Episode 167: The Attractive Anti-Politics of ‘Gerontocracy’ Discourse


Intro: This is Citations Needed with Nima Shirazi and Adam Johnson.

Nima Shirazi: Welcome to Citations Needed a podcast on the media, power, PR and the history of bullshit. I am Nima Shirazi.

Adam Johnson: I’m Adam Johnson.

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Nima: “Why Are We Still Governed by Baby Boomers and the Remarkably Old?,” inquires The New York Times. “Why Do Such Elderly People Run America?,” wonders The Atlantic magazine. “Gerontocracy Is Hurting Democracy,” insists New York Times Magazine’s Intelligencer. “Too old to run again? Biden faces questions about his age as crises mount,” reports The Guardian.

Adam: Though these headlines are framed as exploratory questions, news media seem to have largely made up their minds: the problem with Washington is that it’s just chock full of geezers. In recent years, we’ve often heard that US policymaking, helmed at the federal level by seventy- and eighty-somethings such as Donald Trump, Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, and at the state level by the similarly aged Dianne Feinstein, Chuck Grassley, and Pat Leahy, is simply growing too old and out of touch with the electorate.

Nima: There’s some credence to this. It’s certainly true that those occupying the most powerful positions in US government, on the whole, don’t legislate to the needs of the public — whether on healthcare, policing, education. But is that really because of legislators’ age? Why does age have to be the focus in this analysis, rather than policy positions and, relatedly, class interests, which exist independent of someone’s age? Who does it serve to reduce causes of US austerity politics and violence to pat, Pepsi marketing-style ‘‘generation gap” discourse?

Adam: On today’s show, we’ll detail how generation analysis is ineffectual and, more often than not, misses the mark. We’ll discuss how fears of a “gerontocracy” can — if not in intent, in effect — malign old age itself and stigmatize the eldery and, above all, distract from what could be a substantive critical analysis of real, more profound vectors of oppression such as class, racism, sexism, and anti-LGBTQ currents.

Nima: Later on the show, we’ll be speaking with Winslow Erik Wright, author and activist whose writing covers disability rights, the struggle for authenticity under capitalism, and participatory democracy.

[Begin Clip]

Winslow Erik Wright: I think there is something to be said for, you know, the generations being pitted against each other. I think that’s a lot of what’s happening and it obscures the fact that I, as a millennial, share a lot of interests with another Boomer who’s situated similarly economically, but when you frame it as gerontocracy or, you know, ‘our leadership is too old,’ and there is a kernel of truth to that, but when you really get into the stigma and the hatred that’s attached with those ideas, that separates me from the other people I might unite with to undertake the collective action that’s necessary to actually challenge the problems we’re facing.

[End Clip]

Adam: This is a spiritual successor to Episode 38: The Media’s Bogus Generation Obsession, where we discussed the general use of generation discourse to create a fake conflict by our media. Today, we’re specifically going to be talking about the trope that our current government institutions are failing because they’re just too old. We’re going to make the argument that this is true to a very minor extent, but not really that important, and gets a disproportionate amount of focus, because it’s a form of anti-politics — anti-politics, I think we talk about a lot in the show, which is to say, the appearance of doing politics without really doing politics. Now, that being said, of course, many of our leaders, as we noted, are extremely old. Joe Biden, for example, was born closer to the civil war than his inauguration, which I was pretty smug about until I realized that, as of next year, I will have been born closer to World War Two than the present year.

Nima: Yeah, exactly. Welcome to old age, Adam.

Adam: Yeah. When I turn 39, I’ll be, yeah, anyway. So, the basic premise is intuitively true on a very basic level, but increasingly, as it’s become used by people like Elon Musk, it sort of shows how empty this kind of rhetoric is.

Nima: The notion of gerontocracy — that is, a society ruled by the elderly — is in many ways baked into human ideas of leadership, right, of wisdom and experience and, of course, in our politics, has been for millennia. Across human society, “elders” have long held prominent leadership roles in families, communities, kingly courts, and across countries.

The very first book of Plato’s Republic features the philosopher Socrates noting how crucial the wisdom of the aged is, saying, quote, “They have gone before us along a road which we must all travel in our turn,” end quote. The Romans named their most prestigious seat of, small ‘r,’ republican government Senatus. The word Senatus — and, in turn, our own word Senate — is derived from the Latin word senex, meaning an old man, and thereby conferring the ideas of gravitas, wisdom, experience. The Senate, by definition, is an assembly of old men.

Now, the U.S. Senate — and the rest of our federal political class — largely bears this out. The median age of members of Congress has increased over the past four decades. Between 1980 and 1982, the average age of a U.S. Senator was 47 years old. It’s now over 64; with more than a quarter of sitting Senators 70 or older; half of all Senators are over 65. The current Congress — the 117th — is the ​​is the oldest, on average, of any Congress in the past two decades. The average age of members of the House of Representatives is slightly lower at 58 years old. But Joe Biden is the second consecutive oldest president ever elected. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn are both 82, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer is 83. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is 81, a decade older than the Senate Majority Leader, y’know, that young whippersnapper Chuck Schumer. Senator Dianne Feinstein turned 89 in June; Chuck Grassley turns 89 this September.

US Senate

Plus, we all know older people vote more consistently than younger people. In 2023, more Americans will turn 65 than ever before. Worldwide, the number of people 80 years or older is expected to triple by 2050 to reach 426 million. But to bring it back to the United States, according to Pew, while people over 50 make up 34 percent of the U.S. population, they represent 52 percent of the electorate. In mayoral elections, the median voter age is 57, despite the median age of the American population being only 38.

Adam: So it’s clear that both the average voter, and of course the average representative in our democracy, is much, much older than the mean of our society. That is objectively true. But of course, although it has gotten more acute of late, it is not a new critique. It goes back many, many decades. Some of the earlier stirrings of warnings about an aging government began in the 1940s. Already here you can see age was used as a proxy for politics. The Morning Herald in Pennsylvania wrote, this is from November of 1944, quote:

Georges Gurvitch, formerly of the University of Strasbourg, points out in detail the role of gerontocracy in the collapse of France. France had never known the trust in ‘young and new men characteristic of the United States.’

Dr. Gurvitch further points out the dangers of gerontocracy — government by old men — the abyss which resulted in the proliferation of so-called youth groups: ‘Young Radicals,’ ‘Young Socialists,’ ‘Young Rightists,’ etc. — alike only in their revolt against the faith of the gerontocrats, all susceptible to the propaganda of Fascists or Communists.

