NYC Street Artist Portrays Black-on-Black Violence Via GTA IV Billboard

In a provocative guerilla work, street artist TMNK uses a Grand Theft Auto IV billboard to make a point about black-on-black violence:

A perfectly legal Billboard advertisement promoting a video game where the participants commit acts of violence, for fun. And scrawled on it a message that is considered illegal, vandalism. One message paid for by a business who simply wants to make money, regardless of the cost. The other, written freely, in hopes of sounding an important alarm, despite it’s potential cost to the author…

There are more of US killing US, than terrorists killing us. And in my community there are more of US killing Us than Cops Killing US.

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  1. digdug says:

    I dont trust the analysis of these statistics. Its coming just in time for it to be used by politicians and activists to get billions from the new Obama administration; they can argue that the lack of funding for government programs is the cause. In fact the lead researcher (Fox) has said that.. I think Ill wait to hear a more objective, less biased analysis of the numbers.

    Whats odd though is that crime among all other groups (races) has dropped which should make it obvious that video games have nothing to do with it. This seems like a cheap shot at video games by this “artist” (he confuses his message by where he wrote it. Is he blaming video games or people themselves, you cant tell.) And the blogger is even worse. He bashes games too, then tries to spin these stats as a way to score political points about the Iraq War and the “War on Terror” Gimme a break.

  2. Overcast says:

    True indeed – the take from the Simpsons just clarifies that people don’t really understand their rights or the basis of our freedoms. Who will ‘police the police’? That’s supposed to be the job of the elected officials – but who is supposed to police them?

    "That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

    Thus; a wholly necessary reason for the citizens of a country to have the right to own guns. Murder has been around a whole lot longer than guns or games, that’s for certain. Banning guns, banning games – won’t change any of that, at all. That’s like saying you got cancer from smoking – when you had cancer before you even started smoking.

  3. Inimical says:

    I’ve read a few studies on this effect, too. I think it involved a priest carrying a gun in a parking lot or a man in a cowboy hat carrying a gun on a gun range. When asked to describe the guy in the cowboy hat, there was very little mention of the gun, but when asked to describe the priest, the gun was mentioned almost every time.

    People will remember the unusual events more than the ones that occur every day. And hey, who would sell newspapers if they reported on regular events?

  4. koichan says:

    Now there’s an article i completely agree with!

    I’ve thought the same thing for a long time, first time i’ve ever seen it written down before though *saves link*

    Sometimes i think they should teach a sense of perspective in schools, perhaps we’d end up with less security theater / health scares and so on over hilariously tiny risks whilst ignoring actual real problems

  5. Neeneko says:

    A link I like to bring up when I see people talking about the odd disconnect between how much attention we pay to real problems vs high marquee ones:

    Capsule summary: people react more to unsual/rare risks then common ones, so thing that happen infrequently are elevated in the mind to ‘real’ problems while stuff that happens all the time is filtered out.

    One way to interpert this is that ANYTHING that is talked about in the news is rare enough to not worry about since by being newsworthy is it not a real risk.

  6. Neeneko says:

    I actually do not get the impression that the person is actually blaming video games (outside ‘big company can afford speech on useless thing, artist is criminal for using the same space for their message because they are poor even though thier message is important) but instead is using the video game backdrop to bring attention to something the person sees as important.  You know, the ‘I am telling the truth and am called a criminal for doing it!’ nonsense.

    I also get the feeling that this ‘artist’ isn’t very good at getting a coherent message out.

  7. halfcuban says:

    "A game about freedom"? Are we serious here? Look, I find GTA somewhat enjoyable, but I’m not going to go to the mat for a company making money hand over fist because of its incessant desire to push controversy.

    Moreover, the "vandals" statement  is not only factually true, but his choice of media to lampoon, i.e. the glamorization of the gangster lifestyle (seen not just in GTA, but in the music and movie industry…you could easily have put his statement under an ad for a new 50cent album) is accurate. There is something absurd about a game, made predominantly by white people for white people, using stereotypes of ethnicities and the innery city to make gobs of money.

