Not Cool: The Hipster Elite and Their War On You
By: Greg Gutfeld
No, this book isn't for everyone. Unless you, like me, enjoy reading polemic books because there are always nuggets of truth to be found, however much some of it may be off-putting, you may find this book annoying.
Greg Gutfeld is a self-described libertarian, and I would add, contrarian. He enjoys stirring the pot. Probably, literally.
He is a featured player on "The Five" on Fox News, so I'm sure that will give you some immediate insight, and he loves to go toe to toe with that show's nominal Liberal, now Juan Williams. (Previously it was Bob Beckel, who, following back surgery, did not return - though under less than friendly circumstances.)
Gutfeld is outspoken, sometimes out-of-left (or, far right?)-field, and some would say, outrageous. He doesn't hide his opinions, and sometimes opts for a laugh at the risk of sounding outright silly.
Still - as I said, you can find wisdom when you're looking.
Gutfeld's premise is not exactly original: we all want to be cool, and Cool will always be "owned" by some group or another. Therefore, if you express opinions that are contrary to that Book of Rules, you will be considered Un-cool, and you will be refused the company of The Cool.
To an extent, he's right. Er, correct.
Grafitti was found on the walls of buried Pompeii. Which means, there were people writing protests and nasty verses and silly comments on walls way back in 79 A.D. (or, to be cooly PC, 79 C.E.). That is to say, there have always been "people who consider themselves rebels and tastemakers for all that's edgy."
Going further, he makes a statement that I heartily applaud: "They (the cool) are now in control of defining the 'conversation,' - of deeming what is good and what is bad."
Not long ago, I read an excellent essay about who owns the Moral Authority, and what effect that has on particularly our political discussions. It seems there is an arc: you are the outsider, so you get to say whatever you want. You can be offensive, you can be outspoken, you and picket and chant and whine and object. You are the ignored and the marginalized; you are not what is "commonly accepted." Bit by bit, you gain ground, and eventually, you replace the old guard. For a while, all is new and exciting and you're quite sure that this is How It Will Be. "We" are the ones we've been waiting for! Until we've been around a little too long, and a new We is nibbling at the edges of The Establishment, because, while you weren't looking, what was once "hipster elite" (in Gutfeld's parlance) has become Establishment Boring. The new Old Guard.
Don't believe me? Read The Great Gatsby. Read On the Road. Watch videos of Elvis, The Dave Clark Five, or see The Rolling Stones (mostly) live. All so quaint, so old-fashioned. Once, each was, however briefly, the very epitome of Cool.
This particular essay went on to say that in many ways, he who owns the Moral Authority is also The Target. You can shoot darts at him with impunity, because he does own it. Looking back, in the 40s and 50s, that authority was owned by the jocks, the religious, the family guy, the work-a-day everyman. Lurking in beat bars and sleazy Village apartments were beatniks and rebels. Then one day Ed Sullivan featured Elvis. Soon thereafter, The Beatles. The toe in the door cracked open a little wider. By the 60s, the counter-culture was banging the drum so loudly it was difficult to hear the voices of parents and preachers, and eventually, the world turned and the counter-culture became the Common Culture.
Gutfeld is, as I noted, a self-proclaimed Libertarian. So that means that the Left would consider him ultra-right, and the Right would consider him strange. Either way, he can't really be pinned down as a political entity, and he seems to be if not an equal opportunity offender, then surely not a Right Wing zealot.
It's his contention, however, that the world has turned so far that that Moral Authority I mentioned above has shifted center utterly, so that what was once Bad is now Good, and if you oppose these things, you are very, very un-Cool.
So, who, or what, in his opinion, is the New Cool? Or, the Existing Cool - as we are in a constant state, it seems to me, of shifting Central Coolness.
Gutfeld says that Cool is the so-called Liberal Elite. For starters, you don't want to be a banker, minister, executive, plumber or electrician. A social media director, app designer, song writer, or social activist - any of these is a much better choice. Don't be ordinary, by any means - be a misfit, an outcast, and have a geeky or nerdy period (even if you are now gorgeous and accomplished).
It's cool to be in jail for certain crimes (or when, according to popular culture, you have been wrongfully arrested), but not cool to be a policeman. Or, policeperson.
You don't want to be Billy Graham (rest his soul), Doris Day, or any Republican. But it's cool to be Che Guevara, Sean Penn, or a Democrat. You might want to be Lena Dunham or Dzahokhar Tsarnaev, but not Michelle Malkin or Arnold Schwartzenegger. Be Melissa Harris-Perry, but for heaven's sake, don't be Greg Gutfeld!
Yes, the book can be over-the-top, and exaggerated to the point of pointlessness. And to the point of seeming like he's attempting to be - heaven help him - cool.
But underlying some of the hyperbole is an argument he makes, quite literally and calmly from time to time, in favor of finding your own cool and being true to it, rather than jumping on someone's else's bandwagon. And there, he has a point.
The other point-well-taken is his insistence that just because we right now find something cool because it is edgy and was unpopular (teen pregnancy, for example), it's still not necessarily the best choice for long-term happiness.
Ultimately, we will live with the choices we make. Some of them simply make us cringe some years later - like a bad haircut from the 80s, or perhaps a photo of those leggings you really shouldn't be wearing now because Facebook is Forever. Others can impact your life for good or ill for its duration, and that of others as well. Some choice need one's head in the game as well as one's heart.
Over the holidays I had a chance to watch a number of old movies on TCM (Turner Classic Movies, in case you haven't had the pleasure). I'm always captivated by not just the clothing and the lighting and even the plot lines, but also by the speech patterns. Once you've tuned your ear to it, you can identify the decade in which a movie was made simply by the accent, leaving aside the specific dialogue. It seems every ten or so years we speak English a new way - a little faster, a little more laconically; we adopt a faux Southern style or today's popular up-talk (you know? That speech pattern in which everything is a question? Even when it's not?); we deliberately choose words and usages based on social issues (today it is popular to "identify," and to ask for a new acquaintance's "pronouns" rather than assume them). In these shifting sands of speech we can watch the waves of Cool eroding from the shoreline here, adding to it there.
I'm amused to see that while Hippie was once cool, that has been over for a long time - yet there are people who still enjoy that lifestyle. The "real" Hippies, if you will. Luckily for me, about the time I figure out what's Cool, it's already on its way out, so I have given up chasing it. And perhaps, in the final analysis, that is Gutfeld's point, and why you would take the time to read his book: it's a reminder that Cool isn't forever. Enjoy it if your style happens to hit "Cool" in your lifetime. (Or feel slightly offended at all the poseurs trying to appropriate your culture, if you prefer.) Otherwise, don't worry about it. Because whatever it was then, it won't be soon.
But then again, right now, Authenticity is Cool. So, be it. Be cool.