Uh-oh, the young’uns are noticing our incompetence

I guess one of the dangers of teaching a class in critical thinking is that students might lose respect for us old people.

But students have grown annoyed.

“They were uniformly outraged,” Smith says, “because people are investing time and energy into this instead of doing things like stopping the spread of coronavirus or putting in place policies to counter global warming.”

Most are in their late teens and early twenties, having grown up as digital natives.

“They believe they have better skills to fact-check,” he says, citing anecdotes — admittedly not ideal for a science class, but there hasn’t been enough polling, yet, for good data — about middle-aged women falling for QAnon’s co-opted “save the children” slogan. One student’s mother had fallen for it.

While it’s heartening that his students can see what’s going on, Smith is concerned about what it all means for the rest of us.

History is going to remember us boomers as the generation that was so stupid that they fell for that QAnon bullshit. Someday you might be dandling a grandchild on your knee and they’re going to ask what side you were on in the Idiot Wars, and you better have a good and honest answer.


  1. stroppy says

    Well, “citing anecdotes?” I think some old dogs out there could teach rambunctious pups a trick or two.

    And in fairness, it’s not just boomers. OK, it’s a lot boomers. But still…

    John Mulvaney (SNL transcript)

    My nana is going to vote. She’s 94 years old. [Cheers and applause]

    Yes. Do you applaud for things that you don’t think are a good idea? [Laughter]

    And this is — look, this is my opinion, and I don’t think it’s going to be that popular. Why don’t we shut the door so no one hears it? [Laughter]

    I don’t think maybe she should vote. You don’t get to vote when you’re 94-years-old! You don’t get to order for the table when you’re about to leave the restaurant! [Applause]

    I’m sorry. That joke is ageist. That is wrong. It is wrong to say one age group is better than another. That would be like calling yourself the Greatest Generation. “Oh, we fought the Nazis!” Well, we’re trying to fight the new Nazis if you get out of the way and stop voting for people you saw in between coin collector commercials!

    [Cheers and applause]

  2. Laurence A. Moran says

    There are millions of baby boomers all over the world. Only a tiny percentage of them believe in QAanon and those ones tend to localized to a particular country. Please don’t insult all boomers. Say “American boomers” and you’ll be closer to recognizing that it’s not age that causes the problem, it’s nationality.

  3. Pierce R. Butler says

    … one of the dangers of teaching a class in critical thinking is that students might lose respect for us old people.

    Why do you think our venerable ancestors kept us from getting such classes?

  4. says

    One of my nieces (in her forties) fell for the “Save the Children” tag on a QAnon post and shared it with her friends. When I criticized her for not noticing the disreputable source, she said, “Anything that helps children is good!” Just like when a former high school classmate posted a spurious quote attributed to George Washington (a really obvious hoax); I pointed out its fraudulence and she riposted, “But it had a good message!” See? Lies don’t matter!

  5. Akira MacKenzie says

    Don’t worry, there are plenty of idiots among the Xers, Millennials, and younger to replace the Boomers as they die off.

    There always are.

  6. Artor says

    “They’re going to ask what side you were on in the Idiot Wars…”
    “I fought on the WINNING side, kid! That’s the only side that matters! Now drink your bleach so you don’t catch the Democrat Flu.”

  7. captainjack says

    Laurence A. Moran @2:
    I’m 71, born in Ohio in 1949, lived the last 35 years in Colorado. The last time I favored a Republican for president was 1960. I was, and am, appalled that Reagan was elected TWICE. I am flummoxed that Trump was elected ONCE and would have been elected AGAIN if not for his callous sacrifice of so many lives.

    I was raised in a liberal German Protestant denomination that I drifted away from after high school into agnosticism. For the last 20 years, I have become increasingly atheist and antitheist. The QAnon religious cult is one of the most contemptible I have encountered.

    We (those born in the U.S. in the 15 or so years after WW2, that are put into the {bullshit} category “Boomer”) are not ALL brain dead, yet. With luck, I’ll have another decade, maybe a bit more, before I’m too dependent to contribute much to bettering society. If younger people want to solve the problems the world faces, they should: organize, run for office, make noise, demand action. I’ll do everything I can to help, mostly everything I’m already doing. Blaming the olds is an indulgent waste of time and energy. As are mea culpas, P.Z.

  8. whheydt says

    Re: stroppy @ #1…
    In the early 1970s, my mother was visiting her home town, and reading the local papers while she was there. She dropped by her parents house on what was a local election day. Her father–in his early 90s–asked for help getting to the local polling place. Thinking he wanted to vote out of habit, she quized him on the candidates and ballot measures that were in play. He replied with who and what he wanted to vote for, and why, citing the various arguments on both sides. At that point, my mother cheerfully drove him to go vote, because he was clearly making informed choices. It turned out that he was in the habit of listening to local radio stations at night before going to sleep, so in spite of his age, was up on all the issues.

