Trapped in a Millennial’s Daydream


The meaning of life in one easy chart! It’s easy when you’re a Millennial. (Photo by ITU Pictures)

Culture — the shared sense of who we are, and how we act — is now transmitted, in the main, by television. Once, our culture was preserved, protected and passed along by wise elders — heads of families and clans, priests, scholars and the like, whose motivation was to remind us of our shared history and values, and to summon us to a life of service to those values. Today, our culture consists of titillation, entertainment, distraction and falsehoods choreographed by 20-somethings who think history is something that happened last week, character is a part in a movie and wisdom is the name of a tooth.

The cable news shows on TV, for example, upon which many depend for information about the world and for clues about what to make of it, are produced by Millennials. They bring their ideas to the story conferences, advocate their inclusion in the lineup, book the guests, and write the copy. What is the purpose of these tasks? To inform, inspire, educate or motivate? No, to grab eyeballs (translation: attract viewers). How? By making it sexy, provocative, bloody, heart-wrenching (she breaks down, she cries, great TV!), hilarious, and if you can’t get any of that, make it fast. Dress it with dazzling graphics, surround it with pounding sound effects, and for those whose attention might wander after two consecutive seconds of anything, run crawls! supers! inserts! overlays! banners! Grab those eyeballs and never let them go!

Guests and pundits are sought who fill one or both of two requirements: one, they have proved on other appearances that they can get eyeballs (did you think that you have seen little but Trump on TV for three months because of the quality of his ideas? Eyeballs stick to him! Get him!); and two, they validate the booker’s pre-conceived idea of what will make good TV. A typical opening line from a booker calling a prospective guest goes something like this: “Hi, we’re looking for someone who will compare Hillary’s email scandal to Watergate. You willing to do that? Fine, we’ll send a car. You think that’s a dumb idea? Have a nice day.”

Ordinary people cannot be relied upon to deliver good TV, although they do seem to study and learn from each other’s performances as “witnesses,” “victims,” and especially “family members.” Producers stack the decks by writing pre-answered questions for the anchor bimbos and bimbettes: “So, how did you feel when he pointed the gun at you? Did your life flash before your eyes, did you have trouble breathing, did time slow down and stop?” Answer: “Uh, yeah.”

This is the world of the millennials, whose creative writing is done with their thumbs, whose idea of a good read is 140 characters long, who eyes glaze over if they are even briefly deprived of the stimulation of flash-bang video grenades. And they are the people who do most of the work on our news programs, commercials and TV shows — the shared experiences that fill our conversations, inform our thought, and after a while define us and our time.

Millennials are not stupid, but they are young, lacking in experience and consequently judgment. That is why we used to entrust culture to old people. A Millenial cannot imagine what will amuse or engage large numbers of people who live suffocated lives far from the trendy urban centers of New York, New York, etcetera. So the Millenial news producer, creative director or TV writer falls back on rules made up by other Millennials and tested by time for six months or so.

Which is why we are presented with endless parades of celebrities (everybody likes them, right?); endless repetitions of nostrums that are simple, obvious and wrong (trickle-down economics, just one example); and cartoons pretending to explain some wondrously complex process of nature with a crayon (see, the medicine goes in here and all the bad stuff runs away!).

Which is why, when a celebrity gets up on a stage and gives us a simple, cartoonish explanation of how he would handle the presidency of the United States, it doesn’t seem ridiculous. In our culture, that’s how things work.  I know. I saw it on TV.  


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9 Responses to Trapped in a Millennial’s Daydream

  1. JimmyFergus says:

    Do you have anything to back up that cable news is written and produced by 20-somethings? I find it hard to believe that they’ve performed this coup. There will be young writers, but given the abysmal prospects and massive unemployment for millenials, who can blame them for taking a job anywhere that will take them. They will write about topics, and in the style, that they’re told to write. I don’t think they’re in charge though, directing the style and focus of cable news.

    • Tom Lewis says:

      I didn’t say they were in charge, just that they do most of the work. If you watched The Newsroom, you got a pretty good idea of the process. Nor do I blame them for taking, or doing, the job. But the people who should be guiding them are busy reading the ratings books.

  2. Ken says:

    I’m not really concerned or worried about the Millennials — the young people I’ve met who have a decent education seem to have a good grip on the extent of the challenges faced by Western civilization, and the meager options available for careers within the system. I’m more bemused — will they take those options? How will they work with them?

    • Philip says:

      As I can’t see your face or hear your voice to give me some clue as to whether you’re really serious I’m going to take your post at face value. I’ll take it, but it’s painful and I’d sure like to know what parallel universe you’re from where the young people (Could you give me an age range here?) don’t give you cause for concern as I’d like to figure out how to get there. Or perhaps you could tell what your are taking so I can obtain it and spend the last few years of my life in a delirium of fantasy.

