It is not unusual for a person to express frustration about the way popular culture employs language or expresses themselves. Often, these statements are made by people who are more intent on defining their own perspective than denounce that of others. However it’s communicated in a way that’s clearly to ridicule the “masses”. Nascar, the Kardashians, Hollywood Blockbusters and numerous other things being peremptorily dismissed because of the belief that there can be nothing good or worthwhile in things that are so thoroughly produced and polished (though in some cases the polishing is done by different parties)(that was a cheap Kardashians joke). Though it seems that few argue that being popular within one’s own circle of influence is good. But I digress.
When something strikes me as offensive (either aesthetically, morally, intellectually) I can either assert a reflexive opinion or consider why this thing is offensive to me. What I’ve found is that in the former case, the opinions that are used to readily dismiss an offensive subject are adopted from cultural identities that one wishes to reflect. The subject itself becomes secondary. They are the false syllogisms of the pseudo-intellectuals. Nascar’s fan base is riddled with rednecks. I do not want to be associated with rednecks. Therefore I do not want to be associated with Nascar. The Kardashians are revered by vapid, vain and vulgar women, etc., etc. In these cases it is not Nascar or popular culture figure themselves that are not liked. As the band Sloan put it in Coax Me, “it’s not the band I hate it’s their fans”. This approach does a massive disservice to oneself.
Now, I dislike Nascar because it’s not the type of motorsport I find entertaining. With nary an exception, it’s driving around an oval in clumsy machines. That being said, there are huge challenges in wrestling with these dinosaurs that are just a few centimetres from other clumsy, wobbly and shaky machines. Piloting skills aside, the focus is on resources management – tires and fuel. From what I’ve seen these machines are so clumsy that the most likely outcome is a momentary loss of control leading to contact with another car or stationary object. In short, it’s a race where the pilots are given unnecessarily clumsy machines which they have to drive ar break-neck speeds in close herds while well over a hundred thousand people watch in the stands and tens of million more on television. This does not speak to me. This is why I do not like Nascar. Rally racing, on the other hand…
The false syllogisms of the pseudo-intellectuals are often accompanied by the false certainty of quasi-wisdom. A pretence of understanding while in fact simply repeating misunderstood catchphrases of likeable individuals or, worse, only taking one’s reasoning to the first convenient waypoint. For example, the person who “hates” large companies and popular brands because of their exploitation of workers in developing countries for the sake of sheer profiteering. Yet, this type of person seldom asks any questions about the provenance of the fabric used by what they deem are likeable brands (who are doing everything they can to become more popular than the currently popular brands). A business exists to make money. If that was not the case, they’d not be running a business. Running a vocally environmentally responsible, humane and sustainable business is a business model, as is one that focuses on efficiency, research and engineering. If purchasing goods that are environmentally responsible and fair to the humans involved was truly important, people would buy products from companies that allowed a clear view of the entire process. This would mean buying local from small-scale productions where strict labour and health and safety laws and regulations are in effect. But this is too expensive, so to feel better the next best thing is fair trade (which is seldom to never explained to any worthwhile level of detail) or form a company that uses the “environmentally responsible” business model.
It is this short-sightedness that makes the jobs of marketers so easily, whether it is for entertainment or goods and services. The reasoning used to assess a situation only goes so far to make someone feel comfortable in their smugness. Often, when people ask me why I’m vegetarian they do so by telling why I’m most likely vegetarian. “So you’re vegetarian for health or environmental reasons, or religious reasons?” They have made up their mind about vegetarianism. It can be one of two things, and all they need to know is which category I fit so that they can then dismiss me.
I challenge that people employing this approach, whether they like Nascar or Reddit, mainstream or “counter-culture”, Kardashian follower or Hipster, are all part of the same anti-intellectual group. What is most prominent about them is not with what they identify, but with why they identify. The people who are too self-involved to have a dialogue with someone, who have a limited set of four, six, ten opinions that drive everything, who see a challenge to these opinions as a threat, this popular movement of proud ignorance and insecure certainty are the biggest threat to our social development. Not the people with bad grammar, those who fearlessly and flamboyantly use apostrophes in all the wrong places.
Everyone has an opinion, but to me what’s interesting is discovering how they arrived at that opinion. So many people react to questions asking about the reasoning behind an opinion as though it was an attack threatening their personal freedom. The average opinion is bought off store shelves. They are so prefabricated and flat that when people recite them they might as well be standing on a soapbox with a megaphone. Walking into a crowd at a party is like having dozens of people standing on soapboxes with megaphones all yelling at the same time. No one’s listening. No one’s thinking other than how to impose their own opinion. Trying to convince others by their conviction to their opinion rather than by the reasoning behind their opinion. I know I’m generalising but it’s bloody frustrating. And scary.
Leaning on epistemology for a moment, these opinions are somewhere between belief and conviction. The scary part is not that they’re a subjective interpretation, it’s that they’re the message of other people appropriated often without the use of reasoning. Just like a garment is purchased regardless of how well it fits as long as its the right brand (of course I look good, it’s _____!).
Maybe I find it scary because I’m not yet allowing myself to find it disappointing.