You’re Decrepit, Greedy, Narcissistic Luddites – Plus You Have Cooties. Play Golf, Bake Cookies, and Turn Over the Country to Us
November 8, 2009
(Anti-Boomer Propaganda, Update)
by Ellen Brandt, Ph.D.
If you don’t think there’s a highly-organized propaganda campaign being waged against Baby Boomers, perhaps they’ve already messed with your mind and spirit. The fact that it’s bad politics doesn’t seem to deter our detractors. Maybe ridicule will help.
Anyone who doesn’t acknowledge how pervasive, malicious – and essentially silly – the determined propaganda effort against the Baby Boom generation has become needs to look at the popular and by now infamous Mashable story on Boomers and Technology that came out a few weeks ago. (I’m not going to link it, because they don’t deserve it. But the title is “Users Over 55 Quitting Facebook: The Baby Boom Times Over?”)
Let’s get the obvious out of the way first: Boomers turn 46-63 in 2009. So if you’re talking about Boomers 55-63 only, you’re leaving out exactly half of our generation. Moreover, grouping the half you’re leaving in – Boomers 55-63 – with the fairly vast population over age 63, including Boomers’ parents and, in the case of some younger Boomers, grandparents, is, to say the very least, extremely poor logic. A 55-year-old Boomer, in fact, is as close in age to a Millennial of 25 as (s)he is to a Greatest Generation American of 85.
Even worse, propaganda-wise, than the implication that every American over 55 is part of the Baby Boom, is the downright frightening photo Mashable, in all its wisdom – NOT! – has used to illustrate this purported article about Boomers. It’s a stock photo of a fellow in a plaid shirt, with a baffled expression, looking at a laptop computer.
I’m sure the model who posed for this shot is a very nice elderly gentleman. But he’s as much a Baby Boomer as the Jonas Brothers are! I won’t just guess the man is over 80. I’d say he’s over 90, unless that’s too young. In fact, he looks a lot like the average Centenarian I’ve interviewed for stories on extreme old age.
“Oh, Ellen,” you may say. “It’s truly funny, but why should we care?” We should care, Dearest Reader, because there seems to be a fairly significant slice of the younger population, some of them even part of the media, the business world, or – Goddess help us! – government, who have now been brainwashed into identifying Boomers as frail, decrepit, and over-the-hill, when we are, of course, mostly vigorous, fit, in the prime of our lives and at what are normally considered the peak ages for productivity, creativity, and earnings.
While it’s clear this photo upsets me more than the story’s theme, I’m not too happy with the premise of this oft-quoted Mashable article, either. In the guise of talking about a supposed drop-off in the use of Facebook – and presumably other social networking sites – by mature customers, the 20-something author boldly states that the reason older users log into such sites is different from why people his age log in. His generation, says the self-appointed guru, use social networking “as a means of daily communication,” seemingly about important things that need their and the world’s immediate attention. Meanwhile, we poor older folks see social sites “as a replacement for email to keep in touch with family and old friends.”
Actually, if you think about it, there is precisely zero difference between “a means of daily communication” and “a replacement for email,” anyway, since most people who use E-mail, whatever their age, tend to check it not only daily, but every few hours, if not every few minutes.
The more subtle reading of the Millennial writer’s argument, though, is that the very young have seamlessly integrated computer technology into their worklives and social lives, while other generations, particularly those Luddite Boomers, have not. If you’re reading this story, you know that’s ludicrous.
The whole concept of a “digital divide,” as anyone up on recent history knows, was coined to promote computer usage in Third World countries, if such exist anymore, positing the theory that the inexorable spread of computers would also spread literacy and general knowledge and help lift the poorest of the world up to the standard of the Western democracies. Which is undoubtedly true.
But in the last – oh, I dunno, six months? – we suddenly see the term “digital divide” used to promote a far different theory, if one can dignify it as such: That today’s teens and new college grads use computer technology more, better, and smarter than Those Who Aren’t Them, therefore making them better prepared to do this, that, and the other great enterprise than all those Old Fogies and Fogiesses, especially the Evil Boomers.