Are the champions of the fourth term fully aware of the sinister menace of gerontocracy in this country?

Nima: Now, Joe Biden — who is the subject of much gerontocracy discourse that we’ll be talking about later in the episode — used age critiques as a bludgeon when he was younger against political opponent Senator Cale Boggs back in 1972. As Nathan V. Lorenzen noted for The Nation in a July 2022 article, quote:

Biden argued that Boggs had ‘lost that twinkle in his eyes’ and was ‘just not a fighter.’ You can swap the names Boggs and Biden, and these attacks from 1972 would be indistinguishable from those used in 2022. Of course, such comments about age are far from a one-way street. Biden, who was 29 when first elected senator, faced criticism for his youthfulness and was derisively referred to as a ‘young kid’ by Delaware Governor Russell Peterson.

End quote.

Adam: Use of the term “gerontocracy” also accelerated in the middle of the 20th century, partially as code for “governments we don’t like.” At the height of the Cold War, and in its waning years, the word often appeared in coverage of China and the Soviet Union to portray their governments as bloated, excessively powerful, and ineffective.

This is an excerpt from a 1976 syndicated piece written after the death of Zhou En Lai, former Premier of the People’s Republic of China, who died at 78 while holding public office. For some context, Chairman Mao Zedong was alive at the time, holding office until his death that same year at 82. The piece would use the politicians’ ages, paying no attention to their policies or popularity, writing, quote:

This tendency toward gerontocracy is nothing new in China, where rulers usually have hung on till their deaths. It has been fostered perhaps by the Chinese tradition of respect for the aged and certain institutional factors such as the need to accumulate vast networks of personal ties, which are the cement of political power in China.

The Los Angeles Times in 1983 wrote an article, quote, “Kremlin’s Gerontocracy May Be Good for West.” The San Francisco Examiner in 1992, “China talks economic reform: The Chinese gerontocracy is paying lip service again to free markets but still not to political freedom.”

That same year, 1992, media conversely began to characterize the newly elected, “fresh-faced” Bill Clinton as a kind of counter to graying and out-of-touch governance. The Washington Post wrote in November 1992 after the election, quote, “Clinton has Europe thinking change.” This piece presents Clinton’s Third Way centrism — something that for decades has undergirded US Democratic party politics, regardless of the age of leaders — as a refreshing deviation from politics as usual writing, quote:

The generational change that Clinton represents goes beyond the biological dimension,” said Serge July, editor of the French daily Liberation. He believes CLinton’s biggest impact on European politics will be to accelerate the shedding of ideologies, to blue distinctions between left and right, as befits a man ‘who can so easily blend his support for feminism with support for the death penalty.’

Adam: Wow, okay.

Nima: Yeah.

Adam: Noted feminist Bill Clinton. So here we see this idea that in the absence of meaningful ideological distinction, in the absence of someone who’s fighting the rich, or fighting for the disenfranchised, we have this very 1990s PR, Pepsi marketing idea that Clinton is young, and they did this very, very, very, more successfully, even, soon after with Tony Blair, that Tony Blair was young and he was fresh.

Nima: Yeah, but Tony Blair doesn’t play the saxophone on Arsenio.

Adam: Yeah, and they were going to get rid of all the stodgy, old, labor vanguard, and they were going to embrace the free market, as Clinton did. And so here you have the first real kind of effort to use age discourse and anti-gerontocracy discourse to flatten the ideology at work and to sell or make sexy and cool something which was basically a very similar platform to the one that Dukakis ran on in 1988. Except for, of course, the death penalty being one of the major differences, for obvious racist reasons. But again, Dukakis ran as a neoliberal. He was in the new democratic coalition. He was a centrist. But he was seen as being older or stodgy. And this is, again, where you sort of get this, how do we take something that has no discernible ideological positioning within the framework of the left, and it’s selling you a lot of, again, Social Security, privatization, deficit reduction, a lot of right-wing ideas, 100,000 new police officers, whatever, what have you, how do we make it cool to the kids and for media? Well, he’s young, and it’s like, ‘Oh, well, young is good, and old is lame, and old sucks and young is good, right?’

Nima: Yeah, Clinton was with it, man. So this use of young politicians versus the gerontocracy, we would see a lot more often starting in the 2010s. In April of the year 2010, syndicated Washington Post columnist George Will cautioned that the, quote, “welfare state” would encourage — what else Adam? — a quote-unquote “gerontocracy” — apparently because it, unacceptably, makes life relatively comfortable for senior citizens — while singing the praises of a young Republican senatorial candidate named Marco Rubio. Here’s what Will wrote in April of 2010 in The Post, quote:

Asked how the nation might address the projected $17.5 trillion in unfunded Social Security liabilities, Rubio said we should consider two changes for people 10 or more years from retirement. One would raise the retirement age. The other would alter the calculation of benefits: Indexing them to inflation rather than wage increases would substantially reduce the system’s unfunded liabilities.

End quote.

Will would go on in this article to state this, quote:

The 38-year-old Rubio’s responsible answer to a serious question gives the nation a glimpse of a rarity — a brave approach to the welfare state’s inevitable politics of gerontocracy.

End quote.

Adam: So the old people who retire on Social Security are going to live high on the hog and create a gerontocracy unless we raise —

Nima: If we’re legislating to allow people to live better lives in retirement what are we doing? What kind of freedom is that?

Adam: The worst.

Nima: Now again, according to the Congressional Research Service, the average age of US senators at the beginning of 2021 was 64.3 years, the oldest in US history. As mentioned earlier, Biden became the oldest president in US history at the time of his inauguration; Nancy Pelosi shares the title of oldest person ever elected speaker of the House. The House and Senate leadership is chock full of septua- and octogenarians.

Adam: But the age of policymakers, rather than their politics, has been awarded, as we will argue in this episode, far too much import, becoming a convenient scapegoat for their ineffectiveness, venality, and unpopularity of neoliberal policies of both parties. Gerontocracy really kind of took off in 2016 as a favorite media theme, Politico in February of 2016 wrote, “Is Donald Trump Too Old to Be President?” The piece is a somewhat shallow discussion of cognitive science which offers no blanket mental diagnosis for anyone based on age alone, and the optics of age and experience versus youthful energy, optimism, and vision for a political candidate. God forbid policy be one of the many factors. This, like many others, was also a proxy to discussing Bernie Sanders’ age. The idea being is that oh, they’re all just so old. Let’s get someone new in.

Nima: It’s still just the status quo. We need new energy, but they’re not actually talking about policies.

