The L.A. Weekly ran a fine article two weeks ago, a gem writ small that condemned advertisements writ large: the thousands of illegal billboards that stifle this city from every spare inch of space. Author Christine Pelisek puts some significant numbers to the fire – 4,000 illegal billboards, 877 newfangled LED digital billboards, the potential of an unregulated and unrepentant $1.3 billion industry – to make a strong case against the intense commercial nastification of the aesthetics and metaphysical wellbeing of Los Angeles.

I certainly commiserate with Pelisek and two of the chief anti-billboard activists she cites in her piece, Ted Wu and Gerry Silver. These monstrous placards are invasive and inane, and the sheer temerity of advertisers to erect towering blights wherever they see fit and without authorization is a shameful reminder of the sway of advertising dollars.

Yet, I also fear the solution. Suppose Los Angeles got rid of its billboards, both illegal and legal, en masse. What then?

This city is defined by, and perhaps irredeemably enmeshed with, its billboards – the town of tinsel, the land big on flashes of attention but thin on substance, the capital of the make-you-want-it and got-to-have-it mentality – so are we merely kidding ourselves to assume that there is any survivable alternative? Do we honestly believe that newly unencumbered vistas, writ plainly, of the swaying ocean, rooftop gardens and magisterial mountains beyond could possibly hold eyeballs in replacement of the latest must-see CBS comedy ad? Could a modern Angeleno even process the pure sight of a smog-pearled sunset not reflected off a Clear Channel board and prismed through an LED display?

I want to vanish these vaulted rectangular swine, to rip them free of a land that was once truly beautiful, but I’m worried at what we will see beyond, and what we’ll discover about our stewardship of this place when we pull back the paint-and-poster curtain.

I fear the city has cast its lot with the parasites that feast upon this massive media market with its hordes of savvy consumers and lofty position as the entertainment bullhorn to the world. If we pull away the billboard chaff that suffocates our cellophane kingdom, we may shudder at the emptiness that remains and the fate that vanity so ruthlessly divines.