Great marketing starts with understanding the target audience and that’s a problem if your audience is Baby Boomers. They’ve puzzled us for decades.
Most of them were decent kids and became decent adults, but they did kick over the traces in the self-involved jerk department.
Based on the usually reliable 80-20 rule, any generation, any group of people for that matter, has a jerk factor of around 20%. Based on simple observation, Boomers are at least double that and that’s probably why they’re the only generation in history that every other generation dislikes.
All those jerks, the Bad Baby Boomers, the BBBs, snuck up on us. We didn’t give them a second thought as overall Boomer numbers approached critical mass around 1955. They were cute and certainly precocious, but we thought they’d grow up to be solid citizens.
We flinched a bit when BBBs began infesting the heart of American culture but we had no history to tell us how it was going to work out. Too late, we began to recoil in horror when they launched their reign of error in the seven week stretch between the JFK assassination on 11/22/63 and The Beatles’ first Ed Sullivan appearance on 2/9/64.
Driving the BBBs was a sense of preening morality behind an aura of faux superiority that created a compelling urge to lecture others. They viewed themselves as heroic altruists.
Their cause, and they needed one to hang their egos on, was the concept of change, mostly changing the US swiftly and radically. Into what, they never said but they organized, rioted and clamored for change anyway and they continue to lecture, hector, nag and lie through their teeth about it.
Because they never understood that the perfect is the enemy of the good, or that “change” is a gradual trial and error process, they never had a good reason to change the US. So they made a few up. The most damaging in the long term was their notion of Social Justice.
They thought MLK had defined Social Justice, but they didn’t pay attention to what he’d been saying. We’ve spent upwards of $30 trillion on Social Justice, anyway, and we have nothing to show for it.
At its root, Social Justice meant justice for blacks and just about everybody thought that was a great idea. MLK’s version was that justice meant equal opportunity for black people and finding a road to bring them into the mainstream of American society.
The BBBs thought, and most still think, that they could bestow equality on blacks with the wave of a wand and a regal “ta da, you’re equal”.
They got the odious concepts of noblesse oblige charity and equality of outcome mixed up with equality before the law and equality of opportunity.
Blacks just needed whitey to get out of the way. Boomers couldn’t allow that because there’s no glory, no sanctimony, no role for special pups in merely getting out of people’s way.
BBBs used the Social Justice issue to beatify themselves.
They thought they were special and they were – special in their ruthlessness, snobbery and slobbering preciousness, exemplified by that photo of a hippie slipping a flower into the barrel of a National Guardsman’s rifle.
(Excoriating the US, they saw nothing odd in the fact that they lived in one of the few places on earth where it was safe to get close enough to a soldier’s rifle to insert a flower.)
They’ll tell you even now that their intentions were good.
They intended to fight injustice. They failed spectacularly. Focusing on “helping” black people caused blacks to be even worse off 45 years later. By 1960, blacks had been doing pretty well, catching up. They weren’t there yet but they were on their way. Drugs hadn’t wrecked the inner city in 1960, most black children still lived with both parents, and black education and literacy were on the rise. Alas, by 1968, BBBs and their older comrades in arms, Marxists and hangovers from Wilson’s Progressive era, had convinced black people that burning down their own neighborhoods would be a good idea.
They should have known that the welfare state spelled doom for black families. (And, according to Frances Fox Piven, many of them did know.)
BBBs decided to help the North Vietnamese and before you could say Jane Fonda, it was April 30, 1975 and Saigon fell to the communists. The US armed forces skedaddled ignominiously and the real killing began. Communist lunatics murdered millions of Southeast Asians, tore apart families and condemned survivors who had any education at all to lives of serfdom in the countryside.
The communists acknowledge that they couldn’t have succeeded without the help of The New York Times, Walter Cronkite and millions of precious BBBs.
BBBs happily embraced sexual liberation, which they thought was a great idea. And it was a great idea – for irresponsible and callous young men. Millions of abortions, rampant STDs, predominance of single-parent (mostly moms) families and an astonishing divorce rate later, hey, we’re liberated.
Drugs were cool, mind-expanding. BBBs tinkered with marijuana and LSD then added cocaine, crack cocaine, heroin and crystal meth. One result is that Mexico is now a narco-terrorist state with tens of thousands of drug-traffic related murders every year. Another is that our inner cities have crumbled. All thanks to Boomers’ oh-so-liberating insistence that we should all just turn on, tune in, drop out.
The oddest damned thing is that while Boomers were reviling the US and trying to change it, the world was lining up just for a chance to come here and live.
The Boomers wanted to, and nearly did, change the US to resemble the rest of the world which was, and is, mostly a vicious pit of hopeless poverty and appalling ignorance.
The Boomers were rebels and non-conformists. So, naturally, they wore uniforms, starting with tie-dyed T-shirts, headbands, wide bottom jeans with holes at the knees, and rope belts. Now their graying hair is gathered in pony tails that dangle pathetically beneath nature’s tonsures. The look is augmented with earrings on sagging male earlobes. Hard not to laugh.
They decried materialism while amassing more material goods than any generation in history. They meant that materialism was bad for everyone else but not bad for them and that was just practice for their current belief that free speech means “free for me but not for thee”. Kumbaya ethics have always had a nasty Nazi streak.
They had no idea what they were doing. They’d been told they were the elite of the world and they acted like it. The problem is that they really had only one principle: We’re special!! What each of them meant was: I’m special and you are either a sad soul who needs wonderful people like me to guide you through life or you are an evil reactionary who must be mocked and destroyed.
They made heroes out of psychopaths like Che, Castro, Mao, Ho.
They thought they were leaders. They weren’t. They were followers tripping after the pied piper of Cool. You see a bunch of them around the reflecting pond in the movie Forrest Gump. Forrest was worth more than all of them put together.
Very few Boomers ever had ideas of their own. They borrowed and stole ideas from the two or three immediately preceding generations plus a few older romantic whackos like Rousseau and Marx.
Boomers followed pre-Boomers like Saul Alinsky, Joan Baez, William S. Burroughs, Malcolm X, Angela Davis, Jane Fonda, Alan Ginsberg, Woody Guthrie, LBJ, JFK, RFK, Jack Kerouac, Huey Newton, John Reed, Mario Savio.
Along the way, they managed to latch on to some good ideas – clean air and water, women’s rights, that kind of thing – and that’s a shame because all the BBBs brought to the table was a virulent form of reductio ad absurdum which gave us the infantile musings of Al Gore for climate policy and Gloria Steinem’s idiotic notion that men and women are not only equal but interchangeable.
So how do you sell things to people like this? A little over half of them are normal men and women; the rest are special and will react positively to a pat on the head and “Aren’t you the special one!” Purr.