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. As I have indicated elsewhere, in New York City, a basic decision has been made to spend public money hunting down, arresting, and prosecuting, under any possible legal pretext, the purveyors of satire that is not “just for fun,” is not “clear” and “humorous” enough, and is in some way offensive or embarrassing to influential members of the community. This is why the author of “Gmail confessions” in which a well-known New York University department chairman was portrayed as accusing himself of plagiarism has been convicted of forgery, identity theft, and criminal impersonation, and sentenced to spend 6 months at Rikers Island. For further information on this NYU case (in which some of the characters involved seem to have emerged from a Phillip Roth novel), see:

    It should, incidentally, be observed that the criminalizing of satire in NYC is taking place without even a murmur of protest from civil rights organizations. One of the criminalized “confessions” stated:

    Apparently, someone is intent on exposing a failing of mine that dates back almost fifteen years ago. It is true that I should have cited Dr. Golb’s articles when using his arguments, and it is true that I misrepresented his ideas. But this is simply the politics of Dead Sea Scrolls studies. If I had given credit to this man I would have been banned from conferences around the world. — Lawrence Schiffman, professor

    Of course not a hint of irony in any of this. Distinguished professors frequently accuse themselves in exactly this manner, so no one had any way of knowing that the criminal author’s intent was “satirical.” Clearly, the irreverence here has gone too far; such tawdry forms of expression must be suppressed if institutions like New York University are to continue to fulfill their role as beacons of the humanities, not so?

  2. Sorry, I forget we share plebian (economic) positions. I forgot to think. I mean social stratification based on income must well exist in Jewish circles as in goy ones. Both were hidden and unthought of worlds for me.

    Speaking of restaurants. My few experiences following the wife on conferences where spouses were brought by the directors, we ate at expensive and exclusive places. Not worth the money at all.

    Two Michelin stars on the French Riviera at the place of the father of the cuisine nouveau, for example.
    Snobbery, so so food and bad service. The lamb was tough and had definitely not eaten herbes au montagne. Instead of serving Madame, who had independently chosen 2 dishes instead of three, an amuse bouche; they pulled the top off an empty serving plate in tempo from the premier plat of the others, as though to insult her. She was the CEO’s wife, who was sick in bed that day.

    Buffets on a stranded ship converted to a casino, serving for lunch 20 sorts of raw shell fish. Blah, how different can raw mussels taste.

    The best fish I’ve ever had was in a cafe in N. Wilkesboro, NC, and was a small mouth bass caught by the owner some hours before serving.

    Hope your mouth is watering. Going to stop and make me some coconut pancakes with sour creme.

  3. PS
    She was a close match to Elizabeth Taylor. I fell in love. Her newly commissioned diplomat fiancée picked her up again, and her dalliance stopped abruptly. Broken heart on my side. Catastrophe. DUI. Mauled by police. Buddy fixed me a good lawyer, who postponed the case to death, while I was transferred to Hawaii. Sound like a bad film? Yeah!

    I don’t know if it was me that attracted her all the way from Jersey, or me as an appetiser on the way to a Hampton weekend. 😉

  4. MikeS,

    I was just establishing my reason for being on LI for six months (sub to Grumman on Apollo project) and my impoverished POV (no contacts). Even visited the Hamptons which is probably where you had your house.

    Had met a jewish girl from a rich NJ family on Labor Day weekend at the Cape in Mass. We romanced a short while, she driving over from Jersey. She being sexually liberal and knowing that I was too, explained briefly how the sex weekends at the Hamptons went down. Come and enjoy our big house and our guest hospitality!!!. Cool.

    Are you a seasonal snowbird? Can’t imagine being away from the City a whole year!

    Bethpage is in the middle, far from the shore, and then was mostly small modest houses. I think local connections are needed to find good restaurants, or maybe buying a copy of the NYTimes, which I never thought of.. But the other girls I knew did not eat seafood.

    Tnx for the chat.

    1. “Even visited the Hamptons which is probably where you had your house.”


      I have always been far too plebian to have sojourned in the Hamptons. Was invited there on a couple of occasions many years ago, but although in my youth I dabbled in sexual licentiousness, it was certainly ot in the Hamptons. I’m just an old retired guy living on a pension, SS and little else. While I’m not poor, I certainly am not rich enough to afford the Hamptons, though I’ve eaten at restaurants there on occasion. Generally the were overpriced and over reputed.

  5. Shano,

    Very acute analysis of the AZ denizens. Have read a little of the spanish expeditions up the Rio Grande where it leaves the current border and goes north. Much cruelty and good management. The vagaries of Spanish support might have been the problem.

    My seed potatoe supplier died so have given it up. Didn’t know that NM has spanish influence today. Could date my black girlfriend there without a thought (in Las Cruces), but arriving for a weekend in Tucson, we both were made to feel uncomfortable. She punished me mildly for the humiliation.

    I did my two years at Ft Huachuca, adjacent to Sierra Vista and the San Pedro(?) River. Riparian reserve now on the river.
    Mountain lions and big rattlers on the fort’s range. And some deer of course.
    Shot at a wolf once, Fortunately I missed. I don’t brag much. 🙂

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