IN CONVERSATION: VICE Founder Gavin McInnes Breaks Down Everything Wrong with Millennial Culture
Gavin McInnes is a writer, actor, comedian, and entrepreneur, best known for having been the creative brain behind VICE from 1994 to 2007. He has been known to polarize and offend, but more importantly, do so while being fucking hilarious. He is the host of The Gavin McInnes Show (airing 4 days a week on The Anthony Cumia Network) and the star of the 2012 comedy How To Be A Man.
This is my exchange with Gavin McInnes.
Jayme Karales for CLASH: First off, I want to give you belated props for your memoir How to Piss in Public. It was one of the more entertaining non-fiction books I’ve read in recent memory. In it, you cover a lot of your youth; numerous cringey experiences, your association with punk culture, and some of your social/political ideologies of the time. Given that, naturally, a lot of your views have changed, what I’m curious about is, where did Gavin age ~20 see himself at 45?
Gavin McInnes: I probably saw myself still singing in punk bands and that Me would probably be disappointed to see this Me on Fox News, but I’d sit him down and explain to him I’m still the same punk rocker I always was. A libertarian is just an anarchist who did his homework. I still want smaller government. I’m still an idealist. I just think it’s stupid for feminism to waste time bitching about microaggressions in “the comments” when there are hundreds of honor killings and even genital mutilations going on in the West right now. I’m still anti-racist but I realize welfare has done more harm to the black family than corrupt cops ever could. I’m still an environmentalist who opposes war, which is why I’m pro-fracking and want ethical oil from Canada instead of the Middle East. The list goes on. “Socially liberal and fiscally conservative” is really just a fancy way of saying “punk,” especially when being honest about these subjects offends virtually everyone.
KARALES: Were you someone who was naturally drawn to writing as a primary outlet of expression or did another medium lead you to it, where you realized, ‘You know, I’m pretty fucking good at this.’
McINNES: I think it was Bukowski who said you should only write if you can’t not write. I stumbled into writing because when we started Vice, all the contributors had this affected tone that made them sound like baby Hunter Thompsons. It was easier to write it myself and I quickly became addicted to how rewarding it is. You’re always improving and the potential is limitless. It’s like learning to play piano or speak Japanese. I look back at articles from even a few years ago and wince at the lack of rhythm or wit. Then I read Jim Goad or Ann Coulter and get inspired to try again. English isn’t the prettiest language but it’s utilitarian and you can do a lot more with an army knife than you can do with a peacock feather.
KARALES: In 1994, you established Vice. In 2007, you left due to ‘creative differences.’ Afterward, you really seemed to come into your own as an independent media personality. You founded Rooster, wrote and starred in the movie How To Be A Man – among other films, and released the memoir I mentioned above. What was your mindset like between that period, where you had just exited out of ownership of Vice and were on the verge of a creative explosion?
McINNES: I don’t give a shit if something I say makes someone upset but it sucks when it messes with someone else’s life. At Vice, I’d come up with a funny idea like doing a fashion shoot with people actually having sex and then some sales dude would explain it lost him Toyota and that’s basically half his rent every month. I don’t like being responsible for other people. After selling my shares, I wasn’t beholden to anyone. I could say or do whatever I wanted and if anyone had a problem with it I could say, “Go fuck yourself” and skip home. This makes for better art because it’s purer.
The one exception to all this would be when we sold Rooster to the multinational Havas and they quickly claimed we had to be shut down due to some article I wrote about transphobia. I felt bad for the other guys at first but we soon realized the whole thing was a ruse to cut us loose because we weren’t making them enough money.
KARALES: As someone who has started a number of successful ventures, is there any single piece of advice that isn’t often doled out anytime this question is asked that you’d offer to aspiring or inexperienced entrepreneurs?
McINNES: Yes, fail. For every successful business venture I’ve had, there have been at least twelve in the toilet. Rooster NY did well but nobody’s heard of Stranger NY, our other venture. I thought Street Carnage was going to be Funny or Die or Tim and Eric at first. How to be a Man did great but it was really the culmination of half a dozen failed pilots I did with 20th Century Fox (and there will be many more.) Nas and I sold Swarm to Groupon for a ton of money but my restaurant The Cardinal NYC tanked.
If you look at any successful entrepreneur from Tony Maglica who created Maglite flashlights to Leatherman’s Tim Leatherman to the Roeblings who built the Brooklyn Bridge, they kept getting kicked in the balls by reality and they kept getting back up again. It’s obviously a ton of work making money but it’s also resilience. Think of it as a brutal obstacle course. Every time you make it past some dangerous nightmare, know there are a thousand guys who would have given up at that point. Now the competition is that much slimmer. The longer you go, the less people there are like you. When you make it to the end, you get a million bucks.
