Millennials, in other words, want to make an imprint on the world’s cultural fabric too, but the simple fact of managing to pin down that fabric and give it a thorough dye job seems to count for more than the substance of the design. Indeed, as I asserted in Unmarketable in 2007, the corporate adoption of independent modes of cultural production has left us with a deficit of integrity. The book was generally well received until last spring, when I got a flood of angry emails about it from young folks assigned it in a college course. My correspondents were appalled that I would delineate a meaningful difference between corporate and independent modes of production—and what’s more, they were downright furious that I would hold the latter in higher regard. Couldn’t I see, several young men some twenty years my junior demanded, that efforts to attract the largest possible mass of people by any means necessary were always virtuous?How hollow are we now that we only know how to gauge #content based on the speed at which it can amass attention/dollars?
This surely sounds harsh: some of my best friends, I swear, are millennials. And it’s almost certainly the case that the millennial set’s much-maligned displays of narcissism are rooted in other motivations. These are, after all, folks whose culture is created in large part by Murdoch’s shifty maneuverings and Vice’s kind of pseudo-journalism—not people, like Smith and myself, who recall a media environment before Jonah Lehrer, Mike Daisey, Jayson Blair, and @Horse_ebooks. We now live in a culture of increasingly hostile and invasive media, where getting consigned to an unsure economic future is a far more daunting prospect than getting caught in a lie. Another Pew study from 2013 showed that most teens take evasive measures to protect their privacy online: 58 percent of teens used codes to communicate on social media, and 26 percent deliberately posted false information about themselves to protect their privacy.
What I’m suggesting is not that young people are necessarily becoming more self-absorbed, as many have already, but that they may be abandoning truth-telling as a potential source of protection. I can’t really blame them: we’ve fostered a culture where fact-finding is anemic, but consumer products are doing just fine.
Friday, October 23, 2015
Triumph of cynicism
Start your Friday with this Baffler article by Anne Elizabeth Moore about the nightmare that is Vice Media. The heart of it is this three paragraph critique of amoral hipster culture.