Greg Gutfeld has a new book out titled “Not Cool: The Hipster Elite and Their War on You,” which we have been covering extensively at Blaze Books.
Yesterday we spoke with Gutfeld about his new book, along with a wide range of topics ranging from Greg’s reverence for religion and the church despite his non-religiosity, to bullying to the NSA. Below is the transcript from our phone interview which has been edited for length and clarity. All links are ours.
Make your pitch to Blaze readers for why they should pick up a book that’s called “Not Cool?”
Gutfeld: Because I think it’s about them. It’s about me. It’s about anyone who wonders why people do dumb things, because the one reigning principle in acting stupid is a desire to be liked, or a desire to be seen as cool. That’s why people do things that aren’t good. How do you convince somebody to do something that’s bad for them? You tell them that it’s cool. And it sounds like it’s not a new idea, but actually I don’t think anyone’s really traced it through all different areas from academia to media to government to pop culture, politics, so I try to show how the cool mindset once it permeates society becomes kind of deadly and destructive.
If there were one or two key takeaways from the book, what would they be?
Gutfeld: To resist the idea of subversion, and instead subvert the subverter. The path to cool is always about undermining the normal, undoing tradition, because to the hip and cool whatever comes before is old and stupid. And so you have to resist that urge to be accepted, to be liked, you have to instead subvert the subverter. Be happy in embracing the common sense or the tradition. Be proud that you’re in the military or that you got a good job and that you actually build things. Don’t be embarrassed that you happen to be religious. These are things that are always undermined by the cool.
By the way this isn’t about fashion. I think a lot of people mistake – because when you use the word “hipster” – they think of the goatees and the nose rings. But it’s not about that. It’s about a mindset. I’d say the Brooklyn hipster is probably a sub-segment of this kind of destructive academia-media-government complex. But it’s more about an idea than it is a person. And it’s a destructive one. And it’s always about undermining tradition in all parts of life.
I mean you see it right now I think in foreign policy. You know what happens when a person, an educated person, has spent most of his life being educated that your country, the United States, is the villain. Their exceptionalism is what’s wrong with the world, and if we only retreated and fixed what was inside of us, the world would appreciate it. The world would be a better place. And the world would be a better place primarily because we’re not there.
And so, what is the consequence of that? There’s not much of a consequence if that person stays on campus. But when that person leaves campus and enters the White House, does that have an effect? The idea that somehow America is equally to blame, if not more to blame for the world’s problems, that that somehow must infect the way you think about how to deal with things like Russia, or Venezuela, or Iran…it makes you “lead from behind.” Which in some ways means you don’t lead at all.
One of the parts of your book that I thought was really compelling and interesting was your discussion of the virtues of religion in general and Mormonism specifically. Expand a little bit on that.
Gutfeld: Well you know the thing is I am non-religious. I wouldn’t say that I am an atheist. I would say that I just don’t know. I haven’t been to church in years. But there is one thing I know, and that is that the church is a positive influence in communities, in terms of encouraging charity, and neighborly concern. It’s an important thing. I mean it’s what I had when I was growing up – you saw your neighbors, it got you out of the house. If you worked at the Church as an altar boy like I did you got to know everybody. You knew who died and who was sick because you were always at funerals and…it was a community thing.
We are moving away from that and there have been studies that are out now that are talking about how people are becoming as they get more involved with technology they are moving away from these community-based groups. And I think that this is dangerous and we have nothing to replace what worked before. And religion does work for a lot of people and has helped a lot of people in society, and when we subvert it, what kind of traditions are you going to replace it with?
That’s why I really like Alain de Botton, a great philosopher-writer who’s an atheist, and he talks about this a lot. He argues, “Religion is a good thing even if you’re an atheist, so what are you gonna do about it? How are you gonna replace it?” You know, you can’t just trash something and then think that life goes on because it doesn’t. It’s a valuable thing. You need religion for atheists I guess is what he’s getting at.
I talk about Mitt Romney in the book and this is a guy who gives a lot of money to charity (and I kind of wrote about how I knew almost nothing about Mormonism) and I talked to my friend Walter Kirn about it. He’s a great writer, and we went back and forth on e-mail about when he became a Mormon. It’s just stuff I didn’t know. And you don’t know about it because they don’t brag about it. They don’t talk about it. And I think that’s you know – Mitt Romney never really came out and said yes I do this, I do this and I do this. He didn’t and so maybe that harmed him, I don’t know. But they’re fairly humble about that sort of stuff.