on the reckless lending of megaphones

Everybody knows that there are people like this — smug, self-satisfied, massively condescending towards everyone whom they believe to be less cosmopolitan. Everyone also knows that there are people like this — bloated by a sense of entitlement, hyperbolically emotional when their will is thwarted, oblivious to any perspective or experience but their own. The sort of people you dread being seated next to at dinner, or being unable to escape at a party.

You read a few articles along these lines and it can be tempting to categorize a whole generation in the terms I’ve just used — and in fact, I often see such language used to describe millennials and whatever we’re going to call the people who come after millennials. (I bet you do too.) But this is manifestly unfair. I have spent my life working with young people, and while I have from time to time had to deal with the petty, the selfish, the entitled, they are pretty rare. The great majority of the students I’ve dealt with in my 35 years of teaching have been respectful and reasonable — sometimes unhappy with my ideas or my grading, to be sure, but unhappy within the normal parameters of human intercourse — and that hasn’t changed at all in recent years. I see absolutely no evidence that millennials are more inclined to such vices than earlier generations.

So the problem — and there is a problem — is not that there are more people like this than there used to be but that they are nowadays more likely to be given a megaphone. Those two pieces I just linked to are content-free, idea-free, reflection-free. They are bleats. And if you want to bleat to your friends over drinks, or on your blog, by all means knock yourself out. But for newspapers like the New York Times and websites like Vox to give a massive signal boost to brainless stuff like this is inexcusable. Have some standards, editors, if only minimal ones.