“Hey you! Yeah, you reading this. I hate you. Everything about you. I hope you die. I hope your family dies. I hope that you and your family get sick, tortured, dismembered, and then die, after a long, slow, and excruciatingly painful process. I hope it gets televised. I will get the popcorn ready and laugh hysterically as you scream in agony in front of a live studio audience. Afterwards, I will join the long procession to urinate on your grave before the huge dance party we’ll throw at the cemetery. I hope you like house music, because that’s what you’ll be hearing in hell (which I don’t really believe in, but if it exists, it’ll be specially created because of you and people like you).
Your crime? You have a different opinion than me. That alone is worthy of an eternity of torment and pain for you and everybody like you, even your small children. I’ll spare your pets, because animals are better than people. But the rest of you? Genocide is too good.
Oh, by the way, you really should go see the new movie I’m in. It explores similar themes. If you don’t spend money on it, then that means your grisly dismemberment and death, which I pray happens even though I don’t believe in God, is completely justified.”
* * *
The people who create mainstream culture hate you and want you dead, and they think it’s funny when awful stuff happens to you. They’re also, by and large, freaks and weirdos who have insanely disordered personal lives and monstrous appetites and vices.
Disgusting though they are, it’s no wonder they keep getting attention and adulation. For sure, a part of it is the big money behind them, as is their willingness to say and do anything to remain in the limelight. Their actual talent is a distant third or fourth consideration. But the big appeal is that they come off as cool. Edgy. Scratching the wish-fulfillment itch of the regular guy who wishes he was also a good-looking jetsetter hobnobbing with the bigwigs in art and fashion, living on the edges of legality and morality, taking what he wants . . . or at the very least someone who could make a living by having the fruits of their imagination and their opinions paid attention to.
These creative types, though . . . they’re brittle. If people don’t give them attention unconditional admiration, they freak out. I’m sure you’ve noticed a trend in the past ten years or fifteen that when a book or a movie or album or other piece of culture fails, its creators, as well as the moneymen behind it, blame the buying public for being too stupid, stubborn, misogynistic, or racist to understand it. Contrary to any evidence, this imagined boogeyman—usually in the form of a mid-30s, overweight, and slightly balding single white guy living in his proverbial mother’s basement in the suburbs—becomes the sole arbiter of any piece of art’s success or failure.
It’s a stunning bit of rhetorical sleight-of-hand that obfuscates the true issue: maybe it’s the product itself that is to blame for its poor reception.
Not that it matters. It seems that critical flops still do well enough commercially to warrant sequels, reboots, and the continued promotion of whomever created the thing in the first place. A large part of this is because sales don’t matter. And sales don’t matter because the point isn’t to make money, it’s to push a message.
This is not news to many very online people who pay attention to these sorts of things, especially if they fall on our side of the great divide. The reason is simple: We are talking about people who use art to push a moral crusade, not an economic one. And one cannot defeat a system of morality by babbling about money and free markets, the latter of which is just as mythical as the belief that biology has nothing to do with one’s sex.
* * *
Everybody knows the expression “preaching to the choir,” but as a refresher in these irreligious times, an explanation may help illustrate this axiom’s utility:
A “preacher” is another term for a “priest.” In the United States, as in Canada and Europe, the majority of this country used to be Christian, so we can assume for our purposes that this is a Christian priest standing at the altar or the pulpit, either reading passages from the Bible or delivering a sermon.
A “sermon,” by the way, is a lesson or explanation of a Biblical passage or principle.
A “choir” is a group of people that sing. Many Christian churches have a choir that sing hymns in praise of Jesus Christ. They tend to be regulars of a church, showing up every Sunday, and even on other Holy Days, to offer their services to the Lord and the congregation in equal measure.
If one is “preaching to the choir,” then one is delivering a lesson to people who are in church every Sunday and, presumably, already believe what you are telling them. In other words, the choir do not need convincing since their faith is already firm.
At least, this is the assumption implicit in the expression. There is another assumption, which is that the job of a priest is to convince or persuade people to be Christian in the first place. So in order to make one’s preaching effective, one has to either bring new people into the church, or go out of the church and preach unto the masses.
Do you see where I’m going with this?
* * *
The world of art and culture is full of creators who heap nothing but scorn, ridicule, and outright hatred on potential audiences for their work. If I had a dime for every time some writer or actor or musician earnestly and fervently wished that I, and people like me, were dead, I’d already be on the first rocket to Mars.
If you’re trying to change the culture, and you spend most of your time alienating a good chunk of your audience with vitriol and bile, you’ll be left with an audience of people who already agree with you and the message of your work. This is important in a way, because moral messages do need to be reiterated and reinforced among your congregation.
That’s wonderful, but I’m more interested in bringing new members into the fold. I want everybody to read what I write. I don’t care if they’re a pink-haired anarcho-socialist lesbian or a clean-cut pious Mormon. And then once they’re engaged in my work, hopefully they’ll understand what I’m trying to convey without being put off by it.
The question, as with everything, is “How?”
* * *
Very Online People fall into the trap of thinking that normal people understand what the hell it is that they’re talking about.
The truth about most people who exist in this country is that:
- They don’t know what you’re talking about;
- They don’t care; and
- They believe what they see on TV.
This doesn’t make them bad or evil. It just makes them normal. Your average Joe or Jane America has a job, loves their children, and wants nothing more than to live their lives free from crime, violence, sickness, and deprivation. They also still most likely harbor a residual level of trust in the institutions they were raised to believe had their best interests at heart. They also, in all likelihood, have some level of religious belief and patriotic sentiment.
Schools would never teach my kids—the white ones, at least—that they’re evil because of their skin color and deserve to be punished! Doctors would never seek to pump my children full of harmful chemicals, without my consent! Corporations, who are trying to make money, would never sell a product that could hurt or kill me and my family! Musicians and authors and moviemakers would never try to undermine my children’s faith in God and country . . . or mine as well!
And yet, they continue to patronize people that hate them. It’s a strange phenomenon until you realize that most culture is made so well that the message is hidden in the subtext and not shoved in people’s faces.
This is the tactic one has to take when attempting to preach outside of the choir. If it sounds like I’m advocating for hiding messages in your work, it’s because I am.
It has to be subtle. It has to be in service of an already good, well-constructed piece of art. And most of all, it has to be in service of the good, the beautiful, and the true. You have to think like an outlaw here. Big and bold professions of a political, religious, or philosophical point, especially esoteric and niche ones, are as likely to alienate as flat-out saying you think everybody different than you is a piece of human waste who deserves to be burned alive.
We are the pirates now. We are the Merry Men tweaking the Sheriff of Nottingham’s nose any way we can. We are the apocryphal sabots throwing our shoes into the machinery. Renegades one step ahead of the hangman. Dissidents surreptitiously dropping mimeographed samizdat on fellow-travelers’ doorsteps. Not asking permission. Flaunting the rules. Every shift in culture begins with a shift in mindset. Though small, our ideas can penetrate into hearts and minds of people who are thirsty for an alternative but don’t know where to look.
We lost. Now we have to start thinking like it.
Flood the zone. Come across as normal, competent, and sane. Physical fitness and aesthetic style are a plus. We’re not going to out-hate our opponents. Let them put on the clown suit and dance for daddy. We’ll point and laugh for a bit before completely ignoring them.
We have to be the cool kids.