Generation Zero vs. Capitalism: A Love Story

Last Night Sean Hannity devoted the entire hour of his Fox News program to the documentary “Generation Zero.” This morning Fox Nation featured it on their web site as a “Must-See” film.

Generation Zero recently made its public debut at the Tea Baggers Ball in Nashville and was subsequently screened at CPAC, where it was introduced by the terminally choleric Andrew Breitbart. The film was produced by David Bossie of Citizens United, the plaintiff in the recently decided Supreme Court case that granted corporations unprecedented financial participation in federal elections. It was directed by Stephen Bannon who, in another life, produced the Sean Penn directed “The Indian Runner.” Don’t tell Bill O’Reilly, who is boycotting Penn’s films.

I haven’t seen this film (it’s not actually been released yet), but its pedigree and cheer leaders reveal something of its intended mission. The web site says the film is not about the failure of capitalism, but it goes on to say that it will “change everything you thought you knew about Wall Street and Washington.” That assertion makes it difficult to separate the movie’s message from the tenets of capitalism. From reviews and discussion of the film, it seems the basic premise is that the current economic meltdown we find ourselves struggling through was caused by the selfishness and egocentrism of the children of Woodstock. This is a peculiar and illogical theory.

It’s a peculiar theory in that it presumes to blame the “Baby Boom” generation for today’s economic catastrophe. But in doing so, the film is really blaming the poor parenting skills of the “Greatest Generation” who, in their zeal to shield their kids from the pain of depression and war, acceded to their every material want and raised them to be shallow and self-indulgent. That’s a pretty harsh condemnation of the generation that survived decades of trauma in the first half of the last century. The filmmakers are essentially charging the generation that fought its way through the economic disasters of the 1930’s and the worldwide conflagrations of the 1940’s with raising their children to be so socially decadent as to lead the nation into near economic collapse. Do the filmmakers really believe that these parents passed no lessons on to their kids about the hardships they endured?

It’s an illogical theory in that it attempts to create linkage between the hippies of the 1960’s and the financial barons of the 1990’s. So much of the rhetoric of right-wing history revisionists relies on castigating the youth movement of the 1960’s. They are portrayed as drug-addled degenerates and dropouts who contributed nothing of value to society. Their preoccupation with trivialities like civil rights, peace, and free love, permanently labeled them as subversive and anti-social. Since when did their reputation get rehabilitated to the point that they are now seen as captains of industry and finance with the blood of our capitalistic empire on their hands? Surely many former hippies went on to successful careers, but I would venture to say that not one of them became the CEO of AIG or Merrill Lynch.

The Baby Boomers that took the helm of big business were the ones that kept their hair short and listened to Pat Boone in the 60’s. They were the hall monitors and the narcs at their prep schools. They were born to wealth and privilege. It was they, who were already inbred with self-indulgence and egotism, who held the reins of power in the 2000’s. It certainly was not a bunch of idealistic, public school, counter-culture, former flower children who somehow grew up to be greedy sociopaths.

It wasn’t a cabal of aging hippies who invented credit default swaps. It was a cooperative of Wall Street pirates and their Washington patrons. It wasn’t the result of permissive parenting, but of submissive regulators and legislators. While Generation Zero dwells way too much on an unrealistic Leave It To Beaver version of the 1950’s, it actually does approach this part of the problem as well. The movie does not neglect the culpability of an entrenched financial class that has no historical memory whatsoever.

Ironically, that’s exactly what Michael Moore presented in “Capitalism: A Love Story.” Moore’s film was an indictment of the coziness between Wall Street and Washington. And it assailed the notion that solutions had to be afforded to the tottering financial institutions, rather than to the suffering citizens who were the victims. So some of the themes in Generation Zero that are now being heralded by the rightist media were previously explored by Moore. But while there are clear parallels between Moore’s Capitalism and Bannon’s Zero, it is unlikely that either side will acknowledge it. The chasm is far too wide to cross. Even on Hannity’s show there was an exchange that came close to recognizing this ideological affinity, but it was ultimately ignored as they broke away to a commercial.

Sean Hannity: Is it the political system that is more corrupt? Because I believe Capitalism works. Capitalism is the answer.
David Bossie, Producer: Clearly Capital Hill is corrupt. Capital Hill is the problem, not Wall Street here.
Stephen Bannon, Director: I think it an inextricably linked network between Capital Hill and Wall Street. […] You’ve had the American taxpayer, the average, middle-class American, paying taxes to bailout these big firms, and there’s been no change in behavior, no change in structure no change in regulation.

