Millennials & the Revolution of Politics

Right now in the United States, Super Tuesday is just a couple of days away.  It’s pretty amazing that I know that.  I have never paid such close attention to American politics before.  I never cared that much; not until it came down to the actual Republican vs. Democrat.  In general we, your neighbours to the North, breathe more easily when it’s the latter.

But right now there’s a political revolution going on that has broad implications in both of our countries.  There’s a huge generational divide.  It’s the generation we call the Millennials.  They’re changing how everything works.  In current North American politics, both in the recent Canadian federal election and in the upcoming American Presidential election, there has been a visible, undeniable generational split in opinions at the polls, and it has made, and is making, a significant difference.  Millennials are the reason that the Conservative Harper regime in Canadian government was finally overthrown, and Millennials are changing the face of American politics even as you read this.  Nothing in national democratic politics is ever going to be the same again.

Why?  Is it that Millennials are creative and innovative?  Well, to some degree that’s true; the younger generation is almost always more flexible and more willing to try new things than the older generation.  Is it that they realize how fixed the system is and they are desperate for change?  Well, that’s partially true too.

But more than anything, I think it comes down to one simple thing: Boomers watch TV.  And Millennials don’t.

The Problem with Corporate Media

We in democratic capitalist societies labour under the delusion that the media is the Fifth Estate, which exists as an independent watchdog to inform us on the benevolence, and abuses, of those in power.  The media, we believe, reports on events in a way that delivers the news with forethought, expert consultation, and a fair, if not entirely unbiased, lens.  My parents still share this subconscious assumption.  But it’s not true.  It’s never been true.

Corporate media is, of course, interested in furthering the interests of things that benefit corporations.  In general, they support right wing policies because right wing governments support bigger corporate tax breaks, trickle-down economics, low wages, and lack of regulation.  It’s only common sense, really.  These things benefit any large corporation, and I don’t think there’s any denying that broadcast media is entirely ruled by large corporations.   What you may not know is just how large they are.

You would think that print media would be different; the last bastion of the independent journalist.  But again, you would be mistaken.  Almost every major newspaper in Canada is owned by two companies.  That’s right, just two.  They are Sun Media and Postmedia.  How big do you think a corporation has to be to own so many newspapers?

It didn’t used to be that way.  There was the CBC, and then there were mostly local private companies.  Until our broadcast media was partially deregulated in 2008, and again in 2011, by the Conservative government of the time.  Is it any wonder that the news seems to be favouring the right wing view more and more all the time?

Sometimes the bias is so blatant that it’s a suitable subject for ridicule.  But most of the time it is subtle; so subtle I know most people don’t notice it.  Watching coverage of the Bill C-51 protests here in Canada was most instructional for me, because I had just caught on to the tricks and so I really noticed them:

Two very different stories may be observed in the Vancouver Sun, which is a major corporate newspaper, and the Vancouver Observer, which is a somewhat respected but smaller and decidedly more left wing “alternative” media source.  Both papers are reporting on the exact same protest in the same city.  If you’d like to play along at home, I urge you to fire both of those links up in separate tabs and compare them as you read.

Our first clues as to the tack of the stories can be found in the headlines.  The editor of a paper is the one who chooses the headlines.  The Vancouver Sun headlines their story with “Vancouver protesters rally against Tories’ Bill C-51.”  Seems innocuous enough, right?  But let’s break it down a little.  First, limiting the story to Vancouver divorces it from the national movement in the minds of the readers.  Vancouver has a reputation for being a sort of “San Francisco of Canada,” and is regarded as a haven for what the right wing sees as “leftist nutbars.”  So this makes it sound like the protest is a local phenomenon.  Note, also, that the Sun is quick to call it “The Tories’ Bill.”  This demands polarization.  It makes it personal.  It suggests that anyone who might disagree with the bill is only taking exception to the then-unpopular Tories, rather than objecting to legislation which gives unsettling powers to the government. It trivializes it as “party politics.”  It’s a “nothing to see here” tactic.

In the meanwhile, the Vancouver Observer tells us that “Thousands protest Bill C-51 across Canada.”  We are meant to be alarmed.  Thousands? What is horrible enough to get “thousands” to protest?  And “across Canada?”  What could be causing such a sweeping concern?