    It’s no longer good enough to cry and moan everytime someone criticizes a videogame. I’m tired of this reflexive nonsense that everytime a videogame is criticized we have to "Defend" it lest all games get banned. The First Amendment gives you the right to speech, and I would oppose any attempt to ban anything, but it doesn’t give you the right to not be criticized. We all chafe when a reviewer or a game publication is messed with because he/she did not give the score the company wanted. Why do we insist on being totalitaritarian when the conversation moves from game mechanics/graphics to weightier matters?

  8. insanejedi says:

    You’ve been watching too much Bowling For Columbine. Gun control or bullet control does not work at all, first off this has nothing to do with kids killing themselves with daddy’s guns, but in inclusion you cannot stop people from killing each other with a peice of paper. You think passing a bill people will go home and go like "Oh, I can’t get a bullet for my gun, guess I can’t kill that son of a bitch, let’s go home."

    No, their going to find a way to kill someone one way or another. If there are no guns, there are knives, if there are no knives there are stones, and if there are no stones you have your bare hands. To include that there is the black market which is impossible to stop, and you can buy an unlicensed gun for like $50 and and who cares it’s illegal, what your going to do or what your doing is illegal anyways.

    Gun control, bullet control, all these other laws are stripping away the rights of citizens all for "protection" worth a peice of toliet paper over your face so people can sleep at night.

  9. VideolandHero says:

    Why do you think it’s only kids that kill other people?  Besides, if if we taught children that guns are deadly and dangerous, they wouldn’t be so fond of playing with them.

    — Official Protector of Videoland!

  10. sortableturnip says:

    "There are more of US killing US, than terrorists killing us. And in my community there are more of US killing Us than Cops Killing US."

    Here’s an idea…put your guns where kids can’t get to them

    Here’s another…stop shooting each other

    How about…put the ammo somewhere where the kids can’t find them.


    I like Chris Rock’s take on guns:  “Gun control? We need bullet control! I think every bullet should cost 5,000 dollars. Because if a bullet cost five thousand dollar, we wouldn’t have any innocent bystander .”

  11. Overcast says:

    "I propose that Nazi’s are the most proficient video gamers in the history of video gaming. No one has killed as many people in as pointless a way as the Nazi’s. Oh what? They didn’t have videogames in 1940’s? Don’t bother me with your facts."

    Yep, or saying the guns caused all the deaths in the Inquisition or the Crusades. Like with the Nazi’s – again, Murder has been around far longer than Games or Guns… or Books for that matter.

  12. Derovius says:

    I’d like to pick up this short sighted logic and make a run with it:

       I propose that Nazi’s are the most proficient video gamers in the history of video gaming. No one has killed as many people in as pointless a way as the Nazi’s. Oh what? They didn’t have videogames in 1940’s? Don’t bother me with your facts.

  13. JDKJ says:


    And that you so quickly assumed that it was about "racial bitching" suggests to me that you’re doing a spot of racial bitching yourself — just from the other side of the racial divide.

  14. E. Zachary Knight says:

    Exactly. This is all about how there are more Citizens of the US killing other Citizens of the US than there are Terrorists killing Citizens of the US.

    He is also making the point that people get all upset about cops killing people, when more regular people are killing regular people.

    People are aiming their anger and frustration at the wrong targets. We should be focusing on ourselves.

    Also, I think this applies quite well to the GTA controversies. People cry and whine about how GTA and other violent games are destroying our culture, when it has nothing to do with what is going on. Again, misplaced anger and frustration.

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  15. CarsAreScary says:

    I kind of get the impression the artist is trying to say something, ANYTHING, that he feels is somehow "sticking it" to whoever "the man" is this month. Sometimes people are too busy trying to be some kind of revolutionist to take the time and decide what they’re revolting against. They tend to be more self-righteous than they accuse the evils of the world to be. I’m not saying this because he wrote it on a GTA4 ad but because I really had no idea what he was stating until I read the link. Yes, American citizens kill each other more than law enforcement kills citizens. Yes, we have kill each other more than terrorism has in the last decade. How exactly is this new information? Spray painting a vague message on a billboard and hoping people connect the dots with your vague symbolism isn’t how you create change. Get an education, get into politics, try to become a legitimate journalist, anything that involves more than pretending you’re fighting some secret war that only you and your three blog readers know about.