Adam: Right. Because again, it’s a form of anti-politics. It’s when you have a lot of, when you need to write about politics, but you don’t really want to write about politics you write about things like populism, or polarization, things that sort of avoid the key points of tension within politics. September of 2019, we got, “America, the Gerontocracy,” also in Politico, an excerpt from the peace read, quote:

Hate crime is rising, the Arctic is burning, and the Dow is bobbing like a cork on an angry sea. If the nation seems intolerant, reckless and more than a little cranky, perhaps that’s because the American republic is showing its age. Somewhere along the way, a once-new nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal (not men and women; that came later) became a wheezy gerontocracy. Our leaders, our electorate and our hallowed system of government itself are extremely old.

The article compares the US to the USSR. Again, nothing about the policies of either one. Author Timothy Noah goes on to undermine his own thesis by saying:

Whether Trump’s cognition is declining is a question muddied by a wealth of evidence that his speech and behavior were always at least somewhat erratic. (This is a man, recall, who more than 30 years ago confessed to giving his second-grade music teacher a black eye, which may not even be true.) A similar ambiguity surrounds Joe Biden, 76, whose well-documented history of verbal gaffes helped sink two previous presidential candidacies, one of them (similarly) more than 30 years ago.

And so here we get this general idea that age is a proxy for observable cognitive decline. So I think it’s probably a good time to discuss visible cognitive decline on the show, I think it’s kind of beating around the bush to not discuss that, because oftentimes people say, ‘Well, clearly, Joe Biden isn’t quite as sharp as he used to be,’ objectively neutral statement, Donald Trump, definitely not as sharp as he used to be, if you watch old interviews with him on CNN, you can tell he’s not as sharp as he used to be. That seems true to me. But of course, you can be plenty sharp and be 76 years old, 79 years old, 80 years old, you can be in cognitive decline at the age of 57. Right?

Nima: You can be super sharp at 36 and have terrible politics.

Adam: Exactly. So there’s nothing, I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with discussing people’s, again, we want to be very careful not to try to, we talked about this in Episode 10, about using the word crazy to describe Trump, like he sort of, you don’t want to get into the business of pathologizing or saying someone’s crazy because they have mental, Trump’s mental, and it’s like, no, he’s a fascist.

Nima: Right.

Adam: Nor do you want to try to prescribe or diagnose from afar. That’s obviously a very dicey area. I think discussions of whether or not people are, politicians are as articulate or able to remember, you know, as much as they used to, or they’re able to give a speech, which is like 80 percent of what being President is is giving speeches. I think that’s all fair game. I just think that’s a conversation that has very little to do with age as such, because then it becomes a kind of dislike an eighth grade social studies teacher, but that is a definition of a stereotype that is stereotyping someone based on something as a proxy for some other criticism, as a way of prejudice, and the stuff around Trump’s cognitive issues and age, we’re always a fourth- or fifth-rate concern for the fact that he was a fascist, and he had fascist tendencies and a fascist racist, violent following. And so in many ways, well, what do you want? You know, you want them to be sharper, younger, more enthusiastic and charming fascist?

Nima: Yeah, like that’s Ron DeSantis. You don’t want him either.

Adam: Yeah, it’s the whole like, you know, ‘The food at this restaurant is so horrible, and it’s such small portions,’ like what exactly is the criticism here?

Nima: Well, right. And so with this, you see consistent anti-politics articles, like from the New Statesman on October 28, 2020 by Nick Burns this article, “Can you be too old to be president? How gerontocracy rules in the age of decline.” You have this from New York Magazine’s Intelligencer March 15, 2021 by Eve Peyser, the article, “Gerontocracy Is Hurting Democracy,” in which she writes, quote, “Contemporary gerontocracy, it appears, is a distinctly American problem,” writes Peyser. She goes on to quote, Kevin Munger, a political science professor at Pennsylvania State University who, she writes, quote, “is currently writing a book about generational conflict.” Munger says, quote:

If you look at other countries, they’re not similarly controlled by older politicians. I think that the explanation here is the two-party system. [A multiparty system gets] young people involved in politics, voting, organizing, running things, organizational politics, [which] means that they are able to start accumulating institutional power.

End quote.

Peyser then helpfully notes, quote, “The two parties of the United States, on the other hand, are staunchly controlled by older generations,” adding, “Before things get better, they will get worse” and quotes Munger again: “We have not yet reached the peak of boomer culture. We’re going to see the highest number of people turning 65 in U.S. history in 2023. The long-run perspective is good. The long run is actually 20, 30 years. Generational replacement will happen.” End quote.

Adam: Well, no shit.

Nima: Peyser sums up this view this way, quote, “In other words, things will change, but only after the baby-boomer generation literally dies.” End quote.

Adam: Yeah, there’s an arrow of time, right? There’s entropy. This is not a meaningful state, old people will get old and die. Young people will get older. I’m not sure how that’s a very meaningful analysis.

Nima: But it’s also saying that salvation for our society, Adam, is not only around the corner, but relies on old people dying, which, okay, if we’re talking about shitty old politicians can kind of be like a tongue in cheek solid line at a party, but if you’re actually talking about wishing mass death, and I know, I’m not trying to be too fucking serious about like a tongue in cheek quote, but if you’re talking about the effects of ageism, of constantly talking about how the older generations are fucking this all up, and we need more youth, we need more people to die, right? Especially right at the time of a pandemic that obviously affects older people far more than younger people, there’s a stereotype that then gets embedded, there’s a notion of expendability that becomes entrenched in our society that I think winds up leading to really shitty outcomes.

Adam: It’s also a bit of a siren song. Even if you accept the logic that the world would be better if all the old people died off like saying, okay, wait till the Boomers die in 10, 15, 20 years, it’s not a very empowering political action.

Nima: Because then your young buck who’s running for office now is going to be 65 then.

Adam: Yeah, there’s a line in the movie XXX with Vin Diesel, where he’s like, talking to some, I can’t believe I remember this, it was like 20 years ago, he says, ‘What are you doing to take down this bad guy?’ And they’re like, ‘Well, we’ve been staking out his place for a few months.’ He’s like, ‘What do you wait until he dies of old age?’ You’re supposed to just wait around until the bad old people die? I mean, it’s not again, it’s not a very empowering policy prescription. And so we have The Guardian, May 2022, Cas Mudde, who we’ve criticized on the show before for his anti-politics, “The Democratic party needs new, younger leadership before it’s too late.” US News & World Report, August 2022, David Gergen, the sort of high priest of centrist politics, former Clinton official, writes hagiographies to John McCain every five minutes, “America’s Greatest Hope: Young Leaders.” And so here you have middlebrow populist experts, Republican extreme centrist like David Gergen. And then to really top it off, you have Elon Musk, this is a Business Insider headline, quote, “Elon Musk says the US has ‘very, very ancient leadership,’ believes there’s ‘a serious issue with gerontocracy’ in many countries.” In an interview with Axel Springer, Musk said, quote:

The founders of the USA put minimum ages for a local office. But they did not put maximum ages because they did not expect that people will be living so long. They should have. Because for a democracy to function, the leaders must be reasonably in touch with the bulk of the population. And if you’re too young or too old, you can’t say that you will be attached.