To me, this is such a lame and ludicrous theory, it makes me want to scream. I’m not particularly techie myself. But I still have my TRS-80 Model One, which I use as a paperweight. Not only has every single Boomer of my acquaintance used computers as long, essentially, as there have been computers on the mass consumer market, which is – what? – 35 years? but so have we Boomers’ elderly parents, if those elderly parents were professionals in a very wide range of jobs, from physicians, engineers, attorneys, and accountants to teachers, salespeople, retail managers, and small business owners.
As for the social networking sites, it’s clear there is no essential difference in the way any age group uses them from the way any other age group uses them. In fact, if we’re talking about using social networking effectively as a business tool, the Mashable guru should note that Linked In, the large site considered most helpful in a purely business sense, now skews very significantly towards members over 40, with Baby Boomers possibly the single largest generation of Linked In users.
Twitter Thugs and Other Charming Crazies
The Mashable article well illustrates one kind of lately prevalent Anti-Boomer propaganda: Boomers are behind the times technologically, no longer capable of being in charge of our complex world. A couple of illustrations from social networking sites themselves highlight other themes.
On Twitter, pure know-nothing thuggery has been quite popular. Perhaps the most-Tweeted – reiterated, for non-Twitter members – posts is the elegantly-worded “Yikes!!! Baby Boomer nearly craps his pants as his secure financial nest egg is cracked!!!” Actually, there are variations of this post. Sometimes, the Yikes is replaced by a Wow or even a Zowie. And the number of exclamation points varies from three to ten.
I don’t go to Twitter very often, but I’ve seen this post at least a zillion and a half times. I have never clicked on the accompanying link, nor do I want to. And lately, there are two other reiterated-to-death thug posts: “Are Baby Boomers Ultimately Doomed?” – which I guess could come from a strange religious cult, although somehow I doubt it – and “Laid-Off Baby Boomers Seek Entry-Level Jobs.”
In fact, Baby Boomers are forming the majority of new entrepreneurial ventures in the US and Canada right now, meaning we are the ones creating entry-level jobs for others. But all three of these “popular” Twitter posts are, in fact, meant to intimidate readers, not inform them, along with the stray Tweet from disgruntled individual users, virtually all of whom seem to be males in their early 20s, often with photos wearing watch caps, who say delightful things like “Boomers – Retire Now or Else” or “Don’t You Wish the Boomers Would Just Die?”
I’ve been specifically singled out as the recipient of sentiments like these even before introducing my Angriest Generation series. My favorite social networking site is Linked In, where I have a large and superb network of Connections, mostly over 40 and all extremely interesting people. My pet peeve at Linked In is the sheer number of obviously planted discussion posts from obviously planted Left-leaning operatives, doggedly glomming onto – and into – every discussion lending itself to their favorite theme, which is “Boomers Must Get Out of the Work Force Now and Hand Over All Remaining Paying Jobs to Obama Election Workers – Excuse Me, Younger People.”
Foolish Rabble-Rouser that I am, I have cheerfully waded into far too many of these “debates” in the past four or five months. But one was so incredibly striking, I saved excerpts from it for my files and am pasting some of them here.
The discussion started with a topic broached by a man identifying himself as a journalist asking: “As Boomer management consultants move towards retirement, will that open up new opportunities for younger business experts to move into the field?” This was a possibly loaded question to begin with, but the initiator dropped out of the discussion at this point.
A management consultant, now in my network, said he thought the opposite was true, that with the recession, Boomers were moving into consulting in greater numbers than ever before. And I chimed in with what is now my mantra: “Boomers turn 46-63 in 2009, and we are not retiring anytime soon.”
Another fellow agreed with me, saying “Boomers who have lost . . . their retirement funds must continue to work to rebuild the losses,” while the first consultant came back in to talk about “financial dislocation” for Boomers creating “major structural change.”
In other words, this little discussion was suddenly heading in a direction the Boomers-Retire-Now bunch wouldn’t care for. You would think – and hope – that every little topic discussion at a Linked In Group wouldn’t be of much interest to Propagandists Who Watch Over Us Constantly. But it seems to have come to somebody-or-other’s attention, because what happened next was truly extraordinary. And No, I don’t think I’m being paranoid, because several members of the Group sent messages to one another after this incident, basically saying, “What the Hey?”
