DEFENDER NINE: "Art is either plagiarism or revolution." —Paul Gauguin

IF YOU MISSED THE LAST EIGHT OF THESE HERE’S THE QUICK PITCH:

Even though the only thing Che ever put on his shirt was blood, sweat and little bits of traitor brains,

Andre the Giant doesn’t have a posse,

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and by the time anybody got around to defending Brooklyn it was just another Alamo,

the revolutionary bent of the modern T-shirt fad suggested that, despite years of anger management classes, behavior medication and lack of decent education Americans can still get mad enough to shell out twenty something dollars to be rebellious. Which means a lot, considering votes are free.

Young people sporting the shadow of the AK 47, cameos of violent revolutionaries and whatever Shepherd Fairey decided to steal that week did so in order to appear dangerous, which is often all that is needed to keep predators in check.

In short, the T-shirt kings of the last century had misunderestimated azimuth in the vacuum of pop, overshot fashion and ended up in politics.

It was with these fads that I rediscovered hope in the generation with the X hung on it. I wasn’t the only one. Spike Lee contacted me and asked if he could use the T-shirt in a movie called “Inside Man.” We met and I gave him permission, hoping that it would be a “Defend Brooklyn” commercial when it came out.

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Defense Industry Report VIII: WHERE HAVE ALL THE GOOD CRIMES GONE?

So. 9/11. Boom Boom. Civil rights canceled. Special Delivery. Airmail. And woe is us, for the forked phallus of Wall Street was the lodestone of the Bush Gang, without which maps and words lost meaning, until Operation “Enduring Freedom” kicked down the doors of the wrong war.

Most of the real terrorists were killed at the crash site, so the Department of Justice took advantage of aggressive new statutes to give a violent monster named “Free” twenty years of jail for burning down a beautiful young Truck. National discourse about this chain of events was relegated to sloganeering as the recently purchased Fourth Estate parroted the “For Us or against Us” hokum coming from our beloved “leaders”.

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The message to The Left was clear: Motherfuckers ain’t up against The Wall no more. A New Dark Age was upon us, complete with thumbscrews and crusaders. So, all the protest kids lost their phone numbers, changed aliases, switched partners and cooped up in different crash pads. Scared. Riots failed to occur where they were guaranteed before and, consequently, tomatoes lost their flavor.

I put my Defend Brooklyn militia project on the back burner. Who knew what a “terrorism czar” was, or what he thought about jingoistic AK 47 t shirts? The Brooklyn we were defending had been overrun, anyway. By people like me, who I hate. It was fucked up.

see what happens if you sleep on defense

The profits accrued during those <911 days afforded me the scratch to start looking for a neighborhood with hardwood floors where I could dig in and the copycat hipsters couldn’t follow me to make my rents go up. Queens was too complicated and there were too many honkies in Harlem. The South Bronx had real potential as the place from which to Defend Brooklyn.

The great restructuring of American cities by Robert Moses has rendered the south Bronx into a prep jail. The rate of incarceration was so high that certain surviving elders felt it wise to teach a lethal fighting style to the local youth in order to enable them to stay out of gangs.
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It was a good pitch, anyway. Soon “Jail Karate” had a producer and some Swedish television station showed interest. (Films like “Jail Karate” constitute escapism in Sweden because an effective social system has dulled Svenski graffiti, hip hop and street violence to the most boring in the world.)

Jail Karate’s thesis dovetailed nicely with the previous Defend Brooklyn work and helped me define the nature of the resolve worn so readily on so many T-shirts. The clannish atmosphere of the various dojos and the vulgar noblesse oblige of the Bush administration made me want to conjure a serious, violent left-wing militia into existence, if only just to have someone to talk to.

Inside Man bank robbers

Friends of mine from New Orleans told me about this guy named Jac Currie hacking the “Defend Brooklyn” meme with “Defend New Orleans.” Apparently he was claiming that he was the genius behind the brand that was sweeping the nation.

