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Strange memories on this nervous night in Las Vegas. Five years later? Six? It seems like a lifetime, or at least a Main Era—the kind of peak that never comes again. San Francisco in the middle sixties was a very special time and place to be a part of. Maybe it meant something. Maybe not, in the long run . . . but no explanation, no mix of words or music or memories can touch that sense of knowing that you were there and alive in that corner of time and the world. Whatever it meant. . . .

History is hard to know, because of all the hired bullshit, but even without being sure of “history” it seems entirely reasonable to think that every now and then the energy of a whole generation comes to a head in a long fine flash, for reasons that nobody really understands at the time—and which never explain, in retrospect, what actually happened.

My central memory of that time seems to hang on one or five or maybe forty nights—or very early mornings—when I left the Fillmore half-crazy and, instead of going home, aimed the big 650 Lightning across the Bay Bridge at a hundred miles an hour wearing L. L. Bean shorts and a Butte sheepherder's jacket . . . booming through the Treasure Island tunnel at the lights of Oakland and Berkeley and Richmond, not quite sure which turn-off to take when I got to the other end (always stalling at the toll-gate, too twisted to find neutral while I fumbled for change) . . . but being absolutely certain that no matter which way I went I would come to a place where people were just as high and wild as I was: No doubt at all about that. . . .

There was madness in any direction, at any hour. If not across the Bay, then up the Golden Gate or down 101 to Los Altos or La Honda. . . . You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning. . . .

And that, I think, was the handle—that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting—on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave. . . .

So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark—that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.

The standard response to such feelings, it seems, is dismissal. I think this is foolish. Some times really are better than others, some worse than others, economically, socially, spiritually, holistically. Why even try to deny it? Why not look at the "good times", at the mechanics of the Waves, and try to understand them? In the passage above, for example, the mechanics seem extremely straightforward: people were trying something quite novel to living experience, something that was immensely rewarding in the short-term, and the long-term consequences hadn't manifested yet.

I kept waiting for the interesting twist, where he interogates his nostalgia or comes up woth an actual theory of why the 90s were great, but the entire post is just a series of country music cliches about how life was so much simpler back in the day, drinking your dad's stolen booze and losing your virginity in your friend's old Dodge. Like, yeah Freddie, I also had a lot of fun in high school and think modern youths are a sad, weak, degenerate imitation of my own generation's greatness. Such is the opinion of literally every person over the age of 30 since Cicero complained about all the long hair and jewelry Clodius and his friends were wearing.

He's just arrogantly saying "no, but dude. Seriously. The 90s really were that great," and then making the same exact list of "lost" teenage experiences his parents probably complained about. Even his recognition and rejection of the idea that he's just feeling the same generational nostalgia everyone feels once they hit a certain age is cliché.

I usually find Freddy DeBoar insightful, even when I disagree, but this is peak millenial hipster navelgazing and he should be embarrassed.

Am I missing something here? Is there an insight hiding sonwwhere after I started skimming that rises above the lyrics of a Brad Paisely song?

I've got a couple of specific buckets:

  • If you just take a quick glance at toys available to kids in the 90s, they honestly are obviously superior. Take a look at Super Soakers - I mean holy shit. You can make the argument that today's Nerf offerings are excellent, and I'd agree. But you can and should mostly play with these inside. Water guns force you outside.

  • For video games and general technology, the 90's were "good enough" and that's a powerful state to be in. Your imagination had to fill in blanks with pixelated skyboxes. To make it to secret areas in a game, you had to know someone or buy a guidebook. The girl you were chatting with on AIM could look like anyone. Your walkman wouldn't last forever, and only fit one disc or tape. When you wanted to ask a question about Santa, you couldn't just google it.

  • Food hadn't completed its evolution into a fully-synthetic product. GMOs were still an emerging technology. Taco Bell was still cooking their own refried beans in-restaurant and frying shells fresh each day, Pizza Hut still had handmade dough.

