Lots of white handled thick marker pens all in a row making squiggly lines of different colors

While crossing High Street at Graceland Boulevard in Clintonville the other day, I noticed a bumper sticker stuck to one of the light poles. It read “Fluoride: There is poison in the tap water” with a link to the ultra-conservative, white supremacist site InfoWars.

Though I know it’s nearly impossible to have political ubiquity in a neighborhood as large as Clintonville, one doesn’t expect to see InfoWars stickers peppering a neighborhood that probably went overwhelmingly to Hillary in the last presidential election. It’s much more common to see yard signs with slogans like “hate has no home here” and “no matter where you are from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor” in six different languages. While the anti-fluoride sticker is among the more benign of InfoWars’ stances, it’s still jarring to see.

I thought about what a thing like that said about my neighborhood and how someone who’s perhaps not versed in media literacy might see it and decide to check out the website. And how the internet is full of rabbit holes for one to fall down.

My partner and I spent several cycles of the traffic light trying to peel the sticker off to no avail. Fingernails are little use against sturdy bumper stickers, so we gave up and went on our way. My inability to fight back against the spread of hateful propaganda in the neighborhood left me feeling dejected, as if by leaving it there I was silently, inadvertently condoning the message.

Later that day, I bought the biggest Sharpie I could find––the kind more suited to writing massive lettering on protest signs and moving boxes than paper––and committed to carrying it in my purse.

It’s a small act of resistance, but one that nearly anyone is capable of. The argument for free speech doesn’t extend to vandalism, which is what putting propaganda on city street poles is. I’m no lawyer, so I won’t pretend to know the answer to “is vandalizing vandalism still vandalism?” But in doubting that the city would be swift to respond to complaints and remove the stickers themselves, blacking out misinformation on public property seems a worthwhile act of civil disobedience.

A quick peek into the InfoWars store tells me one can buy 15-, 50-, and 100-packs of these bumper stickers for $14 or under, a relatively small price to pay. I can’t help but think whoever is pasting them around town has the supply with which to continue doing so.

Fortunately for the rest of us, magnum Sharpies come in multipacks too. I hope you’ll join me in answering the call to corrective arms.

Mandy Shunnarah is a writer in Columbus, Ohio. You can read more of her work, as well as send unoriginal conservative hate mail, on her book blog, offthebeatenshelf.com.

 

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