It didn’t bother me that much as I was busy parsing what it meant to “Defend” a neighborhood with a bunch of Five Percenters and Werner Herzog’s production manager without getting killed. I’d become inured to salon crusties making chippie money off my reverse prole drift since the third weekend.

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the original bite defend new orleans

Jac Currie’s plagiarized “Defend New Orleans” shirt had an old musket which will make a nice paddle the next time they blow the levies. I won’t even bother to crack on the skull-with-mohawk stencil stolen from Manic Panic hair dye kit. I emailed this Jac Currie and told him that I was about to hire a bunch of lawyers to monkeyfuck him if he didn’t quit messing with my Defense Industry project. I figured that would be all it took, as the threat of a righteous copyright litigation had worked on all the other wannabes.

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Biters copying my work all over the country proved that I had a nationwide mandate. This spurred me to try and create more complex types of manipulation than just a T shirt. I was going to use my enormous talent as a documenter and a writertarian to subvert the dominant paradigm from within the military industrial entertainment complex, and make tons of money.

My first assignment was a piece on Larry Clark for The Face magazine, from which I quote myself, respectfully, with permission:

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You are familiar with Larry Clark’s photography even if you have never perused his seminal photobooks Tulsa(1971) or Teenage lust (1983). Before Larry was a film director he was already ‘the photographer who changed American films and photography.’ The proof is found in the works of Mario Sorrenti, Nick Knight, Terry Richardson, Juergen Teller, Corrine Day, Nan Goldin, Bruce Weber, Steven Meisel, Alexie Hay, David Armstrong or Steven Klein (whose work graces the cover of this magazine).

So many photographers have bled Larry’s art for their advertising work that Larry has been implicated as the father of heroin chic. One critic so profoundly misunderstood the situation that he said “Kids” looked like a bad Calvin Klein ad.’ This is why Larry refers to anyone in the industry as “fashion cunts.”

“They got it all wrong. They don’t understand it. I’m documenting real life. They thought it was all about the drugs. They take what I do, use it and make a lot of money at it. My art is personal. I don’t fucking sell clothes. And then some art director goes out and buys a book and says ‘Here it is! This is the next ad campaign!’ Is that supposed to be talent?” Then Larry calls them cunts again.”

TULSA 1971

It was unnerving to listen to Larry rail about photograpers who’d stolen his style while they took the picture of him, as if Larry hadn’t shot a guy over a poker debt.

At the time, I thought all the outrage was due to Mister Clark’s prison inculcation, as his conversation is peppered with dogmatic rules like “Don’t talk for nobody,” “Get people back” and “Don’t pop off with no antisemitic bullshit.” Plus, it was hard to hate Steven Klein and his boyfriend as they were nice, cute, and didn’t call anybody the “C” word while their assistants made us coffee. They even let Larry pet their great danes.

The plagiarism implicit in mimeo art and sampled music had eroded the ethics of the arts world allowing Larry to be brazenly robbed in more than one format. If you believe a 19-year-old is capable of being the “creator” of a feature film like “Kids” then you might believe Larry Clark made Gummo, pissing him off all over again.

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I didn’t know that having someone successfully plagiarize your work is akin to an artistic rape, resulting in a bastard which the artist can neither claim or deny. Or how distracting it is to lay in bed night after night thinking about how you are going to hit somebody in the head with a brick for pissing on your life work.

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It wasn’t until I got the first emails accusing me of being the jerk for stealing Jac Currie’s idea that I began to understand the rage.

I was lying in bed, too angry to sleep, realizing that if violence was part of the Defend Brooklyn ouvre then plagiarism of that work demands a violent response. Or else I lose my tough guy rights. I called Jac Currie’s answering machine and called him a fashion cunt and told him I was serious about the lawyers and the monkeyfucking. For some reason I got no return call.

Then Hurricane Katrina hit. The “Defend New Orleans” flag made great video bites for the national news, emblematic of the necessary feel-good story about town pride bringing people together after a racist storm. Someone sent me a link of Jac Currie claiming the Defense Industry as his own on television.

