Shifting Baselines

I really like plaid. But I am not a hipster. I wish I were because then I would have more photographs of myself and would ride a nice bicycle.

I think it is a partial combination of growing up in the Midwest and my love for higher education that has rendered me a mere observer of the hipster movement. People where I am from wear plaid to farm, not skateboard.

It doesn’t matter.

adbusters_79.jpgThe point is, until today, I watched the hipster movement from the sidelines. Collected a few hipster friends. Read about hipsters in hip magazines, including Douglas Haddow’s recent piece in Adbusters. I noticed that hipsters were highly accessorized and self-obsessed, but that did not seem too different from the sorority girls I experienced through my years schlepping across universities. In hipsters I found nothing too intriguing, nothing too noxious. Until today.

A friend, joking he had found my Christmas present, sent me a link to the Impeach Obama Gear at Vice Magazine where one can purchase a melange of anti-Obama sportswear and panties. I gnashed my teeth and sent an immediate fire-red response:

Who do these hipsters think they are? Can’t Vice stop being the center of attention for one goddamn minute to say: Take that, forces of evil, the world still has some good in it.

Then I sat and thought about it. I did not go out and get drunk or listen to M.I.A. I reflected. I looked at the data. And I decided to call the hipster bluff.

TIME magazine called it The Year of the Youth Vote and they were right. We know young people played an enormous role in electing Barack Obama in the primary and then general election last week. In the 2008 U.S. election, the youth vote (voters under 30) increased by 3.4 million voters over 2004. The youth turnout (52%) will likely fall just short of the 1972 record (54%). More important, the youth voted 66% in favor of Obama (in contrast, the general election went 53% in favor of Obama). In my own battleground state of Ohio, youth support was massive–my apathetic 27-year-old brother voted for his first time and he voted Obama, despite having two McCain supporting parents.

CNN credits the Obama high-tech campaign strategy that used online and mobile communication, such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube for the high youth turnout. But the youth turned out for Obama because they felt him. And feeling subverts nihilism.

The 60-minute special this week on Obama’s Inner Circle, the four people responsible for his campaign, revealed what everyone sensed: Obama is no fabrication. He is more authentic than American Apparel and he successfully ran his campaign on a totally unhipster premise: no drama.

“The hipster represents the end of Western civilization–a culture so detached and disconnected that it has stopped giving birth to anything new,” wrote Haddow in Adbusters. Only it has helped to birth the first black President of the United States.

His victory was largely made possible by that supposedly detached and disconnected youth. Just as Obama explained on The Daily Show that white voters must not have gotten the memo on the Bradley Effect the youth clearly does not believe that doing nothing is cool.

A friend and Greenpeace activist wrote me saying:

I was at a big punk rock festival this past weekend, featuring (among others) Vancouver’s own D.O.A., who were marking their 30th anniversary. D.O.A. was always an unapologetically political band, with a couple members doing jail time for activist stuff. Back in the 80s, they had a song called “Fucked up Ronnie” about Reagan, but this weekend they had nothing but good things to say about Obama and what his election means for the world. Ditto for several other bands – even the hardcore radicals have been infected by a little Obama-style hope.

If punk can be infected by hope, I think hipsters already have been. After Obama’s election my hipster and Nietzsche-loving friend even noted: “Maybe Hunter S. Thompson got it all wrong. If he had only waited, he would have seen better days.”

So Vice, you’ve got it all wrong. Or you have your readers all wrong.

When it comes to dos and don’ts, you don’t need to steal the limelight and promote the impeachment of a President who has not yet taken office. You don’t need to derail or deride the Obama bandwagon. And you don’t need to drone on with the same vapid message that nothing changes. Because it does. It just did. In one of the most electric elections in history.

Those eyeglasses are fake. I know the hipsters really do see.

i-d2f62b98e6baa13df8f7b4dd318c3bbf-obamayouth.jpg

Obama rocked the youth vote in 08

Comments

  1. #1 John H
    November 14, 2008

    I am allergic to hipsters.

