Vandalism
Overview
 
Vandalism is the behaviour attributed originally to the Vandals, by the Roman
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

s, in respect of culture
Culture
Culture is a term that has many different inter-related meanings. For example, in 1952, Alfred Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn compiled a list of 164 definitions of "culture" in Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions...

: ruthless destruction or spoiling of anything beautiful
Beauty
Beauty is a characteristic of a person, animal, place, object, or idea that provides a perceptual experience of pleasure, meaning, or satisfaction. Beauty is studied as part of aesthetics, sociology, social psychology, and culture...

 or venerable
Venerable
The Venerable is used as a style or epithet in several Christian churches. It is also the common English-language translation of a number of Buddhist titles.-Roman Catholic:...

. The term also includes criminal damage such as graffiti
Graffiti
Graffiti is the name for images or lettering scratched, scrawled, painted or marked in any manner on property....

 and defacement
Defacement (vandalism)
In common usage, to deface something refers to marking or removing the part of an object designed to hold the viewers' attention. Example acts of defacement could include scoring a book cover with a blade, splashing paint over a painting in a gallery, or smashing the nose of a sculpted bust...

 directed towards any property without permission of the owner.
The Vandals
Vandals
The Vandals were an East Germanic tribe that entered the late Roman Empire during the 5th century. The Vandals under king Genseric entered Africa in 429 and by 439 established a kingdom which included the Roman Africa province, besides the islands of Sicily, Corsica, Sardinia and the Balearics....

, an ancient Germanic people, are associated with senseless destruction as a result of their sack of Rome
Sack of Rome (455)
The sack of 455 was the second of three barbarian sacks of Rome; it was executed by the Vandals, who were then at war with the usurping Western Roman Emperor Petronius Maximus....

 under King Genseric
Genseric
Genseric , also spelled as Geiseric or Gaiseric, was King of the Vandals and Alans and was one of the key players in the troubles of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century...

 in 455.
Discussions
Encyclopedia
Vandalism is the behaviour attributed originally to the Vandals, by the Roman
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

s, in respect of culture
Culture
Culture is a term that has many different inter-related meanings. For example, in 1952, Alfred Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn compiled a list of 164 definitions of "culture" in Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions...

: ruthless destruction or spoiling of anything beautiful
Beauty
Beauty is a characteristic of a person, animal, place, object, or idea that provides a perceptual experience of pleasure, meaning, or satisfaction. Beauty is studied as part of aesthetics, sociology, social psychology, and culture...

 or venerable
Venerable
The Venerable is used as a style or epithet in several Christian churches. It is also the common English-language translation of a number of Buddhist titles.-Roman Catholic:...

. The term also includes criminal damage such as graffiti
Graffiti
Graffiti is the name for images or lettering scratched, scrawled, painted or marked in any manner on property....

 and defacement
Defacement (vandalism)
In common usage, to deface something refers to marking or removing the part of an object designed to hold the viewers' attention. Example acts of defacement could include scoring a book cover with a blade, splashing paint over a painting in a gallery, or smashing the nose of a sculpted bust...

 directed towards any property without permission of the owner.

History of the term

The Vandals
Vandals
The Vandals were an East Germanic tribe that entered the late Roman Empire during the 5th century. The Vandals under king Genseric entered Africa in 429 and by 439 established a kingdom which included the Roman Africa province, besides the islands of Sicily, Corsica, Sardinia and the Balearics....

, an ancient Germanic people, are associated with senseless destruction as a result of their sack of Rome
Sack of Rome (455)
The sack of 455 was the second of three barbarian sacks of Rome; it was executed by the Vandals, who were then at war with the usurping Western Roman Emperor Petronius Maximus....

 under King Genseric
Genseric
Genseric , also spelled as Geiseric or Gaiseric, was King of the Vandals and Alans and was one of the key players in the troubles of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century...

 in 455. During the Enlightenment
Age of Enlightenment
The Age of Enlightenment was an elite cultural movement of intellectuals in 18th century Europe that sought to mobilize the power of reason in order to reform society and advance knowledge. It promoted intellectual interchange and opposed intolerance and abuses in church and state...

