Friday, November 04, 2005

Thumbs down, not thumbs off

The mayor of Las Vegas, Oscar Goodman, said on television the day before yesterday that vandals who deface freeways with graffiti should have their thumbs cut off on television. (Strangely, this story only made it onto the AP wire about five hours ago.)

I have little sympathy for graffiti vandals — even the ones who might legitimately be called artists. "Tagging" is neither free expression nor public art, any more than a dog urinating on a fire hydrant. It's a fact of urban life, but not one that should be celebrated.

However, cutting off their thumbs, while likely to reduce recidivism, seems just a little bit extreme. I propose a more appropriate, more modest form of punishment for graffiti: compulsory advertising tattoos for Geritol®, Depend®, and Viagra®. Make these kids walking billboards for someone else's message, and see how they like it.