Stossel Punctures O’Reilly’s Curmudgeonhood

Bill O’Reilly delivered a predictable “those damn kids these days” rant on his show recently and John Stossel, a fellow Fox News host, rightly took him to task for it. He points out, correctly, that every generation says the same stupid thing about the next one.

America’s most popular cable news host is upset. “Marijuana use, video games and texting (are) creating major social problems,” says Bill O’Reilly. “This is an epidemic that will lead to a weaker nation!”

Give me a break.

Crotchety old geezers always complain about “the kids.” The Boston Globe frets about “Idle Trophy Kids.” The New York Post asks if millennials are “The Worst Generation?” Older folks (my age) complain that young people spend so much time texting each other that they can’t communicate. And because they spend hours playing violent video games, violence is up.


It’s true that kids today play incredibly violent games like “Halo” and “Grand Theft Auto,” but as the games’ popularity increased (over the past 20 years), youth violence dropped 55 percent. In Japan, kids spend more time playing violent games, and there’s even less violence. And in America, despite media hype, there are fewer school shootings now, not more.

Kids “can’t communicate” because they text all the time? Recently, kids invented Facebook, YouTube, Firefox, Groupon, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest and so on. They communicate something.

Inevitably, we older people misunderstand new ways young people do things – we are frightened by the risks and oblivious to the benefits.

If O’Reilly had been on TV in the ’50s, he would have ranted about comic books causing juvenile delinquency. The Senate actually held hearings in which the public was instructed that Superman “embodied sadistic fantasies … injurious to children. … ”

It’s amazing that we never learn from history. No matter how many generations have to listen to their parents drone on endlessly about how their kids are lazy and shiftless and so much less moral or ambitious than they are, they still turn around and do the same thing to their kids. Lather, rinse, repeat. Me personally, I think the young people today have it all over my generation. I feel hopeful because younger people today are less bigoted and more engaged in trying to improve the world than I was at their age.

"The world has always been run by rich men who "buy" the property rights to ..."

Wingnut: The World is Ruled by ..."
"And not a moment before."

We All Lose When Trump Picks ..."
"I've long been a proponent of nuclear, but accepted the high cost of existing plant ..."

We All Lose When Trump Picks ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • What’s really funny is to read the ancient Latin and Greek complaints—of course they were true!

  • doublereed

    Hesiod ~800 BC:

    “I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on the frivolous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless beyond words. When I was a boy, we were taught to be discreet and respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly wise and impatient of restraint.”

    Socrates ~400 BC

    “The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.”

  • busterggi

    Well of course the ancient Latin & Greek complaints were true – after all they were written in ancient Latin & Greek!

  • Ta, Doublereed, No Latin ones—I’m sure I remember some 🙂

  • Ta, Doublereed No Latin ones?—I’m sure I remember some 🙂

    (Oh for an editing feature of fire….)

  • John Stossel is… right about something?

  • Artor

    Holy shit! Stossel is capable of a coherent and actually sound argument? You learn something new every day…

  • tbp1

    I coined the phrase “creeping old-fartism” some years ago at my 20th high school reunion (of course it wouldn’t surprise me if someone else has also come up with it).

    My wife and I were sitting with some old friends who were complaining about their kids’ taste in music, awful clothes and haircuts, loser boy- or girlfriends, lack of work ethic…etc. etc. I almost shouted, “Are you guys actually listening to yourselves?”

    Interestingly, the same people now have grandchildren who are apparently perfect in every way.

  • What’s the betting Stossel gets fired for it?

  • matty1

    Unfortunately I’ve just tried to source those quotes just now, along with the “everyone wants to write a book” line attributed to an Assyrian tablet and although I’ve just been at it a few minutes I’m not optimistic about their accuracy. I can find no citations to specific books and a number of discussions where people argue that the quotes are mis-attributed.

    I’d actually like to be wrong on this so hope someone who knows the classics will let me know where I should be looking but otherwise lets not barton ourselves just to make a point.

  • borax

    Fucking kids these days. My 15 year old nephew is an atheist and doesn’t give a shit if gay people get married. I weep for the future of America.

  • Alex

    Sorry to contribute just more anecdotes, but I’ve repeatedly read that the quote commonly attributed to Socrates is unfortunately by a recent writer.

  • flex

    Time for one of my favorite bits of doggerel…

    My granddad, viewing earth’s worn cogs, said, ‘Things are going to the dogs’

    His grandad, in a house of logs, said, ‘Things are going to the dogs’

    His grandad, from the Irish bogs, Said ‘Things are going to the dogs’

    His grandad, dressed in caveman’s togs, said, ‘Things are going to the dogs.’

    Well, here’s one thing I’d like to state: The dogs have had a good long wait.

    I don’t know the author, but it certainly wasn’t me.

  • MattieF

    “Marijuana use, video games and texting (are) creating major social problems,”

    Well at least we know he wants to treat marijuana the same as video games.

  • Richard Smith

    O’Reilly’s next rant: “Get off my lawn!”

  • mikeyb

    John fucking Stossel. You mean the guy who got government aid for his flooded home and then has the audacity to say that flood aid for others like Sandy is unnecessary due to his holy liberturd principles. Everyone is capable of saying something sensible once in a while. Doesn’t suddenly transform him into a decent human being.

  • Hairy Chris, blah blah blah etc

    Reminds me of some classic Python.

  • Hercules Grytpype-Thynne


    I had occasion to look into the Hesiod quote some time ago and it’s almost certainly bogus. It cannot be sourced to anything Hesiod wrote or even to any other ancient author writing about Hesiod.

