Editorial: OK, boomers aren't the enemy
By now, we all know that making generalizations based on gender, race, national origin, religion, age or appearance is not OK, right?
By now, we also know there are people who will take any hint of friction and amplify it on social media for the sole purpose of fostering dissent in society, right?
What shall we make of that meme that vilifies a generation, but hit the national zeitgeist with such ferocity that several trademark applications have been filed for the phrase? One applicant, Fox, says it wants to claim the term so it can launch a reality, comedy or game show by that name.
Twitter users stir the pot. And sell T-shirts.
The phrase, uttered dismissively by member of the New Zealand Parliament Chlöe Swarbrick to another member of Parliament who was heckling her, has inspired some very unfortunate clap backs, like AARP Senior Vice President Myrna Blyth's overgeneralization, "OK, millennials. But we're the people that actually have the money." (AARP apologized; Swarbrick refused to.)
Attempts to spark generational division aren't new, of course. A 2017 Twitter post said, "Every time I see a baby boomers vs. millennials tweet I wonder if they realize there's a whole generation in between who hates them both." OK boomer's hashtag predates Swarbrick's use of it. Boomers' one-time mantra decried trusting anyone over 30.
Here's the thing: There are serious and urgent challenges in the world, including making headway against climate change, the important issue pushed by Swarbrick that is getting lost in her new celebrity over the OK boomer meme. Anyone who believes such work is imperative can't afford to shunt aside allies of any age.
Before getting on the OK boomer bandwagon -- or any other such disparagement -- consider whether there's much of a generational "war" at all.
Social media algorithms ignore nuance and feed us a steady diet of posts that elicit a strong response, often anger.
Those behind the posts might not be people at all. The 2018 indictments against 13 Russians and three Russian companies accused of interfering in the 2016 election describe the efforts to push divisive and conspiratorial content. One way they operated was to create hundreds of fake accounts posing as politically active Americans, investigators allege.
There's a reason why divide and conquer, as a strategy to gain control, has been around since the Romans.
Social media made sure Swarbrick's put-down for her heckler had its moment. Let's leave it at that, rather than jumping on board to incite a dispute in which millions of people are needlessly painted as enemies.