  • This edges into the late 80s as well, but I don't think many people would disagree that 90s cars represented a huge stylistic improvement over their immediate predecessors. In many ways, modern cars still aren't as fast or beautiful.

I'm focusing on things here because nailing down a superior culture is so difficult. Of course parents weren't hovering as close and you could use a bike to get to your friends house. Of course you could be a little wilder when people weren't recording your every move. Of course it was a little bit easier to take your first drink at a younger age. Of course face to face interaction was still the best way to date and get things done.

But I think that's tougher to quantify at best, and a bit too obviously cyclical with previous generations' take. Kids these days may be a collection of asexual wimps but I also think there's less physical bullying, which is cool. They've had access to an enormous amount of history and data from an earlier age which is important. I dunno, I could do a better job being a devil's advocate but it's mostly beside the point.

My theory re video games is that because the graphics were still limited in 1990 to early 2000, you had to focus on making the game itself fun. Morrowind had to be a really good rpg because you couldn’t sell it on the basis of graphics— they weren’t that good. And that’s true of shooters and platform games as well. It was either fun despite the graphics or it wasn’t going to make it.

Kids these days may be a collection of asexual wimps but I also think there's less physical bullying, which is cool.

What if these things are connected? What if there's a tradeoff?

Bullying hasn’t gone away either. We may also be seeing a trade off between physical bullying and cyber bullying.

Something about the immediate and stark reality of an unsupervised playground seems to me to be painful but brutally honest in a way that is a microcosm of actual life in future meatspace.

(For reference I was in HS and university in the 90s. I’m not a gamer, I like 70’s 2-channel audio, and i don’t have twitter, so for me “online” is work, bills, and escapism. I don’t “live” here the way I think many younger people do)

I can’t imagine how terrible cyber bullying must be by comparison to what we had to endure in the 90’s for people who are invested in virtual life. Online the social signals are so complicated and the separation or anonymity imposed by screens brings out the worst in people. If this is a microcosm of the developing future societal order - social credit and AI - I feel somewhat sorry for those who don’t know what life was like before all that.

Also - the 80s were an awesome time to be a little kid.

I share the same concern, actually. I was fortunate enough to experience both physical and online bullying. Both were deeply humiliating, but at least with the former I could have theoretically done better standing up for myself.

Forcing people to risk getting their ass kicked when being a piece of shit is important.

My original comment, though, was trying to convey that for all the woke crap zoomers have swallowed hook line and sinker, I think that there's a lower tolerance for "dumb" bullying. I'm reminded of 21 Jump Street where calling someone a fag for dressing well isn't considered acceptable anymore. I miss being able to call people that name, but I also won't bemoan the loss of some of it.

honestly coulda added a Matrix reference there - was predicted that we peaked in the 90s (in the US anyway)

I think the whole theme is an examination of how, even knowing that he looks at Boomers who say the same shit about the 50s/60s/70s as morons, and at Retvrners who say the same shit about the 15th/17th/18th as schizophrenics, he still can't help feeling that way about the 90s. The denouement fantasy 90s, of going to all the cool places and doing all the cool things with all the cool people, is the capper; that's how we always idealize a time period. People rarely feel nostalgia through a Rawlsian Veil of Ignorance; maybe Gibbon. We rarely think "On average, people in time period X had it best." Or "I would be most likely to wind up ok in time period x."

We either think, "it would have been cool to live in the 60s and go to Woodstock and hang out in the Haight and do drugs and have love ins with pretty girls." Or we think "If I as an individual, with my unique skills and tastes, were transported back to the 50s intact, I would crush it."

We never think "What if I go back to the 60s, but I'm an ugly guy born in a trailer park working a dead end job in a cardboard box factory, I never get a good education or hear much about the world because my religious parents keep me from most media, I only vaguely hear about Woodstock and the Haight after the fact."

When we time travel, we always imagine ourselves in the thick of the action. Which most people weren't. Freddy's "Friends" piece that's being argued about further down is kinda asking the question: should media present an aspirational normative view of cool people as cool people should be? Or should it present the average person who has only a vague interest in politics and events?