Musk added that he’d like to see political leaders “be ideally within 10 or at least, 20 years of the average age of the population.” And so here you have the richest human in the world, sometimes it fluctuates between him and Bezos, but I think as of now he’s the richest human in the world, worth over $260 billion, is telling us that the problem — and by the way, funds and supports plenty of Trumper politicians, right-wing politicians, is telling us the problem is that the leaders are too old and I got to think that if a particular line of argument is being echoed by the richest person in the world, and is being echoed by centrist Republicans, Democrats —

Nima: It might be something different than simply age.

Adam: I’m not sure how useful this analysis really is because the follow up question to, you know, if I say oh, we need to replace all these old leaders with young leaders, and you know, that sort of sounds superficially appealing, that would be an applause line at any given dinner. But then the logical question is like, okay, well, what youth?

Nima: Children are the future.

Adam: and the what youth thing is the $64,000 question, and then you say, oh, well, then you get into the issue of ideology of racial representation of class representation. All the other stuff that we argue in this episode is far more important, but doesn’t get nearly as much discourse and as much coverage because generations discourse, again, like a lot of anti-politics, can kind of mean whatever you want it to mean. And so if we’re going to talk about representation, I think this is what I would say to anyone who says we need to have quotas in Congress or in leadership of youth, I’d say okay, great, but we have to partner those with a complete one to one representation of class status.

Nima: Right.

Adam: People in Congress have to make the median average family salary of $80,000 a year in this country, for a family. They can’t be more than 10 to 20 percent, to use Musk as proxy, over that.

Nima: Right.

Adam: X percent, 99 percent of members of Congress have to make under $150,000 a year, which is what 99 percent of people in this country make. 51 percent of members of Congress are millionaires. That’s compared to 7.2 percent of the adult population in the United States. If you include children, that’s 5.3 million. So millionaires are way overrepresented. Obviously, men are very overrepresented in Congress. 73 percent of Congress is men compared to 50 percent of the general population are men, of course. So those would be far more interesting quotas.

Nima: Quotas to institute. Yeah.

Adam: Then age, which wouldn’t really get you anywhere because as we’ve learned from a recent cohort of self-made millionaires running for Congress under the age of 50, you would just get a bunch of 45-year-old multimillionaires or billionaires, right? Wou would get a bunch of Pritzker’s running, who was relatively young. So I’m not really sure where that gets you or how that’s really a meaningful mode of criticism, because the assumption is that youth is a proxy for more progressive or liberal values. But that’s not really true. It is true that those in Congress who are young have a tendency to vote more liberally, not by a very significant margin, and it’s not really a metric for how you just decide who you sort of choose to be the next cohort of leadership. Because again, it sort of sounds like, you know, my vegetables are dying and either replace them with new vegetables, right? Like my, my chair is old in either place, but people love new shit, they hate old shit, shirt, socks, it’s old.

Nima: It’s coupling congressional leadership with consumerism, we need upgrades, and that it is really just about having something new and shiny as opposed to something that maybe, you know, works for your interest, not just seems to operate better on its gears.

Adam: And, fine, I’ll concede you want new things, that’s fine, but without saying what the new thing is, it’s extremely suspect.

Nima: Or what it’s supposed to do.

Adam: Which is something we see over and over again. And increasingly, we’ve seen it be a bit of a distraction or a favorite media trope. I wrote about this for the Substack explaining Biden’s lack of popularity as poll numbers have since ticked up a little bit since I wrote this. But Biden in July of this year, there was a torrent of articles about Biden’s age being the reason why he’s bleeding the youth vote and support in general. Michelle Goldberg wrote this article, “Joe Biden Is Too Old to Be President Again.” And when she hand wrings about Biden’s age showing 64 percent of Democrats think Biden shouldn’t run again due to his age, Goldberg insists that he should step down and be a one term president because he’s old, but buried in all these articles about how voters don’t like him because he’s old is the fact that the number one reason why young voters give to why they don’t want Biden, by a wide margin, is job performance and ideology.

Nima: Right.

Adam: Which is far more than age by about 20 percentage points. 41 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds cited job performance as the, quote, “most important reason,” they prefer a different 2024 nominee. 20 percent chose “not progressive enough” and only 14 percent cited age. So here we have a difference of 27 percentage points citing ideology as the reason but age became the center of so many different articles when this poll came out saying Biden is too old, The New York Times saying Biden is too old, we need replacement. Michelle Goldberg phrased it as Biden is too old, we need to replace him. And it’s like, the age factor becomes a way of obscuring the substance of why so many people feel like his presidency has let them down, and it’s not because he’s some doddering old fool out of touch with the youth. Now, you could make an argument that if you did have a Pete Buttigieg type guy, he could better sell the bullshit austerity politics and sell the tough on crime, more police stuff that have turned off young voters, which is probably true, but the fundamental substance wouldn’t really change much, and I think that’s, in case we haven’t beat it on your head by this point, that’s kind of the crux of our argument, which is that it’s not clear who this kind of gerontocracy discourse really serves without specifying the ideological parameters of who the so-called youthful replacements are going to be, and without accounting for other vectors of oppression like racism, class, white supremacy, anti-trans laws, which are now there’s, you know, hundreds in every state. I mean, those vectors of oppression seem far more interesting to me than this kind of vague generational discourse, which, again, can maybe give someone a little bit of a victim status by virtue of being 25. But I’m not really sure how meaningful that is.

Nima: To talk about this more, we’re going to be joined by Winslow Erik Wright, an author and activist, whose writing covers disability rights, the struggle for authenticity under capitalism, and participatory democracy. Winslow will join us in just a moment. Stay with us.


Nima: We are joined now by Winslow Erik Wright. Winslow, thank you so much for joining us today on Citations Needed.

Winslow Erik Wright: Thank you, Nima, and thank you, Adam, for having me.

