Ed Driscoll

The Port Huron.com Statement — a.k.a., Blame it on the Kids

In “The Gold Violin,” a second season episode of Mad Men, there’s a classic scene where Don has to deal with a pair of young writers that have been foisted upon him by Duck Phillips, his bete noire, in the hopes of attracting a younger, hipper demographic for a coffee company that Sterling Cooper is pitching to. (Perhaps the episode should have been titled 1,000,000 Years Before Starbucks.) In an effort to explain themselves to Don, the head of the tyro ad duo begins riffing in quasi-proto-hipster jazz speak-style riffs:

Smitty: I think it’s pretty clear why we’re here. You want to know how our generation feels. So! I get this letter from my friend back in Michigan. He’s still in school, man, and it’s got this – I don’t know – 60-page rant in it. So, dig it!

Smitty starts to read the Port Huron Statement: “We would replace power rooted in possession, privilege, or circumstance, by power in uniqueness, rooted in love, reflectiveness, reason, and creativity.”

Don: That’s a beautiful sentiment. Does your friend know what you do for a living?

Smitty: Yeah, there was a sh*tty note with it. But this whole concept, is deeeeep.

Don: Student for a Democratic Society. That’s a hell of a focus group.

Kurt, Smitty’s sidekick: It is…what it is.

Don (while shooting off a withering look): It’s idealistic – that’s nice.

Smitty: Your generation wants to talk about that newly designed can or the premium beans. But we don’t want to be told what we should do or how we should act. We just want to be.

Flash-forward to 2012. James Lileks asks,“Who’s up for a manifesto?”

 The Atlantic posted a Letter to Old People from the Web Generation today, the work of a young Polish chap. I’m writing this only because it was given some traffic by the Atlantic, and it’ll probably be held up as a brave thing the old, frightened media types will have to understand.

He begins with the usual mistake: young people are different than ANYONE ELSE and maybe your problem, pops, is that you don’t get it. You’re square. L-7. Herbert.

We grew up with the Internet and on the Internet. This is what makes us different; this is what makes the crucial, although surprising from your point of view, difference: we do not ‘surf’ and the internet to us is not a ‘place’ or ‘virtual space’. The Internet to us is not something external to reality but a part of it: an invisible yet constantly present layer intertwined with the physical environment. We do not use the Internet, we live on the Internet and along it.

Heavy, man. But perhaps Dick Clark said it best in 1967 — with a bitchin’ backing track, to boot.