Why People Stopped Caring About Hipsters In 2015


The Burning Block Vol II No. 8

Around 2007, the word 'hipster' reached the peak of abstraction. It was a kind of inaugural event to the zeitgeist if one could muster enough hatred for them. But what were hipsters exactly? Retro hepcats still living out the 50's they missed? People who wore thick-framed glasses? People who liked indie culture? Women without breasts? Men with soy-breasts? People who liked coffee? People who enjoyed knowing things you weren't yet familiar with? Who the hell knows. 

It soon became an umbrella term for any regular douchebag or dickhead one didn't happen to like - a set of annoying traits conflated with an actual culture which didn't really exist. 

Soon middle aged moms in small towns started complaining about them. Jokes about them entered popular entertainment, which should always make one suspicious. There was a general consensus that they posed some kind of existential threat. People obsessed about how annoying they were and how they were popping up everywhere and infiltrating their most beloved public establishments. These sentiments were really just expressions of frustration with the excesses of a youth culture determined almost entirely by consumerism, though most people didn't know that this was the source of their frustration. Kids and other people who, for all intents and purposes seemed like hipsters, complained about hipsters in order to prove that they themselves were not hipsters. It worked. The rules of the game were that shallow. People could go on being boring and empty while resting on the moral superiority that they weren't pretentious.

The general feeling in the air was one of deep antagonism to inauthenticity. But as a result, people became more afraid of this inauthenticity than they were driven to be more authentic. Thus, inadvertently, there was a general tendency for young people who actually cared about all of this, if only subconsciously, to become uber-conformists, mistaking innovation and the unknown for inauthenticity. Constantly trying to get ahead of inauthenticity, it caught up with them anyway.

What happened around 2015 is that the mileage people got out of complaining about them started to run out. The antagonism was exhausted as people began to feel bored, since it turned out that an abstraction such as  'the hipster' was not a sufficient enough scapegoat to blame for anyone's confusion about their identity or lack of purpose in the world. Bigger targets would have to be found.
Something else was also occurring right around the time that hating hipsters lost emotional mileage: a new peak of abstraction had been reached which had been accumulating its own set of confusions since time immemorial as people struggled to connect with their actual identities through the affirmation of whatever respective essential nature they supposed belonged to the group to which they felt themselves a part. The only problem is that this was done at the expense of scapegoats, and not as a positive existential feature of life itself. One was proud of being a woman, but at the expense of men. One was proud of being part of the LGBTQ community, but at the expense of straight, cisgender folk. One was proud of belonging to a minority group, but at the expense of white people. Likewise, one was proud of being white at the expense of minority groups and Jewish cabals. One was proud of being a man at the expense of feminists. This negative sense of identity boasted a ubiquity which seemed almost entirely synonymous with the internal struggles that the west was facing, so much so that the culture war in which these energies manifested themselves was curated and packaged by the establishment just in time for mass distribution during the 2016 presidential election.

2015 was when hipsters lost their seat in the scapegoat chair for whatever scapegoat was more conducive to building specific identities - a tactic which was certainly not new by any stretch of the dreaming monkey mind, but which reached a point of maximum accumulation. 

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump caught on. Donald Trump won in 2016 because he was keener on the identity politics he needed to entertain in order to hold every sector of his potential constituency. Libertarians saw in him a libertarian. White nationalists saw in him a potential bridge to their separatism. Reactionaries and conservatives saw in him someone who offered a rougher edged version of what they'd been wanting but failed to achieve. Old school Republicans saw a wild bull who, in the long run, would prove to have some tricks up his sleeve. Clinton lost because she wasn't as adept at this game by a longshot, though she understood it. Bernie Sanders failed because he was still riding the waves of 2008, Occupy and the 1960's; in other words, he lost because he was an idealist who believed what he was saying.

2016 revealed the dark side of our thirst for lost identity. Not only did we need better scapegoats, but we poured our egos into people we felt had more power than us who would be able to best represent our desires and interests. This is ultimately what democracy is. But in hinging all of our sense of identity and worth in people who promise to represent our interests, we merely perpetuate a great myth, perhaps the greatest myth of all - that responsibility for the type of life one wants can be deferred to another, usually a person one hasn't even met, in the form of a politician. 

After 2001, particularly after 9/11, life in the west became much more anxious and, at the same time, much more boring, meaningless and dull. Culture was vacuous, state restrictions were tightening, Big Brother was growing, but ultimately, no one felt any safer. The enemy could not be named, only uneasily felt, so we ended up forming enemies within. This hatred toward the fictional hipster - hipster 2.0, in other words - was a projection of what we didn't like about ourselves, about our own coworkers, friends and acquaintances, about the inevitable direction culture was headed underneath the surface of society; an underground, counter consumerism which acted merely as an alternative consumerism to the mainstream.

But these people who were mistakenly called 'hipsters' but who didn't belong to any real culture to speak of were on to something without realizing it, something which the rest of us would actually benefit quite well from to understand properly: that social capital ultimately means more than mere monetary capital. People naturally compete to impose their own egos on the world, and with it, their identities and their values. With hipsters 2.0, this comes out in a confused way as a snarky pecking order developed as an inevitable extension of their fighting for supremacy by collecting mere rare objects in hopes to make themselves appear rare. Ultimately, they understood that the individualism which our culture preaches seven days a week is a joke, because if everyone is promised their right to feel special for who they are, no one is actually exceptional and, thus, no one person is actually worth anything. While they manifested this truth in an obnoxious way, our hatred of them merely revealed to us our own hypocrisy and we turned to other ideological superstructures to affirm the mediocrities we couldn't face head on. 

Both hipsters 1.0, which were the hipsters of the 1950's who liked jazz and rejected bourgeois values, and hipsters 2.0, who were merely made up of annoying people who liked rare junk no one else cared about and who didn't actually self identify as hipsters, were merely trying to make the best of modernity that they could by using its own ideological and economic excesses against itself - a sort of calculated failure they didn't mind exploiting to the point of cotermination. People ultimately stopped caring about hipsters because more expensive ego projections built for the sake of disguising our lack of a real identity or purpose suddenly became much cheaper and more widely available, which merely broke and fragmented our confusion but ultimately made it a little more transparent.