    The worse thing you can do with hipsters is take them seriously. They don’t stand for anything, so there’s not much point in getting offended or excited about anything they do or say (or wear). The best they can give us is entertainment:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kAO4EVMlpwM

  2. #2 Toaster Sunshine
    November 14, 2008

    Not all young people are hipster, however. In fact, very few are and they are only so visible because they are so annoying. Don’t give hipsters credit for Obama’s win. They are a minority subculture and cannot represent all young people, nor should they try (note that my perception of hipster demographics may be colored by having grown up and remained so far in the Midwest). Frankly, hipsters annoy me for having had appropriated all the style that geeks lacked and none of the substance.

  3. #3 jj
    November 14, 2008

    Ha! Hipster… What a joke. I like how you brought in he whole punk thing (hipsters I find to be trying to be the new ‘punkers’ with their attitude). Hipsters are just trying to cause a scene, ya’ know, look cool. The punk movement, although quite anti-establishment, was, in many areas, working to better the political systems. You’ve got punkers actually trying to take office, Jello Biafra running for mayor of San Francisco in ’79, and attempting to run for the Green party Presidential candidate in 2000 are great examples. I’m part of that “voting youth” (24), believe me, us “non-hipsters find” them all to be, frankly, annoying. Most of the youth I know were emphatic about voting, and voting for Obama. Let’s not lump all of us in that group, please.

  4. #4 Jennifer L. Jacquet
    November 14, 2008

    I was not trying to imply that all youth were hipsters but had to use the youth vote as a proxy since CNN did not break the youth into sub-categories (would be fun if they did! Cheerleaders rolled out for McCain?). I merely would like to point out that the hipsters were ultimately not apathetic toward Obama and that they certainly don’t intend to have O impeached…

  5. #5 Julie Stahlhut
    November 14, 2008

    I’m trying to remember which Nation columnist wrote, back in the early 1990s, “Leave hip to the MBAs.”

    One of my favorite quotes, to this day.

  6. #6 gillt
    November 15, 2008

    Nice post

    Here in DC Hipsters ride skinny fixed-gear bikes or “fixies” not nice bikes.

  7. #7 cory
    November 16, 2008

    The joke here is, of course, that everybody loves Obama. Even the person wearing the shirt. It’s not being critical of how nothing has changed, that’s what they do on cnn. I don’t really want to defend vice magazine, because they often often often do things that disgust me (midget toss party anyone?) but while I think this shirt is dumb, it doesn’t represent to me a serious statement in any way.

    I consider myself a hipster. I know we’re not supposed to admit it, but I just finished building a fixie so I might as well embrace the label. Just like punk rockers encompassed those who thought that wearing a swastika to shock was a good idea, and those who relentlessly worked for social change, hipsters are a diverse bunch. Some of the hipsters I know would find the shirt funny, others wouldn’t. We’re all pretty happy about Obama though.

  8. #8 eddie
    November 17, 2008

    I have only read a couple of vice mag issues but never thought they were hip or any way cool.

    They seemed to be a fratboy thing. Their shitty attitudes are not those of anyone I know or could relate to. Seems like a corporate projection of what they want young people to be like, not how they are.

    The sort of mag that a young GWB would read, or even write for. But if he had, they’d have quickly folded.

  9. #9 doug l
    November 17, 2008

    If I had an T-shirt like that I’d fix it with a laundry marker to be followed by one word “BUSH”.

  10. #10 Baratos
    November 17, 2008

    I dont understand why so many kids seem to be hopeful. I spent 40% of my life suffering under Bush. How did people keep hope alive through all that time? The only thing I hope for is that this damn country will collapse and get replaced by something better.

  11. #11 zeb
    November 17, 2008

    Um, did you actually read the Vice post? They’re making fun of the fact that somebody (not them) is trying to market “Impeach Obama” infantware. Also, if you go back a week on their blog they’ve got four or five posts celebrating Obama’s election. Kind of missed the point I’d say.

  12. #12 zeb
    November 17, 2008

    PS: Googling Douglas Haddow turns up this article he wrote for… vice magazine.

    http://www.viceland.com/int/v15n8/htdocs/trapped-forever-sex-slavery-128.php

    That’s what we used to call irony, before the word got shanghai’d by humorless people to describe funny t-shirts.

    Double-P S: I think the fact that you “Collected a few hipster friends” doesn’t put you on much better moral standing than a magazine that makes fun of people’s clothing.

  13. #13 Liz Z
    November 19, 2008

    I think it’s ridiculous how far some people will go to make their point. Obama has already won, he is president-elect, it’s time to move on with your life.

