Pareti: Graffiti is a crime, not an artistic movement

While Al-Qaeda steals all of the headlines, a new kind of terrorism is spreading through the streets of America and the U.K. - the self-proclaimed "art terrorists" like England's Banksy and Massachusetts' Pixnit that are tagging public as well as private buildings with their sometimes pleasing, often political graffiti art.

That these anonymous artists actually take pride in such a moniker (Pixnit prefers "floraphile," according to her Myspace site) should be the first sign that they shouldn't be taken seriously, even from an artistic standpoint.

Yet increasing word-of-mouth publicity coupled by romanticized articles in mainstream newspapers like the Boston Globe have resulted in a growing fascination with this puzzling trend.

For the uninformed, the general strategies of Banksy and Pixnit are to create stencils of artistic patterns, which they then spray illegally on public buildings around their respective areas. Banksy's stencils tend to draw more from the contemplative, political vein while Pixnit mostly specializes in floral patterns called "spores." Whatever the intent, the fact remains that this activity is illegal, no matter the aesthetic outcome.

The celebration of one's rebelliousness is fuel for the ego But Banksy and Pixnit are rebels without a clue. The latter has gone on record asking what is so wrong with what she is doing - what everyone is afraid of.

If Pixnit's acts are so innocent, she should be asking herself why it's so dire she keep her real identity a mystery. After all, she went through great lengths to appear in disguise and not release her real name when agreeing to an interview with the Boston Globe. Curiously, however, she is sure to make public her MFAs at Tufts University and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

Of course, few will contend with the pair's respective visions at the basic artistic level, but the cheap thrill involved in their personal methods depreciates the outcome a great deal. Neither Banksy's political prodding nor Pixnit's shiny art degrees set them at a precedent above the law. Leonardo da Vinci himself could rise from the grave and paint the "Mona Lisa" on the nearest office building, and he'd still be arrested for vandalizing private property.

Despite their insistence on staying unidentified, which many people misconstrue as virtuous, their antics are no doubt a product of their insipid need to impress themselves through the novelty of their work. And people are buying into it, particularly in Banksy's case with the young men and women that grew up idolizing the Tyler Durdens (Fight Club) of pop culture.

When looked at in this light, it becomes clearer why people everywhere are finding something revelatory in it. There's a Starbucks on every street corner - it's shamelessly easy for Banksy to fire an inflammatory round with that kind of ammunition under his belt, but it remains to be seen what he is really aiming for.