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The Cretin Hop

A taste of the sordid cheesiness of Coney Island.

By 9.13.07

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This article appears in the September 2007 issue of The American Spectator. To subscribe to our monthly print edition, click here.

"EXCUSE ME, CAN I TAKE YOUR PICTURE?" The man asking this question is tattooed and lizard-like, dressed completely in black, with horribly manicured facial hair. You can guess he works for a free paper, one he probably designs in a Port Authority restroom. He's wearing a leather vest, under which his hairy belly has poked through.

Damn. For a minute there, I thought I had been recognized. I am, after all, the host of a television show that airs nightly. But alas, this cretin was not asking me, but talking to my co-worker/pal Josh. "I'm doing a photo story on sun glasses," the freak adds, "and I really like yours." My guess is this is just a ploy to get Josh's phone number. After all, we're at an event sponsored by the Village Voice.

We are standing in front of the Cyclone, an aging, mildly dangerous rollercoaster -- which gives you an idea of where I might be. My wife and I, along with Josh, are at the Village Voice Siren Festival, a free all-day music event smack dab in the middle of the decaying emblem of family fun, Coney Island. The concert, featuring the New York Dolls -- an aging punk outfit fronted by David Johanson, who is looking more and more like a decrepit Glenda Jackson -- and MIA, a Sri Lankan hip hop artist, among others, has drawn a crowd of aging and semi-aging hipsters, all dressed or partially dressed in vintage surplus, leather, and twine. The garish tattoos arrive in the thousands, revealing as always that sheepish conformity is alive and well among Voice readers. My guess is no one here watches my show, or the Fox News Channel (where it airs) -- but if they did, they wouldn't admit it. That would be more rebellious than, say, a woman with orange hair, cradling a dog with blue hair.

And there she is, standing in front of me, and the wretched dog is baking in the hot sun on a humid Saturday afternoon. The woman's mascara is running -- and she now appears to be a weeping Goth about to make an animal sacrifice. The California band We Are Scientists is just finishing its last song above a sea of nodding heads, and I realize I am surrounded by all the people in the world I hate.

If you can imagine making the sordid cheesiness of Coney Island worse, simply fill it with crusty hipsters in board shorts, wallet chains, and tats. As the roadies break down the set, we make our way onto Surf Avenue to find booze. I look around and see that the only people enjoying themselves are the families, oblivious to the concert, lining up to get on the Cyclone. Me, I'm lining up for a Heineken, which, unlike the Cyclone, seems safe. "Six bucks," says the rough-looking gent behind the counter, busy poking at cobs of corn in a boiler. I pay him the cash for the beer. Then Josh approaches and orders the same thing. "Three bucks."

Maybe I look like an out-of-towner. It must be my vacation hat.

If it's possible to actually create a frozen drink that arrives warm, we've found it -- a strawberry daiquiri I've just bought my wife for ten bucks. It came in a long plastic glass shaped like a giant ear wash. It doesn't taste good, but it's got to be loads better than what the man in front of me just ingested. A chunky punk in black garb, he's cradling his face, which, to the casual observer, seems to be pulsating. Perhaps he's a victim of an excruciatingly bad mushroom trip. Or, maybe, he had a hot dog. I've had two, and I don't feel so hot.

The concert is open to all ages, but for the most part I see people in their 30s, trying to act like people in their 20s who think it's the '60s. This is the Village Voice personified -- pointing fingers at the man, signifying nothing. All of these cretins like to pretend they're unique, in their anti-Bush T-shirts, but Josh and I know better. We both work at Fox News Channel. We're the rebels here. The rest of these folks are impostors.

Someone famous once gave some very important career advice, which went something like, "Find something you do well, and do it the rest of your life." Or, wait, maybe it was, "Find something you like doing, and do that for the rest of your life." No, no, no... maybe it was, "Find something that people need, and make them pay for it." I wish I could remember, but maybe it's a combination: "Find something you do well and get paid until you don't want to do it anymore." I like that one -- because it probably likes me. The thing I do well, and the thing I like doing, is identifying cretins. I am a "cretin identifier," an occupation that I am pretty certain anyone who writes for or reads The American Spectator also dabbles in, however unintentionally.

HERE IS HOW A CRETIN IDENTIFIER does his job: He does or says something that causes outcry, anger, and threats from people who are almost always on the wrong side of everything. I learned how to do this best on the Huffington Post, the left-wing blog run by Arianna, the modern matriarch of moonbattery. By simply writing something that pointed out the folly of progressivism, or, more specifically, the inherent hypocrisy of an environmentalist flying on a private jet to give a speech about hybrid cars, the comments would range from personal threats to lurid comments about my family. I have never met these people face to face -- but I know what they look like. They're all here at Coney Island, trying to appear edgy but looking desperately dull.

That's why you need to identify them. Because, as I can see here today, they all hide behind a uniform. The joy found in identifying cretins: exposing those who use a protective stereotype to cloak their own cruelty. The more downtown hip you look, the more of a jerk you are. A progressive is just a mugger who can't afford a weapon.

I always say that there's no one more dangerous or poisonous to a family than if one of the kin turns out to be progressive, or a Village Voice reader. He will tell you, over the course of many hours, how important it is to have proper irrigation in Third World countries, and he will tell you how he is going to make that happen -- probably by running a workshop at the Learning Annex. But then, of course, back home -- he's late on his rent, he doesn't buy butter, and he eats all of his roommates' food. He continues to borrow money from friends (and never repays), while spending it on pot -- and hasn't cleaned the bathroom in years. But if you ask him, he'll describe himself as "selfless." He'll say he only thinks of others, i.e., those he's never met. The other "others" -- those who actually have to deal with him -- want to dismember him with a dull butter knife.

That's the definition of modern progressiveness: thinking globally, but screwing over everyone else locally. This is why, in any family where there is a problem child (or these days, problem adult) -- the kind that squanders parental love and opportunity in a quest for self-aggrandizement -- he or she is almost always an activist. And he or she almost always stinks. After many years, however, their own self-belief wanes, and they kill themselves. See Abbie Hoffman.

Or worse, don't see him. The ones that don't kill themselves are more corrosive, for they actually fulfill their promise to make an impact. And it never helps. How has Bob Geldof's Live Aid assisted Africa? Well, aside from lining the pockets of thugs, fanatics, and dictators, I don't have a clue. Through their charitable efforts, Geldof and Bono both have bought some pretty fancy cars for some really awful people.

Right-wingers and right-leaning libertarians would never think of screwing over their families and friends when it comes to financial or chore obligations. In fact, they pride themselves on being completely, 100 percent dependable. They pay for their drinks, and they'll take care of your plants when you're away. And they won't record over your only copy of America's Best Sports Bloopers. That's because they're nice.

And that's the most comical irony of modern-day liberals: They are not nice. And they can't be. A progressive must be tolerant of everyone and everything, and that turns them into witless monsters. Or cretins. And so I go out of my way to meet them, here at a Village Voice event on Coney Island. In one afternoon, as a cretin-identifier, I've nailed about seven or eight thousand. That's like a month's work done in one evening.

I should probably take a break and buy my wife dinner. And not a hot dog. Something classier. Chicken wings. That'll work.

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About the Author

Greg Gutfeld, is a co-host on Fox News’ The Five and the host of Red Eye.