Graffiti seems a big deal if you pay attention to the Perth media at the moment. Articles about the scourge of the spray-can abound, and if you catch the train I’m sure you’ve seen Transperth’s rather woeful and embarrassing ‘Graffidiot’ campaign.

In my last couple of blog posts I’ve picked on The West Australian; now I’m going to take a recent article from the Community Newspaper Group’s Eastern Reporter:

GRAFFITI vandals show no signs of slowing down in the north eastern metropolitan corridor.


“Unfortunately, there will always be young people who have that compulsion to get their tag in the most visible or unique place, or to tag over something else.

“And for young people with that mindset there’s not a lot we can do apart from removing it as quickly as possible.”

GRAFFITI BLIGHT INCREASES. (2011, January 18). Eastern Reporter (Perth, WA) Retrieved February 26, 2011, from

People with that mindset are apparently a problem. Are they are recent occurrence?

Graffiti!A Psychological Puzzle.
There seems to be an incurable propensity in human nature to perpetrate offences against decency. There is a remnant of the lower instinct in some men which causes them to be guilty of transgressions against the canons of propriety, which are all alike purposeless, brutal, and silly. Amongst this class of offences is the practice of scribbling words of evil meaning upon fences and benches, and upon walls in public places, wherever a good ground can be obtained for doing so, out of sight of a policeman or an official. What is the innate propensity which induces both young and old to sully conspicuous places with written impurity it is difficult to imagine. It is, indeed, a psychological puzzle. The same motive that leads to disgraceful blasphemy and licentiousness of tongue probably actuates the seamy-minded folks who scribble indecencies in public places. We know it is a passion with travellers to carve their names on trees, rocks, monuments, or places of note, indicating a restless desire for notoriety, which is not, perhaps, altogether irrational. To carve one’s name on a high pinnacle is an ambitious desire, somewhat akin to the wish to excel others in any project. But what can be said of the motives of those who write vicious language and vie in covering the walls of public resorts with words and phrases all under tho ban of decency? The worst consequence of this criminality is that it is far-reaching in effect, and a serious source of pollution to the young, with whom evil influences are in many eases more powerful than those for good. How to check infamies of this kind, which are perpetrated in secret, is a difficult question to answer. But, to aid in a consummation so devoutly to be desired every decent citizen should willingly turn a voluntary detective and informer.

An Improvement. (1886, February 13). Western Mail (Perth, WA : 1885-1954), p. 24. Retrieved February 27, 2011, from

There we have it; even in 1886 it was thought in Perth that graffiti artists were social deviants! A couple of interesting points. At no point does this 1886 article refer to the young; apparently at the time this blight was associated with people of all ages.

Additionally, note the call for worthy citizens to shop their fellow man. This is the point where I’m going to break my promise, and pick on The West:

The method of placing criminal’s faces prominently in the newspaper has again been hailed a success with WA police fielding a significant number of calls in relation to the first phase of Operation Eraser.


Sen. Sgt Royce said tagging was often a gateway to other crimes such as burglaries or more serious damage.

“They might go on school grounds to do graffiti and they end up destroying buildings,” he said. “We’re trying to get them early and remove them from the area.”

Graffiti images a success. (2011, February 13). The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1885-1954), p. 24. Retrieved February 27, 2011, from

One hundred and twenty five years later, we’re a lot more advanced, but the government is still doing the same thing. We’re being asked to dob in our fellows for their transgressions, and frightened by their malign psychology.

I wonder what they’d have said in 1886 about abandoning a number of long standing legal principles and sticking photographs of youth up in public for everyone to see? Perhaps we haven’t advanced so far after all.

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