In California, "guerilla posters" create slogans and lampoon the war

LE MONDE | 06/10/04 |

 Los Angeles, from our special correspondent 


The poster "Quagmire Accomplished” has been seen by millions of drivers

"Quagmire Accomplished", "Thank you for the money, and sorry about your dead kids, -signed- Halliburton Oil", "Dead in combat = 800. WMDs = 0", "Impeach Bush", "Bush lies", "When Clinton lied, nobody died." The millions of drivers passing on I-5 and I-405 in Los Angeles regularly see dozens of big black-and-white posters hostile to President Bush and the war in Iraq. They are tied to bridges, railings, trees, road signs, or embankments. There are also pictures, in particular a stylized reproduction of the famous photo of the hooded Iraqi prisoner, arms stretched out, awaiting electrocution, and with the caption “not in our name.” 

The author of these messages is a 42 year-old tall and muscular man who lives with a friend and two tamed rabbits in a shabby house south of L.A., three minutes from I-5. He insisted on remaining anonymous, and chose Scarlet Pimpernel as his nom de guerre. Scarlet Pimpernel was a journalist in Central America, an English teacher in L.A., the founder of a small NGO in Mexico. Today, he lives off an inheritance, which allows him to be a full time “guerilla poster.” “Since the media are in the hands of the government and the business world, I had to reinvent the oldest media in the world.”


He makes the posters in his garage with recycled cardboard, then puts them in his truck and posts them along the highway, day and night: “I already put up about 2,000 of them. I’ve gotten good at it, and I even made special tools. I wear a reflective jacket; I try to look like a maintenance guy. To cross bridges faster, I use a skateboard and sometimes I do some climbing.”

His posters are regularly torn away by highway employees, or by people shocked by these anti-patriotic messages. “One day, a policeman stopped. He looked threatening, but I’m pretty big, so he left. Some policemen caught me in the act twice; they ordered me to leave, and that was it." For months, Scarlet worked alone, but one day, someone living in L.A., who liked what he did, decided to take pictures of the posters and put them on the Web. He rapidly received enthusiastic emails from across the country and contacted Scarlet.

Shortly after, Scarlet decided to create his own website (, which now hosts from 2,000 to 5,000 visitors per day. “These days, at least 25 people in a dozen states, including on the East Coast, reproduce my posters and post them on highways. The ball is rolling.”