    The Socrates quote, if I recall correctly, may be loosely based on something Plato wrote in The Republic, but if so it’s been drastically altered in the retelling and doesn’t represent any actual opinion expressed by Socrates.

  • lpetrich

    Here’s a sourced quote:

    I would there were no age between ten and three and twenty, or that youth would sleep out the rest; for there is nothing in the between but getting wenches with child, wronging the ancientry, stealing, fighting…

    William Shakespeare: the shepherd in “The Winter’s Tale” (1623)

  • lancifer


    The Socrates quote is indeed misattributed.

    It was crafted by a student, Kenneth John Freeman, for his Cambridge dissertation published in 1907. Freeman did not claim that the passage under analysis was a direct quotation of anyone; instead, he was presenting his own summary of the complaints directed against young people in ancient times. The words he used were later slightly altered to yield the modern version. In fact, more than one section of his thesis has been excerpted and then attributed classical luminaries. –

    Still it is probably safe to say that many ancient philosophers and luminaries held similar opinions.

  • It’s amazing that we never learn from history.

    It is. And if our parent’s parents had applied our knowledge of the kids these days, we’d never have these problems these days with the kids these days.


    richardelguru “What’s the betting Stossel gets fired for it?”

    Nil. He’ll go back to moocher-baiting and Fox’ll forget all about his minor outbreak of facts


    matty1 “I can find no citations to specific books and a number of discussions where people argue that the quotes are mis-attributed.”

    Typical! The kids these days don’t cite things anymore.

  • machintelligence

    Let’s not forget:

    “I have long suspected that the male of our species, in most cases, should be raised in a barrel and fed through the bung-hole. Then, at age eighteen, a solemn decision can be made: whether to take him out of the barrel, or to drive in the bung.” -Robert Heinlein.

  • alanb

    @borax: Fucking kids these days.

    You obviously need this sound advice from 1866

    Never use bad words; because it is very foolish as well as very wicked. Some boys think if they swear, use slang phrases or big ugly words… that people will think they are manly and brave; but it is not so, nobody likes such boys, and they are nearly always mean and cowardly.

    It’s no wonder that this country is in trouble with people like you.

  • busterggi

    Alex @ 12 above

    The universe is some 14 billion years old so Socrates is pretty recent.

  • alanb “It’s no wonder that this country is in trouble with people like you.”

    Back in my day, we kids our days did not use contractions.

  • Packet Fusion

    that young people spend so much time texting each other that they can’t communicate

    Hm, as a “Unified Communications Engineer” (I love dropping buzz words), I was under the impression that texting WAS a form of communication. So yeah, kids these days probably are better at communicating with each other, than they are with older generations who have trouble with the medium*

    *Texting, much like the internet, has some nuances that may throw off some people.

  • tomh

    From a number of different sources, I’ve seen this quote attributed to an ancient Egyptian tomb inscription, first quoted, as far as I know, in Buckminster Fuller’s, I seem to be a verb.

    “We live in a decaying age. Young people no longer respect their parents. They are rude and impatient. They frequently inhabit taverns and have no self control.”

  • savagemutt

    Can I still whine about trying to jog through a throng of teenagers at a bus stop staring at their phones and completely oblivious to their surroundings?

  • Michael Heath

    Noting the ignorant claims that an extant generation younger than one’s one is the ‘worst generation’ shouldn’t have us also disqualifying informed arguments about the failures of particular generations.

    I think there’s a viable chance the Silent Generation will go down as the worst generation. That’s because they are the bulwark that denies climate change and allows the GOP to effectively obstruct meaningful global mitigation efforts.

    The Silent Generation is a key contributor to our poor education policies, Christianism, and the two combined fostering an environment that allows authoritarianism to thrive in this country. And because of these failures gay people, people of color, secularists, and the children of conservative Christians have unduly suffered. But in all these cases the arc of moral progress is not on their side, they will eventually lose. There is a light at the end of tunnel. However, time is not on our side regarding the threat of climate change; here conservative/libertarian obstructionism based on their denialism and nihilism will not eventually allow a full recovery. Instead it guarantees a marginal and predictably significant increase in suffering for future generations. Suffering that we can be confident will last for generations to come with increasingly bad results, if not centuries or even millenia.

  • Alex


    The universe is some 14 billion years old so Socrates is pretty recent.

    Were you there?

  • matty1

    The universe is some 14 billion years old so Socrates is pretty recent.

    Were you there?

    I was, weren’t you?

  • dogmeat

    And in America, despite media hype, there are fewer school shootings now, not more.

    Just when I was afraid Stossel was right about something, he reverted to his normal state. School shootings are up, not down.

  • Well, for the most part, he’s right. Overall, things have improved over the years.


    It might also be that we’re more aware of school shootings now, with 24-hour news channels.

    Personally, I don’t care if there are more or fewer school shootings “these days” — one is too damn many!

  • dogmeat

    I wish it were a product of media attention; unfortunately it isn’t. I don’t have the data on hand, but if I recall correctly, there were as many shootings since 2010 as there were in the twenty years from 1960 to 1980.

  • Michael Heath

    When it comes to violent deaths at school, this Dept. of Education table reports a declining trend from 1992-93 to 2010-11:

  • “When it comes to violent deaths at school,…”

    Michael Heath, does that include cafeteria lunches and faculty meetings? {;>)

  • Chuck

    Don’t know what Bill O. is so excited about. Now, if kids these days were in the habit of writing bad porn novels, that would be a sign of a civilization in decline. Oh, wait…