For into our peaceful and happy little conclave waltzed someone who was not only a brand-new Group member, but – as of that moment – a brand-new Linked In member. I kid you not! This identity – female, although it could actually be male, beast, or political collective – was attached to a name, but had no details whatsoever in its profile, no Connections, no other Groups, no anything. The identity was apparently formed just for the purpose of coming to this Group and participating in this particular discussion.
Ms. Nutty Operative – let’s call her Nonie – at first said she was “close to 40″ but quickly scotched that and identified herself as “part of the younger generation.” Her first major argument was that it was “a waste of time and money” to train anyone over age 35 on unspecified “software packages,” because only the younger generation “has lived with e-mail and text messaging prior to joining the professional world” and “new business models are just being created for the younger generation’s opportunity.”
Besides the unforgivably stilted and barely literate phrasing, this “argument” is almost breathtakingly silly. As we’ve already said, Boomers have been using computers for business as long as there have been computers for business. And if you use computers for business, you certainly know all about E-mail. As for “text messaging” being either difficult to use or the primary basis for “new business models” – Goddess help us!
But at this point in the discussion, Nonie really dives off the deep end. She claims that “leaders’ inability to adapt to changing times” have caused the declines in “countless numbers of businesses . . . over the past two decades, starting with the Big 5 accounting firms, along with the nation’s car manufacturers” and that “the older generation” – which she identifies as Baby Boomers – have spurned “new technology,” embraced “negativity,” and stifled “innovation.”
Does one know where to start refuting this nonsense? First of all, Dear Nonie, there were originally the Big Eight accounting firms, not the Big Five, and they, along with the auto manufacturers and numerous other declining sectors, were run during these long declines primarily by the Baby Boomers’ parents’ generation, not by Boomers themselves.
These are mere quibbles, however. Because very few would say that it was refusal to embrace “new technology” – let alone E-mail and text messaging, which is Nonie’s singular definition of such technology – which was responsible for structural sector declines. Apparently Nonie hasn’t heard about things like outsourcing or immigration flows or misallocation of capital. Surely, she hasn’t heard of the accelerating scramble for rare resources, the “hollowing out” of the US manufacturing base, or the number one reason for sector dislocations: the relentless rise of immense, often centralized, formerly Third World economies, hell-bent on catching up to the West.
As for Boomers “embracing negativity” and “stifling innovation” – does that really deserve an answer, other than “Are you crazy, lady?”
Well, the others on the Group discussion board plowed into Nonie and pointed out some of her errors. Undaunted, she changed tack and started accusing us dastardly Boomers of betraying our 60’s ideals – by refusing to get out of the way and handing the country over to Millennials:
“What happened to your peace, love, and civil rights attitude?” she wrote. “President Obama is a ‘flower child’ in every sense of the definition. . . It is everyone’s job to recognize everyone’s potential. . . And being from the peace, not war, generation of the 1960’s, I would hope you would not prevent our nation’s youth from realizing their potential.”
Well, Kumbaya, and I am glad that Mr. Obama likes flowers – after all, he is from Hawaii. But are we to understand, Dear Nonie, that if we Boomers do not retire immediately, despite none of us actually being at the typical retirement age and, more importantly, despite the fact that by some estimates, 3/4 or more of us have had our retirement savings completely wiped out over the past few years, we are not only “preventing youth from realizing their potential,” but are also acting in a non-peaceful way?
Well, Yes, that is exactly what Ms. Nonie – and by extension, those who think like her, are saying! We Boomers “have focused on the negative of the younger generation,” Nonie continues. We have “made the business world more discriminatory than it should be.” And we have “created war” – yes, she actually said this! – by “segmenting the population.” Therefore, “it is time to retire (those) who ignore an entire group of people.”
Do you understand the progression this rhetoric has taken? You should, because silly as it is, the Anti-Boomers think it sounds good, and to them, sounds good seems to equal the truth.
I’m getting sick of Ms. Nonie even as I write this, so let me dismiss her last astounding wrap-up “argument” as quickly as I can: Who, precisely, is being “discriminatory” and discriminated against these days? Are Millennials – any Millennials – being refused jobs because they lack experience, or is the discrimination overwhelmingly aimed at older workers, who have been laid off and “downsized” in droves?
