What is this religious fascination with head gear? Every religion’s got a different fuckin’ hat. Did you ever notice that? The Hindus have a turban, the sheiks have a tall white turban, Jews have a yarmulke, Muslims have the keffiyah, the Bishop has a pointy hat on one day and a round hat on another day, Cardinal has a red hat, Pope has a white hat, everybody’s got a fuckin’ hat! One group takes them off, another group puts them on. Personally, I would not want to be a member of any group where you either have to wear a hat or you can’t wear a hat. I think all religions should have one rule, and one rule only: hats optional!

You ever notice that? Any time you see two groups of people who really hate each other, chances are good they’re wearing different kind of hats. Keep an eye on that, it might be important.

– George Carlin

Of course, “religion” is just another name for a certain type of ritual behavior common to people in groups; to wit:

After Al Stefanelli’s departure from Freethought Blogs, FtB boss PZ Myers posted a non-tribute to Al that spent more time calling Al’s friend Reap Paden a racist than it did remembering all the good things Al had done at Freethought Blogs.

A couple of Mr. Myers’ followers wasted no time in joining on what they saw as a Myers-sanctioned dogpile on Al, noting that you could tell the disabled author and journalist was “a douchebag” because of what he chose to wear on his head.

That’s not a joke, unfortunately; at least, not a consciously intended one. Here’s a composite of three comments by one member of the horde:

• Having never read Al’s blog (indeed, rarely reading much of FTB that isn’t linked back here in the various roundups), I decided to investigate.

So, pulling his up, the first thing I’m greeted with is his photo. The way he chooses to represent himself to the world.

White fedora, black plastic framed tinted lens glasses.

I hesitate to say “everyone who wears a fedora is a complete douchebag.” I’m sure someone could find a counter example, if they looked hard enough. I’d like, if I could, to put a finger on why it seems such a surefire marker of awfulness, but I’m struggling with that. I think perhaps it is the contempt it shows for contemporary fashion. Now, I’m no fashionista by any stretch of any imagination. I am in poor shape and t-shirt and jeans tend to be the limits of my wardrobe on most occasions. But the fedora thing seems different. Rather than simply bowing out and refusing to play the fashion game, it feels like insisting that your individual judgment of what looks good and cool somehow supersedes the judgment of the rest of society. Which is quite a different expression. I don’t know, this isn’t really a fully formed thought. But the modern fedora, in all it’s t-shirt matched “glory” is a particular marker which says something specific, even if I cannot put my finger on precisely what it says.

• Just saying. I know in person 5 people who regularly wear fedoras. Like all the time. All are white males. They are all varying degrees of misogynist. 3 of them are Ron Paul supporters.

• Sorry to have so offended you and your fedora, but choice of hat is not a protected group. And like Juggalo makeup, Beats By Dre headphones, and popped collars, people are both allowed and encouraged to draw inferences from the messages you send in fashion. This is why one does not wear sweatpants to a job interview.

Rather than praise, however, this overzealous attempt at ingratiation only earned a rebuke from the Peez himself:

Oh, and what’s with this idiocy about hats? Lots of different kinds of people wear fedoras…you can’t judge them by what they wear on their heads. My son has a very nice dark gray pinstriped fedora, and he’s a liberal campaigner for the Minnesota DFL. I’ve eyed a few hats now and then, and think a fedora is a nice classic design.

Ooo, that’s gotta sting. Honestly, though, take a close look at this piece of work; it’s quite amazing. He starts off by admitting that he only reads other blogs on the network when PZ tells him to. All he knows of Stefanelli is that he is apparently now on the FTB shitlist. He then constructs a rant around having seen one picture of him and having browsed three of his recent posts. He pauses, in a brief moment of self-awareness, to inform the reader of what they have likely concluded already, that he really hasn’t put any thought into what his fingers are typing, before he figures, fuck it; in for a penny, in for a pound, and tops it off by suggesting that wearing an article of unfashionable clothing is a perverse assertion of ignorant individuality against the collective wisdom of society, as if there has ever been a decade whose fashions weren’t viewed in hindsight with a mixture of amusement and horror. Well, I guess when you normally go to such ascetic extremes to avoid judging, stereotyping and giving offense to anyone for the “wrong” reasons, feeling liberated to indulge those urges at the expense of an official enemy must cause a massive rush of blood to the head.

This is actually a perfect encapsulation of what I hate about people, the Internet, and people on the Internet. This is what I mean when I repeatedly complain about posturing — people with nothing to say wasting so many words pretending to have deeply-felt, wittily-expressed opinions about irrelevant matters of taste so as to be accepted by whomever they’re trying desperately to impress. Of course he doesn’t really give a vague fuck about the supposed moral significance of fedoras, any more than most people give a vague fuck about Comic Sans, Nickelback and Creed, the shame of being a BlackBerry/Myspace/AOL user, or any of the other cheap and easy heuristics that they deride in lieu of saying something interesting. He just thought he saw an opportunity to make himself look clever. O nonexistent gods, deliver me from status-seeking, sycophantic morons attempting to be clever.