The Vice Magazine Agenda
Vice Magazine is starting to scare me. It used to just be annoying, since all I did was skim through, seeing the obnoxious and profane content but only paying attention to the latest sneaker ads. It’s a free magazine, so I didn’t feel bad just ad surfing. On the surface it’s yet another hipster lifestyle magazine with snippets of content sandwiched between Puma, Triple 5 Soul, and American Apparel full page glossies.
The slightest additional reading shows that the writers think being casually racist, homophobic, and misogynistic is hilarious. They do it all under the great forgiving umbrella of irony. It’s as if they think its okay to say “negro” if they employ a black staff member who is cool with it or acceptable to objectify women as long as their girlfriends don’t complain. The scary part is how many people buy into this idea that irony can whitewash hateful remarks, without looking at the real agenda of Vice Magazine. It would be bad enough if the editors held the attitude that they’re so progressive they can transcend political correctness because it’s assumed, but the goal seems to be more about pushing subversive conservative ideals than misguided liberal comedy.
Yesterday my temper on the issue was flared more than usual because of an article in the otherwise fine online design criticism website Design Observer. Nick Currie, aka Momus, posted an article on the latest issue of Vice, dubbed “The Design Issue”. He’s also an occasionally writer for Vice and you can find him being an apologist for their brand of humor on numerous message boards and his own weblog. This fluff piece preemptively forgives the off-color humor and gushingly provides Vice with more credibility than it ever deserved:
And could it be that Vice’s irreverence is something, you know, alive, its nihilist bile a sign that someone, you know, cares?
There is some backlash in the comments, but others are just giddy that they mentioned kerning. Michael Bierut might have put it best when he refrains from giving his opinion but provides an eye opening comment on the magazine:
Whether you love or hate Vice, they’ve nailed a very specific zeitgeist and their audience knows it.
That’s where the scary part is for me; could the Vice attitude actually be a prevailing summary of current youth attitudes? Vice cofounder Gavin McInnes penned a piece in The American Conservative entitled Hip to Be Square, It’s getting cooler to be conservative. He talks about how more and more people are defending the conservative viewpoints put forth by Vice, mentions the word “Hipublicans”, and ends with the following quote:
They are slowly but surely being replaced with a new breed of kid that isn’t afraid to embrace conservatism. I’m not saying I had anything to do with this newborn counterculture, but I do have this strange compulsion to start handing out cigars to all my friends.
A month after stumping for “The New Conservatives” in that article McInnes let’s loose some insightful quotes in a piece the New York Times did on Vice:
He actually leans much further to the right than the Republican Party. His views are closer to a white supremacist’s. “I love being white and I think it’s something to be very proud of,” he said. “I don’t want our culture diluted. We need to close the borders now and let everyone assimilate to a Western, white, English-speaking way of life.”
Additionally, in his Hip to Be Square article he brags of their Cassandra Report trend-spotting credibility which says that their “magazine is the number one read for women aged 19-24 and for men aged 25-30.” This reach and influence is where things get scarier. I believe that the mixing of ironic hipsterism with casual racism and conservative ideology is meant as a subversive conversation technique. The Vice empire is growing, with magazines oversees, a record label, a storefront, and more. As the publication reaches outside of the liberal strongholds it was started in the “oh so laughably ironic” comments are going to be seen and accepted more and more for what they are — just plain racist, sexist, and homophobic. What I’m worried about is that there will be no backlash and this mixing of hip and hate will have either a reflective or eroding effect on its readers — both of which are dangerous. Have you noticed how college campuses are becoming less and mess open minded? Did you notice all the Bush/Cheney stickers on young people’s cars? Are the Hipublicans really gaining in force? Are the young, hip, and apolitical being weaned towards conservatism through magazines like Vice?
I’m writing this because I wanted to compile the various links on the subject in one place, but also because I know plenty of people who read the magazine regularly. I’m asking you to think a little more critically about it, and question whether it’s worth picking up. I know that it’s free, but being seen with it is your payment to them. It survives because it’s popular with people like you and I.