“YOUTHS!” — Dennis Reynolds, It’s Always Sunny
Friends, our lives in America are blessed. Every moment of every day, I have the enviable task of logging onto the ol’ fax machine here at the newsroom, and reading the day’s freshest think-pieces. And every day, without fail, there is new bottom to the barrel. It doesn’t matter how deep David Brooks or Chris Cillizza have dug in their race to flatter conventional wisdom. There are always fiercer, hungrier challengers out there, writing the worst takes of all time.
The other day, Digiday published one of the shallowest manifestations of corporate id I’ve ever read: “Now millennials are killing diamonds, so the industry is Instagramming.”
Consider that sentence. Approriately, I call it “The Sentence.”
Now millennials are killing diamonds, so the industry is Instagramming.
It’s a masterpiece on twenty levels—at least. I want to invent a new field of study, bullshit analysis, to capture and catalog every particle of horrible in that clause and phrase. I want to task generations of scholars and have seminars with panels like “Have we moved beyond The Sentence yet?” In the year 2050, I want college students at Halloween parties to dress up like The Sentence, and have other students at the party be genuinely frightened, and still have other students be genuinely offended, so that they complain to the Dean of Students and have the frat house that hosted the Halloween party shut down, as a lesson to never engage with The Sentence. That’s how lame those ten words are. That sentence does not give cancer; it gives some future astronaut disease that will be impossible to cure.
In my hometown newspaper, the religion writer would occasionally write banal features about how great this or that pastor was. The titles were always something like “Preacher Goodflesh: A Lust For Doing God’s Work!” But the millennials-are-killing-diamonds angle is worth a thousand preacher flatter-pieces.
The premise is bad—”millennials” are “killing” diamonds. The response is not a story: “the industry is Instagramming.” It reads like what it is: a press release about the most insufferable industry on the Earth, demanding money from people who don’t have it.
The heart of the diamond feature is worth quoting at length. See, the diamond folks are used to a certain standard of living from their consumers. They are entitled to your spending.
The Diamond Producers Association, an alliance of the world’s biggest mining companies, has made pop-culture, not old-timey, references to engagement or marriage, the cornerstone of its Instagram marketing. “Love and commitment are just as relevant today, but we are putting a wider lens on diamond purchase drivers,” said chief marketing officer Deborah Marquardt — which is why the organization has taken the pop culture tack. For example, when Taylor Swift released the music video for her new song, “Look What You Made Me Do,” Marquardt’s preteen daughter pointed out a shot in it featured Swift wearing a ton of jewelry, “bathing” in precious gemstones. Marquardt decided to take a closer look. She found out that Swift was in put in a bathtub of real jewelry by Hollywood favorite Neil Lane — and it was all diamonds. The DPA took a quick screenshot and posted it on Instagram; now, it’s one of the organization’s biggest hits on that platform, with almost 1,000 likes and comments.
By the power of Grayskull, what part of this is news? The Economist made the same claim in 2016. “Aging exploitation ring makes shallow, transparent stab at relevance.”
I have so many points to raise. So many, in fact, that I must do this in bullet-point, like a private-prison lobbyist selling indentured servitude to the State Senate:
—This is peak bougie. I mean bougie in the “Why aren’t peasants eating more cake?” bougie. I mean bougie in the sense of “If my interns no longer buy champagne by the crate, I shall simply scream.” It’s hot-yoga bougie, Lululemon bougie, My-Kid-Goes-to-Brown-bumper-sticker bougie. Just read the article in Christian Laettner’s voice and you’ll see what I mean. Ain’t no mountain high enough for this bougie.
—Imagine pitying the diamond industry! “Diamonds” exist because of artificial scarcity. There are plenty of diamonds in the world. The entire diamond market—the shiny-rock industry—is made up. It’s designed by authoritarian companies who really came into their own during bloody colonial regimes.
—Diamonds are famously bloody. As Brilliant Earth points out, “In just the past two decades, seven African countries have endured brutal civil conflicts fueled by diamonds: Sierra Leone, Liberia, Angola, the Republic of Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, the Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.”
—If you want consumption, pay a living wage. You don’t get consumers without a middle class.
—This isn’t a real article. It’s the author writing about how someone in an industry used social media to advertise their product, and could have been written at any point between 2003-2017.
If there’s one thing Boomers love to do, it’s blame millennials, blame them for their own dreadful business decisions. Across America—across the world—twentysomethings have apparently been gunning for every single one of the Boomer holies: homeowning, the workforce, the Democratic party. Now, Lord Jesus, they have come for diamonds. Ain’t nothing sacred? Middle-aged folks thought their kids were in bed, but they sailed away on a wave of mutilation. You can’t throw an avocado-covered rock without hitting an industry a millennial is field-dressing. Twitter user @theindiealto even made a collage of the youth murder spree:
In reality, this is much ado about something. Student debts preclude home-owning, guys. Working for peanuts tends to put a dent in the platinum budget. Declining spending is the millennial gift back to a corrupt society, one that demands the fealty of consumption without raising wages. The only reason consumer society existed in the first place was the existence of a middle class—a class which is slowly being gutted, day by day, week by week. The older generations are either unable or unwilling to consider how godawful the economy is for the youngs, in any way. Another Twitter user nailed it:
You have to be really indoctrinated for the diamond industry’s take to make sense:
The idea is to make diamonds feel “approachable,” hence the Swift photo, another popular photo of a diamond ring in the shape of a wolf and one of fashion icon Iris Apfel in large, diamond-studded glasses. “Instagram is interesting when you have the world’s most beautiful product, that people want to have conversations about,” said Marquardt. “We looked at Instagram as a way to harness that enthusiasm.”
See, it’s in the shape of a wolf! You people love animals! Portlandia, right? How are you doing, fellow kids? You know what would make diamonds feel approachable? Making them affordable. Is there any way to look at the diamond industry except as a kind of giant, irrelevant parasite, latching onto a struggling generation and sucking out what little marrow it can find?
Even if this had been a real article, what the hell does this do for the diamond industry? Even if we were cheering for it (which we’re not). It comes across a bad parody of someone writing about the modern travails of the glittering-rock cartel—which, I assure you, will keep looting the mines of Africa long after the last Wes Anderson fan has been buried in a twee cemetery plot. The diamond racket is the Democratic Party reborn: stop admonishing everyone else for your being a terrible luxury brand, in an age when people can’t afford luxury. Like diamonds, blame is forever.