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The Infantile State

By Al Schumann on Sunday October 3, 2010 11:01 AM

The mindset of the US government closely resembles the mindset of a spoiled rotten hipster in the throes of an "ironic" behavioral episode. Destructive, socially autistic, reactive and defiant when confronted and given to morbid self pity. Like the hipster, the USG is also capable of a dim, vague awareness that somehow things are not going the way they're supposed to. And it gets lonely, bless its heart. So it reaches out in what is supposed to look like a gesture of responsible adult concern.

The US State Department issued a travel alert Sunday to urge Americans traveling to Europe to use caution and vigilance in the wake of a terrorist plot uncovered last week to attack major European cities.

The warning has the same utility as hipster concern. The premises are dubious. It's vacuous, irritating and useless. Caution and vigilance are fine qualities, but in practical terms, what are the travelers supposed to do? They're unlikely to encounter anything more threatening than a tourist scam. If, by some cosmic joke, they do come across a group of terrorists—real ones, not the kind who set their underpants on fire—their best bet is to go back to their hotels and tell the desk clerk what they've seen.

The warning is fatuously exculpatory. Hipsters who attempt their performance art through e.g. arson may, when the fire finally takes, become worried that someone will get hurt. Not because it's bad to burn people, but because no one understands the creative impulse. But it wouldn't do to give helpful specifics. That's a bad road to travel. It leads to trouble. So rather than saying they set a fire at 275 North Henderson Boulevard, they advise people to avoid the east coast. Can't say you weren't warned, dude.

Finally, it's the set up for the next "ironic" behavioral episode. Hipster performance art involves the audience, whether the audience likes it or not. Their reaction is the art. Don't ask me to explain. It's not explicable. It's "ironic". However, there's a key difference. No one takes the hipster seriously and the hipster lacks the means to blow up the planet.

Maybe that explains the appeal of the Obama regime to the "creative class". The crude, punchbowl-shitting of the Bush regime lacked a certain je ne sais quoi. There was no Pabst Blue Ribbon, and therefore no way to identify with the performance. But when one of their own holds the nukes...

Comments (18)

I don't know what's more offensive about this post: wanton usage of the word "underpants" or the invocation of P*bsts. (ick)

One of you should have warned me.


Al Schumann:

My apologies, Ms. Xeno. I can't justify or excuse it, but perhaps an explanation will ease some of the offense away.

I went to a gallery opening. I knew it was a mistake before I got there, but a promise is a promise. The gallery was filled with hipsters. The costume "theme" was the recent incident with the spoiled, mentally unbalanced bankster's child who wanted to be a terrorist. They were dressed as one might expect, underpants with flames painted on them, and they were drinking the unspeakable beverage.

I considered murdering them. It would be a kindness, all things taken into account. A compelling aesthetic statement. Maybe even a civic duty. But I'm too old and, let's face it, I'm not cut out for that kind of thing.

As I left, I saw a woodchuck tearing through the gallery's flower bed. It clacked its teeth at me and resumed its destructive endeavor. The evening was a dead loss.

Well, Smiff, you've got the behavior and attitude nailed dead on, but, still... does the US Government wear those stupid inch-high horn-rimmed glasses, or listen to lame indie bands, or ride a fixed-gear bicycle, or play kickball, or hang out in fake dive bars, or pay four dollars for a cupcake?

Eeeewwww. You said "je ne sais quoi".

Fucking hipster.


Candor compels me to admit that I ride a fixed gear bike. But I exhibit few if any of the other stigmata of hipsterism. I hope. And I have no capacity for irony whatsoever. Can I get a pass on the fixie?

(Also -- how do they stay so skinny?)

By a curious coincidence, my wife and I stumbled, yesterday, by the purest chance, into a Lower East Side poetry reading. If Al had been there his head would have exploded; mine nearly did. Perhaps I'll write a post about it.

Al Schumann:

They stay skinny by taking Ritalin, which they need in order to stay focused on their art.

Ritalin? Bah, these kids today. Everyone knows that real artists stay focused by smoking weed and drinking heavily.

ps: sorry about the fixie crack.


No no, Mike F, you're absolutely right. The fixie is a perennial embarrassment to me. I'm just looking for a little forgiveness.

But also, of course -- full disclosure here -- I've come to hate that monkey-chatter noise that other people's bikes make when they shift gears, as they seem to do all the time.

I remember doing that, from when I had a bike with a freewheel, and gears -- I'd shift down any time I had to slow down. It was like, erm, driving a car.

[glowers at Mike F.]

Will this anti-cupcake rhetoric never end?!?!

Schumann, next time you should just offer the woodchuck an apple and a handful of sunflower seeds in return for him/her serving you as a guided anti-hipster missile. I can even lend you my slingshot.

I have an ache in my side. Thanks for the laughs.

Al Schumann:

Ms. Xeno, I've tried reaching out to the woodchucks. We could be friends, I tell them. There are better ways to live. Alas, perseveration is all they know. But the apple and sunflower seeds plan gives me an idea. Next time I'll leave the door open as I make my exit and leave a trail of treats for them to follow. If I hear screams, I'll turn back and take photos, and I'll be sure to email them.

Charles, you're welcome. This all started when Owen warned me about the perils of socialism with woodchuck characteristics. Laughter is our best defense.


This is weird, but good. Weird but good.


Al: What is your class analysis of hipsterdom? Generally, hipsters are "ironic" tools of developers, no? At least here in NY.

Boink Jones:
Al Schumann:

Geoff, most of what I've seen of their consumption patterns and social affect look like downwardly mobile "middle class". There's enough family money to raise self-involved kids, and teach them an ethos of purchased status, but not enough money to get them apartments in, say, the whitest parts of Manhattan. When they hit notional adulthood, there's enough parental money to partially subsidize their consumer culture. They can get their iPhones and designer horn rims, and a big chunk of money towards buying into housing that goes co-op or condo. So, yes, I'd say "ironic" tools of developers is very accurate.

Hipsters are pretty good at working the edges of the social welfare system. As a particularly noxious example, I've heard kids with prep school speech patterns boasting about getting food stamps. That incident brought out the repressed conservative in me. I thought they needed a good, sound beating followed by forcible training in a honest trade.

There are also working class kids who look a little bit like hipsters, but the differences are easy to spot. They don't buy a social persona. They make it themselves. When neighborhoods get gentrified, they don't have the money to buy in. They get pushed further and further away from the cultural hotspots, create new ones, shudder as the consumer culture hipsters move in and then get ready to be pushed out again.


Al: Also, their ubiquity in a once-poor or working class neighborhood gives that 'hood hipster cred, which the developers love. I've noticed this in Brooklyn the past 10 years or so: where two or three hipsters are gathered, the developer is in their midst.

Al Schumann:
where two or three hipsters are gathered, the developer is in their midst.

Geoff, I recognize that. It's from the Developer's Bible, their own special translation of Matthew 18:20—For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. Except it refers to Satan's little real estate helper, and the house of worship is owned by the banksters.

Dammit Al... I don't know whether to agree and add to the list of candidates needing such treatment...

...they needed a good, sound beating followed by forcible training in a honest trade.

...or make a joke, like...

Millions of pwoggies agree, which is why we have compulsory schooling geared toward "college" and a "professional career."

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