, Rome was idealized, while the Goths
Goths
The Goths were an East Germanic tribe of Scandinavian origin whose two branches, the Visigoths and the Ostrogoths, played an important role in the fall of the Roman Empire and the emergence of Medieval Europe....

 and Vandals were blamed for its destruction. The Vandals may not have been any more destructive than other invaders of ancient times, but they did inspire British poet John Dryden
John Dryden
John Dryden was an influential English poet, literary critic, translator, and playwright who dominated the literary life of Restoration England to such a point that the period came to be known in literary circles as the Age of Dryden.Walter Scott called him "Glorious John." He was made Poet...

 to write, Till Goths, and Vandals, a rude Northern race, Did all the matchless Monuments deface (1694). The term Vandalisme was coined in 1794 by Henri Grégoire, bishop of Blois, to describe the destruction of artwork following the French Revolution. The term was quickly adopted across Europe. This new use of the term was important in colouring the perception of the Vandals from later Late Antiquity, popularising the pre-existing idea that they were a barbaric group with a taste for destruction.

Historically, vandalism has been justified by painter Gustave Courbet
Gustave Courbet
Jean Désiré Gustave Courbet was a French painter who led the Realist movement in 19th-century French painting. The Realist movement bridged the Romantic movement , with the Barbizon School and the Impressionists...

 as destruction of monuments symbolizing "war and conquest". Therefore, it is often done as an expression of contempt, creativity, or both. Gustave Courbet
Gustave Courbet
Jean Désiré Gustave Courbet was a French painter who led the Realist movement in 19th-century French painting. The Realist movement bridged the Romantic movement , with the Barbizon School and the Impressionists...

's attempt, during the 1871 Paris Commune
Paris Commune
The Paris Commune was a government that briefly ruled Paris from March 18 to May 28, 1871. It existed before the split between anarchists and Marxists had taken place, and it is hailed by both groups as the first assumption of power by the working class during the Industrial Revolution...

, to dismantle the Vendôme column
Place Vendôme
Place Vendôme is a square in the 1st arrondissement of Paris, France, located to the north of the Tuileries Gardens and east of the Église de la Madeleine. It is the starting point of the Rue de la Paix. Its regular architecture by Jules Hardouin-Mansart and pedimented screens canted across the...

, a symbol of the past Napoleon III
Napoleon III of France
Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte was the President of the French Second Republic and as Napoleon III, the ruler of the Second French Empire. He was the nephew and heir of Napoleon I, christened as Charles Louis Napoléon Bonaparte...

 authoritarian Empire, was one of the most celebrated events of vandalism. Nietzsche
Friedrich Nietzsche
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche was a 19th-century German philosopher, poet, composer and classical philologist...

 himself would meditate after the Commune on the "fight against culture", taking as example the intentional burning of the Tuileries Palace
Tuileries Palace
The Tuileries Palace was a royal palace in Paris which stood on the right bank of the River Seine until 1871, when it was destroyed in the upheaval during the suppression of the Paris Commune...

 on May 23, 1871. "The criminal fight against culture is only the reverse side of a criminal culture" wrote Klossowski
Pierre Klossowski
Pierre Klossowski was a French writer, translator and artist. He was the eldest son of the artists Erich Klossowski and Baladine Klossowska, and his younger brother was the painter Balthus.-Life:...

 after quoting Nietzsche.

In a proposal to the International Conference for Unification of Criminal Law held in Madrid in 1933, Raphael Lemkin
Raphael Lemkin
Raphael Lemkin was a Polish lawyer of Jewish descent. He is best known for his work against genocide, a word he coined in 1943 from the root words genos and -cide...

 envisaged the creation of two new international crimes (delicta juris gentium
Jus gentium
Ius gentium, Latin for "law of nations", was originally the part of Roman law that the Roman Empire applied to its dealings with foreigners, especially provincial subjects...

