Is This Graffiti or Not?

by on January 6, 2015 · 8 comments

in Culture, Environment, Media, Ocean Beach

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABillboard Linked to OB Lawyer an Eyesore in East County

We all think we know what graffiti is when we see it, especially spray-painted tagging team symbols.

graffiti - deb g 02But aren’t there other types of graffiti?

How about the marking of public space by a group or company that mars that public space for a profit? That marking and marring of public space can be done by a commercial sign or billboard.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe think this huge billboard out in East County – nearly at eye-level with the 125 freeway in Lemon Grove – on a huge  structure, is graffiti. It mars public space for private profit.

“Graffiti”, according to Merriam-Webster is “usually unauthorized writing or drawing on a public surface”; but there is a wider definition as well:

Form of visual communication, usually illegal, involving the unauthorized marking of public space by an individual or group. Technically the term applies to designs scratched through a layer of paint or plaster, but its meaning has been extended to other markings.

Graffiti is widely considered a form of antisocial behaviour performed in order to gain attention or simply for thrills. But it also can be understood as an expressive art form.

Derived from the Italian word graffio (“scratch”), graffiti (“incised inscriptions,” plural but often used as singular) has a long history. It has been found in ancient Roman ruins, in the remains of the Mayan city of Tikal in Central America, on rocks in Spain dating to the 16th century, and in medieval English churches.

During the 20th century, graffiti in the U.S. and Europe was closely associated with gangs. Graffiti was particularly prominent in major urban centres throughout the world; common targets were subways, billboards, and walls.

In the 1990s there emerged a new form of graffiti, known as “tagging,” which entailed the repeated use of a single symbol or series of symbols to mark territory.

The “urban dictionary” has wider definitions.

Okay, so what exactly is the connection with the billboard and Ocean Beach?

The billboard in question is an advertisement for the law firm of RJS – which stands for Ronnie J Shamoun, a wealthy lawyer who used to sit on the OB Planning Board and who has had a relative also sit on the Board.

The RJS law firm, an tax firm, has large billboards all over the City and County of San Diego.

We have to ask, how can someone who hails from OB and who says they have a commitment to the environment and keeping OB the way it is, be responsible for so much graffiti around our city and around our county?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt is true that the “view” is already marred by the presence of the huge, monstrous freeway system. But at least the freeway is a public object that is marring the scenery, and not a giant for profit billboard.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

cc January 6, 2015 at 11:33 am

Graffiti as defined by google: writing or drawings scribbled, scratched, or sprayed illicitly on a wall or other surface in a public place.

So since that billboard isn’t illicitly placed, no, that is not graffiti.

Is it an eye sore? Yes. Is it graffiti? No.

So that is not graffiti and your “article” is basically you pointing out a bias against someone who has legally paid to advertise their business. What does that billboard have to do with his commitment to the environment.

What a stretch this is.


da john January 6, 2015 at 12:23 pm

I think the real issue is the Clear Channel monopoly of radio and advertising.

It’s not like this dude erected the billboard to put up his sign, if he wasn’t up there someone else would be. Probably for something crappier like Coke or Jack in the Box.

At least someone from OB is doing well and was generous enough to volunteer on the planing board. If I remember correctly there were a few empty seats when he was on it.


Tomas January 6, 2015 at 12:35 pm

Look at the big picture (literally) you posted: why is that sign any more appalling than those big concrete structures running across the picture?


mjt January 6, 2015 at 1:37 pm

These guys play down and dirty. We fought them 35 rears ago. RJReynolds was the biggest contributor to the industry, with their business demand for advertising.
They paraded all of their stooges in front of the Board of Alderman, in Winston Salem NC
Chamber of Commerce included.
We lost, the big fight , but there were some gains.


mjt January 6, 2015 at 1:49 pm

Don’t just consider what has been erected. It will become the Ebola billboard plague.
Imagine hundreds of the eyesores stuck in the ground and in our minds.


UNWASHEDwallmartTHONG January 6, 2015 at 4:31 pm

Y’all wanna see a gaggle of billboards? Jus’ drive down the I-95 or the I-75 through Floorida from Goorja to the keys. Ain’t nuttin’ there but board after board after board after board. Big unz ‘n lil unz.
Ta git ridothem, ya gotta vote out the present jackals in office ‘n vote in newer & more better hyenas, ‘n then ya gotta bribe ’em to pass bills outlawin’ the darn billboards. Dang it! Democracy works ifn ya jus’ got ‘nuf time ‘n money.
One sign ofn the 125 ain’t nuthin’ ta bother ’bout. Y’all better keep yer undies in yer britches & quit gripin’ ’bout sumpin’ ya can’t fix in the near future. None of them signs are graffiti ifn theybin deezigned, permitted, ‘n erected under present lawz.
Son, gitcher butt outta behin’ that keyboard & drum up sumpin’ worth writin’ about, ‘n then there would be sumpin worth readin’ ’bout. You might as well gripe ’bout all those dang palm trees people bin plantin’ here for decades. What a useless peace o’ decorashun.


Marc Snelling January 7, 2015 at 9:52 am

It Is visual pollution. If the State banned them then it would be like graffiti to put one up. Vermont banned billboards in ’68 and the state’s highways look much better for it. Alaska, Hawaii and Maine have also banned billboards since Vermont lead the way.


iD the Poet January 7, 2015 at 3:17 pm

Advertisers are invaders of our mental space. Same as when an airplane banner advertising geico or corona fly over our OB beaches. That sacred space is no one’s to sell.


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