Generational warfare is nothing new. When today’s boomers were college-aged hippies, they were warning each other not to trust anyone over 30. Soon enough, millennials will be shaking our fists at the youngsters, demanding they get off our environmentally friendly, succulent-speckled rock lawns.
What’s different now, though, is that there is a moneyed system interested in sowing generational discord and stoking fear. Call it the Boomer Anxiety Industrial Complex. It’s a largely right-wing machine targeted at older Americans, encouraging a nearly manic obsession with the alleged wrongdoings of younger, more liberal people. Shocking stories about college students encroaching on free speech are a staple. So are more pedestrian narratives about college students being too sensitive, too emotional, or too “politically correct.” This didn’t start with millennials; the seeds of the anti-PC/“college students versus free speech” propaganda were planted in the ’90s, part of a backlash against Bill Clinton, the first boomer president.
Today, Fox News is the primary anti-millennial television outlet, but there’s also generationally tailored content on websites like Breitbart and Townhall, and hackneyed memes that circulate among the over-50 set on Facebook and Twitter. Boomers are more likely to watch Fox News than almost any other network, and close to half of them told Pew that in the previous week, they’d gotten political news from Fox.
That’s bad news. As part of this right-wing political project, the higher-ups at Fox have also learned that nothing fires up their boomer audience like fear: fear of immigrants, fear of Islamic extremism, fear of a changing world, and even fear of mainstream media sources. As one character in the movie Bombshell put it, “You have to adopt the mentality of an Irish street cop. The world is a bad place. People are lazy morons. Minorities are criminals. Sex is sick but interesting. Ask yourself, ‘What would scare my grandmother or piss off my grandfather?’ And that’s a Fox story.”
It enables boomers to avoid taking responsibility for the world…