Freddie would argue yes, based on his follow-up, but YMMV.

The nights were pregnant with pre-millennium tension; we ran riot because we had been promised a new century to become adults in, because we were sold on a vision of rebirth through numerology, and we knew what came next would be better than everything that had come before. It turned out that that was untrue, and we never got over it.

Go look around at the way the world looked in 2002. Everything looked like shit. The fashion was worse. The music was worse. The country was worse.

A lot of people are mentioning 9/11 as the main material event that must have been what changed the overall feel and marks the end of the broad 90s. But I think there's something to what Freddie says here about goofy numerology putting something in the air that a lot of people felt. Even if we know rationally that it's arbitrary, it feels interesting psychologically being the last decade of the millennium, about to tick over to triple-zeroes and something new, Y2K. When that passed without incident (as it was bound to), some magic feeling was lost, and we just continued on with boy bands, survivor / american idol reality tv, frosted-tips, whatever.

I think the last faint echo of something like this mass psychology was in the run up to 2012, with the mayan calendar ending doomsday stuff, on the heels of the financial crisis and great recession, occupy wallstreet, the last of peak-oil doomerism before fracking, etc. People could indulge in some more dark fantasies of living in interesting end-times that are about to transition to something different, until january 2013 when it was time to go back to mundane reality.

I remember people predicting mass riots and blackouts, that the Y2K saving efforts of software engineers had been for naught. I spent hours in december practicing blowing away pixelated ducks on the super nintendo in preparation.

Then absolutely fucking nothing happened for 2 years. I was willing to give the cool new future a little bit more time, but 9/11 honestly did just crush my hope for the future. All we got was mass surveillance and a forever war.

For folk numerology, consider the year of perfect hindsight, 2020, and its successors: “2020 won” and “2020 too”. We were hoping this year we would finally be “2020-free,” but it turns out it’s just “2020 3.” Maybe next year we’ll find out what 2020 was for…

You used to do things and have places to do them

Psychologically, humans work best by having delineated spaces for mental activity. The internet reduces the uniqueness and salience of these spaces. This is something that needs to understood if we’re talking about which era was best. Music stores, blockbusters, movie theaters, or even hanging out in a parking lot takes on more meaning when there is no competing stimuli input. Smartphones (why do we call them this again?) are a constant competing stimuli, and are manufactured to be addictive. The act of buying a video game or renting a movie is totally different when you don’t even have the possibility of glancing at a social media feed. Hanging out with friends is an insulated and calmer environment when you are not comparing to social media and posting the act on social media.

Albums and CDs can also act as unique objects that enhance the salience and memory of the music we listen to. From a UI perspective, Spotify is horrible for creating unique memory-spaces

If you ever have the energy to do so. I'd love if you wrote more on this subject because I think it's very much worth discussing (and I very rarely see good discussions about it). I very much agree with what you're saying, however, for some reason, most people do not seem to get this and it infuriates me (because of the damage it causes). Or at least they do not accept it if stated literally while sometimes their actions do indicate that they notice it in someway.

It's also often the STEM guys that seem to fall for this the most (and inflict the most damage on others). Typical (basic) examples are belittling others for enjoying going to the cinema or borrowing movies at physical stores, instead of just watching it on NetflixTM (because it's more efficient). And it does seem to make an impact given that I've noticed a lot of people make disclaimers on the vein of 'I know this isn't efficient, but I still like the experience'.

Smartphones (why do we call them this again?)

Pedant answer: smartphones are capable of more general-purpose computing, while a "dumb phone" or "feature phone" is more purpose-built and focused down. It's not exactly a clean delineation, as pre-iPhone cellphones had built-in operating systems of their own and could even run some Java-based games. I guess the best distinction is if you can ask "is this basically just a computer that can take a SIM card and make phone calls?" and answer that with "yes."

