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Is ‘OK Boomer’ the ‘new N-word’ — or are millennials still destroying everything?

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In recent times, media have taken a great interest in highlighting and even generating intergenerational fighting. One example is the focus on the “OK boomer” meme, a witty two-word comeback gaining popularity on the internet. “OK boomer” is a pithy, cutting retort millennials (those born between 1981–96) and Generation Z (those “Zoomers” born even later than 1996) give to those born during the baby boom (1946–64). The digital equivalent of an eye roll, it conveys that the speaker considers the person being addressed to be obtuse, stubborn and out of date.

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Though it’s today’s youth who are frequently claimed to constitute “Generation Snowflake,” the phrase appears to seriously annoy many, well, boomers, and has generated a great deal of media takes, eager to exploit the meme while it is still fresh (e.g., Today, 10/30/19; NBC News, 11/7/19; NPR, 11/7/19; CNN, 11/8/19). Writing a long self-own in the New York Times (11/2/19), Maureen Dowd described her annoyance at junior colleagues “OK boomer”-ing her to display contempt. The Chicago Tribune’s Heidi Stevens claimed (11/4/19) the formerly fun phrase had turned nasty, and we had collectively killed it. Meanwhile, one Miami Herald columnist (11/5/19) exhorted his fellow oldies with “Get Over It, Boomers! Gen Z Hates Us–That’s the Natural Order of Things.”

But conservative upstate New York radio show host Bob Lonsberry provided undoubtedly the hottest take of all, claiming that “boomer” had become “the n-word of ageism,” suggesting that this sort of “bigotry” towards the older generation had become “acceptable.” He later deleted his comment after receiving a torrent of ridicule. Lonsberry had previously been fired from his job at Rochester, N.Y.’s WHAM radio for referring to local African-American mayor William Johnson as a “monkey.”

Bob Lonsberry

Bob Lonsberry’s since-deleted tweet (11/4/19).

The Washington Post (11/4/19) and the New York Times (10/29/19) attempted to describe the meaning behind the new phrase. For the Post, it “encapsulates an increasingly evident divide between Generation Z, millennials and their older counterparts” who “they perceive as out of touch.”

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‘OK Boomer’ Marks the End of Friendly Generational Relations

And they had been getting along so well up until now (New York Times, 10/29/19).

The Times claimed it “marks the end of friendly generational relations,” interviewing some of the young people who helped popularize the phrase, noting the teens “believe older people are actively hurting young people” through the ending of affordable college tuition and their failure to act on climate change.

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It quotes one Zoomer:

Everybody in Gen Z is affected by the choices of the boomers, that they made and are still making.…Those choices are hurting us and our future. Everyone in my generation can relate to that experience and we’re all really frustrated by it.

While providing a range of takes, what all these stories obscure, with their focus on intergenerational strife, is the relevance of class as a fundamental divide in American culture. In reality, it was not boomers as a group who prevented meaningful action on climate change, nor was it they who increased college tuitions (FAIR.org, 4/5/17). Those decisions were made by a small group of people at the top of society–in corporate boardrooms and in high office. There is much to be said about how the media’s not-hot-but-perennial takes hide such decisions by pitting generations against one another (Extra!, 3–4/97)–with assertions that Social Security recipients are stealing from the young, and that slashing government budgets is a matter of generational equity.

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But the current generational conflict narrative mainly serves to obscure the vast differences in wealth and power between those in the same age cohort. While the current generation is far worse off economically than previous ones, the National Council on Ageing notes that over 25 million Americans aged 60+ are economically insecure, with over a third of senior households broke or in debt at the end of the month. Therefore, by emphasizing age and not class, corporate media are effectively playing generations off against each other, allowing the rich to play divide and rule (FAIR.org, 1/5/16).

This is exactly what USA Today (11/7/19) did in its story about lack of career advancement among younger workers, headlined, “Millennials, Gen Xers to Baby Boomers: Can You Retire So I Can Get a Job Promotion?” This framed the issue as a fight between disgruntled young people angry at an older generation who refuse to retire, rather than one about the inherent structural inequalities of capitalism that inevitably leave the majority in subordinate positions, while failing to provide a social safety net sufficient to allow the elderly to stop working.

Millennials are killing everything

The discussion of the new boomer meme takes the place of–while of a piece with–complaints that millennials are ruining everything (FAIR.org, 10/10/16). One of the many things the young are destroying is the housing market, according to a host of articles. Business Insider (7/30/19) insists that the reason young people are not buying homes is not the out-of-control market, but because they “prefer to rent instead.” And if they do buy, they “don’t want” boomers’ large properties, “preferring smaller houses” (Business Insider, 3/28/19). The smaller the better!

