The PJ Tatler

A Millennial Trashes the Class of '14

Daily Beast political reporter Olivia Nuzzi, who once interned for Anthony Weiner, has penned a serious tirade directed at her millennial brethren.

The not very subtly titled: “The Oh-So-Fragile Class of 2014 Needs to STFU And Listen to Some New Ideas” — takes millennials to task for their agitation against commencement speakers with which they disagree. She refers to the action by Smith College students to get the school administration to cancel the appearance at commencement of one the most powerful and consequential women in the world — IMF head Christine Lagarde:

The petition—which boasts 483 signatures (less than half of their goal of 1,000)—states that although they “do not wish to disregard all of Ms. Lagarde’s accomplishments” and they “recognize that she is just a good person working in a corrupt system” they do not want to “encourage the values and ideals that the IMF fosters.” As if Smith College has such influence that allowing Lagarde to address its graduating class will have some kind of measurable effect on how people think about the IMF.

On the petition page, a student is quoted as saying she is “utterly disgusted that Smith has chosen to host someone from the IMF, an organization that has proven itself to be nothing but imperialistic, ineffective, and oppressive.”

Because God forbid these delicate students should be exposed to an idea or an organization with which they disagree—at college.

Whether or not you think the IMF is destructive, Lagarde is a powerful woman who has probably managed to do more in her 58 years on the planet than many whole graduating classes accomplish in the entirety of their lives.

You might barely understand opposition to Condi Rice appearing at Rutgers due to the hard left’s position that she’s a war criminal. That might not have a basis in fact, but as an exercise in hysterical, ideological fervor, you might be able to explain their position.

Not so with Lagarde, who heads one of the most powerful organizations in the world. Opposition to her speaking at commencement appears to be centered on the idea that the IMF forces kleptocrats, crooks, crony capitalists, and free spending socialists to tighten their belts and become a responsible government before they receive any funds. This necessarily leads to budget cuts, cuts in the government workforce, reduced pensions, and other offenses against powerful public service unions who would rather blame the IMF (who are trying to save them) than their own government that brought them to the brink in the first place.

Unlike the US government, who loans money to the same crooks and doesn’t necessarily expect it to be repaid, the IMF’s austerity plans are meant to force governments to face the reality that the free ride is over and it’s time to grow up. Countries come to the IMF as a last resort because no responsible central bank in the world would loan them any more money. The kids don’t understand this and Nuzzi hits the nail on the head in explaining why:

Millennials have grown up in a world where you are never forced to see, hear or read anything that you haven’t personally selected. 7,000 TV channels, a DVR to skip commercials, millions of websites—we have been able to curate our own little worlds using technology, wherein nothing unpleasant or offensive can creep in. So when we’re forced to sit through a commercial or, heaven forbid, listen to someone talk who isn’t Mary-freakin’-Poppins, we can’t handle it.

The entire point of college is to be exposed to different things: Different types of people, different ideas—and maybe some of those people will hail from organizations that negatively impacted poor countries, or maybe they were partly responsible for a war that ate up the country’s resources and resulted in human rights abuses and lots of needless death. But if, at the end of your time as an undergrad, you haven’t learned that oftentimes you find great wisdom in shitty people, or just that there might be some value in hearing what someone you don’t like or respect might have to say, what on earth have you learned?

Smith College President Kathleen McCartney, who is apparently the only sane person in the room at that institution. said in a statement that activists had their “desired effect, but at what cost to Smith College?

I want to underscore this fact: An invitation to speak at a commencement is not an endorsement of all views or policies of an individual or the institution she or he leads…I remain committed to leading a college where differing views can be heard and debated with respect.”

Young people are the worst.

Even the appearance of offending is enough to set these kids off. If Lagarde had been able to explain to these kids that, for instance, Greece was forced into draconian budget cuts because the government employed 20% of workers; that pensions and other benefits were literally bankrupting the country; that the Greek government had hidden the extent of their budget deficit and debt from the rest of the EU (with the help of Goldman Sachs); that the rest of the EU had been bankrolling the Greek budget deficit; and that the European Central Bank would only loan the Greek government money if the IMF came on as a partner; don’t you think they would have learned something genuinely valuable?

But millennials put very little stock in learning as a process, preferring to pick and choose what information to “learn” based on whether the source of that information has views that generally comport with their own worldview. It’s this sort of ideological cocoon that Nuzzi is directing her anger and she should be commended for doing so.