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Is Today’s America Really a ‘Hellscape’?

And is it “immoral” to have children?
March 9, 2023
Don’t Be A Doomer (or listen to Taylor Lorenz) | Not My Party with Tim Miller

[Editor’s note: Watch Not My Party every week on Snapchat.]

Caulin Donaldson: It is too late to reverse climate change.

Melissa Steele: Just having my regular meltdown, and realizing I’m never gonna escape capitalism.

Mike O’Laskey: Income inequality is worse now than it was during the French Revolution, and I don’t know how to make a guillotine.

Tim Miller: Okay, doomer. Here’s another idea: Make babies and be happy.

Austin Powers (Mike Myers in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery): Oh, behave.

Miller: This is “Not My Party,” brought to you by The Bulwark. This week I wanted to take a little break from the news cycle to discuss a disturbing idea I’ve seen from progressives on social media. It’s called “doomerism.”

Finn Mertens (from Adventure Time with Finn and Jake): Ominous.

Miller: Wikipedia defines “doomers” as people “who are extremely pessimistic or fatalistic about global problems” like overpopulation and climate change.

Adrian Shannon (Jared Grimes on Manifest): The end of times.

Miller: Internet culture commentator Taylor Lorenz encapsulated this ideology by tweeting the other day that teens are unhappy because we are “living in a late stage capitalist hellscape during an ongoing deadly pandemic with record inequality, 0 social safety net / job security, as climate change cooks the world.”

Janis Ian (Lizzy Caplan in Mean Girls): That is bleak.

Miller: She concludes that “u have to be delusional to look at life in our country rn and have any . . . hope or optimism.”

Chris Traeger (Rob Lowe on Parks and Recreation): Depressing.

Miller: Well, color me delusional then. From our miracle vaccines, to our decently sturdy social safety net, to our record low unemployment, almost all her critiques about society are wrong.

Michael Scott (Steve Carell on The Office): You are wrong.

Miller: And if you think 2023 America is a hellscape, may I suggest you go out, get some ice cream, touch grass, see a show.

Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristin Bell on The Good Place): You need to chill a little.

Miller: The thing that really pisses me off about arguments like this is that people are actually being persuaded by them. Stress from doomerism is a key reason why young people are increasingly unhappy, and it’s convincing a surprisingly large portion that they might not wanna have kids at all.

Interviewee: It’s really concerning thinking about our futures, and thinking about like the time that we do have left on this earth. . . . I’m not sure if I personally would wanna fit kids into that.

Moe Szyslak (from The Simpsons): Somebody please think of the children!

Miller: A recent poll of 16-to-25 year olds showed that 39 percent of them are uncertain about whether they’d have kids. New York Times columnist Ezra Klein says the question he most gets from readers is “Should I have kids, given the climate crisis?” And Touré tweeted that his son thinks it’s “immoral” to have kids because the world is so horrible.

King Arthur (Graham Chapman in Monty Python and the Holy Grail): You make me sad.

Miller: All due respect to the well-intentioned worrywarts out there, but this is really algorithm-induced mass psychosis. My friend Noah Smith recently debunked the arguments behind doomer ideology. You should read the whole thing. But in short his argument’s this: Humanity is richer now than it’s ever been. The amount of people in poverty globally has plummeted. So has child mortality, illiteracy, and hunger. Compared to the rest of human history, things right now are kinda alright.

Stan Marsh (from South Park): Well that sounds pretty good.

Miller: A recent study showed that millennials are actually just about as wealthy as their parents were at the same age on a per capita basis.

Madeline Fenton (from Danny Phantom): That can’t be right.

Andy DeMayo (from Steven Universe): You better believe it.

Miller: As for the climate elephant in the room, yeah, it’s real, it’s bad, and we need to address it. But keep in mind, we have made progress on total global climate emissions. American emissions have dropped dramatically, and that’s before the massive investments in clean energy the last few years thanks to the Biden administration.

Chris Griffin (from Family Guy): Thanks, Mr. Biden.

Miller: Plus, recent scientific breakthroughs bring the possibility of zero-carbon nuclear fusion sometime in the future.

Ned Leeds (Jacob Batalon in Spider-Man: Homecoming): That would be so sweet.

Miller: So yeah, the way out of our climate crisis is limiting emissions, but it’s also good, old-fashioned human innovation. If all the smarties decide to sit around and sniff their own farts rather than procreate, that’s not a great Darwinian path.

Aaron Steinberg: What do you think is the biggest threat to mankind right now?

Elon Musk: I’d say the biggest threat right now is population collapse . . . super-low birth rate.

Miller: This is one place where I actually agree with Elon.

Ben Chang (Ken Jeong on Community): I’ll allow it.

Arnold Jackson (Gary Coleman on Diff’rent Strokes): What is this world coming to?

Miller: Progressivism is supposed to be about making life better for the most amount of people. That requires being honest about problems and trying to fix them. Not succumbing to a bunch of neurotic fatalists who wanna make us so riddled with anxiety that we don’t go out and do anything.

Alfred Pennyworth (Jack Bannon on Pennyworth): Well, when you put it like that.

Miller: So rather than gloom and doom, go forth and try to make shit better. Enjoy all the bounty and beauty in the world, and when you find the right he, she, or they, go ahead and make a baby with them. The world could use some more new smarties to help carry the torch.

Zapp Brannigan (from Futurama): Nothing to do now, but repopulate the human race.

Miller: See you next time for more “Not My Party.”

Tim Miller

Tim Miller is The Bulwark’s writer-at-large and the author of the best-selling book Why We Did It: A Travelogue from the Republican Road to Hell. He was previously political director for Republican Voters Against Trump and communications director for Jeb Bush 2016.