I don't think smartphones were originally designed for addiction's sake, it's just more that phones combine the already-extant superattraction of desktop computers with the ability to take that computing potential literally anywhere. It's really in the 2010's where smartphones became "good enough" in terms of specs to really displace regular PCs for browsing the internet and other things--plus, having a built-in camera and microphone on top of that makes it very handy for some things. I think that's pretty much why you see the whole "always online" thing nowadays: without smartphones, we'd still have some of the same problems, but laptops and desktops are less, well, mobile (laptops have portability, but may require wi-fi connections only--no cellular internet, no real mobility). You have to get up to do stuff away from the computer at some point. Not so much with phones.

From a UI perspective, Spotify is horrible for creating unique memory-spaces

Oddly enough, I find the music service Bandcamp to be kind of a solution to what you and Freddie criticize Spotify for. You don't need to subscribe (instead, you can just pay for albums a-la-carte like iTunes, except also many artists make their releases pay-what-you-want), and while you can listen to your collection from the desktop website or the mobile app, you can also just download it to your PC and listen on a program like VLC. I find I have no trouble remembering some albums I've bought, whether I've streamed them from Bandcamp's servers or played my local copy.

It helps, I think, that misplaced nostalgia for the 50s was getting sneered at around the time I got inseparably attached to nostalgia for the 90s. But really, I have no illusions about the overall societal situation or whatever. I was 2-11 years old and living in a city/town that still can't decide if it's rural or suburban or a college town or what. My exposure to the outside world was basically TV and movies, wherein NYC was a city of perpetual nighttime muggings and superheros, everyone in high school was indistinguishable from jock/nerd/cheerleader stereotypes played by conspicuous adults, and drugs were bad, 'mkay?

9/11 might have functionally ended the 90s from the perspective of the West having won history, but history was basically mythology even while I was watching it unfold. 9/11 for me was mainly testing my attitudes Vs the mainstream on matters of justice / vengeance / mercy / whatever. Using 9/11 as a Jedi Mind Trick to get people to support Operation Iraqi Freedom was America failing the test, and teenaged-me getting an inflated ego for feeling like the only one who saw it that way who wasn't on MSNBC. Then I slowly got better at something resembling theory of mind, discovered that being insulated in a school-sized sandbox with "peer pressure is bad, 'mkay?" discouraging socialization, and never actually learning how to try, left me woefully unprepared for anything beyond high school, and oh, look, the "reasons this decade is worse than the last" list got longer, and it still has nothing to do with the general quality of said decades for civilization in general.

My soul can live in the 90s, and my personal Utopia can be "the 90s, but better," and post-9/11 America can have revealed ugliness that I was previously unaware of (what with being an isolated child prior), and none of that adds up to the 90s being better (or worse) than neighboring decades from a broader perspective. If our AI overlords can create multiple Utopias and justify giving me access to 90stopia, that'd be nice, I suppose, but I'm not going to evangelize it, or suggest that everyone be forced to join me there. Objectivity when judging decades you lived through isn't exactly easy.

An Era About Nothing, from the American Conservative, a book review as a sort-of counterpoint:

This guy making so much with substack. Way more than ppl with crypto, drop shipping, amazon, etzy, wall street bets trading, shopify and other overhyped crap like that. newsletter blogs beating these overhyped hustles over and over. It shows how important talent/IQ and the ability to scale it is, and how things which get lots of media coverage and marketed to the masses tend to be the worst for making money . Whether it's Substack or tech jobs, the higher the cognitive barriers to entry, the more reliable, bigger, and consistent the $.

But the 90s were good if you were just competent and hard working but not that talented. Homes were way cheaper, and there was way less credentialism or other screening for hiring. The 2020s are the best decade ever ever for the the most talented of society, who can take advantage of winner-take -all markets and scale, like social networking. Huge tech companies and cheap mortgages means high salaries and higher net worth.

I suppose I'll have to point to this piece if I'm ever called to answer why I nostalgia-cize about a time I was barely aware enough to enjoy.

