Boomers Are The Best At Weaponized Incompetence

by Elizabeth Broadbent
Originally Published: 
A man, who is part of the boomer generation, wearing a light blue shirt and looking unsatisfied
Anatoliy Karlyuk/Shutterstock

Right now, weaponized incompetence is having a sort of a moment on TikTok. In case you’re unfamiliar, weaponized incompetence is doing something so poorly, or dragging your feet on something for so long, that you’ll no longer be required to do it. It works like Shel Silverstein says: “If you have to dry the dishes and you drop one on the floor/ Maybe they won’t make you dry the dishes anymore.”

Boomers are tops at weaponized incompetence.

Think old dude narrowing their eyes and saying, “Well, I don’t know about all those words like ‘BIPOC.’ I’m just a simple country man and I’m too old to learn all those fancy words. Back in my days we didn’t have things like that.” He slides out of all social responsibility because of age and feigned incompetence. I’m too old and dumb to learn that, so I can’t be held responsible for it. This, my friends, is weaponized incompetence.

Old people have been doing this to us forever.

They can’t unlearn racism! They’re too old and stupid and hence cannot be held accountable for their racist, racist ways. We let them get away with it, too. “Oh, don’t say anything when Grandpa starts up,” we whisper. “He’s so old. You know how the times were. He can’t help it.”

He can damn well help it unless he’s fucking senile. He’s taking advantage of weaponized incompetence to say whatever he wants. We’re letting him get away with it. Yes, your sweet little Grandpa. We love him. You love him. But he becomes a lot less sweet when he rants about n-words and the “illegals.” It’s a lot easier to combat when you name it for what it is: weaponized incompetence. Call him out. He’s smarter than that.

Weaponized Incompetence: Dear Boomers, Your Tech Sucks

Guess what? The things behind your TV will change over time. Coaxial cable will be replaced with HDMI. You will have to learn how to hook up a Roku. You will have to learn how to switch from your believed fucking ‘NCIS’ on cable to the old episodes on Paramount+. This is not Who Wants to Be A Millionaire and we are not your lifeline.

Learn to program your remote. Learn to turn your WiFi back on. Learn to fix your own phone. We have a thing called Google now. It is accessible through both your phone and your WiFi network. It will literally answer any question on Earth, and YouTube has instructional videos on everything, which is how my husband can install a new alternator on our Explorer. If my husband can learn to install a new fucking alternator, you can reprogram your Wifi. You are not too old. You are not too incompetent.

You just think we’ll keep doing it if you keep pretending you are.

The TikTok And The Twitter As Weaponized Incompetence

Boomers love to use new social media as weaponized incompetence. “Oh, I can’t understand this new social media anymore,” Boomers claim. “What is this TikTok? What’s a tweet? Oh well. I’m too old to learn.”

Yes, because I emerged whole and entire from the womb able to produce a slick TikTok video.

If they claim they’re too old to understand it, they abdicate responsibility to learn it. Guess what, old people? We all learned to use Twitter. Tweens use TikTok, so it can’t be that complicated. Their brains were not constructed in the Matrix and when you cut them, they don’t bleed binary. Get the stupid app and figure it out. I’m forty. I can use TikTok. This does not make me cool, it makes me not incompetent.

Guess what I learned? SEO. Guess who taught me? I think they used to call it The World Wide Web. Boomers, you too can learn the glories of How To Post More Than Cat Pictures and Stupid Anti-Vax Shit. But you’d rather hide behind your weaponized incompetence because you’re scared… what, that we’d hold you accountable for engaging with tech? That you’d do it badly? That it might change your worldview?

You people are inscrutable.

Buying Into Stagnant Narratives

Who walked six miles uphill to school and pulled themselves up by their bootstraps to achieve the American Dream™?Well, Boomers did, dammit. College cost a buck-o-five and you could buy a little pink house with an interstate running through the front yard on minimum wage working down at the Tastee Freeze like Jack and Diane. So why can’t everyone else do it?

They refuse that acknowledge that was some white nonsense then and it’s some serious white nonsense now. Ask them to listen to another point of view. “No, well, I just can’t understand that, because back in my day…” and they either circle back to said stagnant narrative or start spewing Fix News, which delivers them from all responsibility to engage in needed change. Their weaponized incompetence frees them from any social justice imperative.

Your Parenting? They Use Weaponized Incompetence!

Chances are your parents disagree with a lot of your parenting decisions.

Chances are they hide behind a veil of “that’s not how we did it” and “it worked for us” and “well, you turned out fine.”

Then they say, “Well, I’m too old to learn that.”

They use this as an excuse to weasel out of helping your kids with their math homework, because they don’t understand common core standards and refuse to learn. They also use it as an excuse to refuse to learn to use your Ergo or your Moby wrap or your cloth diapers. If they don’t like some part of your parenting, it’s not something they did, and they can dig their heels in and say they can’t learn how to do it, like it’s super-hard respect that when a toddler says they don’t want to be hugged, you don’t hug them.

Not all grandparents do this, of course.

But Boomers have learned, especially lately, that weaponized incompetence is a potent way to get what they want. Generationally, they leverage it to get away with maintaining their own odious status quo, which has proven dangerous for every who isn’t an upperclass white male. Or just generally old. We’ve let them do it. Okay Mom, I’ll program the Roku. Don’t argue with Grandad, you know he’s going to say racist stuff. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

They can Zoom. They can learn the meaning of “BIPOC.” They can even use it in a fucking hashtag. Their weaponized incompetence has to end. If women can call out their husbands for refusing to do the dishes and wash clothes under the guise of “I can’t do it as well as you,” then we’re calling Boomers out for refusing to program their own electronics and learn tech and acknowledge social change.

You can do it, Boomers. We’re talking about your generation. You didn’t die before you got old. So get with it.

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