Obey the Establishment: Shepard Fairey's Subliminal Art Message

Shepard Fairey, the creator of the famous Obama "Hope" poster, made news recently with another piece of bizarre visual propaganda, this time denouncing America's habit of clinging to guns and religion.

He produced the poster last month in support of the failing anti-gun legislation, and most recently had it printed on hundreds of protest signs in anticipation of a massive anti-gun rally in Washington. From sympathetic Buzzfeed.com: "Artist Shepard Fairey will paper downtown D.C. Thursday with copies of a new work aimed at reigniting the push for gun control." Reality check: the advertised Occupy The NRA rally attracted only about 60 participants.

That the anti-NRA poster looks Orwellian is not a coincidence. Fairey probably believes he has a spiritual channel directly to George Orwell: after all, he had designed book covers for Penguin's Animal Farm and 1984, in addition to a series of nightmarish posters collectively titled Nineteeneightyfouria. His Orwellian connection, however, is very unflattering. Lacking the depth and, apparently, the slightest understanding of Orwell's actual message, Fairey rather channels some mind-numb Party functionary out of George Orwell's novel as he manufactures establishment propaganda that facilitates the takeover of the individual by the all-powerful state.

The gallery page gives this blurb about Nineteeneightyfouria, likely written from the artist's own words:

Shepard's artwork both scrutinizes and distorts the narrative of the modern American Dream. Commenting on underpinnings of what Shepard terms the 'capitalist machine', it aims to critique those who support blind nationalism and war. Fairey addresses monolithic institutional authority, the role of counter culture, and independent individuals who question the cultural paradigm.