Saturday, May 12, 2018

In darkest whitest America

By A.J. Liebling
Meta-Content Generator

Once again a pillar of journalism has essayed a journey far across the Hudson and beyond the Beltway to sit down with the good folks who gave the election to the Tangerine-Faced Grifter.  It's a genre so commonplace that it's been lethally parodied by The Washington Post's Alexandra Petri among others, yet it still exerts an irresistible pull on middle-aged white male hacks looking for The Real America.

Our latest intrepid traveler to the headwaters of the Groper-in-Chief is the Post's Dan Balz, whose travel diary in whitest America can be found here.  In fact he made a number of trips to various white rural counties along the upper Mississippi and had many heart-to-hearts over many months with the pillars of the rural working class by which of course he means white people, usually male.

The premise of the piece was that these counties used to vote Democratic, but in 2016 voted for President U Bum.   He wanted to find out why and whether their views have evolved over the ensuing 16 months of chaos (although it's a little hard to remember what outrages happened when).  So what did he learn from these journeys?  More important, what did the reader learn?

Spoiler alert:  Jack s***.

What happened?  Our guess is that he failed something they used to teach you in Journalism 101: if you want answers, you have to ask questions.  If you just let 'em talk, they'll tell you what they want you to hear, which is not the same thing as the story.

Here's a typical voter in Whiteside County, Illinois.  (Perhaps the name is a tell.)   He's a white man who's also the Chairman of the Republican Party in a county that's 92% white.  Wonder what he thinks?  Here goes:
[“]I think Trump brought out the fact that — I mean, as crude and callous as he was at times — so many people had been almost discriminated against because they were Republicans and not Democrats that we felt inferior.”

Almost discriminated against?  Is that almost like being lynched by George Zimmerman or being murdered by police like Eric Garner, or having your baby wrested out of your arms at the border? A reporter might reasonably ask for examples of such almost discrimination to understand better why these wonderful people feel so put upon.  If you probed hard enough, you might even be able to advise your readers whether these feelings of discrimination are justified or just white bulls***.

There's a hint of the source of their hurt feelings a little later:
“I very much dislike the fact that a lot of people stereotype Republican individuals, Republican people, that we’re racists. I think that is further from the truth.”
On safari in darkest Whiteside County, Illinois
Further than what?  Well, if someone tells you they're not a racist, that's the end of the inquiry.  If someone was a racist, they would say so, right?  That must be what our scribe thinks, because there's no evidence that he probed further by asking a few simple questions like: Where was President Obama born?  Do you think that Mexico is sending us their rapists and assassins?  If not, why do you support someone who launched his campaign on that very premise?

But there's so much more.  For a different perspective, Balz interviews the while male Chairmen of the Republican Party in Clinton (93% white) and Stephenson (a mere 87% white) Counties, Illinois.  Just f***in' with ya.  It's MOSS.

By June 2017, one of those interchangeable white men, having independently reviewed all available evidence and not just swallowed Fox News talking points whole, declared his support for the Grifter-in-Chief had grown even stronger:
In mid-June, Dan Smicker was back at the Sunrise CafĂ© in DeWitt, Iowa. He was both elated and irritated, fuming at the way Democrats and much of the news media had treated the president. What galled him most at that moment was special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 campaign, which he considered nothing more than a Democratic effort to discredit Trump’s presidency. 
Did our reporter ask Mr. Smicker how he reached that conclusion, given that Mueller was a Republican appointed by a Republican (Deputy AG Rosenstein) without any involvement of any Democrat anywhere?  Hard to say.

To be fair, Balz does interview some white people who are not Republican Party wardheelers.  He interviews a Democrat in Iowa who has some trenchant things to say about Hillary Clinton's inability to persuade white rural voters she had their interests at heart, but Balz is here to interview U Bum supporters, not sentient voters.

He finds yet another white man in Minnesota who has gobbled up the talking point about Obama hating white people:
Trump’s appeal, he said, was born in part of resentment toward the Obama presidency. “One of the places I would agree with the hard-core Trump people, they’re tired of being treated as the enemy by Barack Obama,” he said. “His comment, the whole thing, it’s been worn out to death, that clinging to God and guns, God and guns and afraid of people who don’t look like them, blah, blah, blah. Just quit talking down to me.

An enterprising reporter might ask this fellow exactly how Barack Obama treated white people as enemies.  By guaranteeing them health care? By stimulating the economy so that they would have jobs?  No, it was one private comment Obama made, not to denigrate these voters, but to express his frustration at his inability to connect with them.

A reporter might also note that by January 2018, Obama had been out of office for a year and the question was now whether U Bum voters were better off under a government that sabotaged health care, refused to spend money on infrastructure, and borrowed money from voters' grandchildren to lavish tax cuts on the rich.  Well, some reporter might.

Eventually he interviews one or two white women, just for a change of pace, but don't worry – they're just Democrats.

We could go on but by now you get the drift, just as you got the drift even before you read Balz's article.  If all you do is ask white people to parrot whatever lines they heard on Fox News that morning, of course you'll conclude that the Grifter-in-Chief still has a grip on the hearts and minds of America's white rural bigots.  We knew that already.  But in fact you haven't really told anyone much of anything, and you certainly haven't committed an act of journalism.

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