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Yes, Conservatives Are Hipsters, Too

There’s something a bit odd about this GOOD piece about two Christian hipsters who make influential conspiracy-theory oriented viral videos promoting everything from birtherism to Uganda’s anti-gay laws, and have what sounds like a wildly inflammatory anti-abortion movie coming out in February that they’re hoping will catch on because it has a majority-black cast:

Jason “Molotov” Mitchell and his wife, Patricia “DJ Dolce” Mitchell, look like hipsters. She wears a stylish dress and nose stud, her dark hair angled sharply around her face. Jason, who goes by Molotov both socially and professionally, sports a landscaped beard and a tattoo on his forearm that reads “zealot.” They are in tip-top physical condition, they say, because they teach krav maga, an Israeli Defense Force-perfected form of martial arts.

They are charismatic and engaging…I struggle to reconcile this information with the pleasant people I just met…Despite the violent rhetoric, the Mitchells are the friendliest — and some of the savviest — people I have ever interviewed. Avid followers of popular culture, they are not Quiverfull-style Christians who isolate themselves from outside influences. They want to emulate the Biblical mandate to “be in the world but not of it.” So they laugh at The Daily Show and mention that they would enjoy hanging out with Jon Stewart, whom they consider a political foe. Molotov says he wants to emulate Jesus, who, he says, spoke harshly before crowds but showed compassion when people approached him one-on-one.

After all, Christian hipsters have been getting the anthropological treatment at least since Jeff Sharlet wrote about the “New Virgin Army” in Rolling Stone in 2005, the same year the New York Times profiled Jay Bakker. Earlier this year, the paper looked at a hipster-tinged Lower East Side evangelical church. In other words, it’s not really news that people who have tattoos, piercings, good haircuts and cool clothes believe that Christ is their savior and adopt hipster aesthetics to reach their target audiences. Thinking like this is one of the reasons I think progressives need not to get lazy about culture: it’s not enough to assume that our aesthetics and narrative power are just going to keep automatically bringing people over to support good policies and progressive worldviews.

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And these things that we think are alluring and convincing, like humor, and storytelling, and multiethnic casting, and chunky glasses, and tattoos, or whatever? We are not alone, and we are not the only people who will figure out how to deploy them. It’s time to stop staring in wonder at the possibility that Cool Kids could think that Obama wasn’t born in the United States or that they’re not having sex until marriage and figure out how to make our own viral videos tighter, our own feature films more compelling to audiences who aren’t getting served by mainstream movies, and our novels more convincing.