The Null Device

The Hipster Anti-Defamation League

The Portland (that's Portland, Oregon, btw) Mercury's Chas Bowie looks at the amount of vitriol focussed at "hipsters":
The truth is, it's all too easy to conjure a mental image of what people mean when they use the word "hipster" derisively. We likely imagine someone overly concerned with fashion, possessive of a condescendingly dismissive attitude toward everything outside their insular realm, a sheep-like trend follower, and an infuriatingly non-individualized personality who likes whatever band Pitchfork tells them to and whose shoes cost more than a day's wages. When I think of the worst end of the hipster sliding scale, my mind goes straight to the too-cool-for-me guy at my video store, who's always too involved in watching the collected music videos of Hall & Oates on the overhead TV to make eye contact while I rent my movie. He's always wearing lame ironic T-shirts, and his attitude reeks of smug... hipsterness. There's no other word for it. And if I perceived the city to be overrun with hipsters like him, I'd be an angry, I, Anonymous-writing citizen, too.
But the truth is, what rubs me the wrong way about this guy has nothing to do with his relative level of hipsterdom. The fact is, the guy is a self-absorbed narcissist who's overly vain about his wardrobe and hairstyle, and is generally unfriendly. As evidenced by sororities, law firms, sports teams, country clubs, sewing circles, and virtually every other social group the world over, this is by no means an exclusively hipster phenomenon. The fact remains that every demographic is composed of roughly 10 percent assholes. Buddhists
Bowie then looks at the "hipster" stereotype (or rather, the "hipster" stereotype minus the "narcissistic asshole" stereotype), as described in a book titled The Hipster Handbook, which suggests that a hipster (in the US, at least) is someone who studied liberal arts, does not vote Republican, and has eclectic tastes in music:
By and large, the term "hipster" is used to point to somebody who enjoys art, good films, and music that you won't hear on most Clear Channel stations. They are generally uninterested in climbing corporate ladders and would instead rather work somewhere that allowed them the freedom to pursue creative endeavors, like their band/crafts/activism/MP3 blog/whatever. They're probably down with recreational drug use, prefer bikes to cars (at least ideologically) and have more interesting homes than decidedly suburban non-hipsters. As it stands right now, we have no term to designate this group of individuals, except for the word "hipster."If I ask somebody what a bar is like, and they tell me it's a hipster bar, instead of recoiling, I figure there will be good music, as well as a lot of people who share my interests. I won't expect it to be full of BMW-driving fatcats with McMansions in the West Hills, or guys who want to chug beers and yell at the football game on TV. If I'm crashing on a friend-of-a-friend's couch out of town, and I'm told in advance that my host is a hipster, I'll breathe a sigh of relief that they'll probably have a good record collection, a lot of books, and a healthy hatred for George W. Bush. If it turns out he has a serious attitude problem and acts like he's the king of Williamsburg, then the problem isn't that he's a hipster, but simply that he's another generic fuckface.
He comes to the conclusion that, while the term "hipster" has been bandied about and abused so much that the only thing that any two people labelled as "hipsters" have in common is "a general distaste for mainstream popular culture" (well, that and a hatred for George W. Bush, though that's more or less moot nowadays). By which token, hating on hipsters looks more like the atavistic herd mentality of bullies, the tendency to reflexively strike out and attack difference, on the gut feeling that difference threatens group cohesion or "values".

Bowie then signs off with:

I'm sure this essay will prompt plenty of emails calling me a hipster (or the charming variation "hipster fag"). So preemptively, I say to you finger-pointers: "Sure, I'm a hipster. Call me that all you want. In the meantime, enjoy your Olive Garden, your Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway, the Tim McGraw and Faith Hill show coming at the Rose Quarter, the Da Vinci Code, Rachael Ray, bloomin' onions, your middle management job that you'll probably die with, the new Rod Stewart box set, and Renée Zellweger's upcoming movie with Hugh Grant. I'll be back here in the middle of the city with my hipster friends talking about art and books, going to see live bands, searching for new experiences, and drinking better coffee than you. Signed, Your Hipster Friend, Chas Bowie".