That being said, I acknowledge that the Internet and smartphones are two genies that can't quite be put back in the bottle, and there's also a lot of stuff I'm not sure I'd want to give up to go back to the 90's.


Another thing that was great about the 90's, something that Freddie probably didn't talk about out of lack of experience, was the world of computers and computer games. Back then, we didn't fear technological progress quite so much (if you did, you probably were an actual honest-to-God literal Baby Boomer who probably imagined a Skynet-like AI forming from the digital ether of computers, much as how people thought flies spontaneously formed on meat pre-Pasteur), and getting new games and hardware was exciting.

The 90's saw computers go from spreadsheet machines that were mostly only good for card games and endless clones of that one Star Trek simulator to multimedia powerhouses that could run Quake. If you were a console gamer instead of a computer gamer, that was still a super exciting time, because you also had games go from 2D to 3D and improve just as rapidly.

Going to a store like CompUSA or Fry's Electronics was special, because you could shop for a new graphics card or check out the new PC games.

I think that's probably what will keep the 90s special as far as nostalgia goes; it feels like if we could time travel back to the 90s, we could have our cake and eat it too. The differences between then and now are technically qualitative, but they don't feel like they are, and the advantages of pre-Internet age hadn't really faded away yet. We often focus on how kids used to play outside, but rainy, bad weather days were boring. Now, possibilities for entertainment don't change much despite the weather, but before video game consoles, you had to hope your parents were willing to drive to go rent a VHS, or before the VCR you had to hope something good was on TV, and before the TV, you were pretty much fucked if nothing good was on the radio, etc... In the 90s, you could have it all. If you wanted social media: BBSes, usenet, forums were there. If you wanted to speak to someone across the world, there were crude audio video chat platforms like CU-SeeMe. You could play tons of videogames of all kinds, if you were on a computer you could download them too. Of course, when we imagine ourselves in the 90s, we tend to imagine ourselves as early adopters, even though few people had computers and internet (and broadband internet). But yeah, the perks of the current years were mostly possible, even if few people took advantage of them, and the tradeoffs hadn't materialized yet.

I love Freddie, in the same way that I love my more mindkilled friends. He's clearly a sweet, genuine dude with a desire to improve both himself and what he feels is his community. Like those who I know personally that have loyally turned themselves in as tinder for the Culture War, his grip has slipped on timing, scale and scope. The internet or technological advancement didn't (and can't) change things in this manner, these things at their most fundamental are force multipliers. This was a purely social shift.

The timing is off too, which begs the question: is there a more appropriate explanation for the change in values and cultural temperature in America, around the turn of the century? We were coming off the post-Cold War cultural windfall, rejoicing in our new lease on life. No more forever wars in places we'd never heard of, no more paranoia towards our actors and neighbors, no more looming threat of nuclear Armageddon. What was this significant event, that pushed us one direction over the others? Some readers may have already clocked what I'm talking about. 9/11 broke the collective mind of America.

We were like a smug toddler yanking the cat's tail, utterly convinced of our moral superiority and basic goodness. We're the city on the hill! Don't you understand we're the most tolerant? Human rights and freedom are our guiding principles! That's why we've been attacked! Are you suggesting something? (I am ignoring the obvious lies that were peddled around the events leading up to and during the hijacking, I don't believe any particular conspiracy is more likely than the official narrative but I don't think they're any more likely to be false, and have the benefit of being formed in the absence of the truth meaning at least it isn't dissembling)

What started as the unremarked-upon regime feng shui in the Middle East began to be taken personally by the unwashed goat herders, and sure enough they organized the bloodiest attack on American soil in living memory (all of this being enabled by actors and assets that we had armed, trained and put into place a few years earlier). We were scratched, like the people whose job it is to anticipate these things could've (read: good chance they had, in this particular case) predicted. No need to check we had our story straight, as a people America threw a fit (not to say that the slaughter of innocents regardless of allegiance should be given a placid response) and the hysteria never relented. We just got used to it.