Our next big clue is image.  The Observer has chosen an image that shows a vast sea of protesters, standing politely with their signs and listening to a speaker on a stage.  I am sure that they were trying to get as many people as possible in the shot to display how widespread the opposition to the bill is.

In the meantime, the Sun has chosen a much closer angle, so that you really have no idea how many people are at the event.  And they have also chosen a picture intended to make the protesters look as stupid as possible.  The big sign in the center of the image says, “Harper Darper,” which sounds like a child making fun of someone in the schoolyard.  If that weren’t bad enough, the most clearly-visible sign other than that one says, “Honk to defeat Happer!”  Obviously it’s a misprint, and the protester tried to correct it – you can see a black Sharpie line turning that first P into an R if you squint – but it’s difficult to see and obviously your first impression is meant to be “what a bunch of buffoons!”  You are supposed to dismiss them as “stupid left wing crazies.”

Now let’s break down the articles themselves.  Our first paragraphs set the stage nicely.  In the Sun we are told that “more than a thousand people” gathered to protest “Harper” in particular, and “the new anti-terror bill” by extension.  Okay, yes, there were more than a thousand people.  The Observer tells us that there were actually about a thousand more people than a thousand people, which is a total of two thousand.  So the Sun was telling the truth, but the implication minimizes things just a little.  Also, the Sun is letting us know that the protesters are protesting Harper because they don’t like him; not the proposed legislation because it’s objectionable.

In the Observer, our first paragraph tells us that about two thousand people “descended on the streets” to “express frustration with the federal government’s proposed anti-terror bill.”  So in this key sentence we are told a) there are a lot more people out there than the Sun was saying there were; b) they are frustrated with the federal government, not any party or person in particular; and c) that the bill is still a proposed bill, not something that is already law.

It seems like it’s a conspiracy.  But it really isn’t.  It’s the natural result of the corporate system of ownership; reporters making subtle changes to their pitched articles to make them palatable to their editors, who must then make them palatable to the company management, usually passing through several layers of bureaucratic stratification in between.  And ultimately, the paper is printed to please the boss, who likes things that benefit corporations just fine.

Most of Canada’s newspapers endorsed Prime Minister Stephen Harper in the last election despite plummeting popularity; the ones who didn’t supported mostly the Conservative Party with Harper’s resignation as a caveat.  People couldn’t understand it.  But Postmedia ordered all of their subsidiaries to endorse the Conservatives; which is actually a traditional owner’s prerogative.  In other words, every media company that has ever existed has a bias.  And they are expected to.

This is where publicly-owned media, run properly, can provide an alternative view and thus widen the lens we are given to look at the state of things; but even that has its problems.  Because the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation is a Crown Corporation, meaning that the Canadian government is the primary shareholder, there are limits to the powers of the CEO and the Board of Directors.  As a result, a significant faction within the CBC, angered by the Conservative appointments and the reduced budget, supported – almost downright campaigned for – the Liberal Party and our current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.  But we need to understand their bias as well; the Liberal Party promised all kinds of things to the CBC as part of their campaign platform, including a lot more funding.  Thus, even in Canada’s nominally non-partisan public media company, every time we heard about the New Democratic Party or its leader Tom Mulcair, it was to deride and discredit their campaign promises and to make Mulcair look as foolish as possible, with photos seemingly selected for the purpose.  And that was regardless of which mainstream media company was reporting on the election.

But even publicly-owned broadcasting is not safe.  The CBC, long regarded as a public resource with a decidedly left-wing approach (and it used to be) was gutted completely by Stephen Harper in his last couple of years as Prime Minister.  He cut its funding, fired most of its executives, and appointed a whole bunch of his Conservative cronies to significant positions.  Justin Trudeau’s attempt to fix some of this has been actively stymied by tactics from these appointees that look a lot like crazy Republican stunts to me.  (Incidentally, when a government changes hands, requests for appointees to step down like this are a normal, expected part of the system; which of course, the current CBC isn’t telling us.)

Things like this have already been done to the BBC several years ago and are now firmly entrenched.

