Sunday, May 18, 2008

So You Wanted WV to be in The Spotlight, Did You?

During the run up to the presidential election year there was lots of talk about moving the West Virginia Primary to a spot earlier in the year so our state's voters would be more relevant. By moving the election to January or February it would tend to focus the eyes of the country on us because the contest would still be undecided, which is rarely the case in May when we vote. Except this year, obviously.

OK, we had a test run this year. We got our moment in the national spotlight. Please, never, ever bring up the subject again. If the temptation to pass some new legislation overcomes our legislators, instead of fiddling with the primary date, let's hope they tackle a new state slogan. Here's what Jon Stewart suggested on the Daily Show:

"West Virginia: No Interviews Please!"

I quite agree.

In the Daily Show report on the Clinton landslide victory (you can see the video here), Stewart took a few really good shots at our stereotypical reputation and was aided greatly by three West Virginia women who had been interviewed by some national news media outlet. Here they are in order of their appearance:

First we have Mrs. Racist Yokel explaining why she wouldn't vote for Obama: "I guess it's the race thing. I just don't trust people of another race." For a really spirited discussion of whether race played a significant role in the election, see this post and comments over at Buzzard Billy's excellent blog. I gotta tell you, Billy, this woman sure takes a hard whack at your argument that our state isn't full of racist nut jobs.

Next comes Mrs. Religious Xenophobe, who says the reason she didn't vote for Obama was because he was a Muslim. She said it so matter of factly that it was clear in her mind that it was true. I wonder what she would have said if the reporter had told her he wasn't Muslim? I would like to have seen her reaction - who knows? Maybe she would have said "Oh, he's not? Well I'm still voting for Hillary", but that wouldn't have made as fun a story. Hillbillies are one of the last groups of people that it is politically correct to ridicule, so why miss a good opportunity like this one?

Then, we have this one, for whom I can't come up with a name. She says it's because his middle name is Hussein. "I've had enough of Hussein" she says vehemently. Obviously she has a bias against Arabs. I wonder if she voted for Nick Rahall?

These three spokeswomen really made me cringe. An especially nice touch is that they picked people whose accents were so pronounced that they had to have subtitles.

You might say, "But the Daily Show is satire and supposed to poke fun at stereotypes." Agreed, and the piece was quite funny, but it wasn't was just the Daily Show. Watching the Sunday news talk shows today was torture as West Virginia was pounded by pundit after pundit as being a racist and backward state. Every network had its examples.

My question is this: Do national media types look for people to interview who they think will fit the stereotype they are reporting on? This is not a new, post-CNN phenomenon: I recall when I was just a lad seeing a CBS news report on the famous "Pot Plane" crash at Yeager (then called Kanawha) airport. This happened in Charleston, on Keystone Drive. I know people who live on Keystone Drive and they are normal folks who look and sound much like I and most Charlestonians do. But they found a guy to talk on camera who honestly sounded like the village idiot from some holler in Mingo County. I remember thinking then how it seemed that every time we hit the national news we have very poor spokespeople.

And so it goes. And I fear it will go this way for a long, long time. So please, let's rethink the idea of intentionally putting our voters in the national spotlight.

We ain't ready for prime time.


kookaburra said...

at least no one brought up UFOs....then we would have REALLY seen the weird people come out of the woodwork.

clear eyes said...

At least none of them were complaining that the U.S. Government invented AIDS in order to wipe out the Appalachian population or that our government bombed the towers on 9/11. That would be really embarrassing.

Rebecca Burch said...

Oh, man... I KNEW they would bring the cameras and microphones in and find the most intolerant, uneducated, head-up-the-posterior cave-dwellers and put them on TV as if they represent the majority of our people.

Lots of people voted for Hillary for reasons other than intolerance and ignorance, but you'd never know it.

The Film Geek said...

"at least no one brought up UFOs....then we would have REALLY seen the weird people come out of the woodwork."

That's cause I wasn't interviewed.

By the way, Charles: I saw an extended portion of that woman in the middle's interview. The reporter DID tell her Obama is Christian. The woman smirked, and said slowly: "Well, that's what he says..."

Buzzardbilly said...

Thanks for the shout-out Charles!

I think the less backward folks are much busier than those ladies and have the natural sense to know when they see a national news outlet's logo on the mic it's time to run.

Anonymous said...

is that really your response to this? bringing up Rev. Wright? as if somehow the comments made by three narrow-minded WV residents are justified because of what a minister in Chicago said?
quite a logical stretch.

SagaciousHillbilly said...

"I guess it's the race thing. I just don't trust people of another race."

At least she's honest about it. Most of the bullshit I've heard from the average white working class voter in WV is stupid coded stuff like 'his preacher aint cool,' 'he's a muslim,' etc., etc.
One guy I talked to said "well if it's between a n@##$% and a white woman, I reckon I'll have to go with the white woman.
I said "congratualtions, you're a racist and you're honest about it."
His reply: "I aint no racist." LMFAO!

See, you people in Charleston think this racist thing about WV is bullshit just because you live in a spot where people are fashionably cool with people of color. Get out a little and you'll find that your yuppie suburban environ doesn't define WV.

aLittleCommonSense said...

Bernard Goldberg, the former CBS news reporter who wrote the book "Biased" points out the premise of my comment.

National media play to two markets: Washington and New York. All the "friends" they seek to impress are elites in these two markets. To these elites, people from Boone County or most anywhere in the South may as well be from Mars.

Putting these people on the air gets the reporter noticed among his/her elites. They laugh together as they see and discuss "the unwashed" who look like freaks on the air to them.

If a reporter finds some goober to put on the air, it makes for great conversation at cocktail parties as they ridicule those that aren't like them.

The other side of this is that outrageous makes for good television (and it IS ALL about ratings).

So yes indeed, it appears that media types do seek out the least teeth and the most outrageous sound bites.

And the WV stereotype lives on...