Political marches are typically meant to make noise: voices raised, anger articulated, struggles for justice made loud and unavoidable. The March for Our Lives, held on Saturday in Washington, D.C., and in satellite events across the United States, followed, in that sense, activist tradition: It included speeches, rousing and passionate. Its participants carried signs, their messages clever and biting. Yolanda Renee King, the 9-year-old granddaughter of Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, made a surprise appearance on the march’s main stage: a symbolic passing of the torch of political activism to the next generation of American leaders. “Spread the word,” King said, inviting the crowd to speak along with her, “have you heard? / All across the nation / we / are going to be / a great generation.”
People have heard that—at least, they are starting to hear it. And they are hearing it in part because the rising generation in question—Generation Z, a cohort of Americans who came of age in the era of cable news and social media and an omnipresent internet—is extremely savvy about the workings of the American media. The March for Our Lives was, in the best ways, a testament to that. It offered, in its official programming, a series of set pieces: moments serving not only as political activism, but also as tailor-made sound bites for CNN, as snippets of video perfect for sharing online. Moments that, through the alchemy of the internet, become transformed into sharable speech. Moments that, in a sentiment repeated by many of the marchers on Saturday, help to make a movement.