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I couldn’t believe it. After all my revolutionary talk and half-assed planning it had been stolen by a shakey-voiced party chaser wearing my name out like a bitch. Then I recognized him. The salon bedhead. The hundred dollar jeans slouched off the ass. I saw him get off the RISD bus. Jac Currie was the very guy we were Defending Brooklyn from! Of course he would be related to that thieving-ass Ellen

I called some evil people I knew and plotted a trip to The Big Easy.

COME STALK THE STREETS OF NEW ORLEANS IN THE NEXT CHAPTER OF THE DEFENSE INDUSTRY REPORT: ANATOMY OF A BITER

DEFENSE INDUSTRY REPORT VII: ASK A NINELEVENER

There was a time called <911 when Defend Brooklyn consulted the oracles of black math and conducted several studies to determine that, if the coming generation of rabble, hoi polloi, and 85%ers were groomed properly, “Riot” could be the new “street wear” market.

We planned to harness the anarchic energy driving the nouveau contact sports like skateboarding and grafitti to stop the world from becoming a strip mall. Cribbing tactics from the best political propagandists and advertising, we would use loaded language to dripfeed enough revolutionary iconography into the mainstream and pull the center to the left, like Barbie in reverse. Then things would get progressively better until our grandkids would eat vegetarian big macs on spelt bread in sustainable settings. Or whatever it was we were trying to do. I still can’t remember all the best things we said.

I got a sweatheart deal to place an ad in a legitimate fashion magazine (thanks sweeties) in preparation for something called the Magic Fashion show in late August of 2001 in Las Vegas. The ad was to be used as evidence that I was a T-shirt “curator” instead of just a drunk wingnut with a Ho Chi Minh complex.

Uncanny isn’t it? But Destiny speaks not only through me. There are plenty <911 artifacts suggesting that others felt the crosshairs as well. I claim to be neither conspirator nor prophet, but submit these images as proof that many American artists have developed a situational awareness during their forays into the American third world in search of affordable housing with hardwood floors. Maybe the wood of those floors is where the harmonics of the unconscious collect to be absorbed by those of us who, in the course of living the dream, have to sleep on them.

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Some will, rightfully, claim that this “prescience” is due to the abundance of art, as it has been postulated that given enough time, a monkey will eventually type Shakespeare.

All I suggest is that if an adept is truly sensitive, he might interpret what the world thinks, speaking as it does through various argots of hair, dress and music.

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Or maybe if you read the newspaper, history, and a couple intelligence reports, the future becomes easy to predict, like some crazy science faction.

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Cracks of thunder woke me twice that morning, so I slept on, as rainy days and Mondays always get me down. The phone went unanswered as The Defend Brooklyn Hangover Index had been upgraded to Puce.

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Then came a huge noise under which there was an intricate snap and bash, like boulders breaking apart with a violence too intense to hear with ears, registering in teeth and marrow instead. I would have bravely slept through even this, as it was a pet nightmare of mine since witnessing several big avalanches in the steep mountains of South America, if it were not followed by a roller coaster whoop and a full-throated scream of outrage, a sound which human DNA demands a response.

I was occupying one of those back stage apartments made available to me in the latter days of affordable Brooklyn. The apartment window faced northeast, away from the picturesque southern tip of Manhattan, and  overlooked the maw of an immense shed where green trucks dropped paper to be recycled. Normally a ballet of heavy machinery performed reverse pirouettes to a polyrhythm of back-up beeps day and night, rain or shine.

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This particular morning a hundred trash men stood flat-footed on the dock with their trucks idling will nill. From my vantage point I could see only their reaction. They weren’t cheering like when they had strippers or fights. Their body language was inert, unreadable. What awes the trashman thus?

By the time I got the coffee pressed I knew it had to be Godzilla, and I hate that motherfucker. So, I pulled on my plush Defend Brooklyn TM sweatshirt and charged up the stairs.