    A bit of back story… He was born in Denmark and came to the US (through Ellis Island) in 1906. He became a naturalized citizen a few years later. His wife, my grandmother, came through Ellis on 1907 and didn’t become naturalized until some time in the mid- to late-1930s.

  9. wzrd1 says

    Well, they’re off to a grand start.
    As evidence, Google “drunk aunt Michigan”. Rudi propped her up as “evidence” of election fraud and despite poking her, couldn’t get her to shut up until most in that House were in open laughter.
    Talk about a living exemplar of the stereotypical dumb blonde joke.*

    *Both of our daughters are quite blonde and will happily regale you with dumb blonde jokes. They learned from us well, ensure that your capabilities are underestimated, it undermines efforts against one’s goals. ;)

  10. PaulBC says

    They might know critical thinkin’ but they don’t know a thing about makin’ smoked sausage. I don’t trust those whippersnappers with their bowties and book learnin’ and talk about global warmin’.

    Sorry, no actual point. This is just one of those old commercials that comes back to me in flashbacks sometimes.

  11. stroppy says

    @9 whheydt

    Ah, radio in the 70s — a little different back then, I have to say. It’s been pretty well swamped by wingnuttery since then. In fact just a little bit ago I was driving and flipping FM radio stations. There was NPR of course, airing Science Friday (Chinese moon space stuff, if you missed it). The only other talk stations were two, far right scare mongers, one of them pitching directly at old timers as I tuned in. If I had the stomach for it, I know I would have found more on AM. I live in snowbird territory, btw.

    A few years ago you could pick up Stephanie Miller here, but that didn’t last long.

    Anyway, the Mulvaney bit, pretty much tongue-in-cheek I think.

  12. brucegee1962 says

    True story: in 2017, my father (now deceased), 92, had a stroke.
    In the hospital, they asked him various questions about his name, the year, and finally, who was president.
    He concentrated for a bit, then said, “I don’t remember his name, but I know I don’t like him!”
    Not all olds.

  13. R. L. Foster says

    Don’t lay it all the feet of us Boomers. Technically Boomers were born between 1946 to 1964 (alas, there go I.) There are a shitload of people between 30 to 50 who believe this QAnon insanity.

  14. xohjoh2n says


    Ok boomer. (You do realise it was your responsibility to educate us properly? Not our fault you fucked that up…)

  15. PaulBC says

    Fortunately I was born in 1965 and dodged that bullet. As one of the forgotten GenX generation, I get to be a complete asshole. That’s what we’re known for.

  16. canadiansteve says

    @PaulBC 17
    I’m also genX and generally agree it’s my job to be an asshole to everyone
    Fuck all you Boomers and Millenials.

    Also, I have noted in my life that stupidity is not restricted to any particular age class. It seems particularly universal

  17. John Morales says

    People are people.

    Being generational about the human side of it, that’s just an arbitrary perspective window. Procreation is ongoing, not episodic.

    I do think the best of the young today are more numerous and yet no worse than those of yesteryear. If anything, better.

    In advanced economies, even the poor can raise children in a better environment (cf. leaded gasoline) with enough good food and medical access to ensure thriving.

    Notably, the advent of the internet has changed everything… the access to information young people have is immensely increased. Those with the wit and ability and desire to avail themselves to it have an opportunity no previous generations have had. Lucky them.

    So, if there’s generational change at hand, it’s more so social and technological than biological.

    Still, people are people… but then, there’s CRISPR.
    That could change that.

    (dum dum duuuuum)

  18. John Morales says

    xohjoh2n, ?

    All I can say is that, absent some goal, there can be no actual “should”.

    Teleological thinking is pernicious when applied to nature, rather than to people.
    And even then it’s only a heuristic.

  19. Jado says

    In the 1980s people thought day care centers were sacrificing kids to Satan. American stupidity is nothing new.

  20. PaulBC says

    Jado@25 Maybe it’s just my generational loyalty speaking here, but daycares as bases for Satanic child sacrifice actually seems at least slightly more logical to me than pizzerias as bases for Satanic child sacrifice.

  21. John Morales says

    PaulBC, I see.

    It’s still extreme stupidity, but it’s just that teensy-weensy less stupid, in your estimation.

    (Such fine gradations!)

  22. PaulBC says

    John Morales@27 When you’ve sworn an oath to uphold the MTV generation, you grasp at whatever straws you can find.

    Still I think “Pizzagate” as a concept is qualitatively more ridiculous than pedestrian Rosemary’s Baby-level satanism (and that was well before the 80s anyway). (Yes, fine gradations but that’s what I do.)