Adbusters’ "Hipster: The Dead End of Civilization"
Hey Adbusters, why don’t you crawl back into your own asshole and go fuck yourself.
Sorry, I just had to get that off of my chest. But really, I’m just goddamned sick of that crap-ass magazine printing articles like this. For those not in the know, Adbusters is the magazine of “Culturejammers” and anti-capitalist branding rebellion rebels etc, etc. Oddly enough they’ve also built themselves into a neat little brand of their own, indoctrinating their readers with their particular world view the same way the companies they purport to disdain do with their own products. Now I’m not saying one is right and the other is wrong (nor am I thinking I’m the first to realize this) but I just think it’s an important similarity to note.
What’s really got my blood boiling at the moment is their latest “all encompassing, last word on the subject” story entitled “Hipster: The Dead End of Civilization.” Like their “The Death of Canadian Journalism,” story from last year, Adbuster’s is once again throwing lightning bolt accusations down from the top of Mount Morally Superior. Now I’ll be the first to admit that these stories have irked me quite a bit due to the fact that I have more than a passing interest in their subject matters. But what I find more bothersome is their writer’s absolute lack of credible research. The recent hipster story in particular is devoid of anything beyond cursory observations. Hipster’s may well be the downfall of Western civilization, and Canadian journalism as an industry is in the shitter, but these stories offer little evidence to convince the haters. The currently in question, Douglas Haddow, spoke to some girls at a party and seemed genuinely surprised they didn’t consider themselves hipsters. Well of course they don’t. Like every counter-culture, the only people that actually categorize themselves are the ones who don’t really get it. Unfortunately, Haddow chalked the girls indifference to the plight of the oppressed as a harbinger to the fall of Rome. Fine. Whatever.
Now I have no special love for hipsters. I could even be accused of being one, due to my interest in the music they listen to, and, because of that, the fact that I like getting drunk and dancing up a storm at so-called hipster clubs. I think a lot of people fall in this category. There are a lot of hipsters who are assholes, just like there are a lot of punks who were assholes and just like there are a lot of anti-capitalist “culturejammers” who are assholes. There’s also a lot of cool people that give a shit in each of those subcultures (or whatever you want to call them).
Haddow asserts through out the story that hipster culture is vapid and devoid of a sense of rebellion, that it has no interest in casting off of the values of the generation before it (challenging “the dysfunction and decadence of their elders”). This might be true on the surface; there is a hipster uniform and a strong sense of detachment from the art, music and media the “movement” has attached itself to. But I believe that the “apathy and irony” Haddow insists hipsters thrive on is a defense mechanism. Hipsters are rebelling against quite a lot. This generation learned from the lessons of Generation X – no matter what you do, companies and corporations are going to co-opt “The Cool,” manipulate it and spit it back out as something the people that originally embraced it can no longer recognize or identify with. By distancing themselves from this cycle (and it is the same cycle that EVERY generation and counter-culture movement has experienced), and constantly shifting their tastes, hipsters are trying to stay one step ahead.
Haddow describes the confluence of “the formerly dominant streams of ‘counter-culture'” as “one mutating, trans-Atlantic melting pot of styles, tastes and behavior” and that this cultural manifestation is a negative force. But again, I see this as a positive form of rebellion. 10 years ago the lines between music genres (and social-cultures) were becoming increasingly stringent: punks went to Warped Tour, metal-heads went to Ozzfest, rockers hit up Lollapalooza and the b-boys and girls did whatever it was they did (this is how out of it every sub-genre was. We didn’t know what was going on in other circles) and nobody who gave a shit about music listened to pop. These lines were reinforced by radio stations that made no attempt to breakout of their little niches. This was convenient for record companies because it let them easily categorize their target audience. The internet, Napster and iPods helped the current generation of musicians AND listeners to break these chains and just enjoy the music. That’s why songs like Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone” and Rihanna’s “Umbrella” have enjoyed success both in the mainstream and with “more serious” music fans.
It’s also insinuated that hipsters alone are so obsessively narcissistic that they feel the need to have their every move photographed and posted on the internet for the world to see. Apparently Haddow doesn’t have a facebook account. And while we’re talking about the world wide web let us not forget that the hipster generation is the cohort that led the digital music revolution, stripping away the power of behemoth music conglomerates and putting it back into the hands of the consumer. This is something that Adbusters, more than any other publication, should appreciate.
As for the “mix that sounds like [the dj] took a hatchet to a collection of yesteryear billboard hits…but mashed up with a jittery techno backbeat” that Haddow once again uses as more inconclusive “proof” of our impending doom, I strongly believe the mashup,when done well is perhaps this generation’s greatest artistic achievement (at least in music). Musicians like Girl Talk who shamelessly sample from both the mainstream and the underground are perhaps the most prominent “culturejammers” working today. These DJs take songs that have resigned to the realm of background music and used in ads in the hope that previous generations’ nostalgia will somehow transfer onto their product, and re-contextualize them. In essence, they’re taking the songs back from “the man” and reminding us that yes, “These Eyes” is actually one emotional rollercoaster of a song and Metallica did at one time write some of the most brutal guitar riffs going.
So in not so terribly constructive conclusion, fuck you Adbusters. I’m going to go buy an iPhone.