Adam: Thank you. So I want to begin by kind of talking about, specifically you wrote an article that touched on many of the themes we’ve discussed, specifically in the context of Elon Musk doing this gerontocracy discourse, which I thought was a sort of great way of teasing out some of the problems and limitations of this discourse. Because clearly, if the richest person in the world is trafficking in this criticism, it can’t be that useful of a power analysis from our perspective. So I want to kind of start off the discussion by asking you what kind of, for want of a better term, sort of triggered or sparked this article out of you? Again, I know it’s a topic that a lot of people will take very personally, they have kind of a visceral response to it, so I want to know what compelled you to write about it, and especially how it’s kind of become more and more popular of late, as we also note at the top of the show, for very obvious reasons, we have a lot of old people in charge. So that it is sort of understandable to an extent, but talk about what made you want to write about it, and what are the big picture problems you see with this discourse?

Winslow Erik Wright: I think the thing that started me getting interested in it is that, you know, I see a lot of young people very angry today, and that’s because we’re mired in a series of endless political, economic and ecological crises, and the people in power are not being responsive to our concerns or our interests, and that legitimate anger I’ve seen it simmer into resentment and often boil into outright vitriol toward older people. I’ve seen it online, certainly, and I’ve also seen it in my personal life, and it’s not just ‘Okay, Boomer’ kind of stuff kind of cheeky, it can get really, really nasty. One prominent example that I’ve seen both online and offline, is the idea that older people dying from COVID-19 is actually a good thing. That large numbers of older people dying is necessary for society to move forward and COVID-19 is doing that work for us.

Adam: Yeah.

Winslow Erik Wright: So when I started to really notice that sentiment more and more often, and even, you know, not just on the right or in the center, I’ve seen it on the left as well, and as I you know, sort of connected the dots with that, I realized that that’s something that I wanted to write about, that I wanted to speak out about, because it’s really important.

Adam: Because if you associate age with frailty or injury or disability, it’s not a huge leap to sort of see that ageism can very well be a mode of ableism and it’s a proxy for these people are just kind of gross and we want them out of the way.

Winslow Erik Wright: Yeah.

Adam: And then when that takes on a kind of faux-leftist energy, it kind of has the veneer of something subversive, when in reality, again, as we’ve tried to argue at the beginning, it’s actually a quite conservative argument, insofar that it really does obscure issues.

Nima: Well, yeah. I mean, I think it comes down to this question of ableism, ageism as a proxy for maybe avoiding questions of ideology. So, you know, one of the things we’ve been talking about is that ageism winds up being, I think, in political discourse, less of this kind of pat, generational conflict story, right, that we’ve heard endlessly — we’ve had a show about generations and other kinds of marketing ploys more than anything else — there has long been young versus old, old versus young discourse dating back to ancient Greece, ancient China, everything right? But all of this winds up being kind of useless, right? It doesn’t account for class, it doesn’t account for racism, for oppression for anti-LGBTQ currents, other modes of suppressing people’s voices, and once one counts for that, perhaps it can be useful to talk about ageism as part of that, but this winds up being sort of pat, it’s just like vague claims about, as you said, ‘Okay, Boomer,’ right, Boomer oppression without really qualifying, which Boomers maybe we’re talking about or the real power analysis here. So Winslow, I’d love if you could just discuss a bit, how ageism, and this idea of gerontocracy, winds up being a really good way to flatten questions of power by sort of shoving it into this generational discourse, but avoiding the real issues that are at stake.

Winslow Erik Wright: Yeah. So what started me on this issue was just seeing some of the vitriol directed at older people that, you know, generations aren’t a monolith and there are lots of lovely Boomers, and lovely older people, and it just was really indiscriminate and I think that’s what started me on it but I really got a lot deeper into it when I was researching the article and I came across Elon Musk’s take on it, and Elon Musk, not only the richest person in the world, but someone who invades against the woke mind virus being a threat to human civilization. And his take in his interview in Business Insider, which, you know, he talked about a lot of things, but he was basically saying that people don’t change their minds, they just die, and that older people are suffocating our society, they’re holding back progress, and that the answer to that is to prohibit them from holding office. I think the limit that he gave was seventy years old, and that totally crystallized what was going on for me, because as you pointed out, Musk is the richest person in the world, he is the very definition of the establishment, and I think the framing of our problems as stemming from gerontocracy, and not something like plutocracy or patriarchy or white supremacy serves three main functions, and I think they’re connected. And the first is that, as you say it misdirects from those things, it takes attention away from them. The real sources of our problem are the structures of capitalism, their neoliberal ideology, there’s racism, sexism, and the role of the ultra-rich in all of this. So it misdirects away from that, but then once that anger is taken away, it’s undirected anger, and then I feel like people like Musk and people like Peter Thiel, who has similarly criticized the gerontocracy, I feel like that they can then harness that undirected anger to make themselves seem like outsiders.

Adam: To support Blake Masters, the guy who’s running for Congress, who actually looks just like a school shooter, but yeah, who is like, what, 40 something?

Republican Senate candidate Blake Masters speaks in Chandler, Ariz. (Brandon Bell / Getty Images file)

Winslow Erik Wright: Yeah, I think they take that, and they harness it for their own purposes and they’re the consummate insiders, and they’re using it to draw a distinction between themselves and the people, other people in power, and there’s really not much difference there.

Adam: Right.

Nima: Right.

Winslow Erik Wright: The final thing that I think is connected is that it divides people and I think there is something to be said for, you know, the generations being pitted against each other. I think that’s a lot of what’s happening and it obscures the fact that I as a millennial share a lot of interests with another Boomer who’s situated similarly economically, but when you frame it as gerontocracy, or you know, our leadership is too old, and there is a kernel of truth that, but when you really get into the stigma and the hatred that’s attached with those ideas, that separates me from the other people I might unite with to undertake the collective action that’s necessary to actually challenge the problems we’re facing.

Adam: Yeah, because one of the things that bothers me so much about it, because I’ve had this arguing with people a lot on social media, is they’ll say, ‘Well, older people have a tendency to be richer.’ Now, of course, there’s a really good New York Times article about why that is, because poor people die younger. So by definition, right? But of course, a lot of people who live in poverty are old, as well.

Winslow Erik Wright: Yeah.