There were a hundred or more people I didn’t know on the roof, which was weird because I was the mayor of Williamsburg and what kind of party goes on at the crack of nine on a Monday morning anyway?

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I asked an Asian couple what was going on. “They blew up the buildings. Planes flew into them,” was all the girl would say, never looking away from Manhattan. The sun was bright and clear so I had to squint to make out the smoke billowing from downtown.

I contended that those buildings were made to take a lot.

“Not this much,” a blond girl piped up.

“Planes crash into buildings all the time.” says I.

The blond girl pointed out that the first building was gone already.

“Really? How?” I asked the blond girl, meaning “which way did the building fall?” but she replied, “This is going to sound weird, but it was beautiful.”

Forgive her. We said a lot of things that before the jaws of <911 turned on us. Shock makes people do weird things, like giggle at open caskets or take pictures in front of the smoking World Trade Center just before it falls.

(P.S. If you have those pictures contact me for your five hundred dollar reward.)

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The jokes stopped when the Asian girl realized aloud that it was people jumping off the building, struggling to stay upright as they fell to earth. “Maybe there’s guys down there with the trampoline things.” Finally, we stood like trash men, realizing the impossibility of any scenario except the worst one.

Then the whole building jumped into itself and sifted away, avalanched, leaving a glittering tempest of broken glass to sift to earth like ersatz snow settling in a globe and winked out among the buildings.

The howl started at a woman downtown and grew until it bawled in all voices, everywhere. It was a biblical sound, a primitive shriek, the keening germ of ululation, passed from those who’d seen it with their own eyes to those who watched with televisions, expanded from where the building fell and rolled out into the world in a ring.

When finally the sirens spun down, New York City was silenced. The smoke billowed heavenward, much higher than the Towers it replaced. Without the diffusion of smog Manhattan was as naked as I had ever seen it. Scores of birds circled, looking for their nests in the cliffs of mountains moved by Mohammed.

A stealth fighter skated low over the river, wagging like a kite, too late to do anything more than comfort us.

“That’s a damn stealth fighter,” I said, never having seen one before. This scared the Asian couple more than when the cell phones went out.

“Maybe there is something in that smoke.”

“They wouldn’t tell us if there was. This is gonna be mayhem. The tunnels are fucked for sure.”

“We could go out Long Island and try to catch a ferry.”

We made escape plans as blackbirds of charred business confetti wafted down on Redhook.

escape-from-new-york-cover

“We got to know what is going on,” they insisted.

“I live downstairs,” I volunteered.

So we four went downstairs and listened to the radio. WFMU was off the air which, to me, meant the world was really over. Without any civilized programming we had to listen to that dumb-ass Howard Stern prepare torches for the inevitable witch hunts.

We were shamed and much afraid because as liberals we knew intuitively that this was somehow our fault. The Asian girl and her boyfriend left, as it wasn’t their neighborhood and they didn’t know if they could still get home. The skinny blond girl, reckoning that her job assisting for Diane Von Furstenburg was canceled, stayed and listened to 1010 WINS late breaking news bulletins over and over.

I laced the coffee with whiskey, in case of anthrax, and made a passable egg and toast breakfast. After we ate, this girl, whose name might be Lauren, stretched out on the couch and said, “If you want to take advantage of me, this would be a good time.” And it was.

Turned out to be a good time to take advantage of every American, what with our radical veneer peeled away like a prom dress. Whatever revolutions we might have thought necessary were over and done with. We were in shock. Vulnerable.

the end

By the time the smoke cleared, most of the orders from Magic Fashion show were canceled, along with the Fourth Amendment. Every damn one of us went with a holding pattern on the idea of civil liberties, like a herd of cows. Soon thereafter, I stopped aggressively pushing Defend Brooklyn, as such a thing might be construed as profiteering, Arab-bashing or, worse, treason.

