Gen Z Will Not Save Us
The kids aren’t all right. The kids are fed up.
Opinion writer at large.
As it became certain that President Trump’s 2020 kickoff event in Tulsa, Okla., would fall well short of its expected sellout crowd, teenagers around America and K-pop fans took a victory lap. Times reporters pointed to a weeklong viral campaign by TikTok users and fans of Korean pop music (K-pop) groups to sabotage the rally. The online communities claimed to have registered for hundreds of thousands of tickets for the event to flood the Trump campaign with fake data and inflate crowd-size expectations. One part prank, one part protest.
The Trump rally troll helped cement a narrative among a number of online liberals. Just as millennials were clumsily dubbed the avocado-toast-loving, industry-killing generation, the Gen Z stereotype is an equally reductive portrait: a sardonic, nihilist, climate-change-conquering group of social media vigilantes, righteously trolling for social justice (and roasting millennials in the process). Gen Z may just save us all, the theory goes — or at least save us from another four years of Donald Trump.
It’s a comforting thought in these unstable times. But reality is far more complicated. The kids aren’t all right (though many are). The kids are fed up. More specifically, Generation Z is disillusioned by a country and its myriad institutions whose moral arc seems to bend toward corruption and stagnation. It is also, like any generation, not monolithic. And the way that its justified disillusion will play politically, culturally and socially is unknown.