KARALES: Recently you joined The Anthony Cumia Network to launch The Gavin McInnes Show, a biweekly talk show aired through a subscription based service on Cumia’s website. How did you link up with Cumia and what have been some of the perks of working on that platform?
McINNES: I met Cumia when we were doing Fox News. We went out for beers after Red Eye one night and he said, “When did telling the truth become so offensive.” It was around the time the term “hate facts” was coined. We bonded immediately so when he stared a network after being fired from Sirius for racism, having a guy who was fired for transphobia made perfect sense. We were both spewing hate facts and now we can do it on a daily basis with no filters whatsoever. I had a porn star on who used to be an engineer and she fingered herself while discussing the use of cryogenics in optics. I had David Duke discuss the importance of a paleo diet, and I had a guy tattoo an ass on my ass, and that ass has a tattoo of an ass on it. I honestly don’t think anyone has had this big of a platform with this kind of freedom before, ever (well, maybe Larry Flint but he got shot).
KARALES: On your show you often talk about how society — especially millennials — are starting to soften and regress; they’re gripping hold of nostalgia like it’s a childhood blanket and making it commonplace in adult life. Can you elaborate a little bit about why you think this ‘slowed maturity’ is detrimental to society and what you view as the potential long-term effects of that?
McINNES: They used to drag out adolescence well into adulthood but now they’re taking their entire childhood with them. They pretend to be Batman on their X-Box and have serious discussions about The Simpsons while wearing a Wolverine shirt and an Adventure Time hat. When I was their age, I was clamoring to get out of the house at 18 but millennials aren’t prepared for that kind of poverty because they never had jobs. This is no small deal. If you didn’t have shitty jobs in your formative years, you don’t develop an economic libido. Without that, you can’t be an entrepreneur and without entrepreneurs, we’re all doomed.
KARALES: Over the years you’ve been one of the boldest speakers in defending free speech without limitation. It’s gotten you in trouble, but you’ve managed to bounce back every time. It’s no secret that today’s generation is seemingly more concerned with sensitivity towards others and dancing around words and phrases in fear of being wrongly accused of ‘micro-aggressions’ and such. Do you see this trend of overly-PC attitudes becoming a staple—since it did start with the youth—or do you think the next generation will reject the current one’s values—as they so often do—and say, “Fuck that, I’ll say whatever I want.”
McINNES: I keep getting these young people email me and tell me to remove their posts from my site. The reasons are often as benign as, “I was young and dumb then and I don’t like them.” It’s a remarkably naïve assumption to make and I think it’s part of the digital age.
The days of public shaming are coming to a close. There are too many examples of someone sinning and as Lenore Skenazy put it when she came up with Leave Your Kids at the Park Day, “They can’t arrest us all.” Soon, the masses will realize there’s nothing to be ashamed of and will ditch their anonymity to make their voices count. Without ownership it’s all just a meaningless message in a bottle.
We’re already seeing this with stand-up comedy. Go to a show at Stand Up NY or The Stand and there are plenty of rape jokes and terrorist jokes and racial stuff.
KARALES: Also, to completely shoehorn in an unrelated question, with the election coming up – which candidate has the most potential to ruin this country?
McINNES: Obviously Bernie Sanders because he doesn’t understand the merits of capitalism and that’s the same as not understanding America. Socialism doesn’t suit us.
KARALES: Aside from The Gavin McInnes Show, do you have any other projects in the works or coming out soon? And where can people find you and your writing online?
McINNES: My three bosses are Anthony Cumia, Taki Theodoracopulos, and Ezra Levant. I couldn’t do much better than this group of guys especially when it comes to free speech. Each one of them has lost millions standing up for what they believe in. Outside of those three jobs, I’m writing a book on free speech called Hate Facts and we’re adapting How to be a Man into a regular TV show. There’s probably a ton of other stuff I’m forgetting. There always is.
McInnes also included a list of ‘required reading’ following the interview.
- Who Built That? by Michelle Malkin
ON YOUR FORMATIVE YEARS
- The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead by Charles Murray
ON SOCIAL MEDA
- So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson
ON WESTERN CULTURE
- The Death of the West by Pat Buchanan
- Coming Apart: The State of White America by Charles Murray
- The Redneck Manifesto by Jim Goad
- Adios, America by Ann Coulter
- America Alone by Mark Steyn