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STAY TUNED FOR THE NEXT INSTALLMENT OF THE DEFENSE INDUSTRY REPORT: PLAGIARISTS AND PARASITES FAKE IT TILL THEY MAKE IT

DEFENSE INDUSTRY REPORT VI: Master Blaster Rule Barter Town

This is the sixth part of a series about how, in the course of harvesting the pocket change of his peers with an irresistible T-shirt, Dave Reeves glimpsed the gears of a great machine where the will of a generation was made. Now he will endeavor to impart the wisdom gained from laying his eyes upon these inner workings, like Dante after swimming the Styx.

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The orange lettering of Defend Brooklyn flared in the logoarchy from Greenpoint to Redhook. The only reasons it wasn’t graffiti is because I got paid for it. And did I ever. If Americans vote with their wallet then I was the mayor of Williamsburg. Curiously, I found that a majority of my consumers perceived the logos behind the logo and asked, “When’s the meeting?”

Motivated by my newfound civic responsibility Defend Brooklyn LLC bought a video camera to sacrifice at Quebec City Riots. She was a young camera, so full of promise. I post her dying moments below to remind readers of that time we call “<911,” when people were sensible and kicked the windows out of any city brazen enough to host a convention of corporate colonialists trying to genefuck the world’s seedbanks into sterility.

quebec city riots 2000

Do you remember those <911 days? I don’t either. It seems a thousand centuries ago. It’s as if our minds have been magically erased by some unseen force.

I’ve been sifting through my notes and my <911 data suggests that, in those times, protesters traveled from faraway from places like Eugene or Oregon in solar-powered vehicles to protest how a man’s life is cheap in the third world, women cheaper still and children sold for parts .

It seems that <911, Alpha Hipsters attended an “Action” in Quebec City because “Nothing really costs ninety-nine cents, man, it’s built on somebody’s life,” and “If you don’t riot, you can’t complain.”

Furthermore, my notes report that, despite their heritage, French Canadian resistance was vigorous and well organized: “Outside the fort stores stay open in solidarity. Bought beer and nice cheese. Watched peace hooligans in full hockey gear fire bomb bank across street..Gas Gas gasss…Poured most beer onto my face until the Black Cross came and sprayed antacid in eyes… Throwing empty bottles at the Mounties is a clear vote, and no hanging chads…”

Evidently, “Actions” were like a big party with literate chicks, free lawyers and Black Cross medics quick to break into the medication. I can’t think of anything to compare Actions to in these >911 times. Try to imagine Burning Man with a purpose. One could only assume that, if allowed to continue, this milieu would have produced more intelligent offspring than Facespacing “Idiocracy” into prophecy.

History says that people do what their clothes tell them to do. Togas made the Roman orgy. Jackboots and crossbones drive certain people to genocide. Skirtlines fluctuate with the market. Pastel suits equal cocaine abuse. So what was the orange AK-47 telling people to do?

Unfortunately for mankind, I can’t say what Defend Brooklyn really means as fine artists never interpret their own work. I will say that in those <911 times it screamed to me, “Cut this idiot manchild from the president’s office and run him to death before these fatcats pass so much as a fart in Congress.”

It’s easy to laugh at talking machine guns now, but in the summer <911 it was a serious fad. Groups of people were defending everywhere back then, in Davos and in Spain. The mandate cleaved evenly. The government was being run by distracted, greedy halfwits and The Man was on the run. Scared.

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My piece de resistance had chummed the waters. Fashion cunts were schooling around, looking for the next way to waste their time. I knew that they would follow broke music geeks and Alpha Hipsters anywhere after they were lured out to Brooklyn. This time we were going to mug them into doing something good.

See, Hipster hierarchy dictates that Fashion Cunts are the last stop on the way to mainstream acceptance. If we played the crowd right brains might catch on like tattooes, and soon everyone would have one.

We would mobilize the heretofore useless nabobs to strike while the mandate was halved, utilizing their book learning, fancy college talk and clean unearned money. “If I had ten divisions of those men our troubles here would soon be over.”

