Millennials As Protesters: You Have To Be Carefully Taught


Ann FishmanBy Ann Arnof Fishman, President, Generational Targeted Marketing 

From Bernie Sanders to Black Lives Matter, Millennials (born from 1982 to 2000) are just doing what their history has programmed them to do—react as a group. The major weakness of this generation is they feel peer pressure so intensely, they have lost much of their ability to think for themselves, to analyze a situation on its individual merits, and to have the guts to step apart from the group.

Millennials have been carefully taught to react this way. As children, they were team-taught, team-graded, and presented with trophies, not for achievement, but for participating in team sports, by simply being a part of something. The three support systems that society offers its young—family, religion, and government programs—were so strong during millennials’ formative years, it has given them a feeling of empowerment and a sense of entitlement.

At college, consideration of their feelings affects everything. Triggers have become de riguer. Triggers are phrases posted at the beginning of articles or blog entries warning the reader something in what follows might cause offense or hurt their feelings. Speakers at universities have been canceled due to the fact their opinions differ from those who might attend.  Yale is considering changing its long-standing Major English Poets class because its subject matter is about too many white men such as Shakespeare and Chaucer. Food from other cultures served in the dining halls is deemed offensive if not cooked authentically. From Ivy League schools to the inner city, millennials are getting the message. Their demands will be met if their cries and actions are strong enough. This generation intends to make a grand statement with their lives—and they are succeeding.

Millennials As Protestors: Your Have To Be Carefully TaughtSo, what we have here is the Baby Boom generation (born from 1943 to 1960) meets “Lord of the Flies.” Many Baby Boomers, known as “The ME Generation,” feel a bit of pride that their little darlings are extensions of themselves in their youth, picking up the fallen banner of protesting, calling the police “pigs,” planning to demonstrate at the Democratic and Republican Conventions, and not trusting anyone over 30 (except for Bernie Sanders). Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton blames the Dallas disaster on white people and the police. The DNC issued a five-paragraph statement after Dallas that highlighted offenses to African Americans and only referenced the shooting and killing of police as “tonight’s shooting of officers in Dallas is unacceptable.” President Obama, an attorney and law professor, rushed to judging of police without waiting for facts to come in. Newt Gingrich remarked that no white person in America could understand what it is like to be an African American. You don’t have to experience incest to know that it’s wrong. And, then, there’s the constant drumbeat of the ratings-seeking media, seeing the truth as they choose to see the truth.

Millennials hold in their hands the promise of what teamwork can accomplish. The World War II Generation (born from 1901 to 1924) saved the world by working together. Many millennials want to work together to save the world, not with force, but with good deeds. But, team spirit can become a perversion when it is combined with empowerment and entitlement.

When Ronald Reagan was governor of California, protesters at the University of California at Berkeley took over a plot of land owned by the university. UC-Berkeley wanted to build a parking lot and other facilities for the university. Students, professors and outsiders claimed the land as “the people’s park” and threatened to destroy the campus if they did not get their way. Reagan called on the university police and the California Highway Patrol with orders to do whatever was necessary to quill anarchy. One student died, 128 ended up in the hospital. Order was restored and UC-Berkeley was not physically destroyed. When asked by a reporter why he didn’t spend time negotiating with the students, Reagan’s reply was, “What is to negotiate….All of it began the first time some of you who know better and are old enough to know better let young people think that they had the right to choose the laws they would obey as long as they were doing it in the name of social protest.” Messing with millennials’ minds, especially in this election year, can yield terrible results.

Killing police is not open to negotiation. Police who kill unnecessarily must and do stand trial. That’s not up for negotiation either. Turning incidents involving guns into calls to do away with the Second Amendment is not up for negotiation. Do you really think the lone gunman with his well-planned attack could not have bought a gun under any conditions? And, not mentioned until now, is the question of who is pulling the strings of Black Lives Matter and the occupy movement and what is their agenda.

The major danger at this time in our history is we are losing much of our ability to think for ourselves, to analyze a situation on its individual merits, and to have the guts to step apart from group thinking. Adults in power are patterning after millennials to further their own agenda. That’s not leadership. It’s as if the youngster has gotten a learner’s permit and is driving the car. The adult sitting beside that millennial is yelling “faster, faster” instead of “slow down.”

There’s bound to be a terrible collision.

About the Author: ANN A. FISHMAN was invited to Washington, D.C. to write on generational trends and was the recipient of four Research Fellowships awarded to her from the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging. She authored several white papers and was the principal developer for the National Mentor Corps, Federal legislation placing trained adults into the public school system as mentors. She also informed other countries how generational-targeted marketing can impact their businesses. She has taught generational marketing at New York University and is president of Generational Targeted Marketing, LLC, a specialized marketing firm providing insights into the preferences, trends, and buying habits of each of America’s six generations. Her book, “Marketing to the Millennial Woman,” was recently published. 




  1. Elizabeth on at 10:01 PM

    This was an interesting article, but the bias displayed made me wonder how much experience you actually have actively listening to and engaging with millennials. I’ve got quite a bit, and I’ve found them to be almost hyper aware of and concerned by the possibility of “group think” or “echo chambers”. They absolutely think for themselves and analyze situations…though they don’t necessarily reach the same conclusions through that analysis that you do. They absolutely have the guts to step away from group think, and I have frequently seen them seek out opinions that differ from their own. You are absolutely right that there are “leaders” that pander to them…we’re seeing that pretty clearly this election cycle…but the ineptness of those individuals says nothing about the merit of the things millennials want to accomplish. Nothing you’ve said here is touches on the merit of their ideas (besides the small, and fairly idiotic, outliers).

    For the record, I’ve seen almost no calls to do away with the second amendment. I’d be strongly opposed to such a thing. I am not, however, opposed to exploring other gun control options, but we’re not (as a country) really having that conversation yet…it keeps being shut down by people who equate any regulation with the government taking their guns (which are currently, I believe, more populous than our actual population), and by people who approach any political discussion from a reactionary position…instead of actively listening, and engaging to work towards solutions to our problems together.

    • Wendy Glavin on at 10:39 PM

      I completely agree with Elizabeth’s comments. I have never been one to make generalizations, particularly about a generation. I know first-hand, “Millenials” are put-off by this term just as “Boomers” are about its generational stereotypes. Why don’t we stop labeling groups of people and identify them as the individuals they are; with original thoughts, goals, aspirations and positions. My takeaway is get rid of the classifications and start listening to many points of view on this and all other issues. We can learn as much from “Millenials” interests in corporate responsibility, getting rid of silos, working for the “greater good” and accepting diversity.

      Frankly, gun control is a separate and big enough discussion in and of itself. Let’s not add another layer to a such a difficult and complex problem.

  2. M.Kirby on at 12:52 PM

    There’s a lot of wisdom here, but I’m surprised the author omitted perhaps the singlemost defining characteristic of millenials, that being that they are on her lawn and need to get off it.

  3. Leila Zogby on at 10:00 AM

    Speaking in broad general terms is lazy. It shows the author has not done sufficient research to understand the nuances of a topic. If her area of expertise is aging, why is she writing about millennials. Stick to you knitting, lady.

Leave a Comment