Young analyst tackles the boomers: In highly tribalized times, hating en masse can be quite au courant. Examples:
You might hate everyone who votes the wrong way. Plainly, they’re all racists.
You might hate everyone from some city. Dallas, the city of hate!
Sweeping over-generalization is the gateway to this pleasing act. And as Salon helped show us this weekend, you can hate whole generations too! You don’t even have to know what you’re talking about!
Last Friday, Daniel D’Addario decided to tackle the always unpleasant boomers. We refer to his stirring report about the way some journalists have covered the Kennedy anniversary.
D’Addario’s fiery piece appeared last Friday at noon. Two days later, it still sits beneath these headlines:
Baby boomers in media make the Kennedy assassination all about themDarn those self-involved baby boomers! There they go again!
Tom Brokaw wants you to know where he was on 11/22/63
We tend to agree with D’Addario on one point. In our view, the Brokaw/ Lehrer/ Scheiffer crowd has tended to be a bit self-involved in their reminiscences about the assassination.
We’ve sniffed the scent of narcissism in their relentless musings too. In this part of his hard-hitting piece, D’Addario goes after Tom Brokaw:
D’ADDARIO (11/22/13): Take, for instance, Tom Brokaw’s brief memoir on NBC News’ Web page, noting that Brokaw, then a local news reporter in Omaha, “raced to get it on the air, stunned, confused and wondering ‘What now?’”We tend to agree with D’Addario’s snark. We too have heard an air of solipsistic self-congrats as some anchors have recalled the way they covered this event, an event which manifestly wasn’t all about them.
“I was just 23,” Brokaw wrote, “and the wholly unexpected tragedy helped prepare me for a lifetime of covering world altering events.” So, in a sense, thank heavens for the Kennedy assassination, for without it, we would not have had NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw, whose career has included a TV special and tie-in book called “Where Were You,” about Kennedy’s assassination!
Self-involvement has been a characteristic of anchors at least since the days of Ted Baxter, who was fictional. Unfortunately, D’Addario’s critique goes crazily wrong in two ways as he proceeds:
D’ADDARIO (continuing directly): Brokaw is and has long been the very face of boomer nostalgia for a simpler time, and explicitly views a national crisis as an opportunity for career advancement. “For you, that was the beginning of a CBS career, in a way,” he told Dan Rather in a recent interview on “Morning Joe”; Rather replied, in part, “I don’t like to speak of it in those terms.” The former NBC anchor, in all of his books, tends to view history as anecdotal and incidental—for people like former Nixon aide Frank Gannon, another of Brokaw’s “Morning Joe” guests, an incoherent story about planning to play the piano for Kennedy sheds light on the assassination. For Brokaw, it’s about media’s power to speak to the nation.In this account, Brokaw and Gannon see the anniversary as being All About Them. (Rather doesn’t.) Brokaw is the very face of boomer nostalgia!
As he closes, D’Addario spanks this self-involved generation again. As the following passage starts, he’s talking about a bit of self-love involving Bob Scheiffer:
D’ADDARIO: Fifty years later, and CBS is still hung up on its scoop. It’s remarkable, by contrast, how quickly after the events of Sept. 11, 2001, news organizations recognized that what had been unique about the day was not their coverage of it. “Morning Joe” will rebroadcast the “Today” coverage of the towers falling each year, but that’s as far as news networks trumpeting their own centrality to the day goes.Those boomers, D’Addario says as he closes. To them, it’s all about them!
Perhaps that’s because the anchors most active in news coverage in 2001 were accustomed to a landscape in which the news, not the newsman, had come to be the most important thing. When Tom Brokaw memorializes Kennedy, he’s memorializing an unsustainable environment, one in which he and men like him were the arbiters of information. Now, perfectly in line with the boomer generation, the only information he can exclusively give us is about himself.
This would be an excellent analysis except for two basic facts:
First, it’s a bad idea to make sweeping generalizations about whole generations. Are all the boomers really as bad as Brokaw, their heinous figurehead?
Probably not! In part, that stems from a second fact: Brokaw and Schieffer aren’t boomers!
Uh-oh! Brokaw was born in 1940, Schieffer in 1937. By normal reckoning, the baby boomers are the people born in the post-war baby boom, between 1946 and 1964.
Brokaw and Schieffer aren’t baby boomers! As Rick Perry might have said, “Oops.”
(Perry, born in 1950, actually is a baby boomer, if you really feel the need to parse the world that way.)
D’Addario comes by his fire naturally. He graduated from Columbia in 2010, filled with anger at the generations which condemned him to such a hard fate.
That said, hating en masse is a bad idea. But if you do decide to slime an entire generation, you might want to figure out when it starts and ends.
D’Addario’s degree is in American studies. What are they teaching these kids today if not when the baby boom started?
Speaking of righteous self-involvement: Everybody makes mistakes. That said:
D’Addario’s piece appeared at noon on Friday. Instantly, commenters noted the problem with the premise which blares from its headlines.
Tom Brokaw isn’t a boomer! But at Salon, the editors don’t seem to care. Two days later, the fiery piece sits unchanged, under the very same headlines.
Our view? If you think Brokaw’s a mess, go try the new Salon!