Mon, Apr 16, 2018 - Page 7 News List

The generation gap is back, but not as we know it

There is an ideological conflict brewing between ‘woke’ millennials and an older generation in which neither understands the other

By Brigid Delaney  /  The Guardian

Illustration: Yusha

For a while there, in the first part of the new millennium, the generation gap was pretty much assumed to be dead. People in their 40s shopped in the same clothing stores as people in their 20s and listened to the same sort of music.

If you were on the left, you all cheered for former US president Barack Obama, everyone from those in university dorms to the corner office had the Shepard Fairey posters of HOPE and all ages were engaged in common political struggles: No invasion of Iraq! No blood for oil!

You would go to a Bloc Party concert and there would be a finance dude there in his 40s wearing the same Urban Outfitters jeans as the kid in their 20s. At dinner parties, people in their 30s were taking MDMA and everyone from the 19-year-olds to those high 37-year-olds leaving the dinner parties would end up at the same late-night bars.

“This, of course, is a seismic shift in intergenerational relationships. It means there is no fundamental generation gap anymore. This is unprecedented in human history. And it’s kind of weird,” a 2006 article on the merging of generations in New York Magazine said.

For the younger generation, how to rebel? How to mark yourself as different? Did age even mean anything anyway?

It is 2018, and if you were a five-year-old in 2006, being rocked to sleep by your hipster dad singing you Arctic Monkeys, then you would be 17 now. The same age as the Parkland kids, who many — including the New Yorker, the New Republic, Christian Science Monitor and Salon — are characterizing as a “new generation.”

Those who are a couple of years older are entering workplaces and colleges — and you know what? There is a generation gap — just not in the way that we imagined it.

It is not about style. It is not about about taste in music (“Turn down that racket!”). It is about language and battles over inclusivity, diversity and power structures, and it is a whole lot more complicated and confusing than the generation gaps of yore, in which the olds were horrified at the Beatles and their long hair.


Boots on the ground — what does the new generational conflict look like?

Inside the newsroom at the New York Times there is an ideological conflict brewing between the old guard and the “new woke” employees.

An article published last week in Vanity Fair titled “Journalism is not about creating safe spaces: Inside the woke civil war at the New York Times” illustrates the tensions.

In the newsroom, the battle lines are being drawn around older hands who believe in reporting a diverse range of views — including those that the left might find offensive — and who think that the reporting of US President Donald Trump should be fairly straight down the line.

The younger generation were appalled at the 2016 election results and have expressed grievance at the Times hiring for their opinion pages one writer who has expressed skepticism about climate science and a millennial who supports campus free speech.

Other grievances within the newsroom that Vanity Fair reports as being split along generational lines include the reaction to a reporter being allowed to return to work — in a demoted capacity — after being accused of sexual harassment and the managing editor, Dean Baquet, appearing at the same Financial Times conference as Steve Bannon.

According to the Vanity Fair piece, “as at many newsrooms and media offices, and in the culture at large, this is a moment of generational conflict not seen since the 1960s.”

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