It’s an interesting point because I see the American media doing the exact same thing to Senator Bernie Sanders that the Canadian media did to the New Democrats, for the exact same reason; corporations hate social democracy.  Social democracies limit corporate powers and increase wages.  Social democracies believe in what’s best for all of the people, not just a select few.  I think it’s a safe bet that the mainstream media will never show us an unbiased view of policies that might put more limits on corporations; which is why so many people seem to think that Mr. Sanders’ “socialist” policies are “unrealistic.”  Even my parents.  The funny thing about this is that most of Sanders’ platform is the way Canada did things, from the 60s right up to the Harper administration, and it worked just fine.

There’s another concern with corporate media.  The media makes a lot of money on political campaign ads, as politicians try to make their messages heard; and also on election coverage, as corporations backing particular parties or candidates sponsor programs that feature those candidates.  And the more political tension they create, the more money they make; which is probably why every political campaign is portrayed as a horse race, even when it’s not.

How the Internet is Transforming Politics

In the early days of media, there were newsletters and newspapers.  Media was a lot less centralized and thus, people read what they wanted to read.  Since there were a couple of dozen New York papers, you just read the one you preferred; or maybe a handful, if you were really well informed.  When it came to politics, you read the papers that supported your political view; for instance, if you were a socialist, you read the socialist papers.

Slowly, larger papers began buying up the smaller papers, and so your options of what to read, and thus the viewpoint you were shown, gradually diminished.  Why did the New York Times become so respected?  Because everybody read it.

We have seen how that sort of centralization reduces the scope of the information lens so that we only hear what the corporate media wants us to hear.  But that’s changing.  There are alternative sources of media emerging; blogs and journals like ours, for example.  And the reason is – you guessed it – the internet.

Right now, political blogging is in its early growing stages.  We are graduating from a few random commentors to semi-professional small blogs and YouTube channels.  And the Millennials, having realized that the food that they’re being fed is (un)liberally flavoured with Corporatist propaganda and always tastes the same, have started seeking out those alternate sources.

Or so it would seem.  The truth is actually simpler than that, if I might cast a pall of cynicism on this ray of hope with an intention of helping us to make use of it in the most efficient possible way.

Millennials don’t watch TV anymore.  They don’t read newspapers.  Between their computers and their cell phones they go online for everything; their information, their entertainment, their social outlets.

So the fact that they’re discovering the alternate media is a cosmic accident, really.  And the only reason why the alternate sources are doing so well is that we’ve been here longer.  Fortunately the large media corporations were initially more interested in fighting or discrediting internet media than they were in using it. But that’s changing too.

Before you dismiss this as a fad, it’s clear that this has changed the way Millennials think.  They are perhaps the most literate generation that has ever existed.  Because they surf the web they know things that previous generations do not.  Because of Google Translate they can talk to people in other countries even if they don’t understand a word of the language.  And thus, it has never been so easy to find like-minded individuals and organize along ideological lines as opposed to geography.

More than that, most Millennials have probably experienced a situation in which they were humiliated on social media for not fact-checking a link or a meme.  Whether this or something else is the reason, Millennials who are politically aware check their facts.  They look up the definition of “social democracy” on Wikipedia.  They Google any statistics they are offered.  They use Snopes to confirm or denounce rumours and scandals.  You can’t just give them the facts you want them to hear, cherry-picked for your convenience.  They will double check.

As a result, we are beginning to see huge ideological divides between generations and it’s starting to make a difference.  Why did Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party win the Canadian federal election?  Because two significant demographics supported him almost unilaterally; First Nations Canadians, and young voters.

Note that these are both traditionally underrepresented groups in the political landscape.  But this time they overcame their reluctance to engage with a system so obviously stacked against them and came to the polls.  This, despite deliberate changes in election laws, such as gerrymandering electoral ridings and requiring proper picture ID as well as a voter registration card to vote – a tactic almost never done in Canadian history and obviously disadvantaging the young and the poor.  And as a result, our First Nations and our youth changed the course of Canadian history.

We are seeing this in American politics as well.  Would Bernie Sanders be doing so well against the likes of former Secretary of State and First Lady Hillary Clinton if it weren’t for the massive support he’s receiving from America’s youth?  Millennials hear Sanders using the language of the Occupy Movement and his call to fight the 1%, and they are protesting the system with their ballots.  It is even starting to affect demographics that were believed to be unassailable, such as creating a generational divide in the black vote.

