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.
The 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.
Obama rocked the youth vote in 08