  16. Zero Beat says:

    Now those are awesome games that didn’t get enough respect and featured their fair share of billboard tagging.

    Hell, the only thing you didn’t tag was a submarine.


    "That’s not ironic. That’s justice."

  17. DarkSaber says:

    What about if it was done through the medium of Graffiti? ;-P


    I LIKE the fence. I get 2 groups to laugh at then.

  18. MrKlorox says:

    After reading one word so many times, it starts to sound pretty silly. I’ll never look at "us" the same way again.

  19. shady8x says:

    Laws which create artificial illegal markets such as the miserably failed drug war are the cause of the vast majority of violent crimes…

    Protesting this failed and harmful policy would be a far better use of the ‘artists’ time…

    After all if the gangs have to work at a local 7/11 to get money for their guns then they will probably spend it on groceries instead…

  20. sortableturnip says:

    I think gangs are more the cause of the number of gun deaths, not the video games.

    So, why protest the video game?  Maybe put the same message where gangs put their territory symbols?

  21. DanJ says:

    As far as I can tell, the seeming disconnect in the numbers and percentages is because the first number is specifically among blacks, while the second may be the age group as a whole (including whites and latinos, etc). That’s my best guess, anyway.

  22. sortableturnip says:

    Taken from the link above:

    "Last year, for example, 426 black males between the ages of 14 and 17 were killed in gun crimes, the study shows. That marked a 40 percent increase from 2000. Similarly, an estimated 964 in the same age group committed fatal shootings in 2007 — a 38 percent increase from seven years earlier."

  23. Chaltab says:

    Wait, wha? Show me exactly where GTA4 glamourizes the criminal lifestyle? GTA4 portrays criminal activity as dangerous, seedy, full of mistrust and paranoia, and likely to get you or those you care about killed.

    That seems like a pretty accuratre portrayal to me.

  24. Darmoth says:

    Err… maybe its statement has nothing to do with GTA at all. Think about it, if you had message to spread, wouldn’t you put it where people would see it, or at least be more likely to notice it?

    It wouldn’t have the same affect if just tagging a wall in an alley frequented by gangbangers. Also, you’re probably less likely to be shot for tagging a billboard… and worse case senario, the author probably had rather risk a vandalism charge/lawsuit from the owners of the billboard, than risk his life by tagging in gang infested areas.

  25. Vake Xeacons says:

    True, but the point of this vandal is that, once again, video games, and only video games are to blame. On one, a perfectly legal advertisment from a company that just wants to promote a game about freedom, no matter what the cost to themselves. On the other, a vandal who only wishes to inspire hate, regardless of others’ rights.

  26. DeepThorn says:

    That article has a point…  Only 2,974 died during 9/11.  Having almost 15,000 people murdered in 2007 just trumps that, and makes think, maybe we should worry about the mess in our own country instead of all of the crap going on else were.

    Due to the ‘war on terror’ many more death have been tallied, which I am still trying to figure out how Iraq got into it, but I can not find consistent numbers on that, which would include troops in Afghanistan and all of the other countries related.

    It will be interesting to see what Obama does…  The next 4 or 8 years or less will be interesting.  It sucks that so many idiots would try to kill him, but it is a reality everyone should be ready for at any moment, because it is more than possible.

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  27. Larington says:

    Theres a mission later on where person A wants person B dead (And vice versa, I think, can’t remember for certain now) and they happen to be the same creed/colour/whatever. Plus what happens involving that elizabeta woman and the guy who claims to be representin’ the streets but really seems to just be trying to get some kind of b-list celebrity.

    Far as I can tell though, the major cause of fatalaties in GTA4 is drugs and the nature of the criminal underworld in the city, rather than the guns these people are wielding. Violent game as commentary on society? Nah, can’t be.

  28. feitclub says:

    I fail to see the connection between his argument and GTAIV. I haven’t finished the game, but aren’t most of the primary characters in that game white? Maybe he should have come up with this four years ago for San Andreas’ advertisements.

    Do Not Talk About Feitclub

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