It’s hard out there for a hipster.
Casual slurs against gimme-cap wearers have long been a way of life in New York, but a series of recent events may have marginalized an entire class of people who are just trying to crown the best album of the second-half of the third week of the month in peace.
Last month, a “Help Wanted” ad was placed in the window of Vinnie’s Pizzeria in Williamsburg, barring applications from people who need “weekends off because you have a gallery opening.” A month ago, CNN saw fit to publicize an obscure poll of Mac and PC users to insinuate that the former are “elitist and more pretentious” due to their preference for hummus and red wine. And at the end of April, an artists’ collective living in a “trailer park” in Bushwick was forcefully disbanded, requiring a Red Cross intervention to assist the internally displaced artists, musicians, and fire jugglers.
As bad as it’s been, the real “j’accuse” came on May 11, when a Metro cover story suggested that activist vegans and their ilk had bankrupted the city.
“Hipsters to blame for billions of dollars in Census losses?” the headline asked.
In the article itself, hipsters got no comfort from their own elected official even. Councilwoman Diana Reyna (D–Bushwick) attributed the city’s census undercount to — her word — “hipster” apathy.
What’s going on here? Has bigotry against the bearded become officially sanctioned by the state?
Unlikely, perhaps, but it’s not unimaginable that the authorities begin asking, “Have you ever gushed over Charles Bukowski?” to anyone with a 11206 ZIP code.
Vinnie’s Pizzeria manager Dan Clayton denied that his hiring practices are discriminatory or that he hates hipsters. Indeed, some of his best friends are hipsters!
“It’s more like a preference,” he said. “Some of my employees are band members.”
Robert Lanham, author of “The Hipster Handbook” and founder of the website, FREEwilliamsburg, understands the pizzeria’s frustration.
“I think that’s one of those things people are fed up with — not living in the real world,” he said.
Lanham says he personally does not condone discrimination against anyone, even hipsters, though he did offer one universally accepted exception: “People who are into jam bands.”
Until recently, serious anti-hipsterism was mostly confined to the Urban Outfitters bookshelf, where titles such as “Look at that F—ing Hipster” found a welcome home. As of late, however, the malice seems to be growing ever more mainstream — and virulent. Not only are councilmembers denouncing their own constituents, diehipster.com, the web’s foremost epicenter of flannel-based animus, openly fantasizes about “hipster beatings.”
Today, I heard a salamander-physiqued [sic], rooftop farming, MacBook D.J./fusion chef gasping for air,” one poster wrote. “So I took my Timberland off his neck and poured a Liquid Plumber latte down his throat. End of story.”
The shadowy crusader behind the site — who will say only that he’s “a guy born and raised in Brooklyn” — is unrepentant. And, he’s hardly an irrelevant crank, frequently receiving more than 50 comments on postings, the majority of them like-minded in their eliminationist rhetoric.
“[Hipsterism] is a social disease,” he said.
No latte poisonings were reported, but the Williamsburg-Bushwick borderland was the site of a several real-life “hipster robberies” just a few weeks ago. Residents of the McKibbin lofts, a well-known stronghold of organic soy supporters, were robbed at gunpoint three times in four days. It may have just been a crime of opportunity — The Brooklyn Paper reported that “few residents are taking necessary [security] precautions” — or it may have been a bona fide hipster hit.
Given this mounting climate of hate, what’s a suspender-clad, 14th-century Bulgarian lit major to do?
According to Brooklyn Law School professor Bill Araiza, local mustache enthusiasts have little legal recourse against their persecutors. New York’s Hate Crimes Act of 2000 provides protection against “crimes motivated by invidious hatred toward particular groups,” but it’s “really, really hard to prove” that someone has been discriminated against due to association with a particular “scene” (i.e. goths, Dave Matthews Band fans, seersucker aficionados).
Additionally, diehipster.com’s “beatings” are likely shielded by no less a ’zine than the U.S. Constitution. “The First Amendment provides a lot of protection for incendiary speech,” said Araiza. “There’d have to be speech that counseled imminent lawless action — not abstract or implied.”