Or have Boomers, the generation that pioneered moving women and minorities and Vietnam vets and the disabled into managerial positions, been “discriminatory” in that regard compared to younger workers? Certainly not! And we have “focused on the negative” of younger workers how? – and when? Personally, I haven’t heard a peep from Boomers saying nasty things about Millennials, other than a few managers griping that they’re a tad opportunistic. It is younger workers who are overwhelmingly complaining about us – not us complaining about them.
Mommy, Mommy, An Operative Is Attacking Me!
I’ve used Ms. Nonie and the Linked In discussion thread she dominated as an example of the propaganda blitz Boomers are reeling from now. But such attacks are occurring regularly not only at social networking sites, but also in articles, blogs, and virtually everywhere else one turns.
If you’re faced with an Anti-Boomer barrage, how should you handle it? Here are some of the most common kinds of attacks I’ve encountered and how I think it is best to respond to them:
Baby Boomers are elderly, unfit, and over-the-hill.
The basic question of exactly who is a member of our generation keeps coming up, even among some in the media, who certainly should know better.
Whenever Boomers are “innocently confused” with those in our parents’ – or in the case of some younger Boomers, grandparents’ – generation, as with the infamous Mashable Boomer-as-Centenarian photo, be sure to speak up and knock the propagandist off his heels!
Baby Boomers turn only 46-63 in 2009. We are not remotely “elderly.” We tend to be extremely healthy and fit. And we are in what are commonly thought of as peak years for intellectual performance, productivity, creativity, and earnings power.
Baby Boomers are technological Neanderthals, out-of-touch with evolving technology.
As we’ve already pointed out, this is the canard to end all canards! Unless you fall back on Ms. Nonie’s “argument” that skill in text-messaging – at a party? in traffic? walking down the street and bumping into people? – is the “technology” which global business revolves around, Boomers are generally as adept using computers and computer technology as the generations behind them. And we have been at the forefront developing and/or managing every other “forward-looking” technology one can think of, including the “green” technologies Millennials seem to think is their special province.
As high or higher percentages of Boomers have science, engineering, or advanced business degrees as younger generations. And Boomers have had an exceptionally keen appreciation for entrepreneurship, still forming new small businesses at record rates.
Since the two most recent former presidents – Clinton and Bush – were Boomers, the Boomer generation is to “blame” for our nation’s current problems.
At any time, in terms of any generation, less than one-tenth of one percent of individuals within that generation are in positions of such power – whether in government, finance, media, or business – that they can actively make policy or directly influence historical circumstances.
To “blame” the 99.9 percent of all Boomers who have not had such power for the policies or actions of either the Clinton or Bush – or for that matter, the new Obama – administration is incredibly unfair and incredibly unhelpful. And I have never heard this kind of generational “blame” applied to any other generation except Boomers, literally proving it is a form of propaganda.
Moreover, there is always the tacit corollary to assigning “blame,” i.e. “You are to blame, and therefore you deserve to be punished.”
Baby Boomers are only in financial trouble now because they have spent so extravagantly the past several decades.
Once again, an attempt to place “blame” and to tar the many with the actions – in this case, the habits – of the few.
As even those with limited economic sensitivity can guess – purely by following popular culture – the gap between the Richest of the Rich and what I like to call “The Rest of Us” has widened substantially in this country the past few decades. Some of these Richest have been Baby Boomers, while others have been members of generations older or younger than Baby Boomers.
If you remove the inflationary effect, which distorts every generation’s spending habits more or less equally, there is little evidence that the average Baby Boomer has been more extravagant in his/her spending habits than previous or younger generations. In fact, many, if not most, Boomer-led households have managed to amass a smaller total of non-financial assets than their parents amassed – although some of this is due to the continued trend towards smaller family size.
Baby Boomers are only in financial trouble now because they haven’t saved enough.
Savings rates for the Boomer generation are not appreciably different than those of other generations.
Overall savings rates appear – and I stress appear – to have been declining the past couple of decades. But many believe this is a structural change reflecting where actual savings have gone and which kinds of savings show up in statistics.
For instance, with the low interest rates banks and savings and loan institutions have been granting recently, even on once-popular certificates of deposit, Boomers, along with everybody else, have placed less of their savings with such institutions.
At the same time, Boomers – again along with other generations – have been urged to put more and more of traditional savings into home ownership, a strategy that seemed sensible and prudent up until quite recently. This form of “savings” does not show up as such in government statistics.