It’s interesting to see Bossie quickly suck up to Hannity and absolve Wall Street of any liability. It’s even more interesting to see Bannon contradict both of them and spread the blame evenly across the econo-political spectrum. But most interesting would be if all the people that go to see Generation Zero would pick up a copy of Capitalism: A Love Story as well. They may realize that Michael Moore is not the demon he’s made out to be by the right. And conversely, Moore might take a look at Generation Zero. If it isn’t stuffed with right-wing polemics and denunciations of 60’s “radicals,” perhaps he could promote it alongside his own movie.

If both of these films tell the same story of overarching corporate greed and government complicity, it would make a compelling double bill.


21 thoughts on “Generation Zero vs. Capitalism: A Love Story

  1. As we all know, the Great Depression was caused by the absinthe-fueled hippy generation of the 1890s…

    • And the devil’s music of Scott Joplin. What a bunch of degenerates. 😉

  2. I’m glad you compared these two documentaries. I recently watched Moore’s film and just yesterday became aware of Generation Zero.

    I’ve been familiar with theory of the Fourth Turning for years, but it seemed to me in the past that this type of analysis was mostly a liberal or libertarian view. I was surprised to discover that Generation Zero was screened at CPAC and at a Tea Party convention. I’ve been aware of this for a long time.

    Are the conservatives becoming outraged enought that they’re finally waking up from their patriotic slumber?

    The Hannity show is available in its entirety on Youtube where I watched it. Hannity kept wanting to shift the blame to the Democrats, but even he had to admit Republicans weren’t innocent.

    I’m very curious to see the documentary in order to judge it for myself. I agree with the analysis that blaming hippies “is a peculiar and illogical theory.”

    As a GenXer, I love to blame Boomers for all kinds of things. It’s a hobby of mine, but most Boomers weren’t hippies. During the riots, many of the police shooting the hippies were also of the same generation. The Vietnam soldiers were Boomers. Many Boomers were quite patriotic about the Neocon vision of warmongering around the world.

    Also, it was largely the Boomers that made the religious right into a political force and it was the evangelical vision that emboldened US support of Israel. The message of Zero Generation would be stronger if it included Frank Schaeffer who criticizes the religious right from the perspective of someone who helped in its early promotion (maybe the documentary does include him; I’ll have to find out). There is no single group that had more influence over politics the last several decades than the religious right.

    I’m excited about Generation Zero simply for the fact that it seems directly inspired by the theory of the Fourth Turning. I’ve been unsuccessfully trying to convince my conservative dad of the insight of generational theory for years now. I’d love it if Generation Zero makes accessible not only the Fourth Turning theory but also the same basic ideas that Moore portrayed in his own documentary.

    Many conservative pundits and Tea Party protesters claim to be equally critical of both parties, but so far it seems only certain libertarians have shown actual willingness to criticize the Republican party to any great extent.


  4. I am beginning to see a common theme among the liberals, you didn’t watch the movie yet spent time to write a review, I think Holder just did the same thing when he stated he was looking into the Arizona bill and possibly being unconstitutional, but wait he didn’t read the law! Pees from a pod.

    • In case you didn’t notice, I did NOT write a review of Generation Zero. I wrote an analysis based on what the filmmakers themselves said about the film. So there goes your whole “common theme” fantasy.

      However, I see a common theme amongst conservatives. They are incapable of engaging on substance so they create irrelevant side issues in a lame attempt to change the subject.

    • When I left my first comment, I hadn’t yet watched the documentary. I’ve since bought a copy and watched it. I can honestly say it’s precisely what I expected it to be. I plan on writing a review of it and use it as a springboard for some cultural analysis.

      I can’t speak for other liberals, but I try to inform myself and base my opinions on what I learn. Now that I’ve watched Generation Zero, I think the above analysis by Mark does make valid points. There is a rightwing bias to the documentary. That is a basic fact. Conservatives, of course, will like that bias. I, however, was disappointed.

      I was familiar with the generation theory long before having heard of this documentary. I was hoping it would go into that in more detail and stay away from the partisan rhetoric. I still think it’s a good documentary for bring up a theory that few have heard of it, but I hope people don’t stop there. It makes me wonder how many people who saw this documentary then went and read any books by Strauss and Howe.

      • Very interesting. I’ll check for your review.

        I still haven’t bothered to see Generation Zero because my interest isn’t in what the film has to say, but how it fits into a bigger discussion. My hope that people regard it and Moore’s film together does not seem to have materialized.

        It is one of the biggest hypocrisies that the Tea Baggers are not just as infuriated by Wall Street as progressives. That’s what reveals them to be phony dissenters and just disguised Republicans.

        • I haven’t finished writing it yet, but hopefully I will have it ready sometime in the next week or so. It’s a complex subject and I want to do it justice.