If mobilized as a faction, hipsters could be as big a game changer as the heretofore unknown black vote . We could have used this power to overthrow the dominant paradigm once and for all. We’d start over with a new set of rules, using the light of modern reasoning as a guide. For instance, if weed was legal, I could be a cop. Then it would be time for some real justice.

It could have happened. If herded properly, lemmings might go somewhere smart. Don’t believe me? Here is a picture of the owner of an uberhip fashion magazine, Eric Lovioe, trying to blink the Maalox out of his eyes after getting teargassed:

eric lavoie with maalox in his eyes

Soon, I had an investor and was going to some fashion show called Magic. I had to design a label, because that’s what clothing labels are (duh). The Fourth Amendment fit the bill.

Applying a stroke of genius toward the master plan, the “Defend” line of clothing would feature secret pockets with your Fourth Amendment sewn in as the lining. So when The Man makes you turn your pockets out, it would be there for you.

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You could say to the policeman, “Say, look here. Hate to bring it up… but my Fourth Amendment here says that I have the right to not be searched or seized.”

When they’re like, “Wait, what does that mean?” you kick them in the balls .

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That strategy would have worked, too. Unfortunately, we weren’t the only masterminds in the world plotting things that fall.

NEXT DEFENSE INDUSTRY REPORT VII: Add it up! >911 + 911 = <911.

DEFENSE INDUSTRY REPORT IV: Who are these cops and why do they keep following me?

For those who haven’t kept up with the Defense Industry Reports 1, 2 or III Dave Reeves is about to realize that printing the words “Defend Brooklyn” on a three dollar t-shirt will turn that shit into a twenty dollar fashion accessory. See, back in 1998 little Dave thought he was too good to get into the schmatta trade because writing is the classy way to earn a living, just ask Hemingway’s brains all over the wall. Unaware that he is sitting on a gold mine, this idiot is using the shirts to bribe Priest from Antipop to do the sound for his off-off-off-Broadway play and to get backstage at a Thurston Moore show with his dad to blow his redneck mind.

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People told me I could make a lot of money selling the “Defend Brooklyn” shirts I’d been giving away, but I couldn’t waste my time because I’m so smart at writing. My first major effort as a writist was the beautiful tale of a Satanic mountain climber who eats his partners in order to climb the world’s holy mountains and desecrate the summits with evil demon penis figurines.

Aleister Crowley at K2 in 1905

I went to Hollywood and, by Beelzebub, I’d have Babylon Working now but for a misunderstood ritual performed in a certain talent agency after a couple or three bloody leroys. I was just being me. I’m not one of these salon satanists. They got all “you’ll never work in this town again” about it. Who knew that Hollywood Agents are a bunch of humorless assholes?

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DEFENSE INDUSTRY REPORT 2: Genesis of a Militia

If you missed the first installment of the Defense Industry Report then here’s a recap of that amazing document: Hate me now for I, Dave “Affadavit” Reeves, started “Defend Brooklyn”, the contagion of which continues to this day in many bastard forms.

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That’s right. I have become a thousandaire by harvesting the pocket litter of jingoistic hooligans and those who pay to dress like them. The quick wisdom of the “Defend Brooklyn” slogan has eclipsed everything else I’ve done in my life. Women have loved me, left me and tried to kill me with weapons purchased from the filthy profits of this T shirt. It introduced me to famous people and conned that bunch of Hollywood hacks calling themselves “writers” to let me into their guild.

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But why is this? What does it mean? What the fuck? Defend Brooklyn thrives in ambiguity like middle east politics or the lyrics of Powderfinger .

First off: I am not really from Brooklyn. Brooklyn became home for me after a series of nasty run-ins with North Carolina authorities, culminating in an assault on a police officer. (Be careful about assaulting a police officer, as you will end up like Danny Chavez of the seminal Negroclash band “Apollo Heights” or or worse.)