Adam: So like, you’re kind of railing against this kind of vague cohort, where if you eliminate the standard deviation, I’m sure it’s not much different, and part of me is like, come on, are you really going to act like we don’t live in a society that absolutely obsesses over, fetishizes, gives credence to and loves young people over old people? I mean, especially when it’s gendered, right? I mean, you can’t go five seconds without some Hollywood star becoming irrelevant or some professional person being told to go out to pasture because they’re too old, like our society, in many, many ways, hates old people, and it strikes me as a little daft, to be quite honest, but I think a lot of it is is fairly moderately wealthy, middle class white people who want like a vector of oppression, and they latch on to not being old is like their form of oppression, which strikes me as kind of tedious because they need an oppressive identity, and it’s like, come on, I mean, really? That’s maybe a little unfair, but I do think that’s a part of it, and it strikes me as something, you know, you sort of it’s such a weird concept to live in, eat and breathe oxygen in this world, especially in the United States, and not see the sort of systemic contempt our society has for old people. Even if, again, people who are old disproportionately are empowered, disproportionately may have more money, because everyone was poor died off, that strikes me as someone who doesn’t really live in the world that I live in, because it’s everywhere. It’s everywhere you see it, you know what I mean? There’s the lame olds, they suck, they’re irrelevant, they told war stories and people just hate old people in general. It’s similar to how our society hates fat people or hates anyone who wasn’t deemed attractive.

Winslow Erik Wright: Yeah, I think that’s a good point first of all, that poor people die younger. I think the other factor with both power and wealth, like financial capital and social capital, they both accumulate over time. That’s just how they work. It takes money to make money and compound interest is the most powerful force in the universe. So I think that’s true with not just wealth, but power as well. And it’s not that age doesn’t generate those things themselves. There are no intrinsic benefits to growing older. What you’re going to get is more health conditions to deal with and then as you point out, socially, it’s not perceived positively. What age can do for you is if you have been born into wealth or have been lucky enough to acquire it, it can grow that wealth over time. So I think, you know, wealth obviously has intrinsic benefits, you can buy stuff with it, you can control people with it, race doesn’t have any intrinsic benefits, but you’re more likely as a white person, for example, to be born into a positive economic circumstance, and you’re more likely, if you’re not born into a positive one, you’re more likely to be able to get into one. Age is, I think, has none of that, but it can magnify those differences.

Nima: Yeah, you know, one of the things that I keep thinking about as we’re talking is the common arguments we hear, and I think, you know, as you pointed out, there are some on the right, some on the left, some in the, what make nominally be called the center, I don’t know if there’s a center but, you know, center as an ideology, not a not a middle of the road notion of kind of playing both sides, but like, there are these common things, right? So we hear that our political class is too old, they’re out of touch, they don’t have to live with the consequences of their policies or their votes, right? So therefore, climate chaos is not so much a concern. So these are common things we hear. But at the same time, this seems to totally ignore that there are plenty of shitty young people, right? There are so many young people who vote for terrible people, who have bad views of the world based on the, you know, communities they grew up in, the narratives that are flowing through our media and our pop culture. This is rampant. So where do you think this divide happens? Are politicians too old at this point, kind of across the board and are not taking urgent issues seriously? Or is this again, just sort of, as you said, misdirection away from what we’re really talking about, which winds up being about class, about racism, about wealth, inequalities, and about ideology as a whole?

Winslow Erik Wright: Well, I think it’s a fact that our leadership is disproportionately old, and I think that’s the kernel of truth in the propaganda of the idea that we live in a gerontocracy. I agree that it skewers more than it elucidates, for sure. And I think the answers that people are coming up with are the wrong answers. I see a lot of talk about age limits. It’s not just Elon Musk, there was a YouGov poll that found that 58 percent of people supported an age limit and the majority was between 60 and 70. So a lot of people are keen on basically disenfranchising older people, and that’s not going to solve any of our problems. I think the only way that we can solve these problems is by finding like-minded people who are in all generations, and trying to convince them of the best way to go about things, and I think, again, this logic of gerontocracy, it really does, I think it makes it very hard for older people to be open to new ideas, it kind of buttresses the basis of the criticism in the first place.

Adam: Right.

Winslow Erik Wright: The idea is that older people are unable to adapt to new ideas. But when you attack people, and especially aspects of their identity that they can’t change, they will shut down and they won’t be willing to listen to you. So I think it’s kind of a self fulfilling prophecy.

Adam: So I want to address a common retort. Obviously, people will point to Senator Feinstein of California who’s showing obvious cognitive decline. I think that’s well documented, not really in debate, we’re not necessarily obviously going to prescribe a medical condition from afar, because I know that can get dicey. We’ve talked about that before. But it is true that there are certain politicians who clearly show mental decline. Now, of course, that can happen at 50 or 60 or 100, right? It isn’t necessarily just about age, which is I think, because people say, ‘Oh, we have to put age limits on because look at Senator so and so who’s sunsetting,’ and it’s like, well, then the issue is judging people on an individual basis based on their manifest ability to do their job, which is a perfectly reasonable thing to do whatever it happens to be, especially when you’re dealing in a situation where you’ve essentially elected someone to make a decision, but their staffers are making a decision that gets, you know, from a democratic perspective, that gets a little dicey. I want to address that. Also, there’s a common, the most common retort I hear is, ‘Well, one reason we haven’t moved on climate change is because all these old people aren’t going to be around anymore,’ which of course, has little to do, if you actually look at who supports climate legislation, and you account for things like ideology, there is no real age correlation at all. There’s a thousand 32 year old Trump clones in Congress now who do think it’s a communist plot, climate change. You obviously have, as we discussed, for every Ocasio-Cortez, there’s 10 different psychotic Pete Buttigieg climbers who want to be the next President Obama, who have all kinds of horrible neoliberal capitalist blah, blah, blah, ideology.

Nima: The US Capitol wasn’t stormed for the early bird special.

Adam: Right, and both on the right and the center, right? And so, again, I think this idea that if we just get rid of the olds our problems will get easier to solve, I think aside from being vaguely genocidal, it strikes me as really kind of missing the point of what kind of people gravitate towards what kind of policy positions and why. And anyone who spent 10 minutes in Washington DC has met so many of these Georgetown grad psychos, who go work for Heritage and shit, like, they’re there. That’s got nothing to do with age, it has to do with power and ideology, and how many different leadership academies sponsored by Boeing and Meta are pumping out these kinds of dead-eyed strivers. I actually see that as being more dangerous, because they’re more slick, they’re more sophisticated, they’re more able to kind of gesture towards empathy and fake a kind of hip understanding of the current conditions. But address that issue, address the climate change issue, because this comes up a lot, I want to make sure that we’re trying to really talk about the strongest argument of those who think this is really a discrete thing.

