found a decent seafood restaurant. And almost lost half of my hearing trespassing when the fog went in at the Montauk Point squaker.
    Sorry to hear of the damage.

    Just shows again that media is worthless fawning pawns to power.
    The billionaire is always doing test cases in suppression. Abandoning the poor to the storm and no shelters to flee to, etc etc.

    1. ID707,

      I’m not sure how much damage Bethpage received, but from what I understand anywhere close to water got it, both on the ocean and on the L.I. Sound. My daughter sent me a picture of a house I rented for the month a few years ago and it was completely destroyed. As for good seafood places abound on Long Island, you just have to know where to look for them.

  6. Obama has only mentioned drones twice in an official capacity, despite the fact that we are operating drone campaigns in at least six countries. Nobody is talking about this.

    Drones are already being used domestically along the Mexican and Canadian borders. Very soon, dirigibles with high resolution cameras will become a common sight in the skies over the nation’s major metropolitan areas…

  7. oh, do not get the wrong impression. I was talking about school funding for arts. Public schools have dropped the arts altogether. It should be supported in public schools. Government should be involved in ‘infrastructure’ for the arts (like public tv, public museums where all can benefit) but hands off content. Local funding for public works is really nice, but not all that required. It must remain a
    private market.

  8. Shano,

    Nice idea about artists. Show me one American in modern times who has had conscious political goal and effect, please.

    Georgia O’Keefe went to Hawaii on contract to Dole. She fell for the nature and ignored the plantation work conditions. Read about her last night.
    First American woman artist who had a major retrospective (MoMA?).

  9. New Yorkers are such weenies. We have day after day of whining about Sandy and they let this kind of Nazi regime run their lives.

    1. “We have day after day of whining about Sandy and they let this kind of Nazi regime run their lives.”


      People outside of New York have no idea of the devastation caused by Sandy. There has been little reporting about the conditions and what occurred outside of Manhattan, The Rockaways and the Jersey Shore. There was devastation in many towns on the South and North Shores of Long Island, where I used to live.
      The City of Long Beach is devastated, its beautiful boardwalk destroyed. I personally have many friends who have lost their homes and all their possessions. The list of other important and populous areas would stretch on but many place names are unfamiliar to those outside of New York.

      Part of the problem, however, touches on what Gee is writing about. Manhattan garners most of the attention because it is where the wealthy live. The Jersey Shore was the stomping ground of many of the media elite, like NBC News Anchor Brian Williams. Thus the attention. Bloomberg has been elected and reelected because the press kowtows to him and because he is a billionaire running perhaps the most influential financial media network. Also it’s tough to beat someone who is willing to spend $100 million on his mayoral campaign.
      Bloomberg is not a bombastic individual, so he comes off as mildly pleasant, people can’t even imagine him as being angry, much less a tyrant. The truth is of course that he is somewhat of a tyrant, has had really bad policing policies and has not served the less affluent people well. His popularity is a con game for sure, but whe is that something new in electoral politics”

  10. BettyKath,

    Reading last night about Nixon through his press secretary making all correspondents be nice pussy cats and avoid an oral list of no-no’s.

    All did as they were told.

    Shall we assume that it did not begin or end with Nixon?

    Didn’t we see here some days ago that Obama’s time at a certain college was a no-no in his pressroom?

    We no longer have a fourth estate, if we ever had one.

    Was BF a good newsman whom we would admire?
    (OT He was the first franchise seller.)

  11. This is why funding for the arts is so critical and important for any civilized society. They act as ‘watchmen’ recording and documenting the times in which they live. If the ‘authorities’ do not like what they are saying, then you always know they have struck a nerve. One that power does not want touched or discussed in any way.

  12. Bloomberg keeps making these ridiculous mistakes. A few months ago he tried to shut down churches, restaurants and stores from giving excess food to the poor. I will have to paraphrase Kanye West and say “Mayor Bloomberg doesn’t care about poor people”.

    And his girlfriend doesn’t care about poor people either. They are a heartless couple of elitists, secure in their money, with no compassion for the people who are struggling in life.

  13. All kinds of eavesdropping are going on – phones, internet, email, etc. Of particular interest are the communications of journalists. Obama’s administration has been brutal in its handling of whistle blowers while ignoring the offenses the whistle blowers expose. Because of the illegal surveillance, journalists can no longer guarantee protection of whistle blower identity. Sources are hard to find.

    Dan Rather and his producer did their homework and aired a story that exposed W’s desertion, although they used gentler terms. CBS alerted the WH of the story, a fairly standard action from what I understand to ask for a comment on a pending story. Rather was burned for doing his job as a journalist and a chilling event for others who want to keep their well-paid jobs.

    I get a glimpse of TV “news” on occasion. What a sad joke on us.

  14. Orwell was right. Unfortunately no one wants to believe how far along the path to the “boot on the face”. We have come. Police tase peolple when the don’t obey quickly enough or beat people senseless for not behaving with enough respect. Some police believe that not treating them with respect even when they are behaving badly is a crime for which they get to determine the punishment and administer it on the spot. Police have a difficult job but when every citizen must be wary of any interaction with a police officer and be aware that a traffic stop could be fatal I say we are all in prison.

    Police must be held accountable for overreactions to the to and fro of life.. They must be prosecuted for breaking the law and the All need to go to school to learn about free speech and that goes for prosecutorsalso de cause it appears that many of them missed that course too.

  15. It remains interesting that this man was charged over that unregistered gun whereas a stalwart of the Free press who then immediately became a Police Counterterrorism Chief at LAPD, John Miller, was allowed to merrily go on vacation after being found with an unlicensed gun that was in his carryon bag and which he did not declare beforehand.

    Initial press reports noted that he was not a sworn Officer and thus ineligible to carry at all. This was later denied by Bratton.

    The Professional Journalist from the nation’s Free press turned in both his guns and a Chevy Tahoe with police-lights after the news broke. Clearly he could live and work at LAPD perfectly fine without them.

    Naturally till today there isn’t a single peep from people in the US about a stalwart Professional Journalist from the Free press and ABC News Science Correspondent immediately taking a senior position with LAPD…….

    And I suspect no one is going to mention this at Attia’s trial either.

  16. Gene,

    I think we have a fourth estate/MSM that has failed us–and I think too many of us don’t care about such issues until they actually have an impact on our own lives.

  17. Shana & Malisha,

    Any news from Baltimore. His site is up, and broadcasting his recorded conversation with the Police negotiator, Lt. Yurg. He left the mike to go take a leak while keeping
    tel contact with the officer. It waa agreed that he was to go to the front door, open it, step out, lock the door, and then the team would come, including the negotiator, and take him without violence, when he would be taken to Central Booking, processed and spend the weekend in jail.

    So what did happen? The latest on Google is just the reference to his site named above and linked by Shano with his broadcast of the negotiations. Listed as 4 hours ago accdg to Google.

    McArthur is eminently qualified. Former PI, knows BP well, knows how courts work, knows correct designation for things (lethal weapon versus legal weapon, etc).

    The last said was about 10:50 PM, time for the networks to pick it up and put it in the hourly news summmary, he noted. So this must be from yesterday or earlier. He noted and complained that the SWAT always come after dark which hinders viewing of what they do.

    That the site is still up would indicate that he was allowed to lock the door, and that the police did NOT return with a search warrant to enter and search the house.

    So give us some news, please.

  18. “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.” -Malisha

    Right on the mark, Malisha. “Liars and thugs.” “The only game in town…” and, make no mistake, it’s a wicked one…

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