Will this factor change the course of this American election?  It already has.  Even among the Republican voters, nobody expected Donald Trump to do as well as he has.  In a way he’s the right wing equivalent of Bernie Sanders; he sounds like a rebel against the system.  He’s just going about it in a way that openly reveals the fascist heart of Corporatism.

Either way, this is likely the last U.S. Presidential campaign that will be so strongly influenced by the mainstream media.  It’s a whole new world out here.

But the battle isn’t over yet.  The halcyon days of net neutrality are already behind us, and there are ways in which large corporations are manipulating the internet to their advantage.  Also, the way in which we access the internet and social media corrals us into echo chambers which entirely lose touch with anyone who doesn’t share our views.  I will address these issues in my next article.


*I have chosen to use the gender-inclusive singular “they” as my default general pronoun in this article.

32 thoughts on “Millennials & the Revolution of Politics

  1. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Youth has always rebelled against age, youth is generally more liberal. The Baby Boomers were Flower Children once, remember?

    A couple observations: in the US, the media must charge every candidate the same rates for advertising. It is interesting too, that most Americans consider their media to be leftist (with the one obvious exception – Fox News). NPR is considered very leftist.

    Is our system corrupt? Of course! Is it fixable? Probably not. Depressing. Is there an alternative? Part of the reason I read blogs on this site is the hope that someone, rather than being anti capitalist will actually be pro-something better. So far I have found myself disappointed.

    BTW: my two millennial daughters both have televisions, but they do get a lot of their info off the internet (as do I). I actually see the internet as a more divisive tool than mainstream media. Because what you post doesn’t have to be true, and contrary to your optimism, few people really do check their facts. They just read what agrees with their prejudices and accept it as gospel.


  2. Another astute observation from our northern cousin. Good job.

    I’m part of the Kansas Bernie team, and here in Wichita we experienced firsthand the dismissive regard for the Sanders movement, but don’t be so sure it’s generational. We just had over 700 seniors over 65 Rally for Bernie in the Old Town district.

    Yes, most of my fellow phone bank volunteers are young and millenials and it is true they don’t use conventional media outlets. They are smart, street savvy and spend what little they have to support. I’m very proud to see their fire. It gives me hope for a chance at a better future.

    Note to WoodsWizard; Very, very few boomers were ever a part of the counterculture. A good friend of mine was a reporter for the Kansas City Star back in the 60’s – 70’s, and his fellow journalists worked on an article that polled over 8,000 people under 30. Only 4% identified with countercultural values and positions of the time. Even less stayed with those movements. For most it was the attraction of sex, drugs & rock n’ roll. Once most saw these were diversions from the real agendas, they went back to being jerks…and have been ever since!


    1. I see it differently. Many of us realized that to have true change, we had to change institutions from within. So we took off our faded tye-dyes (the colors weren’t as brilliant then as now), cut our hair, took a bath, got our degrees and worked to change from within. Mixed results to be sure, but results nevertheless.

      BTW – Kansas City was never a counter-culture hotbed. Methinks the data is biased if only Kansans were polled!


      1. I would say that “working within the system” has not had mixed results, but absolutely terrible results. Unless you think things have been getting better for the average person over the past thirty years.


      2. Mixed result for who? Definitely not for the children of the Boomers. Or even for a good chunk of the Boomers themselves. Though you’d be hard-pressed to find one who doesn’t employ at least -some- Orwellian doublethink: “ignore the rationing, food has never been more plentiful!”.


      3. No, but I see flammable tap water from fracking.

        I see oil pipelines continue to be built.

        I see the consequences from the BP oil spill continue to devastate.

        I see burst financial bubble after burst financial bubble that has thrown the lion’s share of everyone else under the bus.

        I see trade agreements being hamfisted through legislative bodies one after another in bids to erode the power of governments and their people in the face of unbridled neoliberal capitalism.

        Hell, I see neoliberalism period.

        I see the rise of drone warfare and mindless military-industrial spending on asinine projects like the F-35.

        I see climate change denialism.

        I see animal extinction rates skyrocketing since 1980:

        I see the eroding of personal freedoms, social safety nets, and the rise of the surveillance state.

        I see that wars are now waged against inextinguishable concepts rather than people or states.