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I was acquitted of assaulting said police officer not because of my rights or anything but because I was not wearing a seatbelt at the time of my harassment. Still, small town cops watch out for their own, so they sharked ever closer in my rearview mirror, trying to force the swerve. Eventually I called a friend of mine who’d been kicked out of college the same week as me for some advice. He told me to come up to his spot in New York City where the cops don’t give a damn about anything.

I was such a hick when I got off the plane. I had never eaten sushi, falafel balls or lox bagels before. I thought Alphabet City was so named because the bums walked around chanting “A” “D” “C”, only to learn that these are the initials of drugs (acid, heroin, cocaine respectively) they peddled. And they were junkies, not bums. Things like junkies were news to me.

My boy’s “spot” was a squat sponsored by a Cooper Union painter. We were allowed to crash in his studio at night along with a guy named Doug, who seemed normal until he lost his life paying Russian Roulette. We took herbal ephedrine to help us relax while playing chess and waiting for photo assistant gigs.

I was able to enjoy my birthright of a full flowering southern degeneracy by drinking beer day and night anywhere I wanted: forties on the stoop, tallboys on the train, a wee nip in the hall to help soften the floor for a good night’s sleep. Dinkins was in office and the Lower East Side was an open air drug market. I couldn’t get arrested in that town. Nobody cared about a white boy with all his teeth.

My friend played saxophone with downtown jazzbos Cecil Taylor and Butch Morris. We smoked weed with Zorn, who clowned my choice of clubwear. It was made clear to me that I had to get hip quick or get shipped back to the sticks. They were famous downtown horn tooters and piano beaters but who was I and what did I think I was doing stomping around New York City in hiking boots?

To rank as a New Yorker one had to do something. But what? I didn’t think to just steal somebody else’s idea, paste it on a shirt and sell it as my own, which would have made me an equal with my contemporaries in the t-shirt propaganda game, without having to go through all the messy work of actually being creative. <img src=”http://www.arthurmag.com/magpie/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/obey_1984-300×199.jpg&#8221; alt=”obey_1984″ title=”obey_1984″ width=”300″ height=”199″ class=”alignleft size-medium wp-image-10146″

As I pondered this situation providence intervened. An undercover cop disguised as a barefoot rasta busted a friend of mine for drinking beer on the stoop. It was Giulliani time. Overnight, our idyllic crowded Lower East Side squat zone became an expensive, cop-infested hell. I cried, tore hair and lost all hope, until a real rasta told us shit like that never goes down in Brooklyn because those cops out there are busy.

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So, we scouted across a dangerous mix of rusty metal plates cattywamped between patches of thick blacktop and muggers called the Williamsburg Bridge .  

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The caged walkway ended in dark, pocked leavings from the great insurance fires of the seventies. It was 1994 and the area near the bridge was empty, except for an old Amish mobster singing weird songs though a big tube on top of the Jew church.

As we headed north the streets were rimmed with fresh-off-the-jet types, drinking beer on the stoop, radios turned up to eleven. Back then it was correct to consider Williamsburg a tough neighborhood in San Juan. Every day was Puerto Rico Day, and then at nighttime too.

When cumbia and car alarms mixed together on Bedford it was disorienting as a casino. It was the summer lazer pointers came out, so we had to advance up the Avenue fighting the urge to flinch at the red dots dancing on our shirts, comforted by the belief that maybe there wasn’t a gun at the other end of the beam.

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The locals sized us up. We were too weird to be cops, too fat to be junkies. What did we want? I told them, “I want to be in America. Okay by me in America. Everything free in America.” We had the dance-off, and I won. (footage lost) So, according to their custom, they had to treat us as equals and rented us some rooms above a Bodega for six hundred dollars.

After this, an initial force of somewhere between six and ten white black and french types occupied that room, spoke English and dug in. More Alpha Hipsters came across the bridge every day, run from their hometowns like common lepers or Mormons, unafraid, broke and weird. The world had cornered us in Brooklyn, between the recycling plant and where lead paint sandblasted off the bridge fell to the ground.

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next: The Glory Days of Gentrification.