Nor do many forms of “investment” that Boomers – along with everybody else – have been fervently urged to make during the past few decades. Various forms of derivative investments, for instance, do not get into the “savings” statistics categories, nor do many kinds of currency, commodity, or margin-based investments.
Some of these investments have been extremely hard-hit by recent events, of course, wiping out the true “savings” of an extremely large proportion of Boomers. To deny that such investments were ever “savings” to begin with is to add (great) insult to the (great) injury a large proportion of Boomers have experienced.
Literally the classic “kick a man when he’s down” ploy.
Baby Boomers have hoarded their wealth and are reluctant to share it with younger generations.
Amazing! At the same time some are accusing Boomers of not having saved enough or of squandering our life’s earnings on extravagant spending sprees, others are accusing us of holding on to vast hoards of wealth in Evil-Bond-Villain fashion – undoubtedly in undersea vaults guarded by private security forces adept in the martial arts. Selfish and self-centered as we Boomers are, we are preventing this wealth from being “shared” with kind and deserving humanitarians from the younger generations.
Those who spout this particular form of Anti-Boomer propaganda are basically playing with statistics. On a collective basis, Boomer wealth still looks impressive, simply because there are so many of us .
Factor out the few mega-rich Boomers and look at average assets, and our “hoarding” looks very much like “surviving.” And so much of our accumulated wealth consists of real estate – i.e. the homes we live in – viewing it as a “hoard” now seems a very cruel joke, indeed.
Baby Boomers have simply been running things too long. They need to retire gracefully.
Again, 99.9 percent – conservatively – of all Baby Boomers have been “running” nothing other than their own lives, their households, and their families.
Not a single Boomer has reached the “old-style” retirement age of 65, let alone the “new-style” retirement age of 70 or 72.
The youngest Boomers turn only 46 this year, and the majority of Boomers are in their 40s and 50s.
Those “theorists” who had hoped extraordinarily large numbers of Boomers would retire early should have theorized instead how to prevent the vast majority of us from losing all or most of our life’s savings in the events of the past few years.
Any (wealthy) Boomer capable of retiring early and “gracefully” has my blessing and that of his/her fellow Boomers, I’m sure. The rest of us (non-wealthy, and now possibly downright poor) Boomers may not have the luxury of retiring ever, the way things look right now!
We may see some light at the end of the tunnel when we’re 95 – or maybe 105.
Boomers voted for the Obama administration. If the Obama-ites are attempting to sweep you offstage now, you’re just getting what you voted for.
First of all, I sincerely hope the rash of Anti-Boomer propaganda is not coming directly from the Obama administration. I prefer to think it’s a rogue effort perpetrated by those who are so hell-bent on getting jobs for the very young election workers who helped Obama to victory, they don’t care whom they stomp on to get them – and the main Stomp-ees seem to be we Baby Boomers.
Moreover, while much Anti-Boomer sentiment is coming from the Far Left, I’ve heard some of it from those in other parts of the political spectrum, too, as well as from media mavens who are either prejudiced, uninformed, or both.
The last election turned out the way it did for numerous reasons, most having nothing whatsoever to do with sentiment favorable or unfavorable to Boomers. And I don’t think a single Baby Boomer would have voted – or will vote in the future – for any political party or group which comes out openly against our generation’s interests.
Which, of course, is exactly the point. Anti-Boomer propaganda is not only distasteful and unfair, it’s horrendously bad politics.
Boomers make up about one-third of the US population. Many of us feel we’ve been hurt. We’re mad about being hurt. And we’re not going to sit around and let ourselves be dissed on top of it!
Our hearts and souls and spirits are up for grabs now, emotionally and politically. Gurus, mavens, and politicians of all stripes would do well to keep that in mind.
For the Intro to the Baby Boomers-The Angriest Generation series, please go to: http://wp.me/pxD3J-2V
For the next story in this series, “Will Boomers Return Full Circle to Sophisticated Communes?” http://wp.me/pxD3J-x
For Ellen’s popular “serious humor” piece about Malice on the Internet, see: http://wp.me/pycK6-5
Filed in Baby Boomers, Business, Corporate Life, Economics, Families, Finance, Financial Re-Engineering, Political Action, Series, Social Issues, Social Networks
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