        I see that you are hundreds of times more likely to be brutally murdered by a cop than a terrorist.

        I see that it was the boomers that sold their children on the higher education scheme, who are now profiting off their children’s desperation.

        I see outsourcing of jobs to countries like Sri Lanka and Bangladesh for peanuts.

        I could do this all day, WW.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. You are almost not worth debating. We took steps forward. More so than a generation who whines and complains about fossil fuels on social media driven powered by fossil fuels. We couldn’t solve every problem, and new ones have appeared. I challenge you to match our progress.


      5. Woods Wizard, do you notice that on an anti-capitalist website, you claimed to know someone’s “worth”?

        A discussion on what the current generation is doing differently, is bringing to the table, as we ALL work to create change, has now been decentered into yet another argument about which generation is better or has caused the harm that we see in our world.

        This is not helpful. This is not a solution. This is more of the same that we are trying to rise against. The time for divisiveness is over. That includes the divisiveness that springs from blanket statements about any one generation being the savior or the destroyer. Any one generation being at fault. And especially calling any one generation by any set of disrespectful, disempowering names. No one person is, or speaks for, an entire generation.

        Rather, I would invite people to notice what is arising for them that brings such reaction. Is it guilt, shame, fear? A knowing that time moves with or without us? A sense of urgency? Move from that, not from the reaction.

        We can do better. We can be better. This is a part of the solution. It doesn’t have to be written about. It just has to be done.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. The concept of worth was never confined to capitalism. Things had value prior to two hundred years ago, when capitalism became the major economic force in the world. My time has value to me.

        The OP, Lady Sable wrote about the generational gap. This debate is a continuation.

        What disappoints me about this site frankly, is there are no ideas for moving away from capitalism. (And yes, they have to be written down to be communicated!) Lots of complaining and whining, but no fresh ideas. I personally believe capitalism will fail on its own. We need not resist or revolt – it is going to happen. Cheap energy will be used up, cities will not be able to be fed, and civilization as we know it today will undergo a profound collapse. A dark age worse than the time following the collapse of the Roman Empire will result. Our cities will, like Rome, go from millions of inhabitants (I believe Rome at its ancient peak was about 1 million) to maybe a few thousand. We will have no power like the Catholic Church to replace Imperial Rome.

        What we have right now is the ability to influence how that change occurs. Let’s stop whining and do something about it!


      7. Start with encouraging people to look within to discover what they really are, with their strengths, their weaknesses, and what excites them in life and then encourage them to create a life that fits them. This is far better than trying to become the imaginary person that they are told that they are supposed to be, but which in truth may be unattainable. That leads to people feeling they are failures for not becoming what they supposed to be, where as looking within they may create a life that could actually make them fairly happy.

        Remind them that it is the experiences that you allow yourself to have that creates more happiness than how much you can afford to buy. Consumerism is based on want and need, the idea that you cant be happy or impress people unless you surround yourself with a lot of items, then replace them with new and improved items often. Happier people will not need to so desperately buy so much and that will undermine capitalism as we know it. Not buying so many things allows us the option to buy better quality and more durable items, things worth passing down to our descendants, rather than junk that breaks down and must constantly be replaced. Buying less gives us more options about what jobs we take and how long we work. We might come to discover that time is often farm more important than money, that is time to actually live and have those experiences that we need.

        Nothing particularly radical, and I don’t really care what system we invent to allow that to happen, but we have to do some re-education of values and what happiness actually means to us.


      8. As are you, for not even knowing what it is that I’m talking about before attempting to refute it:

        Congratulations on your circular reasoning. You’ve gamed the entire system, even here in this discussion – you’ve created the rubric by which your precious “progress” is being made, which just so happens to paint the contributions made by your generation in the most positive light possible (which is a feat in itself) and now, because “we” aren’t making the same “progress” to your standards, you’ve done better.

        Amazing. Cultural narcissism in action.

        And new problems just “appeared”, have they? It’s not like people create problems or anything. They just “appear” now, out of thin air, by divine will. I guess I’ll just go back to sitting on my ass and praying, then. Maybe if I hope hard enough, some solutions will just “appear” too.

