What Laura Ingraham and America Don’t Get About the Post-Millennial Generation
Laura Ingraham just returned to Fox News after a weeklong leave and about 50 percent fewer advertisers following her taunt of Parkland shooting survivor and activist David Hogg. Her return should inspire Americans to reexamine our attitude concerning the post-Millennial generation.
We all know the angle: post-Millennials are “snowflakes” demanding to be sheltered from delicate topics, pining for “trigger warnings” in college classes that cover potentially sensitive material, and “safe spaces” that allow them to check out of reality. They deny the challenges of our world and will never succeed in the “real” one, one in which triggers are flying and spaces are free-for-alls.
This common spiel misses key facts and facets of today’s youngsters. Foremost: their solidarity. Those outside of academia seem unaware that the number of students who take action based on trigger warnings, where those warnings are offered, is remarkably small. For example, in a 2016 NPR Ed survey of 829 instructors of undergraduates, 64.7% of whom offered trigger warnings, only 3.4% included the warnings because students requested the warnings, and none of the professors had even a single student missing a class or an assignment because of a “trigger” concern.
The trigger-warning phenomenon is one rarely needed by individual college students, but one that is overwhelmingly supported for the few who may benefit from the warnings. Despite this lack of any universal need for trigger warnings, a study by Emily Horton found “overwhelming support for trigger warnings” among students. This is a prominent feature of post-Millennials: they stand, in solidarity, for every member of their generation. This is a virtue, and one directly in line with the Catholic faith that informs my university: that every person is born of immutable dignity, hence deserves as fair a shot at education as any other.
The Ingraham-Hogg conflict vividly displays the snowflake scenario getting melted by post-Millennial solidarity. Following Hogg’s sharing via social media that he had been rejected by some renowned colleges, Ingraham blurted, “David Hogg Rejected By Four Colleges To Which He Applied and whines about it.” Hogg’s response to her crass insensitivity was anything but flakey: “when you come against any one of us, whether it be me or anyone else, you’re coming against all of us.”
Another common feature missed by America is post-Millennials’ zeal for customization. For their entire lives, everything from hamburger dressings to entertainment subscriptions to frozen yogurt preparations abounds with options; theirs is a “toppings” culture. In no way should we be surprised, then, with their desire to customize their colleges’ classroom offerings, which, for previous generations, were take-it-or-leave-it affairs.
As for safe spaces, students now don’t seek places where they can hide from things they fear; rather, they seek refuge from incessant bombardment of data and communications, much of which, and especially from ranters like Ingraham, is laden with insult and judgment. The post-Millennials want a place where, no matter who is in the room, the space becomes one that allows them to be only, and exactly, who they are. Judgment-free. When asked about safe spaces, an LMU undergrad recently shared with me that such spaces were nothing new: “My mom had safe spaces, too. When she got riddled with ‘too much’ negative news or events, she would create her own safe space — by shouting ‘Enough,’ grabbing the remote, and shutting off the TV.”
When Ms. Ingraham complains about censorship, let us be reminded that Mr. Hogg’s response and advertisers’ actions were not attacks on free speech. Rather, they were expressions of free speech coupled with social action, fused with capitalist motives and choice. And the snowflake social action that got advertisers to remove their sponsorship of the show will likely cause an avalanche of new voters arriving at the ballot box.
Rather than pick up on the single quality that every generation in history has shared — that we routinely disparage the youth of our time — we need to move from exaggerating and mischaracterizing our current young generation and wake up to the extraordinary values that they bring us. The post-Millennials’ standards are not only admirable, but they shake us to the foundation of what America’s founders fought for and stood for. Together.