I, For One, Welcome Our New Dirtbag Overlords
2020: Podcast Culture Capitalizes on a Pandemic and Goes into Overdrive
It is unsurprising that we have never had the slightest word of protest about lockdowns from pajama class elites who became wealthier from their living rooms by starting a podcast (that they can produce while drunk and high) that consists of nothing more than meandering conversations with fellow niche internet microcelebrities. The only outlay is really a podcast mic; otherwise it’s all profit on something they otherwise would be doing for free. From here, they can slap their logo on generic Walmart level merch and mark it up 10x for their fans, who are either their friends in real life or even more depressingly, people who wish they were.¹
It’s also notable that these people were probably the least conscientious in the beginning; I remember them flooding Williamsburg bars even toward the end of March 2020. Back when I still thought this was temporary I stayed home while they didn’t; now that it is seemingly permanent, they couldn’t care less and I am increasingly distraught. Possibly because it has upended my life and destroyed the lives of so many others, while for them it has just made the world even more their territory.
And why should they be upset two years in? The worst they had to deal with was wearing a mask to be seated at Lucien and now not even that; they’re not toiling in the kitchen in PPE, let alone having their businesses shuttered. Even if they did have an issue there’s no surer social suicide in their elitist microbubble than opposing any sort of pandemic indignity, no matter how egregious — such is the domain of Trumpers and the great unwashed.
That their own personal style is an exaggerated, post-ironic, and (most importantly) extremely expensive pastiche of the clothing worn by the flyover drones for whom they publicly show such disdain, and at whose expense they have become successful beyond measure over the course of a two year span that has largely destroyed the center of the nation, is insulting on a level that would make any dystopian parodist seethe with jealousy.
The thinkpieces, largely written by their own friends and liberal arts college classmates in the insular and incestuous sphere of elite NYC society, frequently talk about the idea of “coolness.” I personally believe they are mistaking “cool” for “hip.” Naked consumerism, whether it is drenched in irony or served plainly, will simply never be cool². It will never be cool to spend hours in front of the mirror thinking about what you want to wear. It will never be cool to care about what’s “in”or “out.” It’s significant that guests include producers of vomitous Pitchfork approved indie pop and Iowa writers workshop neuter fiction; these things are “cool” in the same the same way an NPR tote bag is “cool.” Johnny Cash was cool; Nick Cave, Miles Davis, Francis Bacon, Michael Gira, etc, are all cool precisely because they didn’t/don’t give a fuck about any of this shit.
It is important to note that these people are typically “good liberals,” (though lifestylist “socialism” and irony drenched cryptofascism both make appearances) both because it’s the socially acceptable position to take in the their bubble, and more crucially because it poses no inconvenience, let alone threat, to their way of life. Their “activism” consists of things like starting an impossible burger restaurant that funnels dollars away from local farms and into the pockets of giant agricorps at the expense of soil diversity and human health, or responding to the murder of a poor black man by a militarized police force by posting on Instagram about wealthy fashion entrepreneurs who happen to also be black³.
To go down the modern gullet, the rebirth of 1980s style consumerism must come disguised in the cloak of 21st century cultural signifiers ⁴. And make no mistake, these are people who traffic in signifiers and little else. They buy and sell sweatshop made clothing as long as the maker vomits up the appropriate empty slogans, likely fund a cartel snuff film a month with their cocaine use while rushing to cancel people online for slight deviations from accepted speech, and in the end serve only to further consolidate the wealth their parents actually had to work for. Their rise is essentially a mutant evolution of Veblen’s idea of absentee ownership; while their forebears became rich by distancing themselves from the means of actual material production, they have exponentially increased this fortune by removing themselves from the idea of producing anything at all.
¹ What they will never realize is that these people are “cool” despite the way they look and dress, not because of it. No matter how much of their limited income their fans spend on clothing and other upper class signifiers, they cannot turn back the clock and be born into the upper strata of coastal urban society. They are being sold the idea of the juice and mistaking it for the squeeze. To the sellers, they are the easiest types of marks: those who will pay just about anything for something that cannot be bought.
² As far as I remember, shamelessly name dropping brands and restaurants used to be embarrassing and gauche; it was the type of thing that used to be parodied in popular movies like Clueless and American Psycho. At the very least, Cher Horowitz and Patrick Bateman were attractive and well-dressed. Doughy, ineffectual, and bedecked in overpriced florals and children’s sneakers, our current crop of rabid consumerists cannot manage even that. Say what you will about murder, but at least it effects a material change in the world.
³ Like many examples of performative activism, this requires only being said out loud to highlight its irrelevance to the issue; beyond that, it’s actually kind of racist once you really puzzle it over. What kind of mental space do you have to be in to see a black person murdered in broad daylight by agents of the state and and respond by emphasizing that the profits from a pair of 200 dollar sweatshop-made sweatpants is largely funneled to a rich black person? I suppose when identity trumps material economic status at all costs, one black person is as good as another — yet another way in which the pseudoreligion that is woke cultural politics serves only to benefit the ruling class.
⁴ Poptimism, impossible meat, corporate wokeness, etc — these are effectively all a way to launder good old-fashioned corporate fealty back into the sphere of what’s new, fashionable, and exciting. At a very basic level, they prey on our natural human yearning for discovering beauty and effecting material change and redirect it into keeping things ugly and the same.