Book of the week: Jim Goad’s The Headache Factory

Well, I haven’t finished any books this week, but hey, last week’s book blog was about something I read last year so let’s continue that trend, eh?

I’m a big fan of Jim Goad’s. I have a bunch of his books, read his Taki’s Magazine column all the time and his pieces elsewhere, listened to his Group Hug podcast, and even was in his now-defunct Facebook group.

But I never was the sort of obsessed fan that has often plagued Jim and inspired his book The Headache Factory: True Tales of Online Obsession & Madness.

Dear God… some people need hobbies… real ones, I mean, like gardening or basketweaving or even competitive hot-dog eating. Hell, even nose-picking. Anything but going nutso and stalking people whose creative output they like.

And as I mentioned here, I, uh, might have a bit of an inkling of what it’s like to be on the receiving end of such dubious “affections.” Unlike reading John Taylor’s accounts of crazy Duran Duran fans, I don’t think I got all panicky with pseudo-flashbacks of my own shit when reading the Headache Factory, but then again, Jim’s got a dry and dark sense of humor that shines through his prose, and that certainly helped.

One of the main themes of the book is how the perceived anonymity of the internet allows for people’s worst selves to emerge. The writer/musician/whatever they like so much isn’t a real person, but a collection of type and pixels to be owned and dictated to. People hide behind their own collection of pixels and feel emboldened by the darkness behind the screen to posture and puff themselves and their egos up, and feel shielded from the consequences of their actions.

Well, in many cases, there are no consequences. Don’t teach your dog to give a Nazi salute for a prank video on YouTube, but go right ahead making threats, libel, and blackmail attempts because unlike the dog thing, you will most likely never be given even so much as a stern warning for cyberstalking or online harassment.

And the internet makes a lot of cyberstalking very easy.

Er, did I say cyberstalking? I meant “Google-whacking,” the euphemism a friend of mine who is quite the skilled practitioner of it prefers to use.

You can get to know all kinds of things about a person through cyberstalking Google-whacking, enough to fool yourself into thinking you know them as well as you know your own mother. Enough to convince yourself you love them, or that you know best what career moves they should make, or whatever your little peabrain wants to be convinced of. And then, if you’re an unhinged lunatic with nothing better to do, when that person fails to requite your fervor for them, or, worse, straight up tells you to get lost, you can then use that knowledge and your tech skills to wage war on your fallen hero.

Again, we need to bring back shuffleboard or board games or whatever. Something more productive.

There was once a stupid show on Discovery or History about an Oddities shop in New York City. One episode featured a woman who brought in tiny sculptures she made out of ear wax. Maybe people ought to try that sort of thing to fill their time.

Anyway, The Headache Factory gives a good hard look into the depths of deranged behavior from people who really ought to take up bowling or bonsai to fill their lives instead, and the sad thing is that as our society gets more and more fractured and more and more digital, it’s likely this sort of thing is going to become more and more widespread.