Monday, March 08, 2010

Tom Brokaw fails to define Boomers

I suffered through 10 cloying minutes of "Boomer$" (note the annoying dollar sign) on CNBC before Tom Brokaw broke in with a paean to the Boomers' parents "whom I call the Greatest Generation." Yes, Tom, we know that your "Greatest Generation" suffered through the Depression and beat the bad guys in "the Good War" and faced down the Soviets during "40 years of The Cold War." And we know that, in comparison, we Baby Boomers were a bunch of sniveling whiny brats who smoked pot at Woodstock and protested at swell land-grant universities such as University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

Brokaw can't help it that he despises the Boomers. He was born in 1940, too late to be a member of the Greatest Generation and too early to go to Woodstock and/or Vietnam. Besides, Brokaw has made a living out of praising my parents' generation. They were pretty fine people. In that Tom and I agree.

But he isn't up to the task of defining the the contributions and idiocies of 74 million Americans born between 1946-1964. I made it through 20 total minutes of the show and I had enough.

To understand the Boomers -- and the last 60-some years of American history -- you had to be paying attention. Living your life, for one thing, and contributing to society in some sort of constructive way. The Boomers I know are big on volunteering. It could be the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure or the rodeo at Cheyenne Frontier Days. Takes a lot of volunteers to run a political campaign. Those I met during Gary Trauner's unsuccessful race for the U.S. House in 2008 ranged in age from Greatest Generation to Gen-X-Y-Z. In between, of course, were the Baby Boomers. We worked together, not necessarily in perfect harmony but pretty close.

I meet some nice Repub Boomers when I volunteer at the polls. We don't have a single thing in common except that we love our country and think working at the polls is a damn fine way to give back.

It's not only volunteering. It's working at something you like and raising decent kids and keeping in shape and making some dough and buying a house and 101 other things that people do.

It's nice to see Tom Brokaw interviewing aging jocks and Woodstock survivors and P.J. O'Rourke and Bill Clinton and an unemployed 50-something woman and potbellied guys who once twirled hula-hoops. But what did we learn from "Boomer$?" Not much, but I only watched 20 minutes. Perhaps if I watched the whole hour I'd be a smarter Boomer, almost as smart (and smarmy) as Tom Brokaw.


hetyd4580 said...

Interesting blog, Michael. Brokaw’s Boomer$ was an embarrassing failure for CNBC. By ignoring the growing consensus among actual experts that there were two distinct generations born in the post-WWII boom in births, the show was a mess of confusion and inaccuracy.

Most people born 1946-1964 (which the show defines as the Baby Boom Generation) who watched this show would not have related to it. This is because practically the whole show described those born in the first half of that period (the real Boomer Generation) while almost completely ignoring those born in the second half (Generation Jones). And far more babies were born during the GenJones years, which makes the fundamental idiocy of this show that much more pronounced.

The images of childhood presented were almost all those of the real Boomers: Coonskin hats, hula hoops, Howdy Doody, school bomb drills, ovaltine, etc., etc. Most Jonesers weren’t even born then. Where was the Brady Bunch and Partridge Family, Easy Bake Ovens and Beany Coptors, etc. etc. which Jonesers grew up with? The teen/young adult years presented were those of the real Boomers: Vietnam and anti-war protests, Woodstock and hippy counterculture. But Jonesers were just little kids then, not a part of any of that. Where were GenJones teen cultural touchstones like disco and heavy metal, Farah Fawcett and David Cassidy posters?

The show was filled with contradictions. It referred to Obama as a Boomer. But this was the same network that kept talking about the generational change at last year’s Inaugural. So the Boomers were passing the generational torch to the…Boomers?! The show repeatedly stated that the Boomers were the offspring of the Greatest (WWII) Generation. Does that mean the Silent Generation (between the WWII Gen and Boomers) didn’t have any children? In reality, most Jonesers were born to Silent Gen parents. This is one of many reasons why Jonesers are so different than Boomers, since experts emphzsize the big contrast between the Silent gen vs. the WWII Gen and parental influences are so crucial to the formation of generational personalities.

For our entire life cycle, we Jonesers have been mistakenly lumped in with the Boomers (and blamed for their excesses), while getting very few of the benefits. We are not Boomers. Every national poll on this question confirms that we don’t believe we are Boomers. Mountains of data confirm the clear differences in values, attitudes, etc. between Boomers and Jonesers. Most actual experts believe GenJones exists. Yet, CNBC ignores this and puts out this show using that old widely-discredited 1946-1964 Boomer definition.

Generations are a function of the common formative experiences of its members, not the fertility rates of its parents. There was a demographic baby boom 1946-1964, but the Boomer Generation was born around 1942-1953, while GenJones was born around 1954-1965. This is what actual experts say, as opposed to clueless media companies who don’t bother to research current expert opinion.

Thankfully, many in the media have paid attention to the experts, and GenJones has been getting lots of media attention. Many major mainstream media companies now use the term; in fact, the Associated Press' annual Trend Report chose the Rise of Generation Jones as the #1 trend of 2009. We Jonesers need to help spread awareness about our long-lost generation to help avoid the imbecility of shows like Brokaw’s Boomer$.

Here are some of the good links about GenJones I found:

Michael Shay said...

Makes a lot of sense to throw war babies into the Boomer mix. And then to begin the GenJones years at 1954. It's always seemed a bit odd to me that I (born in 1950) would have the same cultural touchstones as my younger siblings born in the sixties. Thanks for the links. I'll broaden my horizons and check them out.