Postcard from Belize

I met Joe Bageant last night. In a talk he called “Breaking the Beer Barrier,” Joe said,

Why can’t progressive media ever learn to communicate in redneck and born again bubba? I would guess that a lot of you are thinking, “Why would anybody want to?” One answer is the election of George Bush — but there are many others. For example, a third of all Americans live in the geographic South and over 50% live in the “cultural south” — which is to say places with white Southern Scots-Irish values — places such as western Pennsylvania, central Missouri and southern Illinois, eastern Connecticut, northern New Hampshire…

Yet, as much talk as there is about these fellow Americans, particularly during election season, most liberal and alternative media never speak to them or for them. And that’s a shame, because when we do that — we abandon the project of equality for all Americans — some of which happen to hunt, fish, drink Bud Light and enjoy NASCAR, Bon Jovi and Toby Keith.

Anyway, just telling our own truth to people who already agree with us isn’t going to do anything, regardless of our illusions about the power of the “blogosphere,” etc. As Bill Moyers said last year at this conference, despite all the new information platforms, cable, the Internet, blogs, podcasts, YouTube and MySpace — our resources for collective understanding as Americans are contracting, not expanding. To make matters worse, we progressives use these resources to talk to one another in a closed conversation, instead of reaching all the people.

Hard to argue with that.

Joe wasn’t on the agenda. Via a small notice on a bulletin board near the NCMR registration desk he gathered a couple dozen somewhat older, somewhat rounder bellied, good humored “leftnecks” in a small room where he held forth for an hour and a half both formally and then informally — almost embarrassingly informally. The people in that room were readers and writers too, many of them, people willing to cut some slack for an old fart who’d done too much acid and wasted his life eight ways from Sunday.

I would no more be a stenographer for Barack Obama than for George Bush. Whether we are on radio, TV or run a news blog, it’s humanity and a nation we’re obligated to, not the opinions or political junkyism of groups or individuals, or political correctness.

Especially political correctness. Political correctness by definition excludes majorities and demonizes millions who do not see the world in terms of social politics.

Joe pounded on the points that old commies understand but that seem to elude the latte elite…

  • the liberal middle-class is condescending to working class class culture
  • exploitation is not confined to urban areas
  • the exploited are not all people of color
  • mainstream media is fraudulent

The internet, Joe says, has turned into a solitary vice, an assemblage of bloggers competing with each other for traffic like the mainstream competes for ratings. Media neglect of the redneck constituency extends into cyber-space where “[w]e compete with each other for demographics, niche markets and traffic just as the networks compete for ratings. In too many cases it simply creates personality cults….”

What did I take away from the presentation? A link to Red State Update and a different spin on Obama’s loss in West Virginia.

…we got punditry and academics being interviewed about the role hick racism will play in Obama’s presidential campaign. Nobody mentioned that Obama supports mountaintop removal, (back in April when Obama was being escorted by the coal barons Rockerfeller and Hall in West Virginia, he promised to make West Virginia “The Saudi Arabia of the United States.” Translation: Stepping up mountaintop removal) and that most West Virginians are not coal miners and do not favor mountaintop removal. But what do the hicks know? Now you can pooh pooh this all you want, but contempt for the hicks from the sticks is especially pronounced in media and academia, both of which are stuffed with middle class whites. Yet, there is not a person here, regardless of politics, who does not share many, many political interests with white hicks.

[tags]joe bageant[/tags]

Posted in People, Politics
One comment on “Postcard from Belize
  1. Jon H. says:

    I’ve been reading Joe’s essays and letters from readers for several years now, faithfully. He captures the essence in an inimitable way.

    My friend Dave Pollard went and spent some time with him in belize … the kind of thing it would would be good, no doubt, for all of us “vieux grognons / grognones” (grumpy old men / women) to do from time to time .. hang out and watch the stars, feel the breeze and share a cuba libre on a warm Caribbean night.



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