For better or worse, Vice Czechoslovakia was launched last night into a variety of clubs, bars, Chinese restaurants, and backpacker hangs that surround Dlouha street in Prague. I wandered to one launch place – the three tier Chapeau Rouge, a medieval grifter version of the Ludlow Street Knitting Factory with Brazil-like steampunk accents, to see who the physical audience for said magazine was. I fought from the ground floor ABBA bounce to the basement drum and bass meltdown and subbasement indie rock cavern, where I found a small group of friends and hung watching what might be best described as a continual onslaught of awkward study abroad kids and the occasional Czech posse pushing their way to and fro.We went to watch a DJ friend when the indie rock cleared, and her hypernot mix of bounce and epic trance failed to enchant the awkwards, who stood staring at the tiny stage while they barely registered the beat with their bodies. 2am, the occasional snakey hustler winds through the crowd, a girl in a keffiyeh starts the floor going, the music settles a bit and they're off. Still it was a sad grind, and I wandered out without a glimpse of the madness supposed to cling to the magazine's gatherings. Instead it felt like a desperate attempt to make the madness, an attempt that felt like every other night of desperate fun for undergrads abroad in the bowels of a seedy Czech club, which is to say...pretty boring.
I am aware that I have been watching various iterations of the Vice launch party for a decade now as this brand of transnational post-PC hipster cool (pace Nathan Barley) finds local adherents willing to do all the money raising and content so they can be associated with the global brand. Like any "new" media form though, Vice has excelled at making its audience from its own pages, not so subtly showing them the values, attitudes, postures, and materials they need to participate in their world, which my friend Luke used to refer to as "cool kid usa." Who are the people who Vice sees as its potential subjects for transformation? And who are the people who brought the magazine here? I spoke to one of them the other day in a bar, and when I asked if the kind of values represented in Vice will take hold in Czech youth she said something to the effect of "we are arrogant enough to think yes." It was actually the first time I had ever heard anyone in the Czech Republic use the word "arrogance" positively to describe themselves...so there's the beginning of an answer.