On The Clout Economy

There is a lawyer who has gotten an entire secondary income and reputation in encouraging rappers to stop self-snitching who records humorous but also poignant videos discussing how it is that rappers get themselves into trouble by telling on themselves. I have frequently noted [1] the tendency of the contemporary age to engage in self-ownership and telling on ourselves. Rappers, as might be imagined, take this to the next level, showing off on instagram live with large amounts of money that they are not paying taxes on and with guns that they are not allowed to have on account of prior convictions, and creating songs that self-snitch about various crimes that they have been involved in, taking credit for murders and thefts and the like, making lists of dead opps and disrespecting their graves and the like.

On the surface, this is not rational behavior. It is immensely counterproductive, to say the least, to engage in behavior that could anger other people enough to kill you simply for disrespect or could end one in jail for long periods of time. What is the motivation for doing so? Why is it that people want clout in the first place? It is not enough to know that something is irrational and counterproductive–human beings engage in that sort of behavior all the time. We have to know what it is that people are trying to accomplish. That is to say, there must be some sort of economy where clout is viewed as a currency, and this currency must be worth acquiring despite the risk of doing so. What is it that people seek to buy through clout? In many cases, it appears that what people want to buy is a sense of respect, a sense that one is a man, that one is powerful. It is little wonder that people would seek these things, even at extreme risk.

It appears, at least as an outsider to the clout economy, that clout chasing is a rather competitive endeavor, a rather zero-sum affair. If one gains a certain amount of clout for peeing on the grave of a dead opp and posting it on one’s instagram live or making a music video out of it, for example, the clout that is gained by the person doing the disrespect seems to be roughly equal to the clout that is lost by the side being disrespected. The clout gained by killing someone seems to be equal to the clout lost by the side who suffered losses. This encourages a tit-for-tat violence of the kind typically lamented in places like Appalachia, where we see a similar sort of honor culture, or the antebellum South, where a great deal of rap culture originates in the behavior of easily triggered young plantation elites who were not inclined to behave with a lot of self-restraint. But whereas those hot-headed Southern elite males sought to cloak their violence with an air of honor, a code duello that sought to formalize and ritualize violence, so it is that in the case of drill and contemporary gang violence that we have the spectacle of music and other videos but not the same sort of civilizing codes of fairness. If one is caught lacking, or is riding the bus, one is simply out of luck.

What is it that clout buys you? In most cases where we have a twisted sort of economy, that economy serves some sort of valuable social purpose. I have made a bit of fun, for example, of China’s social credit policy (I probably have a low social credit score, I would imagine), but it serves an obvious purpose in rewarding those behaviors and conduct that is valued by the Chinese government and punishing those behaviors that are not appreciated. Similar aspects are at play in various “reputation scores” that are pushed in contemporary technology. What is it that one gains by acquiring clout, clout that in its very acquisition has led one to have a lot of violent and vengeful opponents? In order to go to such lengths and subject oneself to serious risks of an early death or lengthy imprisonment, the reward must be worthwhile, or else clout-chasing would not be so widely done.

Alternatively, one might concede that the ubiquity of clout chasing in areas as diverse as London, Toronto, New York, Chicago, Baton Rouge, or Jacksonville, to name but a few places whose clout-chasing competitive gangs have been explored by contemporary documentarians, is the result of there being such a low value to human life in general. And it must be admitted that in the clout economy, life is not valued very highly. People can be put to death, without any seeming regret or remorse, for things as simple as wearing the wrong color of clothing, dating one’s sister and being from a rival neighborhood gang, saying something disrespectful, being a relative of an opponent, having something that someone else wants to take, and so on. This is valuing life very low indeed. How is such a thing to be reversed? How is it that people can be encouraged to value their own life enough to take steps that would benefit their lives and communities and respect the lives and property of others? How is this such a difficult task, to provide in a legitimate means what people seek in the clout economy?

[1] See, for example:



About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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