Generationalizing, the New Astrology

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Weekly Standard brings us an amusing evisceration of an entire genre of advertising, journalism, and what could only be very generously termed pop science:

All that's required is a catchy theme--"Generation Nice" is perfect--and a thick filter to block distractions or contrary evidence from entering in. As corrected, [New York Times staffer and "public 'intellectual'" Sam] Tanenhaus's story begins by denouncing the common charge of millennial narcissism. It is a canard, he insists, a cheap shot. How does he know?
The correction notice for the article, as indicated by the Standard, has severed all factual links between the conclusions made in the article and reality. As for what might motivate such silliness, the article pretty much nails it.
It's never pretty when journalists cross-pollinate with academics. The hacks, clutching "data" and "studies," take on the bogus authority of the eggheads, and the eggheads, startled by the thought that somebody might at last pay attention to their work, reach for the mindless sensationalism of the hacks. Entire segments of Good Morning America and the NBC Nightly News often result. Things only get worse when the academics and the journalists collide with marketing consultants, each of them appealing to the authority of the others. The sharp-edged world in which people live and act slips away, and a gauzy world of focus groups and surveys takes its place.
I would further speculate that the respective desires for authority and attention often derive from a deep-down suspicion that one isn't really engaging in productive work, or at least a failure to understand what that would entail.

The article draws an apt parallel between this and astrology, but it could have gone further, such as by considering more fully some of the many thinking errors  made by their respective fans. (Search "satisfied customer" and see links in following text.)

-- CAV

PS: As of this morning, a quick Google search reveals that I am not the first to come up with the neologism in my title. That said, it doesn't show up at Word Spy, although seven silly generational labels do.

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