This, along with the panoply of other factors that weigh in on large-scale features like culture, has unmoored the preeminent world power from reailty. Now we act confused as NGOs, LLCs, nonprofits, legal structures and the more numinous elements of sociological terraforming begin crossing finish lines with speed, rather than finesse.

In my opinion.

The aughties were better than the nineties. Music was shit in the 90's, Russia was shit in the 90's, I was a little shit in the 90's.

It was as advanced as civilization got before being ruined by the internet, the Cold War was over but the War on Terror hadn't started yet, Jesus freaks were still trying to run the culture but were on the decline, and proto-wokies weren't anything to care about yet. We had like one real war and it was a curbstomp where lots of shit blew up real good on TV but we were smart enough not to settle in and try to occupy a bunch of jihadis for decades. It was good times indeed.

The 90s were definitely the best time of my life. Maybe that's because I wasn't old and broken-down and jaded, and was pretty fit and enjoying all the benefits of being connected to a T1 backbone just as Diablo and Team Fortress and Napster were a thing, but it was fucking great.

The people who make up the utterly obnoxious 90% of Twitter did exist, but you could mock them to your heart's content with no repercussions. (At most you'd have to deal with stuff like the vaguely butch-looking women's studies major (that allegedly dormed with the girl who Billie Joe Armstrong wrote "She" about) who wanted to fuck your semi-artsy next door dorm neighbor (who really wanted to be an entertainment lawyer) giving you dirty looks because you were unsophisticated in your take on the nuances of Pleasantville and being a cock-block, as your neighbor intended.)

I also just about broke a man in half while playing rugby (unfortunately, it was at practice and he was my teammate) and had a summer job where a dude who was shot multiple times in the abdomen during his time as a gang member gave me life advice, and while I was vaguely aware of the fact that Bill Clinton decided to have people killed to distract from the fact he was getting blowjobs from a chubby intern, it didn't feel like something that would affect what my life would look like 20+ years later.

The entirety of Freddie DeBoer's life outlook is that he loved hippies/bohemians in new york in the 90s and then turned out to be quite smart and a world view crystalized around that abstract attraction/memeplex. It was pretty clear in his infamous planet of cops piece and it explains exactly why he lives in a groundhog world of noticing the left has lost it's mind but waking up the next day completely forgetting that realization.

As for the 90s vs today, the tech sucked and was expensive, the domination of the moral majority sucked even though it's piercing light gave contrast to interesting subcultures just as much as modern progressivism sucks despite it's life giving contrast to communities like our own. The grass is greened by the lack of our, or at least my, current enemy but there is a cause for the sword in every era.

the domination of the moral majority

Was nonexistent.

You're not from the Bible Belt, are you? Christian zealots ran the show and were quite controlling in the 90s. Into at least the late 2000s they were teaching only creationism in science class and punishing kids at my public school for not participating in prayers or having books like Harry Potter or the Golden Compass.

Cracks didn't start showing in that dominance until the late 2000s with growing internet access providing locals who weren't with the program access to secular spaces, plus I think the close marriage between the Bush administration and evangelicals drove some wedges and made being a Southern Baptist less of an everyone thing and more of a Republican thing.

Was it really? I suppose this is one of those "my enemies are both strong and weak" things, but the old Moral Majority certainly could and did throw their weight around. It all seems quaint in hindsight and with the passage of time, and especially in comparison to today's new ideologies, but back then, nobody realized that "Judeo-Christian Morals" were a dying meme--quite the opposite, in fact! The Nine Inch Nails concept album Year Zero imagined a world where Tipper Gore/Mary Whitehouse moral concern, megachurch Christianity, and Bush-era jingoism were fused to create a dystopian America. That was in 2007.

Need I dredge up the tragedy of Jack Thompson? It's not a story the Jedi would tell you.

I even really liked that album. I can't help but think of it when looking back at how totally off we were, since I was very much of that crowd. Nice production, though.

Need I dredge up the tragedy of Jack Thompson?

