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The Boomer Radicalisation Pipeline

How can we protect our precious boomers from being press ganged onto the front lines of the culture war?

Boomer Radicalisation Pipeline

The wise owl says that age makes you more right wing, but the owl is a clod; really, it’s owning capital that makes you more right wing. It just happens that we live in a country where those two qualities run parallel, like two grizzled greyhounds locked in a desperate battle to savage a wet rag. I am the wet rag.

Today’s boomers grew up in a post-war social democracy where the traditional social contract was fulfilled. Getting a job and buying a house were plausible aspirations for most sectors of society. To grow economically stable in your old age one simply had to get a job, get a house and then continue to exist.

Owning capital bestows class interests. The benefit of class interests to a ruling class is that they divide and conquer. I’ve seen people completely shift their social and political allegiances the moment they’re one rung up the housing ladder. The fact that your name is ascribed in an estate agent’s cabinet as the owner-operator of a set of walls fundamentally shifts your relationship with capital. Suddenly it is serving you. Suddenly the radicalism of your youth is repainted as a child’s dalliance with utopianism.

Landlordism - the act of buying more houses than you need to force a stranger to pay your mortgage - is rife amongst boomers, with around one in six owning a second home. There’s a generation of people hooked on the disenfranchisement of young people by denying them the same social democracy that granted the boomers their economic security.

The political worldview of a boomer is no longer characterised simply by class interests but a set of increasingly distorted class anxieties, as stirred up by a media industry lurching ever rightwards. Somehow your dad’s desire for a tidy porch has been transformed into a desire to beam racism onto the cliffs of Dover.

The right-wing tabloid media has its hooks in the elderly. The average age of a Telegraph reader is 61. Around half of Daily Mail readers are over 65. These papers are observably an extension of the Conservative Party. Boris Johnson worked for the Telegraph; Michael Gove’s wife writes for The Daily Mail.

Increasingly, similar overlap can be observed at The BBC. The current Director General of the BBC has run for office for the Conservative Party and was a Deputy Chairman of one of their branches. In 2017, the head of the BBC’s political programme left to become Theresa May’s Chief of Staff. Even now, mere weeks after the BBC’s Business and Economics Unit put out a video depicting Chancellor Rishi Sunak as Superman, for spearheading the same Eat Out to Help Out scheme that may have contributed to a second wave of coronavirus, a senior member of that department got a job as head of Public Spending Communications for HM Treasury.

What these outlets peddle is deference to authority, linking this with a feverish distaste for the unknown, whether that’s simple xenophobia or concerns about communist broadband. They’re not pushing an ideology, but a vinegary blend of reactionary paranoia which is sluiced down the gullet of every uncle with temper issues, every pub loudmouth, every viral public transport racist.

In recent years this uncontrolled paranoia has burst its banks and seeped out into Whatsapp and Facebook groups, spawning conspiracy theories and feeding endlessly vitriolic comments threads. The class-generation divisions in the UK have left our boomers vulnerable to radicalisation.

I’ve already had the coronavirus. It was no problem. I merely entered my mind palace, slowed my heart rate to nearly nothing, centred my chakras, conquered my fears and banished it from my mortal shell, leaving me with little more to worry about than potential permanent heart and lung damage.

Nevertheless, I’ve sacrificed my career and narrowed my entire life to three locations (flat, shop, pond) in order to safeguard the lives of a generation that believe face coverings are Stalinism, coronavirus is caused by 5G, buy-to-let landlordism is a god-given right – and that you don’t deserve a secure place to live if you’ve ever licked an avocado.

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