DEFENSE INDUSTRY REPORT 1: The "Defend Brooklyn" story, as told by its creator

Power might be at the end of a gun, but sometimes it’s also at the end of the shadow or an image of a gun. – Jean Genet

In 1996 I printed this design on T-shirts and handed them out to friends, musicians and bartenders to curry favor:

There are many like it, but this is the real one.


Positive feedback from my target market helped me realize that I had minted a blue chip slogan.

first known press

Since that day, my minions and I have distributed a veritable shit ton of these Defend Whosiwhatsit shirts allowing me to enjoy the riches and fame of a rich and famous man, without the benefit of proper health care or competent legal counsel that he gets.

Every week a random amount of money appears in my Paypal account. This windfall has allowed me the modicum of financial irresponsibility necessary to scribble drivel at this competitive level.

You may have not seen Defend Brooklyn before. It’s okay. I’m not claiming that it’s a famous design or anything, or that it’s everywhere.

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SAOATXDEFENDSKULLWINGSSm
real defend dorkchester
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new york magazine willaimsburg everyguy
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whitepower def america
gentrifybklyn
defendDenver.JPG
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defend_newyork_01_lg
defend-hawaii-blog
defend the kop
defend the bridge
defend southie
defend san franzcisco
defend san antonio
defend miami
defend los angeles
defend equality
def new jersey
defend dow jones
defend dorkchester
defend ireland
def oakland
def new orleans shrt w beer
def detroit
defbro baghdad
defend dissertaitions

Or maybe you hate the design. All I can suggest is that if you have seen “Defend Brooklyn” enough to hate it, then you are one too. Stop hating yourself or you will turn into a “Hipstler“.

Defend Brooklyn is not a saturation thing like “I Heart New York.” It’s more a “now you see me now you don’t, some will see me others won’t” piece.

I’m not claiming to rank as one the captains of the T-shirt age, nor have I masterminded a contagion of meme on the scale of the Grateful Dead, Che or even Obama. I’m not in the old guard of the T-shirt industry such as Rolling Stone lips, “Frankie Say Relax” or “CBGB.” I’m aware that I’m somewhere below the “I’m With Stupid” progenitor in harvesting disposable income. I know that I will never have “Shut Up and Fish’s” money because my graphic is too challenging for mass consumption.

warriors-thumb

That said, if you print the word “Defend” in an arc over the image or the shadow of a gun and the name of a town on a T-shirt, you’re guaranteed a return better than American real estate or drug money. It’s so easy and fun that the danger of this article is that you might try to steal the concept, damning yourself to being a biter.

redhead def bro comic book

Basically, I have found the wellspring of profitable jingoism. Me and the people who steal my ideas are some of the few reliable money makers left in America. We are a veritable Defense Industry.

Why is this slogan so popular? I can only posit that it uses the same force which enables soccer hooligans, Reaganites, Bruce Springsteen and Hitlers.

mail

Or maybe it harkens back to the wily and armed “don’t tread on me”-populace, rather than one so is easily duped by a bunch of Ivy League clowns who take power through double talk and Diebold deals.

kid dressed like an ak

Either way, I think Defend Brooklyn suggests some dark thing about human nature and the slogans we use to advance our agendas.

I thought Defend Brooklyn was a mere opus minimum, an ante in a game bigger than T-shirts, only to find that there is no bigger game. If one were to analyze all the relevant data we would find that Earth is primarily a T-shirt producing planet.

defendfallojah

Please take this time to re-approach this meme with me as it has allowed me to observe certain things about the damn kids today that might be useful to those who would manipulate the whimsies of the thinking population into a functioning mandate, or take their money, or both.

Next Installment: The real story of how Defend Brooklyn came to be in “THE DEFENSE INDUSTRY REPORT NUMBER 2!” WITH A SPECIAL OFFER OF A “CHOOSE YOUR REVOLUTION” HOW-TO KIT! WAKE UP YOUR FRIENDS! TELL YOUR MOM!