): the crime of barbarity, consisting in the extermination of racial, religious or social collectivities, and the crime of vandalism, consisting in the destruction of cultural and artistic works of these groups. The proposal was not accepted.

As a crime

Private citizens commit vandalism when they willfully damage or deface the property of others or the commons. Some vandalism may qualify as culture jamming
Culture jamming
Culture jamming, coined in 1984, denotes a tactic used by many anti-consumerist social movements to disrupt or subvert mainstream cultural institutions, including corporate advertising. Guerrilla semiotics and night discourse are sometimes used synonymously with the term culture jamming.Culture...

 or sniggling
Breaching experiment
In the field of social psychology, a breaching experiment is an experiment that seeks to examine people's reactions to violations of commonly accepted social rules or norms. Breaching experiments are most commonly associated with ethnomethodology, and in particular the work of Harold Garfinkel...

: it is thought by some to be artistic in nature even though carried out illegally or without the property owner's permission. Examples include at least some graffiti
Graffiti
Graffiti is the name for images or lettering scratched, scrawled, painted or marked in any manner on property....

 art, billboard "liberation" and possibly crop circles. Criminal vandalism takes many forms. Graffiti
Graffiti
Graffiti is the name for images or lettering scratched, scrawled, painted or marked in any manner on property....

 on public property
Public property
Public property is property, which is dedicated to the use of the public. It is a subset of state property. The term may be used either to describe the use to which the property is put, or to describe the character of its ownership...

 is common in many inner cities as part of a gang
Gang
A gang is a group of people who, through the organization, formation, and establishment of an assemblage, share a common identity. In current usage it typically denotes a criminal organization or else a criminal affiliation. In early usage, the word gang referred to a group of workmen...

 culture; however, other more serious forms of vandalism that may take place during public unrest such as rioting can involve the willful destruction of public and private property
Private property
Private property is the right of persons and firms to obtain, own, control, employ, dispose of, and bequeath land, capital, and other forms of property. Private property is distinguishable from public property, which refers to assets owned by a state, community or government rather than by...

. Vandalism per se is sometimes considered one of the less serious common crimes, but it can become quite serious and distressing when committed extensively, violently or as an expression of hatred and intimidation.

Examples

Examples of vandalism include salting lawns, cutting trees without permission, egg throwing
Egging
Egging refers to the act of throwing eggs at houses, cars, or people. Egging is a criminal offence in most areas. The eggs are usually raw, but are sometimes hard-boiled or expired. This can be considered vandalism....

, breaking windows, arson
Arson
Arson is the crime of intentionally or maliciously setting fire to structures or wildland areas. It may be distinguished from other causes such as spontaneous combustion and natural wildfires...

, spraying paint on others' properties, tagging
Graffiti
Graffiti is the name for images or lettering scratched, scrawled, painted or marked in any manner on property....

, placing glue into locks, tire slashing, keying (scratching) paint, ransacking a property, and flooding a house by clogging a sink and leaving the water running.

Political

In elections, opposing candidates' supporters may engage in "political vandalism" - the act of defacing opponents' political posters, bumper stickers, billboards, and other street marketing
Street marketing
Street marketing is a term used to refer to certain marketing techniques used to promote products and/or services in an unconventional way in public places. The main point of street marketing is that the activities are done exclusively on the streets or other public places, such as shopping centers...

 material. Although the nature of this material is temporary, its effect can be long-lasting as it may reflect both negatively and positively on the candidate whose material is being vandalized as well as on the presumed candidate whose supporters are engaging in the vandalism.

