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Think George Mallory’s take on trying to climb Mount Everest: “because it’s there”

“You were so preoccupied with whether or not you could that you didn’t stop to think if you should.”

“It’ll be the farthest I’ve ever been.”
“It’ll be the farthest I’ve ever been.”

Dear Hipster:

As I understand it, one of the most powerful motivating forces in the hipster universe is “wouldn’t it be funny if…” Invoking this ironic catchphrase still seems to justify doing all kinds of absurd things, no matter how much it seems like there isn’t any room left for irony in the world. But, if I may paraphrase Jurassic Park, “You were so preoccupied with whether or not you could that you didn’t stop to think if you should.” Sometimes, I fear this attitude leads to me and pretty much everyone else wanting to say, “Yeah, could you just @#*&ing not?!” Is there any force that counteracts the hipster desire to engage in perpetual ironic brinksmanship?

— Patricio

The temptation to do something for no other reason than “because I can” sometimes leads to inspired feats of greatness: think George Mallory’s take on trying to climb Mount Everest, regardless of whether or not he actually said the thing about climbing the world’s tallest mountain “because it’s there.” Taken to its other extreme, this logic can breed absolute madness. It’s how we ended up with a YouTube video edit of The Lord of the Rings “but every time Sam takes a step towards Mordor he says it’ll be the farthest he’s ever been,” which is (a) a real thing; (b) exactly what it sounds like; and (c) nine hours long.

Clearly, somebody was so preoccupied with whether or not he could that he didn’t stop to think if he should, which has more in common than you’d think with internet scams. Pick any old internet scam you can think of — from the classic “Nigerian prince” to the simplistic “you need to reset your password” to the more modern “lose fifty pounds overnight with this one weird trick” — because they all work on the same principle of targeting millions of people and hoping one or two actually fall for it.

From a perspective of pure pragmatism, there’s really no practical downside to orchestrating an internet scam. The necessary cash outlay is low, the potential reward is great, and the realistic probability of being prosecuted as a filthy internet criminal is approximately zero. Other than a lack of technical sophistication, which is probably remediable by an afternoon of self-directed study, the only thing truly stopping the average person from going into the scam business is self-control and a sense of decency.

Yup, that’s right. The only thing standing between you, me, and the easy lucre of internet scams is that we consider ourselves too good to get into the scam game. This self-imposed limitation is not really that much different than whatever it is that makes most of us realize we shouldn’t recut The Lord of the Rings so every time Sam takes a step towards Mordor he says it’ll be the farthest he’s ever been. The only thing stopping any given hipster from doing any given insane and/or inane thing is not wanting to be that hipster.

And even that probably doesn’t get us that far, because even if 100 hipsters think better of doing something, there’s always going to be that one guy who doesn’t listen to the little voice inside telling him ‘No.’ So there you have it. All day, every day, you’re living at the mercy of some hipster’s better judgment, which you may not be able to count on in the long run.

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“It’ll be the farthest I’ve ever been.”
“It’ll be the farthest I’ve ever been.”

Dear Hipster:

As I understand it, one of the most powerful motivating forces in the hipster universe is “wouldn’t it be funny if…” Invoking this ironic catchphrase still seems to justify doing all kinds of absurd things, no matter how much it seems like there isn’t any room left for irony in the world. But, if I may paraphrase Jurassic Park, “You were so preoccupied with whether or not you could that you didn’t stop to think if you should.” Sometimes, I fear this attitude leads to me and pretty much everyone else wanting to say, “Yeah, could you just @#*&ing not?!” Is there any force that counteracts the hipster desire to engage in perpetual ironic brinksmanship?

— Patricio

The temptation to do something for no other reason than “because I can” sometimes leads to inspired feats of greatness: think George Mallory’s take on trying to climb Mount Everest, regardless of whether or not he actually said the thing about climbing the world’s tallest mountain “because it’s there.” Taken to its other extreme, this logic can breed absolute madness. It’s how we ended up with a YouTube video edit of The Lord of the Rings “but every time Sam takes a step towards Mordor he says it’ll be the farthest he’s ever been,” which is (a) a real thing; (b) exactly what it sounds like; and (c) nine hours long.

Clearly, somebody was so preoccupied with whether or not he could that he didn’t stop to think if he should, which has more in common than you’d think with internet scams. Pick any old internet scam you can think of — from the classic “Nigerian prince” to the simplistic “you need to reset your password” to the more modern “lose fifty pounds overnight with this one weird trick” — because they all work on the same principle of targeting millions of people and hoping one or two actually fall for it.

From a perspective of pure pragmatism, there’s really no practical downside to orchestrating an internet scam. The necessary cash outlay is low, the potential reward is great, and the realistic probability of being prosecuted as a filthy internet criminal is approximately zero. Other than a lack of technical sophistication, which is probably remediable by an afternoon of self-directed study, the only thing truly stopping the average person from going into the scam business is self-control and a sense of decency.

Yup, that’s right. The only thing standing between you, me, and the easy lucre of internet scams is that we consider ourselves too good to get into the scam game. This self-imposed limitation is not really that much different than whatever it is that makes most of us realize we shouldn’t recut The Lord of the Rings so every time Sam takes a step towards Mordor he says it’ll be the farthest he’s ever been. The only thing stopping any given hipster from doing any given insane and/or inane thing is not wanting to be that hipster.

And even that probably doesn’t get us that far, because even if 100 hipsters think better of doing something, there’s always going to be that one guy who doesn’t listen to the little voice inside telling him ‘No.’ So there you have it. All day, every day, you’re living at the mercy of some hipster’s better judgment, which you may not be able to count on in the long run.

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