    Also, McCain supporters are claiming Obama only won because he captured the youth’s attention, and it was the “youth’s vote”. Isn’t this a little condescending? After all, isn’t it the youth that will be directly affected by our new President? I wish people would think sometimes.

  14. #14 popular steve
    November 24, 2008

    if you know what a hipster is, you are one. and you’re quoting adbusters????? seriously?

    congrats on scoring some hipster friends. some of my best friends are black and/or gay. welcome to america.

    people where i come from wear plaid whenever they feel like it.

  15. #15 a?k ?iirleri
    April 6, 2009

    Nice post

    Here in DC Hipsters ride skinny fixed-gear bikes or “fixies” not nice bikes.

  16. #16 chat
    April 6, 2009

    thankss

  17. #17 fesbuk
    June 23, 2009

    Here in DC Hipsters ride skinny fixed-gear bikes or “fixies” not nice

  18. #18 Termal Oteller
    June 28, 2009

    I’m trying to remember which Nation columnist wrote, back in the early 1990s, “Leave hip to the MBAs.”

  19. #19 Paul Revere
    August 16, 2009

    Along with all this Treason, Eugenics, and Left Wing, Right Wing Lunacy, I would like to remind folks that the battle we are fighting in this world right now is not a Left Wing, Liberal – Democrat, Right Wing, Conservative – Republican battle!
    Going all the way back to 911 -
    I believe 911 was an inside job commited by Elitist sympathizing, treasonous officials, Government Reps, Global Elitists and common thugs of both the left and right persuasion in politics! The whole idea of 911 was to get the terrorist battle in place on American soil – in order for the US Government to be in a position to declare Martial Law and have the desired opportunity to begin taking Liberties and Constitutional rights away from the American citizens!

    Up to the point that this “Terrorist War excuse,” has now turned inward on the American people and the citizens of the USA are now considered El Quaeda by Homeland Security, of which I believe was the long term intention and purpose of Homeland Security in the first place!

    What has happened to our Government is that Global Elitists who have been around for at least 100 years, Illuminati if you will, have now reared their ugly selfish heads and have put in motion their age old plan to conquer and dominate the world with their program called the “New World Order”!

    This agenda has been the cause of most of the Economic Recessions and Depressions, Manipulated wars and Pestilence ( Chemical, Germ Warfare – Eugenics – Look up John Holdren ) and poverty on this earth! They simply have manipulated these circumstances for “Elitist,” gain and have decided now to De-Industrialize America!

    They infiltrate our Government with both Liberal and Conservative candidates so that who ever wins an election, the Elitists gain power!

    If we should win this war we are presently battling and acquire America back, I hope you realize we will have to work dilligently to find and track down this scurge ( Illuminati virus ) end it’s political aspirations and feasability – to be sure the world does not become injured, bankrupt crippled and killed victims to Illuminatti manipulations ever again!

    We can no longer afford to have Representatives in Our Governments’ who are Members of or Attendees of or Sympathizers to the following organized similar to World Mafia like organizations!

    Re: “The Bilderberg Group,” “Council On Foreign Relations,” “Trilateral Commission,” “Canadian Council of Chief Executives,” “International Monetary Fund,” “World Trade Organization,” “World Health Organization,” “European Union,” “United Nations,”. To name the most powerful Elitist organizations – there are others to watch for as well!
    If their politics are Elite – than we must Delete!

  20. #20 Hosting
    August 31, 2009

    hi..We can no longer afford to have Representatives in Our Governments’ who are Members of or Attendees of or Sympathizers to the following organized similar to World Mafia like organizations.

  21. #21 resveratrol supplements
    September 2, 2009

    The punk movement, although quite anti-establishment, was, in many areas, working to better the political systems. You’ve got punkers actually trying to take office, Jello Biafra running for mayor of San Francisco in ’79, and attempting to run for the Green party Presidential candidate in 2000 are great examples.

  22. #22 sports flooring
    October 5, 2009

    Excellent Post Jennifer and I couldn’t agree with you more.
    Hipsters just want attention and society at large should ignor them. Let them whine all they want, we should not grace their foolishness with a response.

  23. #23 fesbuk giriş
    December 19, 2010

    Here in DC Hipsters ride skinny fixed-gear bikes or “fixies” not nice bikes. good