Grey Vs. Brown: The Future of American Politics

Connor Kilpatrick serves up a masterpiece of the intergenerational warfare genre, and I am loving it. This is why you need to vote, young people. The teabaggers understand perfectly well that our economic interests are not aligned, and they vote in every election. Our generation is numerically larger, and we can overpower them if we start showing up:

And now, with the spread of broadband Internet, Boomers have opened up a new front: the decade-long crusade on filesharing. No more coddling us with “Don’t Copy that Floppy!”. Take the case of Hana Beshara, proprietor of the dearly departed link sharing video website NinjaVideo. SWATed up Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents stormed into her home last year and now–just a couple of weeks ago–she was sentenced to 22 months in prison and fined over $200,000 in restitution to her “victim,” the Motion Picture Association of America. Or there’s Aaron Swartz of Reddit, charged with the crime of attempting to create a database of academic papers and reports–largely the work of unpaid graduate student labor in the first place. He faces up to 35 years in prison and a fine of $1 million. Or Joel Tenenbaum, the kid who’s being sued for $4.5 million for sharing a handful of Nirvana mp3s. Remember that video of Texas Judge William Adams viciously beating his teenaged daughter? He claimed that it was her Internet downloads that set him off. Just a little “discipline,” he said, after “she was caught stealing.”

Which is why I love the Tea Party so much. They don’t dick around about any of this. It’s a full-scale generational war they’re after. Sociologist Theda Skocpol’s The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism devotes a good chunk to understanding the generational warrior inherent in Tea Party politics. Skocpol refers to the clash as “the ‘grey’ versus ‘brown’ divide.” Grey meaning the old white people who dominate all of our political and economic institutions, and brown meaning the young, most racially diverse generation in the history of this country: ours.

Grey versus brown is “a tension that superimposes divisions by age and experience, income, and ethnicity…the Tea Party is very much a reaction by older white conservative Americans who resent and fear what they think might be the political accompaniments of a nation transformed by rising younger cohorts with different experiences, values, and social characteristics.”

Fittingly, the Tea Partiers have chosen the Ryan Budget as their very own spiritual lodestar–the Port Huron Statement of the old, white and reactionary. The Ryan Budget–and the GOP campaign around it–divides the American populace into “those who are 55 or older now, and those who are younger.” Meaning Boomers will receive Medicare and Social Security checks unchanged, whereas Millennials get the axe–despite the fact that many of us have been paying into these programs for the past 15 years. Let the record show that it was they who fired the first shot.


  1. Are you still in 5th grade? Stop with the hackneyed attempts at homophobic humor and grow up already.

    I forget – how many women were raped at Tea Party events? OWS had to set up a ‘safety tent’ for women because sexual assaults were so pervasive. You might want to remember that when you rattle on about how ethics, morality and honesty don’t matter and that the Tea Party is out of touch because they have consciences.

    Now about the issue at hand, file sharing – why shouldn’t someone control and profit from their own work? Shouldn’t it be their choice whether to distribute it for free or not?

    • Jon Geeting says:

      I reject your Tea Party morality. That kind of every-man-for-himself politics is disgusting.

      Can you imagine the surveillance state we’d need to have to have perfect enforcement? Obviously the socially optimal level of illegal file-sharing is higher than zero, because what we’d have to do to control it is much worse. Also, the length of copyright is a political decision. The government is granting you a monopoly for a limited time, as specified in the Constitution. How long that monopoly lasts depends on your politics. Personally, I favor a pretty short copyright term because the idea that people would produce less music or books or movies without huge payouts seems absurd to me. It flies in the face of what we actually observe, which is that people are willing to start bands and write books and articles knowing full well they’ll lose money.

  2. Since enforcement is a problem, we should make theft legal? Yep, there’s that staggering lack of ethics again. Just because you can steal doesn’t make it right. The success Apple has with iTunes shows you’re wrong – give people a legal, cost effective option and they’ll go for it. More than 1 million songs/day get downloaded there by honest people.

    And of course you want a short time frame for copyright – like a good little Liberal you don’t want to pay for anything, rather have someone else pay for it. I’m guessing you have thousands of songs on your iPod and haven’t paid for more than 5. Wonder if you’re a little afraid the copyright police will knock on your door next?

    Your lack of ethics and integrity is revolting.

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