Art Theft

You know what's cool? Art. As humans, we've done so much evil. We kill each other en masse over the smallest of differences. We destroy the very planet we call home. We crave more and more and more at the cost of all those around us. It's pretty fucked up. But in the same way you could say that we've always been evil, we've also always been artists. We were barely even humans and we were still finding ways to create art in the world around us. You could say that art is a part of who we are as humans. It's something so intrinsically us that even today we have people willing to risk a life of poverty and rejection just to chase after their dream of being able to create art. 
Of course, nothing's perfect. We love art, we resonate with it. A wholesome or emotional drawing that really touches us, or a set of words that really captures something we've always wanted to say. It's so meaningful to us. But because of that, it makes art a perfect lever by which to to exploit us. All advertising is just a form of art. We create images that cause us to want something. The perfect idea of what a hamburger "looks like" makes us crave it even if we know that's not what we're going to get. I could go on and on about this topic but it gets off topic (even for me) very quickly. That said, if you want to dive in more, just pay attention to the "artistry" of advertising next time you see it. It's actually a very cool topic.
No, dear readers, today I want to talk about the space where art and politics meet. Propaganda. Because what is propaganda if not advertising for the government. Governments have been using art to sell people on ideas forever. There are lots of ways they do this, but the most common thing most people think about when it comes to this is posters. Specifically posters from World War II. You know the ones, right? A woman wearing a bandana flexing her arm talking about how everyone does their part. Uncle Sam himself pointing at you exclaiming that the army needs you. That's what I like to think of as positive propaganda. It's images designed to inspire hope. It's a call to action, spurring up people's pride, making them excited to join in the fight. 
On the other hand, there's negative propaganda. This is less about making yourself feel good, and more about demonizing the enemy. Showing them to be sub-human monsters looking to destroy your way of life. It would seem that every nation at the time of World War II employed this as a strategy. Japanese posters showed American soldiers holding babies in one hand and a bloody knife in the other, while bombs dropped in the background. American posters showed a Nazi boot crushing a church, saying, "WE'RE FIGHTING TO PREVENT THIS." 
The reason that every nation did this, and has been doing things like this for about as long as we have recorded history, was because it was effective. When you divorce the humanity from the humans you're killing, it's way easier to see yourself as the moral paragons of justice defending your families from the forces of evil. This is why video games often put generic bad guy NPCs in masks, so that we don't see their faces. Nobody wants to think about the actual human lives at the other side of our weapons. People with families just like ours. 
Have you ever noticed that a lot of the meme drawings hating on zoosexuals seem to really mimic the design choices of those old World War II posters? A lot of blacks and reds, with a picture of someone burning a flag, or harming someone else, usually with a fun one-liner. Either that, or some kind of symbolism designed to reduce zoos to a lesser status. Not worthy of respect. And these pictures tend to do pretty well as far as engagement goes. I'm not artistic enough to prove it, but I can guarantee that if I tweeted a pro-zoo statement it would gain ten times more traction if it was accompanied by a fun image to go along with it. People resonate with art. Words on a page take effort to read, or at least that's what my friends say when I ask them how they liked the most recent article. But an image is something different, even if words are part of that image. That's art that we can process just at an unintentional glance
Here's the thing. I love art. I think it's so cool. I have so much respect for the power of art, as well as the people gifted enough to create it. But, to quote the late Uncle Ben himself, with great power comes great responsibility. If you're someone who can create goodness with your hands and you choose to instead spread hate and fear, I think that's such a slap in the time, effort, and passion that you put into your craft.
If people choose to create hate, I think it makes it absolutely fair game to take that art and change it into something more positive. That is literally just Good-aligned behavior, to change hate into goodness. 
Basically what I'm trying to say here is, I love vandalism. 
When art is a weapon, vandalism is the way to fight back. On the large scale side, the American deep state south used to be filled with statues glorifying confederate leaders, and we tore them the fuck down. But there are minor examples of this everywhere. An easy example to conceptualize is graffiti. Someone creates a picture to say something, and someone else modifies it to change that message. This is something we see all the time in media. Typically done by a rebel force, fighting against an oppressive government or other such force. 
Nowadays, very few people are going around printing posters and sticking them on lamp posts or anything, but that's because the way that we consume media has changed. You could create a message and tape it somewhere and hope people see it, but not know for sure. Or, you could post it online and not only could it potentially reach more people, but also you get direct confirmation of its reach based off of views, likes, and shares. 
It's also much easier to vandalize. It's amazing how simple it is to right click copy an image, post it in the editing software of your choice, and modify that message. "Zoophiles aren't valid" becomes "Zoophiles are valid" pretty easily on most of these images. 
Let's bring everything together now, shall we? As zoos, we're a minority. We're a small, tight-knit group of people who have a peaceful message of love, trying to validate our own affections as well as help bring more attention to the plights of animals everywhere. But, we're a small group. We have people sympathetic to us, but they're quiet. Scared of the backlash of others--the majority. Or at least, the assumed majority. The "polite thing to say" at family dinners. And that assumed majority tries from time to time to enforce this opinion by creating hateful messages that are meant to demonize us so people don't see our opinion as worth considering. And that messaging comes in the form of violent and hateful art. There's only one way to combat that messaging, when we want to combat those messages at their root. We change the negatives to the positives. We change guns to hearts. We change messages of hate to ones of love. In a way, might I remind you, that is entirely digital and leaves the original piece fully intact. 
Now, tell me, is that art theft?
I honestly don't think that's even an interesting question to answer. I'll leave you to to be the judge. 
Article written by Tarro (April 2024) 
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