Also activists may use the tactic of property destruction as means of protest, e.g. by smashing the windows of banks, shops and government institutions and setting fire to cars. This often takes place during riot
Riot
A riot is a form of civil disorder characterized often by what is thought of as disorganized groups lashing out in a sudden and intense rash of violence against authority, property or people. While individuals may attempt to lead or control a riot, riots are thought to be typically chaotic and...

s but can also happen as a stand alone event, e.g. by animal rights
Animal rights
Animal rights, also known as animal liberation, is the idea that the most basic interests of non-human animals should be afforded the same consideration as the similar interests of human beings...

 activists destroying property owned by farmers, biotech companies and research facilities and setting free animals (which is sometimes referred to as eco-terrorism
Eco-terrorism
Eco-terrorism usually refers to acts of violence or sabotage committed in support of ecological, environmental, or animal rights causes against persons or their property....

 by opponents).

Motives

Actions of this kind can be ascribed to anger or envy, or to spontaneous, opportunistic behaviour– possibly for peer acceptance or bravado
Bravado
Bravado may refer to:* A pretense of bravery* The quality or state of being foolhardy* A blustering swaggering conduct* The Bravados* "Bravado" is the second track by the Canadian power trio Rush on their 1991 album, Roll the Bones...

 in gang
Gang
A gang is a group of people who, through the organization, formation, and establishment of an assemblage, share a common identity. In current usage it typically denotes a criminal organization or else a criminal affiliation. In early usage, the word gang referred to a group of workmen...

 cultures, or disgruntlement with the target (victim) person or society. Opportunistic vandalism of this nature may also be filmed, the mentality of which can be akin to happy slapping
Happy slapping
Happy slapping was a fad in the UK, in which someone assaulted an unwitting victim while others recorded the assault...

. The large-scale prevalence of gang graffiti in some inner cities has almost made it acceptable to the societies based there– so much so that it may go unnoticed, or not be removed, possibly because it may be a fruitless endeavour, to be graffitied on once again.

Reaction of authorities

In view of its incivility, punishment
Punishment
Punishment is the authoritative imposition of something negative or unpleasant on a person or animal in response to behavior deemed wrong by an individual or group....

 for vandalism can be particularly severe in some countries. In Singapore
Singapore
Singapore , officially the Republic of Singapore, is a Southeast Asian city-state off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, north of the equator. An island country made up of 63 islands, it is separated from Malaysia by the Straits of Johor to its north and from Indonesia's Riau Islands by the...

, for example, a person who attempts to cause or commits an act of vandalism may be liable to imprisonment
Imprisonment
Imprisonment is a legal term.The book Termes de la Ley contains the following definition:This passage was approved by Atkin and Duke LJJ in Meering v Grahame White Aviation Co....

 for up to 3 years and may also be punished with caning
Caning in Singapore
Caning is a widely used form of legal corporal punishment in Singapore. It can be divided into several contexts: judicial, military, school, reformatory/prison, and domestic/private....

. Vandalism in the UK is construed as an environmental crime
Environmental crime
Environmental crime can be broadly defined as illegal acts, which directly harmthe environment. International bodies such as the G8, Interpol, EU, UN Environment Programme and the UN Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute have recognised the following environmental crimes:* Illegal...

 and may be punished with an ASBO
Åsbo
Åsbo can refer to:*Åsbo Northern Hundred, a hundred in Scania*Åsbo Southern Hundred, a hundred in Scania...

 (Anti-Social Behaviour Order).

Former New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

 mayor
Mayor
In many countries, a Mayor is the highest ranking officer in the municipal government of a town or a large urban city....

 Rudolph Giuliani made a crackdown on vandalism a centerpiece of his anti-crime agenda in the 1990s, asserting that a strong campaign against nonviolent "quality of life" crimes such as vandalism would bring about a corresponding decrease in violent crime. FBI statistics claim that New York's crime rate plummeted during his tenure.

As art

Though vandalism in itself is illegal, it is often also an integral part of modern popular culture. French painter Gustave Courbet
Gustave Courbet
Jean Désiré Gustave Courbet was a French painter who led the Realist movement in 19th-century French painting. The Realist movement bridged the Romantic movement , with the Barbizon School and the Impressionists...