A man who accomplished literally nothing other than discrediting himself? I mean you can if you want, I guess. Not sure where you're going with that though.

Was it really?


but the old Moral Majority certainly could and did throw their weight around

If you mean the literal Moral Majority, it disbanded in 1989.

The Nine Inch Nails concept album Year Zero imagined a world where Tipper Gore/Mary Whitehouse moral concern, megachurch Christianity, and Bush-era jingoism were fused to create a dystopian America. That was in 2007.

Yes, key word being "imagined". Much like the Handmaid's Tale in a later era.

If you mean the literal Moral Majority, it disbanded in 1989.

Yeah, that group wasn't around in the 90's, but the spirit was definitely still there, I'd argue.

To what effect? In what way, in the 90s, did the moral majority actually exert meaningful influence on the culture, or on individuals?

Religious abuse of children and non-believers, censorship, restricting access to contraceptives and abortion, practicing marriages between children and adults, discrimination against atheists and other non-Christians, discrimination against sexual minorities, violating church-state separation, etc.

Religious abuse of children and non-believers

What is "religious abuse" of children? How were non-believers abused, exactly?


What censorship, specifically? Every attempt at censorship I saw in the 90s failed utterly. Carlin suffered no significant consequences for saying "the words you can't say on TV" on TV. Internet porn proliferated beyond all measures. Attempts to restrict artistic output, even when that output had obvious, legible, serious negative consequences, were uniformly rejected.

restricting access to contraceptives and abortion

How was it restricted? Roe was the law of the land. Condoms were handed out in public schools as a routine matter.

practicing marriages between children and adults

I have zero doubt that some religious people somewhere did this. Where was it done in socially significant numbers?

discrimination against atheists and other non-Christians

What discrimination, specifically? Who was discriminated against, and in what contexts?

discrimination against sexual minorities

Discrimination how, and against which sexual minorities? You know Matthew Shephard's murder wasn't actually a hate-crime, right?

violating church-state separation

What violations, specifically?

...I'm intimately familiar with the narrative that the 90s were a horror-story of oppression by moral busybodies, but I actually lived through them. The moral busybodies wanted to censor, restrict freedom, and otherwise impose their values through force of law, but they were completely unable to do so in any practical sense. Meanwhile, the people who decried their "restrictions" have gone on to actually censor, restrict freedom, and otherwise impose their values through force of law to a degree that is completely beyond even the caricatures they've generated of their opponents.

Those "explicit lyrics" labels were so oppressive, man...

It was pretty clear in his infamous planet of cops piece and it explains exactly why he lives in a groundhog world of noticing the left has lost it's mind but waking up the next day completely forgetting that realization.

I think he know the left is nuts, but he also has a nice gig going on he would not want to give that up either. I think he is able to compartmentalize it well. Being a leftist who criticizes the far-left is a good niche to be. You get tons of spillover from both sides and minimal to no risk of being cancelled, deplatformed.

I think this is it. I wondered about his hatred of Friends and then it struck me: he was that sorta middle-class not really fashionable white guy. He dislikes Friends because he wanted the romantic, hipster, cool, back in The Village when The Village was The Village vibe, and Friends was just too ordinary for him. That coffeeshop with the pun name where he got his overpriced cup of java? That was Central Perk, not some boho artsy joint of the 50s/60s, even as he pretended it wasn't.

Friends was the reality of city life for late 20s-early 30s college-educated or at least drop-out white people who moved there, not the romantic notion he desperately wanted to live and convinced himself he was living, because he was (the equivalent of) a starving artist in a garret:

You might picture a bunch of stylish Gen Xers trying to balance the era’s fixation on authenticity with the need to pay the rent. You might imagine them going to underground clubs and hearing music by independent artists on the come up. You might picture them in clothing that reflected the styles of the era, not necessarily flannel and bomber jackets but something that expressed at least a modicum of interest in contemporary fashion. You might think of their coffee shop as being a cool out-of-the-way place where the connoisseurs go, someplace with low lighting and a savvy clientele. You might assume that the New York they move around in is a hip site of artists and thinkers, the outsider’s New York that’s been dramatized in so many television shows and movies.