        Woods Wizard, that you are expecting someone to tell you what to do about capitalism belies your real incapacity and lack of desire to change. The struggle against capital (and all the interrelated horseshit) will not be the top-down endeavor that you want it to be. You will not get marching orders. You will not be assigned a plan of attack. If you can’t act on your own, from your own place of necessity and understanding, then you will never act in a way that can break the system. If you are expecting someone to hold your hand and give you the manual on what to do, then you’ve already doomed yourself.

        You are the one not worth debating from a constructive standpoint. But good thing the dichotomy of building/destroying is a fallacy that I reject too.


    2. All I intended to say about Boomers was that they still regard broadcast and print media as the most reputable source of information and news. Since all of that is owned by a handful of big corporations that spin news, particularly political news, to their advantage, Boomers are being fed a skewed view of reality which supports the corporate agenda. Millennials go to the internet and so they get a broader picture (though it isn’t perfect and I will be addressing a lot of the pitfalls in my next article, which is already written). I am not blaming the Boomers for screwing up the world, nor am I praising the Millennials for fixing it. They could, and I hope they will, but they haven’t yet, have they?

      There’s a few suggestions on what to do about the situation that the world is in, contained within this article; they’re just not phrased that way. The first is to become aware of the stuff they’re not telling you. The next is to share that information with people willing to listen (which is what all the bitching on this blog is about, Woods) so that awareness is raised. And the third suggestion was to protest with your votes. Register with your party, vote in the primaries, go out and vote on voting day. Go do that even if you believe the system is stacked (which it is) and if you believe we need to work from outside the system as well (which we do). That’s what less than half of Canada’s eligible Millennials up here did, and it changed everything.


      1. What got lost in the food fight is that internet news is skewed as well. People tend to read the news they agree with while disregarding the rest. I don’t regard the internet as an unbiased news source at all.If anything, I fear that one group of millennials getting their news from an on-line equivalent of Fox News and another from an on-line equivalent of National Public Radio will push the Us in the wrong direction.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. nods This can be quite true and one of the perils if the internet is not used to its fullest advantage. Read my next article Woods. I address all of this. It will be out in two weeks.


  3. I am just a bit to old to be a baby boomer, by just a couple months. But I gave up on the media dumbing down a lot time ago. I might read a newspaper three or four times a year, but most all of my information comes from friends pointing out stuff for me to heck out and of course I do the same. Some time my best local news comes for foreign newspapers.


      1. I have the online version of that, however their newsletter version went out of business. receivied this newsletter yesterday. Note that they say the TV version will go off on April 12. I am sorry to see that go. I will continue o look at the online news as long as they have it.

        This is the final Al Jazeera America newsletter. Although we are no longer updating our website, today we launched a legacy page with the best journalism we have produced over the last two and a half years. We encourage you to continue to watch our channel on TV until April 12. And for the latest news please visit Al Jazeera English.


  4. It’s astonishing to me that people still argue that all we do is whine and kvetch about capitalism without offering any possible alternatives to it. Seriously? Are you reading this site? And others like it? To me this speaks more about the (lack of) imagination of a given reader — which is a result of several generations of programming & propaganda rather than the presence or lack of intelligence — than it does about the content of this site and others. The magic of capitalism runs deep.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, it’s almost as if we’re expected to proclaim a one size fits all solution from upon high, and demand everyone follow it. Sounds familiar.
      Much is being offered, for those with the eyes and heart to see it.


  5. Ah those complaining an whining youngsters that don’t appreciate the hard work of the older generation. [Grin] Gee now where have I heard that before, perhaps in my own youth. So we are replaying the generational gap, to what point? I think we said much the same of our parent’s generation, with much the same response back. If we are going to divide ourselves into us and them, well not much is going to happen. Name calling gets nothing done, each side is going to have to put something in. I have a saying that the young are to dumb and naive to know what is impossible, so that occasionally they make the impossible possible for the rest of us. So the last thing we want to do is get in their way. I encourage the young t do what they can , disagreeing is not wrong, you have different ideas that you need to try out to find out which of them works. We do the same thing. Getting older often does not mean getting wiser, sometimes it can mean only getting permanently stuck and afraid where you are at. So we need the push from the young as we older people resist as well. Between the two, resisting and pushing, comes something that will actually be able to happen.


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