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Going further, the Daily Telegraph (3/29/19) claimed that young people don’t like possessing anything whatsoever, arguing the “sharing economy” is great, “allowing millennials to enjoy the benefits of owning” without the “bother” of buying, quoting one source who claimed “ownership nowadays just doesn’t have the glory it used to.” Quartz (8/27/19) claimed this shift had resulted in a new housing model in which the “customer” (i.e., the renter)—not the landlord—is king.” Given that high rents and house prices, crippling student debt and a faltering economy has resulted in nearly a quarter of those under 37 forced to live with their parents, that claim appears debateable.

And that is the problem. This genre of articles ignores, downplays or specifically argues against the idea that young people are often huge losers in the post-crash economy, and many have little to no hope of ever affording a home. But instead of discussing these structural factors, media instead prefer to explain the phenomenon as one of personal choice.

Sometimes, corporate media will blame the young for their own predicament. Picking up on a New York Times article (2/22/16), a very wide range of outlets, including Fox Business (2/25/16), CBC (2/25/16), Business Insider (2/25/16), the Daily Mail (2/25/16) and the Cut (2/26/16) all claimed that millennials were simply too lazy to eat cereal, thus crippling the industry.

Tweet on Millennials killing power lunch

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Accused killer of power lunches responds (Twitter, 10/30/19).

A more likely reason for cereal’s poor performance with younger adults is alluded to in the Washington Post (2/23/16): Millennials are so overworked and time-pressed that they have forgone formal meals, instead eating and drinking on the go. Any of these articles could have used the news as a hook to explore the increasingly difficult structural and economic circumstances workers are under. But instead it was used to frame the young as feckless loafers, in a similar manner to how the poor are blamed for their own condition.

The New York Post got more than it bargained for when it published an article (10/26/19) complaining that millennials had killed the power lunch. Emily Kirkpatrick, a millennial Post employee, offered via Twitter (10/30/19) some alternative, undiscussed reasons why her generation might be abstaining from afternoon dining in Manhattan’s top restaurants. She noted that the Post does not provide its staff with lunch hours and that they are expected to be at their desks all the time, “so if you want to blame someone for killing the power lunch,” she said, “you might want to take a look in the mirror first.”

Dividing people by age rather than class has an intrinsic appeal to corporate media outlets owned by the wealthy elite of this country. While there are certainly genuine divides along age lines in Western society, they are all too often promoted in lieu of discussing more relevant class divides, effectively pitting the generations off against one another, leaving those responsible for the current mess laughing all the way to the bank.

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2020 Election

Trump and the GOP have become the party of the dead

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There are few morbid topics subject to greater speculation than the religious loyalty of President Donald Trump's "base." Why an alarmingly large amount of Americans refuse even to entertain any criticism of Trump deserves scrutiny from political scientists, psychologists and perhaps horror novelists working in the school of Edgar Allan Poe.

This article first appeared in Salon.

What is abundantly clear is that no matter who votes for Trump, he and the Republican Party on the national level have no interest in governing on the behalf of living human beings — with the exception of ensuring that a tiny minority of billionaires and multimillionaires enlarge their investment portfolios. Trump evinces no concern for Americans dying of the coronavirus, racist violence or any other malady or injustice. He demonstrates no regard for health care professionals courageously trying to save their patients from dying, and appears cruelly indifferent to the struggles of millions of workers whose livelihoods have been destroyed by COVID-19. Needless to say, Trump also shows contempt for Black Lives Matter, immigrants and anyone who opposes his re-election, which at this moment (and throughout his presidency) is more than half of the American public.

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As coronavirus seizes the state, Florida hospitals are in panic mode

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As Florida experiences a surge in coronavirus cases, the residents of the state are facing obstacles like overwhelmed hospitals and a looming shortage in beds.

This article first appeared in Salon.

There are 47,663 hospital beds in the state right now with 11,782 available (meaning a remaining capacity of 19.82 percent) and a total staffed bed capacity of 59,445, according to the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration's Hospital Bed Capacity Dashboard. The state Department of Health also reported on Friday that, out of 95,300 individuals who received coronavirus test results over the course of the previous day, 11,433 tested positive for COVID-19 (all but 90 of whom were Florida residents), meaning that more than 12 percent of the new cases had positive test results. The state also reported 93 new deaths due to COVID-19. (Salon reached out to the Florida Department of Health for comment on this story.)

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2020 Election

The GOP is a suicide cult

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Welcome to another edition of What Fresh Hell?, Raw Story’s roundup of news items that might have become controversies under another regime, but got buried – or were at least under-appreciated – due to the daily firehose of political pratfalls, unhinged tweet storms and other sundry embarrassments coming out of the current White House.

Back in March, we argued that Donald Trump had become the charismatic leader of the dumbest suicide cult ever. There were fewer than 500 confirmed cases of Covid-19 at the time, but it wasn't difficult to see the trajectory we were on at even that early date. At the time, we were commenting on the President's* repeated claims that the whole thing was a big hoax and polls showing that Democrats were twice as likely as Republicans to say they were taking steps to avoid becoming infected.

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