Winslow Erik Wright: First, I will talk about some of the research that I came across when I was writing my article. And that’s, first of all, Pew Research did a survey on this and they found that I believe 56 or 57 percent of boomers and people older than them, thought climate change should be a top priority in order to secure the future of humanity, basically. So that’s the majority and there is a gap between, you know, younger people are more concerned about it. That’s true. But older people have been coming around at about the same pace that younger people have. They’ve been adjusting their views in light of the changing circumstances which runs contrary to the whole, ‘older people can adapt,’ line of argument.

Adam: Right.

Nima: Old dogs.

Winslow Erik Wright: Yeah. So that was actually the study that looked at changing climate opinions or, you know, opinions about climate change over time. That was in the Journal of Nature, and it found no significant differences between the generations on if they’re coming around to seeing climate change as a problem. So, again, it goes back to there are people in every generation that we can bring over to our side and the best way to do that is in a considerate way and not in a way that alienates them. Aside from the fact that even a majority of Baby Boomers and older people already support addressing climate change vigorously, there’s more ground to be won there and the idea that they’re just fossils who aren’t capable of changing with the times, it just seeds that ground.

Nima: Yeah. One thing that I want to touch on is how a lot of the people who have this kind of gerontocracy argument, right, that view of our politics, are a lot of the same people who, when there’s like progressive young blood injected into our leadership, The Squad, right, like as this kind of Billboard version of that, those same people that, you know, rail against the gerontocracy also aren’t thrilled with young progressives, right? Or, yeah, I mean, let alone actually left activists or organizers, right? And so what does the argument really do? What is underneath all of the oh, this is my position on why politics is ineffective, fraught, shitty? What do you think is actually under that? Because clearly, the people making that argument, or at least a large proportion, I would argue, are also not really that interested in what a younger generation might have to offer unless that younger generation is just a younger version of what the already old power structure is doing.

Winslow Erik Wright: Yeah, absolutely. I think it’s basically that older people are, in this case, a scapegoat, and I think it’s been weaponized most often by the people who don’t have substantial differences from the people who are already in power, like they’re already close to power, and this is the way that they distinguish themselves from the other people in power. Elon Musk and the Democratic operative, the Neo liberal democratic operative that you talked about in your article, Adam, you know, they basically share everything with people in power, they’re just slightly outside of it, and this is their way, I think, to get closer to the center.

Adam: Yeah, because the whole thing has, you know, it’s a Pepsi marketing feel to it. It’s like older, lame, younger, good. It’s like, yeah, I don’t know, maybe a little bit, but how useful is that? And one thing, one thing we know too is, of course, that the reason why so many, you know, the Pelosi said the Biden’s have been around forever is because they have the right ideology, and those with the wrong ideology are filtered out. So in that sense, gerontocracy is a symptom of a disease not a disease itself.

Nima: Right. Mike Gravel it was not reelected and reelected and reelected and reelected.

Adam: Right, exactly. You’re more likely to get attacked by APEC, you’re more likely to be attacked by oil interests, you’re more likely to sort of say the wrong thing and the media pile on top of you. You know, I mean, how many different progressive firebrands have kind of come and gone or been prime aired every 10 minutes, so naturally, if you just let us go right down the middle and say the right things and kiss up to the right people, you’re just going to be around forever.

Nima: Right. You’ll have the job longer, you’ll grow old in that job.

Adam: I’ve watched enough reality TV to know, that’s how you stick around competition shows, you sort of just lay low.

Nima: Well, to that point, Winslow, what do you think, is the utility of, you know, thinking about why the old guard lingers on, and why young blood is said to be needed to change things, when the reason there are people in these jobs for such a long time is because they don’t upset the power structure, and it is actually harder to challenge that and stick around, which may also account for this kind of young, old dynamic in politics.

Winslow Erik Wright: I mean, I think that’s exactly right. I think you’ve pretty much said it that, you know, if you’re amenable to how the system works now, you’re more likely to keep functioning in it, and the people who don’t, they are weeded out. And I think it’s also really hard, I mean, Congress, their reelection rate is really high. It’s just hard to unseat someone these days and there aren’t a lot of competitive districts. So I think the parties have a huge say in, you know, the party hierarchies get to decide who’s going to be running in those districts, even the ones that, you know, a younger person, a progressive might be able to take. I think the examples of, you know, younger progressive people basically seizing power, they’ve been going against the party hierarchy, like AOC. I don’t think they wanted her to run them. And she, I mean, she unseated a really senior figure in the party. I don’t think that’s, that’s probably not a generalizable strategy. I mean, it should definitely be attempted more. But that kind of approach, it’s not going to change the overall makeup of our leadership, and I think that the people who are arguing about gerontocracy, labeling our problems stemming from gerontocracy, and not something else that, you know, someone like AOC might draw attention to, they know that they’re holding all the keys and all the doors.

Nima: Right. Well, yeah, I mean, I think it comes down to and you, this is what you write about in your excellent piece in Salon, which is that saying that this is about gerontocracy is actually skirting the real issues, right? It’s almost like well, yes, older people don’t serve, say broader interests or don’t reflect the desires or political leanings maybe sometimes of the majority of the population but it’s not simply because they are old, period, stop. The issue is that it is blamed on age as opposed to age as being just one of the factors that allows people with shitty ideologies to linger on for longer in positions of power. So really, what we’re talking about is we’re talking about power, we’re talking, as you put it, about wealth, and that age is this like code word, to just avoid talking about the real issues, which again, come down to power, which as you pointed out, power can be shifted, change conceded, due to more vigorous organizing.

Winslow Erik Wright: In my research, I found advocates of the gerontocracy theory, they’re very concerned about, you know, they’re purportedly very concerned about representativeness of government, responsiveness and things like that. But they’re not talking about how wealthy congress people are, for example, the 116th Congress, I believe, a majority of them are millionaires, and the median wealth of a congressperson is over a million dollars, and with race, there are three Black Senators right now serving and the Black population in the country is about 13 and a half percent. So if people are actually concerned about representativeness of government and responsiveness —

Adam: Oh, they don’t, they don’t mean that. No, they mean, this other superficial thing.

Winslow Erik Wright: Not at all.

Adam: Yeah. No. If you tried to have an income, representative income distribution, that would not work.

Winslow Erik Wright: Yeah. I mean, I was going to say, why are they not talking about racial quotas, gender quotas, wealth and income cap? If they’re talking about age limits, why not cap wealth?

Adam: Yeah, prior to 2018, the Saudi Parliament had a higher female representation than the US Congress did because they’re required by law to have 20 percent representation. Of course, this is parliament, so it has no actual power. But nevertheless, quite embarrassing.

