Book Review : Maddox - F*ck Whales (2017)
Maddox is a satirist and cultural critic who made his name by being one of the first people to destroy stupid people and ideas on the internet. Fast forward twenty years later, he's become a successful businessman, podcast host, YouTube celebrity and... oh, look at that, author! He's the living proof that you can make a living shitting on everything, for as long as you do it with humor and intellectual rigor. Interestingly enough, like any warm-blooded animal with a head on its shoulders, Maddox is evolving with time. His latest essay collection F*ck Whales is the sneakiest, most nuanced and incisive thing he's ever written.
F*ck Whales is a collection of short essays, each aiming solely at one topic. The first few are lulling you into a sense of false comfort: Fuck Whales, Fuck Trees, Fuck Tables, etc. Who the fuck ever thought about, let alone hated a table outside of being in the process of buying one? These are spirited, but silly and ultimately humorous rants against elements that are embedded in the fabric of our reality. Hate trees all you want, they're not going away anytime soon. Preach for a genocide of tables, but they're convenient enough to still exist by the time you shuffle off your mortal coil.
So, I was like: what the fuck is this book about? Is it going to be like that for two hundred-something pages?
But it wasn't. Slowly, more serious ideas start to weave their way into F*ck Whales: Fuck Folksy Wisdom, Fuck Fictional Serials, Fuck Your Weight Loss Insecurity, Fuck Being Offended, etc. Maddox starts integrating ideas that are currently being debated and/or sold to you on the internet to his Fuck [insert topic here] format and something greater than pure venom starts to emerge. He demonstrates that you can build an informed opinion against more or less everything: cupcakes, Game of Thrones, dogs, being cold, ants, you, etc. We live in an era where information is free and available to anyone, so there's no excuse not to have an informed opinion on things. And yet, was it everything F*ck Whales had to offer? Because that point's been made before.
Maddox had another ace up his sleeve, which tied everything together. He kept the most difficult and controversial essays for the last half of the book: Fuck environmentalists, Fuck trigger warnings, Fuck People Who Agree With You, Fuck You, etc. Every subject is informed and makes a valid point, yet is on the fence of being socially acceptable. This is where he straightforwardly start drawing a line between opinion and information and another greater perspective emerge: it's OK to have opinions (even unpopular ones) if they're well informed and you're ready to defend them. The overwhelming fear of the others often makes it a priority for people to please and get along, but it's not how things advance and evolve.
F*ck Whales uses a fun and silly premise and playful arguments to make a powerful statement about the here and now. The potty training stage of the infancy-of-the-internet we're currently going through. There's no going against an opinion when it's informed and based on hard data. Debate has become an adversarial practice, but by being cartoonishly adversarial, Maddox makes debate playful and accessible again. I'm probably taking this essay collection too seriously, but as an advocate of criticism, it feels fucking awesome that someone is effortlessly making it cool again. Maddox is not just an internet arsonist anymore, he is... welp, one of the best pop culture thinkers we have.