          I noticed a particular video of Chomksy the same day I came across a mention of Generation Zero. In the video, Chomsky was giving a warning which I took very seriously because he doesn’t usually give warnings. Chomsky isn’t a fear-mongerer like Beck. When Chomsky gives a warning, we all should take it seriously

          The warning Chomsky gave related to the Tea Party. He had said in previous videos that we should take the Tea Party seriously, but he didn’t explain why other than it being good to treat others with respect. In his warning, he was saying that the tension he hears in some people reminded him of what he heard as a child watching news reporting of the early Nazi movement. Chomsky is basically saying that populist rage easily leads to fascism, but he wasn’t arguing that Tea Party supporters are Nazis.

          Chomsky believes they have genuine gripes but are being misinformed and not being given real solutions. So, we should take them seriously in that we all should seek real solutions instead of allowing populist rage to be used by those who’d just like to gain power.

          There is a reason this seem connected to Generation Zero. The documentary portrays a very dark vision of America. It throws gasoline on the fire. I don’t think Generation Zero will have a big impact on the mainstream, but it will have a big impact on the Tea Party supporters who saw it at the convention. Generation Zero gives them a narrative for their fears. Narratives are very powerful things. No one gains power without a compelling narrative.

          Some might say that making comparisons to Nazis is unhelpful. Godwin’s Law and all that. But I don’t think Chomsky is one who lightly points out such comparisons.

          As I recall, he describes how the Nazi party started out as a small, populist movement during a time of economic uncertainty. Many people in the mainstream didn’t take them seriously. I’m sure Hitler pointed out very real problems that needed real solutions, but obviously the German public wasn’t satisfied with the solutions given by mainstream politicians. A small, populist movement in a democratic country became the ruling party which did horrendous things to their fellow citizens. Why did this happen? Because Hitler told a compelling narrative and offered solutions.

          I don’t think we’re at that point quite yet. I doubt Chomsky thinks we’re at that point either. But the seeds are there. It’s a possibility that could become a reality. If mainstream politicians don’t offer solutions that satisfy the American public and the economy gets worse and worse, the American public is just as prone as any other group of people to doing horrible things to fellow citizens.

          Anyway, I’m with you about how Generation Zero fits into a bigger discussion. When I write my review, I’ll link to your analysis here and I’ll try to connect it all to Moore’s film which I’ve also seen.

          I’ll return here and post a link to the review.

        • I just wanted to add that I don’t blame any liberal for not wanting to watch Generation Zero. I don’t think you’ll necessarily gain anything by watching it. I was just very curious and had to see the thing for myself.

          I was interested for two reasons.

          First, the whole narrative issue. As I see it, conservatives have lost their narrative in recent years. With changing demographics, the narrative of culture wars isn’t as motivating as it once was. Most young people, including young conservatives, are fine with immigrants, interracial couples, and gay marriage. I knew with the Tea Party conservatives were seeking a new narrative. I don’t know if Generation Zero will become the new narrative, but it certainly will become a part of the new narrative.

          Second, I’ve had an interest in generation theory for a long time. I discovered Generation Zero through a blog written by a GenXer (I believe the blog is JenX). It always seemed to me that theories like this tend to mostly interest liberal-leaning types and not conservatives. I was truly surprised to see the theory used as a narrative to bolster rightwing rhetoric.

          If you ever notice a cheap copy of Generation Zero, I’d recommend picking it up. But otherwise there probably isn’t any great advantage to watching it. It might just frustrate you and make you as angry as a Tea Bagger.

  5. While Generation Zero dwells way too much on an unrealistic Leave It To Beaver version of the 1950’s, it actually does approach this part of the problem as well. The movie does not neglect the culpability of an entrenched financial class that has no historical memory whatsoever.——-In your words.

  6. Dear Mark,

    Your bias coverage of Generation Zero is absolutely disgraceful. Here’s a suggestion: wait to review a film/documentary/movie until you have actually seen it. You neglected to mention the fact that the irresponsible behavior of the politicians of the day are bound to effect the future. Generations in the future will have to pay this debt back. Grandparents unwillingly stealing from their grandchildren. I have no problem with you using your right to free speech (unlike some Americans, I believe in the Constitution). You should give both films a fair shake however (I mean, watch both). ~REAGAN

    • It was actually all your fault REAGAN!

    • As I said above, this is NOT a review of the film. It is a commentary on what the filmmakers said about their own movie and an analysis of the subject matter on a broader scale.

      And if you think that I neglected to mention the “irresponsible behavior of the politicians,” you need to read my article again. I specifically pointed out “the coziness between Wall Street and Washington” and the “submissive legislators.”

      I’m not entirely sure why you’re complaining of my “disgraceful” bias when I concluded by recommending both films.

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