Women in Saudi Parliament. (Via Arab News)

Nima: Yeah, that’s what quotas get you. But before we let you go Winslow, please do let us and our listeners know what you’re up to next, you know, you do really, really excellent political commentary. Where can people find your writing and what maybe is on tap coming down the pike that we can look out for?

Winslow Erik Wright: Well, just pretty much just starting out, you know, I’ve been doing some activism before this, but I’m just now getting into writing and I’ve written a couple of articles for Salon. I wrote the article about gerontocracy and I just wrote an article again about Elon Musk because, you know, he’s at the center of everything these days, and he’s just a fantastic foil for all these crucial issues, and I was writing about disposability and automation. He has a new robot coming out. I think he’ll unveil it September 30, Optimus, and it’s a humanoid robot, and he basically, I mean, it may well be overhyped, you know, given his track record, it probably is, but his intention is to render workers obsolete, so he doesn’t have to deal with their needs, and this is a Bezos as well, this isn’t just, and it’s, I mean, it’s capitalism as well, but Bezos and Musk are spearheading this effort, and, you know, they don’t want to have to deal with workers having to go to the bathroom or unionize, and so I think this is part of their push to just get rid of that, just transcend workers altogether. So that’s my most recent article and I’m looking to branch out more. I’ve got some ideas rolling around and I’ll be pitching them.

Nima: Well, awesome. We will definitely look out for that. Urge everyone to check out the excellent piece that we’ve been talking about is called, “No, Elon Musk, America isn’t a ‘gerontocracy’: The real issue is massive wealth inequality,” which came out this past June in Salon. We have been speaking with Winslow Erik Wright, an author and activist, whose writing covers disability rights, the struggle for authenticity under capitalism, and participatory democracy. Winslow, thank you so much, again, for joining us today on Citations Needed.

Winslow Erik Wright: Thank you. It’s been a pleasure.


Adam: Yeah, I think the idea that, one thing we didn’t harp on too much in the intro, but now we’ve talked about the interview, which I do want to kind of come back to is this idea that you start from a position of an organizer, whatever it happens to be, let’s say I’m trying to unionize an Amazon packing center or a tenant’s union or some kind of mutual aid program to help give harm reduction supplies to substance users in Nashville, Tennessee, whatever it is, whatever you organize, no one who does those things, who has to be, who’s in the business of converting souls, of convincing people to join a project, none of those people would ever really engage in that context in generations discourse. You wouldn’t say, ‘Everyone joined my Starbucks union, except for that old fart down there. He’s kind of a fucking loser.’ It’s not a very useful way of creating politics, right?

Nima: And in fact, older activists make up a base of progressive support for a lot of unions and progressive movements, sure.

Adam: Of course, are they disproportionately conservative? Yeah, disproportionately white people are conservative, it doesn’t mean you tell them all the fuck off, right? People aren’t vague, statistical cohorts. They’re people, they’re individuals. That’s the whole point of why you shouldn’t go around just making assumptions about people and I think there is a downside to constantly talking in this Pepsi marketing way about politics, where I do think it’s sort of, the implication is always that, wouldn’t it be better if these old people went away? When I really think what we’re talking about most of the time is, wouldn’t it be better if these people with really shitty politics who’ve been in charge since before I was born, wouldn’t they go away? But not be replaced by someone with equally shitty politics who’s just very charismatic and charming.

Nima: Well, sure. And so often, the pundits who pontificate about, ‘Is America gerontocracy?’ ‘Why are we still governed by Baby Boomers and the remarkably old?’ Are the same writers and commentators who then hate younger Democratic politicians. Largely, I’d say Democratic because ideologically that’s what they’re usually opposed to, folks like AOC, right, who like aren’t even like all the way left, but they symbolize this thing of youthful exuberance and energy and breaking the status quo. Yet, the writers that are now hand wringing about gerontocracy, are the same ones who are like, ‘They’re inexperienced. The youngs don’t have the right kind of gravitas to govern in the right way. Their ideas are all pie in the sky. They’re millennials who have no sense of work ethic.’ Yada, yada, yada, right? It’s the same kind of thing. So really, all they want is younger old people. They want the same politics to happen just with a younger face.

Adam: Yeah. Because there’s a similar form of, you know, it’s not the same but there’s a kind of ageism when people do the whole head patting look at these idealistic Bernie voters who don’t know how the real world, it’s a similar form of stereotyping. It’s obviously different because of the nature of how our society operates.

Nima: But apparently, the real world works for people who are like 47 and center right, right? That’s the thing.

Adam: All those people should just be in charge.

Nima: The old people don’t know how the world works anymore because they’re over the hill and the young people don’t know how the world works because they haven’t lived long enough. So now it’s like 47 and white and conservative. They know how the world works.

Adam: The old people are lame-olds, and the young people are a bunch of fucking pie-in-the-sky dipshits and people who are exactly my age should be in charge.

Nima: Yeah. So I think that that kind of sums it up the idea that this is really age as a proxy for ideology is this current throughout everything we’ve been talking about, and I think that once you start to see it like that, you’re like, oh, oh, they’re not actually talking about old people, they’re using that as a way to like shit on anyone who has a different viewpoint, but they are kind of hinting that they want something different, but you know what, these writers don’t want anything different.

But that will do it for this episode of Citations Needed. Thank you all so much for listening. We are thrilled, as we said last week, to be back for our sixth season of Citations Needed. Plenty more to come. Until then of course, you can always follow the show on Twitter @CitationsPod, Facebook Citations Needed, buy some merch at Bonfire.com, search for Citations Needed, and of course, you can always become a supporter of the show through Patreon.com/CitationsNeededPodcast. All your support through Patreon is so incredibly appreciated. And as always, a very special shout out goes to our critic level supporters on Patreon. I am Nima Shirazi.

Adam: I’m Adam Johnson.

Nima: Thank you for listening to Citations Needed. Our senior producer is Florence Barrau-Adams. Producer is Julianne Tveten. Production assistant is Trendel Lightburn. Newsletter by Marco Cartolano. Transcriptions are by Morgan McAslan. The music is by Grandaddy. Thanks again, everyone. We’ll catch you next time.


This Citations Needed episode was released on Wednesday, September 14, 2022.

Transcription by Morgan McAslan.



A podcast on media, power, PR, and the history of bullshit. Hosted by @WideAsleepNima and @adamjohnsonnyc.

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Citations Needed

Citations Needed

A podcast on media, power, PR, and the history of bullshit. Hosted by @WideAsleepNima and @adamjohnsonnyc.