Are Millennials as apathetic as people say?
This story is not about the content of FBI Director James Comey’s live stream testimony. Comey’s testimony is undoubtedly paramount to resolving questions surrounding the Trump team’s involvement with, and relation to, the Russian election tampering investigation; but there is an article of note within this story’s title, which is nearly as pertinent, if perhaps a bit more subtle. The key words are “Live Stream”.
In the last decade or two, reports that encourage political awareness may seem to have devolved into a 24-hour circus of media scrutiny regarding nearly everything from political stances and corruption to the preferred sandwich style of representatives. With reports of an increasingly narrow focus directed toward an audience of a more acute demographic, the coverage may have increased, but simultaneous public interest has undoubtedly diminished; leading to younger viewers tuning out in record numbers.
While this environment of political apathy was growing, some argue that it allowed for a festering of irresponsible, unconcerned, thoughtless politicians; some of whom were inclined to do as they wished with a total lack of regard for the consequences of their actions. A sense confirmed, when reports of a Montana Congressional candidate bodyslamming a journalist broke the day before he was voted into office. Yet still, today, Director Comey’s congressional testimony is being live streamed on YouTube, to millions of viewers, by multiple mainstream and independent media outlets, and comments fly by faster than one can read.
Coming to you ‘live stream’
Why then, is this suddenly happening? Last year you could have asked just about any millennial, indeed, even any person on the street, who the FBI Director was and the likelihood of receiving a correct response would have been slim to nil. As of June, the Eighth 2017, that same director’s congressional hearing is one of the top trending streams on YouTube, and #JamesComey is certainly bigger than #lilwayne; so, a shift in the public consciousness has apparently begun.
A new reality?
We could attribute this shift to the idea that a reality TV star has become the president of the United States, or, that said president is more likely to utilize Twitter than a podium to reach his fellow Americans. Perhaps it is, in part, to do with the round the clock media coverage of all the president’s men that has driven the public to become a more active participant in government. Comedians, too, are engaging in a way previously unheard of in the mainstream. People are intensely curious and celebrity gossip is always a tantalizing topic for the media to make use of; considering that our president is more celebrity than politician could be partially responsible for the growing interest as well.
These things are important variables, but they lack the substance of the primary causative factor. Wait just a minute, primary; that sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Ah, yes, the primaries. The media’s coverage of the 2016 presidential primaries was something like a carnival/freak show, on both sides of the aisle, and was perhaps the single most widely reported event in the last half decade. And, who knows, if nothing else President Trump might be the primary force (see what I did there?) in motivating people to watch, thereby drawing them into the political arena. Some say it was all for publicity; regardless of his intent, the outcome remains the same: People are watching.
Candidate Trump, had not been the only flame beckoning to the public moths, many of our flightless fellows saw the light of Bernie Sanders. His often loud and repetitive demands for a more financially transparent and socially responsible government captured the attention of many. The claims of his campaign were such that he received no money from super-PACs, instead relying largely on personal contributions of nominal amounts. This could be demonstrative of a politician truly reaching the average person and showing them reasons not only to be concerned but offering hope as well.
The response to Sanders’ campaign was enormous; polls still show him as the most popular politician in the country. Yet, all that was not quite enough to net him the nomination for the Democratic party. The gravitational presence that is Hilary Clinton, would take that honor. She, too, would whip her opponents into a frenzied passion, and drive her supporters to open proclamations of her nomination as evidence of a visibly changing world and the path to achieving it.
All this attention evidenced a living passion in everyday people; palpable, and coursing throughout America. The line in the sand was drawn and people were emboldened to step to one side. We all now know the outcome of those primaries and the subsequent presidential election has led to a heavily divided public. Even divided dinner tables. Within that division, much of America has come to the proverbial table seeking information, conversation, support, confirmation and even justice.
Sanders’ supporters think he got screwed. Clinton’s supporters think she got screwed. Comey’s supporters think he got screwed. And Trump, somehow, still thinks he got screwed, too. All the while, the American people think they are getting screwed by the government in general.
All this screwing around is feeding into a sense of desperation and even hopelessness. Well, there is no true hope without despair. These young and restless millennials are being encouraged, to hope, by the foreboding sense of despair created by an America they don’t agree with or understand, being forced on them, and they are not about to sit back and take it.
We’re not gonna take it! No! We aint gonna take it!
The 30 and under crowd are credited with a lot of dumb trends and have been called everything from snowflakes to safe space fascists with man buns. Millenials have been called lazy and apathetic, even ignorant and uninformed. That is clearly changing though, as evidenced by independent media venues springing up in record numbers.
Vying for attention among mainstream publications like NPR, The Washington Post, Guardian Wires, and others, independent outlets such as The Young Turks, who have garnered over a billion lifetime views on YouTube since the series began in 2005, have gained traction in the political news media markets, specifically with the millennial demographic. Of the aforementioned, and many others, all were streaming Director Comey’s testimony today via YouTube.
This is truly a stunning turnaround. The diminishing apathy on the part of young people is critical to the success of our functioning future democracy. Allowing our next generation to become dependent on fake news and listicles for news-entertainment will be putting our society and government in great peril.
More than talking heads
Perhaps it is due to this potential peril that, Senator Joe Manchin (D) of West Virginia, was quoted to say, during Comey’s hearing, “I have received 600 requests for questions” (many of which were asked during the live stream). These questions are evidence West Virginians, are very concerned with their government officials trending behavior; more importantly, they are opening a dialogue with their representatives which is a great thing.
The light of the world
Today, Comey, was quoted regarding Russia, to say,
“We remain that shining city on the hill, and they don’t like it.”
A few weeks ago, I might have felt that statement to be losing merit, due to the recent events of the past year or so; but I am intensely satisfied to see the top trending video on YouTube, a congressional hearing. This is especially poignant due to the nature of matters so crucial to the state of our democracy as Russian intervention and cyber-attacks on the American presidential election; as well as micro-targeting of citizens and manipulation of public opinion.
These issues are so intrinsically woven into our nature as a democracy that without public interest to support the discovery and investigation of such things, our grand experiment into a free market driven semi-socialist democracy will ultimately fall to pieces, and we will be left to check Russia’s YouTube or Live Stream page for our news on matters of state.
Perhaps, if we keep streaming, chatting, blogging, and posting independent reports, we might stand a chance at draining that swamp after all.