's attempt to disassemble the Vendôme column
Place Vendôme
Place Vendôme is a square in the 1st arrondissement of Paris, France, located to the north of the Tuileries Gardens and east of the Église de la Madeleine. It is the starting point of the Rue de la Paix. Its regular architecture by Jules Hardouin-Mansart and pedimented screens canted across the...

 during the 1871 Paris Commune
Paris Commune
The Paris Commune was a government that briefly ruled Paris from March 18 to May 28, 1871. It existed before the split between anarchists and Marxists had taken place, and it is hailed by both groups as the first assumption of power by the working class during the Industrial Revolution...

 was probably one of the first artistic vandalist acts, celebrated at least since Dada performances during World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

. The Vendôme column was considered a symbol of the recently-deposed Second Empire
Second French Empire
The Second French Empire or French Empire was the Imperial Bonapartist regime of Napoleon III from 1852 to 1870, between the Second Republic and the Third Republic, in France.-Rule of Napoleon III:...

 of Napoleon III
Napoleon III of France
Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte was the President of the French Second Republic and as Napoleon III, the ruler of the Second French Empire. He was the nephew and heir of Napoleon I, christened as Charles Louis Napoléon Bonaparte...

, and dismantled as such.

After the burning of the Tuileries Palace
Tuileries Palace
The Tuileries Palace was a royal palace in Paris which stood on the right bank of the River Seine until 1871, when it was destroyed in the upheaval during the suppression of the Paris Commune...

 on May 23, 1871, Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche
Friedrich Nietzsche
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche was a 19th-century German philosopher, poet, composer and classical philologist...

 himself meditated about the "fight against culture", wondering what could justify culture if it were to be destroyed in such a "senseless" manner (the arguments are: culture is justified by works of art and scientific achievements; exploitation is necessary to those achievements, leading to the creation of exploited people who then fight against culture. In this case, culture cannot be legitimised by art achievements, and Nietzsche writes: "I {also} know what it means: fighting against culture". After quoting him, Klossowski
Pierre Klossowski
Pierre Klossowski was a French writer, translator and artist. He was the eldest son of the artists Erich Klossowski and Baladine Klossowska, and his younger brother was the painter Balthus.-Life:...

 writes: "The criminal fight against culture is only the reverse side of a criminal culture".

As destruction of monument
Monument
A monument is a type of structure either explicitly created to commemorate a person or important event or which has become important to a social group as a part of their remembrance of historic times or cultural heritage, or simply as an example of historic architecture...

, vandalism can only have sense in a culture respecting history
History
History is the discovery, collection, organization, and presentation of information about past events. History can also mean the period of time after writing was invented. Scholars who write about history are called historians...

, archeology - Nietzsche spoke of monumental history. As destruction of monumental history, vandalism was assured a long life
Life
Life is a characteristic that distinguishes objects that have signaling and self-sustaining processes from those that do not, either because such functions have ceased , or else because they lack such functions and are classified as inanimate...

 (as Herostratus
Herostratus
Herostratus was a young man and arsonist; seeking notoriety, he burned down the Temple of Artemis in ancient Greece.-Occurrence:On July 21, 356 BC, Herostratus set fire to the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus in what is now Turkey...

 proved): Performance art
Performance art
In art, performance art is a performance presented to an audience, traditionally interdisciplinary. Performance may be either scripted or unscripted, random or carefully orchestrated; spontaneous or otherwise carefully planned with or without audience participation. The performance can be live or...

 could make such a claim, as well as Hakim Bey's poetic terrorism or Destroy 2000 Years of Culture from Atari Teenage Riot
Atari Teenage Riot
'Atari Teenage Riot' is a German digital hardcore group formed in Berlin in 1992. The name was taken from a Portuguese Joe song 'Teenage Riot' from the 'Teen-age Riot' album, with the word 'Atari' added as an Atari ST computer was used to create compositions...

