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.