The premise, for those who haven't been able to bring themselves to read the article (it showed up on reddit / digg, then mefi) is just like any other cynical take on any other scene: there are people who are into this scene, and the author and yourself are not. People in this scene are not as cool as they think they are. Most of them don't realize that they are sheep. Oh, and because they're the ones in charge of this "underground" marketed culture, they're the ones driving your very existence by defining popular fashion, so you're a slave to their whim.
Something like that.
The author may not be aware of previous music-influenced scenes that turned into marketing exercises. He'd have to have been brought up in Afghanistan for this to be true, but maybe, for the sake of argument, he's never heard of pop culture. Maybe he missed punk rock. Or disco. Or rock and roll. Or hip hop. Or baroque. Or country swing. Or or or.
Regardless, it was a very funny article if you read it with the Onion News Network soundtrack in your headphones, and the comments really made my day. Some of them are the very best example of people brought up on the internet who are casually careless with their vitriol on a message board. The language is fantastically bad in some, boring in others.
Kudos to AdBusters for trolling the scene.
What fascinates me is how these memes become movements become markets. For instance, the meme factory that is 4chan (stay away! if you have never been there) has generated some of the most widely known devices on the internet. LOLCats, for instance. LOLCats is one of the more insipid and annoying memes that ran ragged among relatively intelligent people (myself included!) though it never quite made it to marketable (outside of the lolcats website and whatever ad revenues that generates). Maybe because it didn't have a soundtrack around it, so it couldn't gather a fashion audience.
Fashion seems to be the new(?) bumper sticker, and it does so usually without an overt linguistic statement. It is extraordinarily powerful among youth and a certain subset of the not-so-youthful. There are tribal and / or other prehistoric underpinnings to the ways we dress, and I know for a fact that billions of pages are written about it, and I'm sure it is interesting to study if you're into that sort of thing. What cooks my noodle is, what moment does someone's aesthetic in music and dress grow from the individual to a marketable product? Where are those hooks sunk in, and how?
The interest in markets on my part is not driven by money. It is driven by a study of control. I've learned enough to know that culture's controls are tied to the marketing of the ideas that we deem profitable or important. That point of control is fascinating to me simply because it is so ephemeral and hard to define. Unlike most other forms of magic (money, or religion, or family for instance), naming it does not make it visible, even in hindsight. The reason why Tay Zonday became the minor internet celeb that he was....? The reason skinny jeans and faux eyeglasses and PBR are the haute couture of lower 4th street is....?
I am fascinated, I guess, by control. The sorts of incantations and linguistic hacks that force us to do one thing or another, usually on a level we're not even aware of. Cultural influences that used to take decades and created ruts the size of 5th Avenue are now taking shape on imageboards and lasting eight months, tops. Music is no longer an art, is an art, is no longer an art, is nothing, is everything. Our politics with Obama's team in charge are shaped largely by iconography that simply and powerfully surpass previous jingles and slogans.
We're rapidly moving through a chaotic amount of data, and some find common threads and tie them to themselves. They become identified by something they buy.
This, to me, is a form of control that surpasses God in modern society. The ways we market ideas-as-fashion, and the statement that makes about our culture. It's not the end of western civilization, and it never has been. But it is a sign of the shape of things to come.
If only we could find the spark that creates the fire, we could be very, very powerful indeed.
My hipster-ish co-worker was asking about smartphones recently, as she was in the market for one. "You should just get an iPhone," I said, speaking from a purely technical standpoint.
"But I already drive a Mini and have an iPod! I can't do that hipster trifecta. It would be too much."
Ah, culture. What weirdos we are.
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