SYNDICATED COLUMN: The Unpersonning of Generation X

I’ve been disappeared.

Erased from history.

Dropped down the memory hole.


If you were born between 1961 and 1976, you no longer exist.

Generation X has been disappeared.

The Soviets altered photos to excise the images of leaders who had fallen out of favor, but communist censors went after individuals.

America’s corporate media is more ambitious. They’re turning 50 million people into unpersons.

The disappearing of Gen X began about a year ago, when major news outlets began reducing living Americans to two generations: the Baby Boomers (born 1946-1960) and their children, the Millennials (born approximately 1977-2004).

(Generational birth years are controversial. Many classify the Boom years between 1946 and 1964, but I agree with the demographers William Strauss and Neil Howe’s assessment — and the novelist Douglas Coupland, who defined the term “Generation X” — that people like me, born from ’61 to ’64, called “the most dysfunctional cohort of the century,” identify with the culture and economic fortunes of Xers, not the Boom.)

The unpersoning of X takes full bloom in “Wooing a New Generation of Museum Patrons,” a March 19, 2014 piece in The New York Times about how museums like the Guggenheim are soliciting money from “a select group of young donors already contributing at a high level.”

Take your gum/joint/food out of your mouth before reading further, lest you gag: “Several hundred Millennials mingled under the soaring atrium of the Guggenheim Museum on Fifth Avenue one recent frigid February night. Weaving around them were black-clad servers bearing silver trays piled high with doughnuts, while a pixieish D.J. spun Daft Punk remixes.”

According to the Times‘ David Gelles (playing the role of Winston Smith): “Across the country, museums large and small are preparing for the eventual passing of the baton from the Baby Boom generation, which for decades has been the lifeblood not only of individual giving but of boardroom leadership. Yet it is far from clear whether the children of Baby Boomers are prepared to replicate the efforts of their parents.”

Gelles’ piece doesn’t contain any reference to Generation X.

Really? Museums don’t give a crap about would-be philanthropists among the millionaires born between 1961 and 1976?

By the way, Xers were into Daft Punk before Millennials were even done being born.

Boomer/Millennial articles that ignore the existence of Xers have become commonplace. Again in The New York Times, Emily Esfahani Smith and Jennifer L. Aaker perform the neat trick of disappearing one-sixth of the country. Their November 30, 2013 op/ed about “Millennial Searchers” for the meaning of life asks about Millennials: “Do we have a lost generation on our hands?”

Substitute “1991” for “2008” and everything Smith and Aaker write could be, and was written about Gen X: “Yet since the Great Recession of 2008, they have been having a hard time. They are facing one of the worst job markets in decades. They are in debt. Many of them are unemployed. The income gap between old and young Americans is widening.”

Even in an essay about humanity’s search for meaning — and about the downward mobility that defines Gen X — there is only room for Boomers and Millennials.

It’s like our crappy economy and low wages and student loan debt never even happened.

“No one’s talkin’ ’bout my generation,” notes columnist M.J. Fine, a Generation Xer. “It’s hard to think of an era in which people ages 34-49 had less social currency.”

Remember the great coming clash over Social Security between Boomers and Xers? We’ve vanished from that narrative too, not just in a thousand words but over the course of a full-length book: “The Next America: Boomers, Millennials, and the Looming Generational Showdown.”

It’s not just The Times. In Sonya Stinson’s frivolousWhat Gen Y Can Teach Boomers About Financial Planning” in Forbes, Gen X neither learns nor teaches. Gen X doesn’t exist.


I saved the worst for last. Courtesy of a sharp-eyed reader, check out PBS’ Judy Woodruff, defining the generations for a NewsHour interview with the author of “The Next America”:

I just want to remind everybody what those age groups are, the Millennials 18-33 years old today, Gen X 34-39 today, the Boomers 50 — the big group — 50-68, and the Silent, 69-86.

In PBS World, Gen X has shrunk. If you’re in your forties, you no longer have a generational home.

Life begins at 40?

More like the empty void of generational purgatory, as far as the Boomer-controlled media is concerned.

(Support independent journalism and political commentary. Subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)



  • Hmmm, well, a disappeared person obviously can’t be expected to pay into SS, right?

  • Oh my GOD thank you so much for this, Ted. My friends and I have been fuming over this for a couple years now….Baby Boomers….then “millenials”….nothing in between……I blame the baby boom generation…F* the baby boomers

    • I’m tired of hearing about my own millennials; they embarrass me. But for sure, fuck the boomers for ruining the country.

  • Tyler Durden
    March 22, 2014 9:03 AM

    I was born in 65. The people I went to high school are the only people I know who are the same age as myself.

  • I’m 48 and IMHO, you guys have got it backwards. I’d like to hear a whole lot less about the boomers (AKA the greatest sell-outs) and the millennials (although I like them, they are a lot less racist/sexist/homophobic than prior generations), but I don’t feel the need to hear more about my generation.

  • […] Smith, working at the Ministry of Truth, had simply erased all mention of us, but now, I see, Rall (thankfully) has written a column on the topic, so, at the risk of violating copyright law, I am posting Rall’s column in full at the end of […]

  • alex_the_tired
    March 24, 2014 7:22 AM

    The “generation” labels lack precision. Whenever I read or see something on Generation X, the representative member of that group is (with maybe two exceptions) white, straight and male. That Gen Xer’s experience is almost completely interchangeable with that of someone of his age cohort on the other side of the country.

    The generation label is, more accurately, one of economic situation. Not just how much money you have right now, but how much you realistically expect to have in 5 or 10 years. All of Ted’s age group expected to have about the same financial future because that’s how it worked for their parents. If you started at P, with effort, you would arrive at P+k, with k being the increase in earnings from your effort.

    I suspect that soon the talking heads will identify the bimodal generation group. Example: the 24-year-olds who can’t get out of their parents’ basements because there are no jobs AND the 54-year-olds who have lost everything because they were laid off will end up becoming identified as ONE generation.

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