      So, I’d like to challenge what you wrote. If you’re a troll don’t bother responding.

      I’m interacting with young people constantly and I cant’ say I’m impressed. I can count on a single hand how many are informed. I live in NYC ago and have been active in everything from Ecovillages to Sustainable Living (yes, yes I know from my POV today that’s a joke). I’ve met and spoke with young people from every collage in the area (from the Bronx to Staten Island, from CUNY schools to the elite private collages and from all sorts of “groups” and at the Queens County Community Farm). Denial and delusion run rampant.

      Considering these “creatures” are hooked in 24/7 for the most part the lack of knowledge about the past and being able to put our current situation into a context I can only be generous and say I’m disappointed.

      I’ve yet to met more than a few (less than 10) who’ve actually read Limits to Growth or Overshoot or seen Albert Bartlett’s and Jeremy Jackson’s presentations on youtube.

      They speak of us going to Mars (while we finish trashing this place) as if it’s going to happen. They speak of driverless cars. They speak of Fusion and free energy being just around the corner (as they have been just like the prosperity Hoover was always referring to (was a chicken in every pot) without being able to understand that these are promises going on over 60 years.

      And of course these beliefs are not limited to young people.

      I’m curious what you regard as “education” considering we have a schooling system whose goal is not to educate and create critical thinkers, but to indoctrinate and make obedient consumers of them. I refer you to Alfie Cohen, Neil Postman and of course John Taylor Gatto (sadly in Gatto’s case although understanding that Darwin and Malthus’s may have been more interested in eugenics than in Limits to Growth he doesn’t seem to have understood exponential growth or familiarized himself with Albert Bartlett).

      Here’s a recent article regarding those young people (who seem unable to do a budget to decide whether they should even go to college and come out in life long debt) and a comment from Gail Tvberg’s blog (although Gail seems to get the math she still insists (as does Nicole Foss) that Climate Change ranks lower in the list of crises we are facing than Peak Oil (guess we’ll have to wait until her house floats away for her to readjust her thinking).

      Your thoughts?

  3. Tom says:

    Of course! Now it’s clear why “the news” doesn’t provide any (including no substantive comments on even the weather beside wonderful, enjoyable and happy times). They’ve even gushed over the dull, muted, burnt and hole-ridden leaves turning (drab, washed-out) “color” – they don’t notice the state of environmental degradation that comes from our reliance on fossil fuels for so long. i’m hearing more and more personal stories (usually uplifting to some degree) rather than what’s really going on in the world. The only way to get the real story is to go on-line and find a few trusted sources.

    Thanks Mr. Lewis – good report.

  4. SomeoneInAsia says:

    There’s a reason why I haven’t stepped inside a cinema for almost twenty years now and hardly ever watch the TV anymore. (Even the radio I never, ever listen to anymore.) And even Asian media seem to have been stricken with the same malaise.

    If I want to watch anything entertaining nowadays, I’ll watch wrestling. At least it doesn’t pretend to be anything other than mindless entertainment, and two near-naked musclemen sweating it out with each other titillate me far more than some stupid men in baggy robes called ‘Jedis’ who go around giving pseudo-sermons while swinging their lightsabers.

  5. “Producers stack the decks by writing pre-answered questions for the anchor bimbos and bimbettes: ‘So, how did you feel when he pointed the gun at you?'”

    While there is probably no changing any time soon this moronic practice, along with the on-screen graphical style that can only appeal to someone dropping Adderall, there is some comfort in seeing at least recognition of it.

    When I can get better commentary about what’s important in the news from Comedy Central than I can from CNN (and its literally and figuratively more juvenile sibling, “Headline News,” or “HLN”), something is broken. But as the old saying goes, “If you can’t be part of the solution, there’s great money to be made in prolonging the problem.”

  6. P.S. says:

    “While there is probably no changing any time soon this moronic practice, along with the on-screen graphical style that can only appeal to someone dropping Adderall, there is some comfort in seeing at least recognition of it.”

    An awful drug. I am a non-adderall using millennium. I did my time at a Big Ten school with concentrations in History and Folklore. It has been suggested I was a fool to go that avenue. My logic by about age seventeen was that we might need a degree of historical perspective during the long fall. Of course, no one of this generation very much cares. Let relate to you, without distress; do not trust these proto-fascist generation. They believe with the world becoming more “competitive”, compassion is best tossed to the side. Of course token marks of compassion and insight are quite alright. They have near zero historical conception; i.e. they are easily led. At best, you might get a naive liberalism from them, which will attempt to show teeth if you hint otherwise. Luckily, toss a little mental/verbal dissonance at them in the right way and they are defanged. It would be fun, if the situation was not so serious. Unfortunately, there is nothing behind the veil. Hide your daughters. Best of luck.

  7. P.S. says:

    As is true to generational form, my post is littered with grammar mistakes. Perhaps if I would have had enough money for graduate school….