That's why he did that piece moaning about Friends. It drew back the veil and made him face the fact that he's not the cool kid he always wanted to be.

I do like Freddie, and I think he often writes good sense, but come on dude: Friends was just as aspirational for a lot of people who weren't American (and even a lot who were) who wanted that cool city living life just like you wanted, except you wanted the jazz artsy boho scene of the Beat Generation.

...not the romantic notion he desperately wanted to live and convinced himself he was living, because he was (the equivalent of) a starving artist in a garret:

I initially was just going to do a drive-by and point out that circa 2019-2020 (last years there are easy to find records) Freddie had a job at a public university with an annual salary of around 100K, so he wasn't exactly starving.

But then I started reading the article where he complains about Friends, and I just don't really see any basis for your take on it.

First, he can't be upset that his life in NY was actually like "Friends" for two reasons: He was 14 years old when Friends went on air, so his life in the 90s would have had little in common with that of aging yuppies, and the life shown on Friends genuinely, as anyone who lived in NYC will tell you, have almost nothing in common with what the city was like in any recent decade. (And even if it had been accurate, Freddie's life as a young adult in the post-9/11 NYC would have been rather different.)

Maybe he is nostalgic for the times when commie artistic types sat around his parents' kitchen, and maybe the reality of his life in NYC fell well short of that (pretty likely, since NYC was not as lame as Friends makes it look but also nowhere near as cool as in counterculture nostalgia) but the fact he (correctly) points out Friends was bland and lacking any recognizable style proves nothing.

And it's not like he's being insufferably edgy (this time), he even brings up Seinfeld, which was hardly a show about "hip" people, as a counter-example of a show that felt a lot more like it was actually set in NYC.

He's talking about the continuing popularity of Friends and if you read the piece, he clearly finds the premise of the show distasteful. If he was 14 when it aired, why the hell does he care that the show didn't have the kind of Cool Gen X Fashion about going to obscure clubs with savvy clientele? He's plainly unhappy with the view that it gives about NY, when he moved there for the romantic dream of city life. He wanted to be the cool city life guy, and now everybody's mental image of that time is Friends.

Right now Freddie is living the Ross or Chandler life, not the cool hipster life. Of course he doesn't like the comparison. Seinfeld also gets more hip cred than Friends , even if it's about a small bunch of sort of weird people hanging out in a friend-group, possibly because of the overlap with Jerry Seinfeld's real (professional) life as a stand-up comedian and the part he played in the show.

If he was 14 when it aired, why the hell does he care that the show didn't have the kind of Cool Gen X Fashion about going to obscure clubs with savvy clientele?

Why is it so weird that he's annoyed that a show that's kind of bland and vapid had a massive run, but shows that would have suited his interests either didn't get made or got cancelled?

Almost everyone has a show like that. I'm still annoyed that we live in a world where Rubicon got cancelled just as it was getting really good but Jack Ryan has three(?) seasons. But it's not because I always wanted to be the sort of intelligence wonk Rubicon was about and I'm disappointed the NSA turned me down (if anything, when I was a kid I wanted to be Jack Ryan), I just wish "they" made less crap and more stuff I can enjoy as a grownup.

As another old person, the 90s sucked, there's a reason the sound of the 90s was Grunge everyone was miserable and looking back at the prior decades with halcyon visions of yore.

Why did they suck? Convince us.

Not the OP but I feel like a lot of our users here don't realize just how shaky things were in the mid 90s. The current culture war really is best understood as the chickens of the Clinton years coming home to roost. Fortunately(?) cooler heads prevailed, and the Dot-Com boom followed 9/11 put everything on hold for a generation.

I remember the 90's fondly, but I can understand finding the aggressive Dutch angles, howling FM radio bumpers peppered in across media and the practice of over cranked footage from a camera zooming into a person's face to be an off-putting aesthetic.