There are 10 comments on "The Hipster Anti-Defamation League":

Posted by: Greg Tue Aug 4 13:35:33 2009

That's an interesting article on a topic that seems to crop up all the time lately. The authors seems to imply it is all a matter of applying appropriate labels to appropriate groups (don't confuse 'hipster' with 'asshole' - they are merely intersecting sets), and he also puts up a pretty convincing defence of (non-asshole) hipsters. The impassioned yet slightly self-deprecating tone of the article (and responses) hint that we might yet witness a semi-ironic 'hipster revival', during which people will again proclaim themselves members of this fallen-from-grace and oft-maligned subculture. (I bet this happens within a year. It will be similar to bogan chic.) In some ways hipsters bring scorn upon themselves - sure it is 'just another subcultural group', but it is to some extent defined by self-proclaimed superior taste and opinion, an attitude which is sure to invite scorn and resentment from everyone else. But I bet most anti-hipsterism is just scape-goating of a group who are known not to fight back.

Posted by: acb Tue Aug 4 15:01:26 2009

If people started self-identifying as hipsters, soon it'd turn into just another marketing demographic. You'd have manufactured mortgage-indie bands saying "yeah, we're total hipsters". The Killers or someone would record a single celebrating "the hipster scene" or somesuch. and pretty soon it'd be just another dress code for suburban teens to buy at the mall and another heavily-marketed major-label playlist. (Of course, all these things exist now, but the label "hipster" isn't applied to them. Because nobody cops to being a hipster, it keeps it from going aspirational and keeps it as an interzone, a sort of volatile gas floating above all the marketing hype, with enough ambiguity, paradoxically, to be meaningful when used with care paid to context.)

Posted by: acb Tue Aug 4 15:03:08 2009

As such, it probably makes sense for hipsterism to be a no-man's land, and not trusting either side (those who try too hard to wear the label or those who are looking for someone to beat up).

Posted by: datakid Wed Aug 5 05:20:03 2009

Posted by: acb Wed Aug 5 09:04:58 2009

This site seems moronic. It reads like some mouth-breathing jock fratboy looking for fags to beat up.

Posted by: ianw Thu Aug 6 04:59:38 2009

true, but the article it points to is a bit more sensitive/sensible. Its problem is more that it focuses on the recent symptoms of Berlin's ongoing hipster-infestation, ie. the recent spate of high-profile/rich Hollywood types (not hipsters by anyone's definition) moving in, to enjoy (but in doing so, destroy) the gritty atmosphere.

The elephant in the room here is that hipsters, in the US at least, are often trustafarians or otherwise seemingly independently wealthy. The first time I went to Williamsburg (or wandering thru less-hip parts of NYC) it quickly became obvious that far from looking like the slim-pickings I do in Melbourne, I could be mistaken (eg. by a mugger) for a millionaire's son. The problem in Berlin is similar in that some hipsters there (yanks, west germans, scandinavians) is how obviously they need only put in a few hours back home (or online/whatever) to earn what the locals do in a few days (cF. unhip filmstars' ability to earn a packet elsewhere..)

Posted by: acb Thu Aug 6 09:14:45 2009

Apparently Berlin is the European technology startup hub these days.

Posted by: ianw Fri Aug 7 01:39:40 2009

wrt this thread that could really complicate matters: an influx of money, cool/uncool (think: minimal techno AND ponytails)..

Posted by: Bobbee Fri Jan 28 08:57:27 2011

Just found this. Interesting look into the mind of a Hipster (Bowie). In the first paragraph one could get the idea that he has the ability to feel some empathy for the Anti-Hipster side. It's exactly the smug unfriendliness he experiences at the video shop which inspires all the hate on Hipsters. Okay, he somehow fails to mention that among hipsters, that smug unfriendliness isn't really at a "one in ten" ratio, but much more an eight-in-ten thing. But overall, you get the idea that Bowie might be one of those rare Hipsters without that trademark unfounded narcissism.

But unfortunately, in the closing paragraph, he shows his true colours. He after all shares that moronic, smug, and unintelligent stereotype about people who aren't Hipsters. So if you're not a Hipster, your only choice is to love Hugh Grant movies, listen to Rod Stewart, and work in middle management? While he discusses "art and books"? This strikes me as the most idiotic stereotype thinking unworthy of an adult.

Posted by: acb Sat Jan 29 20:52:03 2011

Are you sure you're not a hipster? If so, are you sure you're not a "hipster" in someone's point of view?

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