Jonah Goldberg

Meanwhile, a bunch of musicians and other music industry types have gotten into the act. Al Jourgensen of the band Ministry and a board member of something called "punkvoter.com" that bills itself as a coalition of punk bands and fans dedicated to "political education," called the T-shirt an "anti-American abomination."

In his letter he told Urban Outfitters, "Your T-shirt design is knowingly irresponsible. . It is a disgusting effort to reap profit from cynicism while suppressing civic involvement and encouraging apathy, not to mention referring to our senior citizens as old people." He also suggested that the store was conducting a Republican-led suppress-the-vote effort and that the shirt is "a blatant attempt to quash the efforts of Punkvoter.com, Music for America and Rock the Vote, and other pro-youth vote organizations."

I don't know what the cool kids say to such self-important nonsense these days, but when I was in college we'd say, "Lighten up, Francis." The shirt was ironic - just like roughly 90 percent of all humor for people under 35 today. Get over it.

But this astoundingly stupid controversy does get to the heart of why I think the cult of "youth politics" is so contemptible.

First there's the cynicism of Democrats like Dan Glickman, Clinton's secretary of agriculture, who obviously love youth voting because they think the youth will vote Democratic.

This in turn highlights the muddle-headedness of "youth advocates" who insist that you can't stereotype "the youth" but who also insist that there are a bunch of issues and concerns (i.e. liberal ones) that unite all young people. Um, which is it?

But what bothers me the most is the cart-before-the-horse logic that says it's fine for young people to be lazy, scummy, ignorant and immoral, but it's an outrage against God and man if those same kids don't vote.

Urban Outfitters' Web site features dozens of T-shirts with slogans that would be truly offensive if they were to be taken with a fraction of the literalness of Glickman & Co. A girl's shirt reads: "I did Justin three times." A boy's tee says: "I rock Catholic girls." Another: "American rat race: Drop out." Another: "Beer: It's what's for dinner."

I understand these are jokes. But it's not clear that Glickman & Co. do. Isn't it interesting that they don't care if kids get the message to be lazy, slutty drunks - so long as they vote?


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the forthcoming book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
 
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