. Gustave Courbet's declaration stated:

"Attendu que la colonne Vendôme est un monument dénué de toute valeur artistique, tendant à perpétuer par son expression les idées de guerre et de conquête qui étaient dans la dynastie impériale, mais que réprouve le sentiment d’une nation républicaine, [le citoyen Courbet] émet le vœu que le gouvernement de la Défense nationale veuille bien l’autoriser à déboulonner cette colonne."


("As the Vendôme column is a monument devoid of any artistic value, whose expression tens to perpetuate the ideas of war and conquest from the imperial dynasty, but that reject the sentiment of a republican nation, citizen Courbet declares that the government of National Defense should allow him to dismantle this column.")


Hence, painter Courbet justified the dismantlement of the Vendôme column on political grounds, downgrading its artistic value. Vandalism poses the problem of the value of art compared to life's hardships: Courbet thought that the political values transmitted by this work of art neutralized its artistic value. Anyway, his project wasn't followed, however, on April 12, 1871, the dismantlement of the imperial symbol was voted by the Commune, and the column taken down on May 8. After the assault on the Paris Commune
Paris Commune
The Paris Commune was a government that briefly ruled Paris from March 18 to May 28, 1871. It existed before the split between anarchists and Marxists had taken place, and it is hailed by both groups as the first assumption of power by the working class during the Industrial Revolution...

 by Adolphe Thiers
Adolphe Thiers
Marie Joseph Louis Adolphe Thiers was a French politician and historian. was a prime minister under King Louis-Philippe of France. Following the overthrow of the Second Empire he again came to prominence as the French leader who suppressed the revolutionary Paris Commune of 1871...

, Gustave Courbet was condemned to pay part of the expenses.

In 1974, Norman Mailer
Norman Mailer
Norman Kingsley Mailer was an American novelist, journalist, essayist, poet, playwright, screenwriter, and film director.Along with Truman Capote, Joan Didion, Hunter S...

 glorified the art of vandalism in Faith of Graffiti, which likened tagging in New York City to the work of Giotto and Rauschenberg. New York Authorities responded by coating subway walls with Teflon paint, jailing taggers and requiring hardware stores to keep spray paint under lock and key.

Tags
Graffiti
Graffiti is the name for images or lettering scratched, scrawled, painted or marked in any manner on property....

, designs, and styles of writing are commonplace on clothing and are an influence on many of the corporate logos
Logos
' is an important term in philosophy, psychology, rhetoric and religion. Originally a word meaning "a ground", "a plea", "an opinion", "an expectation", "word," "speech," "account," "reason," it became a technical term in philosophy, beginning with Heraclitus ' is an important term in...

 with which we are familiar. Many skateparks and similar youth-oriented venues are decorated with commissioned graffiti-style artwork, and in many others patrons are welcome to leave their own. There is still, however, a very fine line between vandalism as an artform, as a political statement
Political statement
The term political statement is used to refer to any act or non-verbal form of communication that is intended to influence a decision to be made for or by a political party....

, and as a crime
Crime
Crime is the breach of rules or laws for which some governing authority can ultimately prescribe a conviction...

. An excellent example of one who walks this threefold line is Bristol
Bristol
Bristol is a city, unitary authority area and ceremonial county in South West England, with an estimated population of 433,100 for the unitary authority in 2009, and a surrounding Larger Urban Zone with an estimated 1,070,000 residents in 2007...

 born guerrilla-artist Banksy
Banksy
Banksy is a pseudonymous England-based graffiti artist, political activist, film director, and painter.His satirical street art and subversive epigrams combine irreverent dark humour with graffiti done in a distinctive stencilling technique...

, who is revered as a cult artistic figure by most people. When councils have removed his works, they have been met by public outrage. Official vandalism is far worse than that perpetrated by individuals, a point made by Banksy when decorating buildings of no architectural merit whatsoever.
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