Sunday, March 18, 2012

Left Coast Bigotry

I watched Bill Maher's show this week, and I was offended. I was and a offended by the level of ignorance that he imparts every week in making some sort of comment of observation about the South.

Maher, like many from the Left Coast who call themselves liberals, seem to think it's open season on emphasizing their belief that everyone who hails from the South is shit-kicking dumb, inbred, toothless and just plain ignorant. Oh, and racist. But then, the Left Coasters who stormed the Democratic Party forty years ago, in their wisdom, deemed everyone in the South a rampant racist and forever condemned them to the Hell on Earth of being the butt of every joke and to be abandoned and disenfranchised.

Of course, that theory worked so well with the Republicans. They were able to foment a lie from the Right side of the political spectrum. Instead of a working class people evolving to realise that the distinction of privilege had nothing to do with the colour of one's skin, rather it had to do with those who have as opposed to those who have not, the self-appointed Republican saviours of this flock propagated the idea that the Democratic Party, to whom this demographic had formerly belonged, was now all about identity politics, and that identity being developed, didn't include the poor white trash scattered throughout the Deep South and the rural Midwest.

When you disenfranchise and abandon a people, you leave the door open for any old flotsam and jetsam preaching an extremist brand of idealogy to step forward and speak for the speechless. Lee Atwater understood this only too well, being a Southerner, himself. Banking on the fact that generations of "haves" had inculcated these poor white working class people with the fallacious idea that the only thing that separated them from the black working class (who were just as poor) was the colour of their skin. When the Democrats didn't try to disprove this, they lost the old base.

Now, they think this is a demographic worthy of abandonment, a people to be ridiculed and derided from the moral high ground of Manhattan or the Left Coast.

Last week, Maher presented a film made by Alexandra Pelosi, daughter of Nancy, which featured inhabitants of rural Mississippi, talking about the government and the President. As she was forced to point out in her interview with Maher this week, Pelosi didn't seek out any affluent residents of Mississippi, nor, indeed, did she seek any educated residents. Maher showed the film last week, and also this week, to much laughter from the liberal audience.

But this week, Pelosi also interviewed urban citizens in her neighbourhood of New York City, including the doorman at the building where she lives. The doorman was the only person interviewed in the film who was employed. Across the street, is a benefits centre; and Pelosi took her camera and interviewed various benefits claimants, all of whom - with the exception of one woman - were African American.

Below are the two segments of Real Time which contain the film from last week, shot in rural Mississippi, and that of this week, shot in Manhattan. Notice that no one laughs at this week's film. Watch and learn:-

The interviews with the white rural Southerners showed people who would rather starve than accept governent assistance, except for food stamps. They showed people who believed that their faith would sustain them. They showed people who, yes, disliked the President because of the colour of his skin and who were still angry at what they perceived to be a century of injustice suffered at the hands of people (Northerners) whom they still deem to be akin to foreigners.

The interviews of the African American men waiting in line at the Manhattan benefits office show people who are clearly unwilling to work, but want to receive as much in benefits as is humanly possible. One man voted for the President because he was black. Another is after only food stamps. A third wants a "career" but not a job. One has five children by four different women.

Only one man interviewed came up with a cogent and coherent reason for why he was not working. It was difficult for him to find a job, he said, having a prison record. This is true and unjust.

But note, after both films, that Pelosi is quick to reiterate that in both instances, she was dealing with stereotypes. That all the people interviewed in both situations were basically the cartoonish characters created in the minds of people who want to believe the worst about demographics with whom they are unfamiliar but for whom a pejorative slant would benefit their world view. She is actually shocked that the audience didn't laugh at her urban narrative. Whilst they were all too willing to sneer at the poor, toothless and very ignorant Southerners, they were clearly unsettled by the poor, drink-laden, unabashedly honest and workshy urban dwellers, most of whom were black.

And then, Bill Maher was quick to remind her that no one could accuse either her or him of racism or bigotry - after all, she is the daughter of Nancy Pelosi, and he just gave one million dollars to the PAC of America's first black President.


Bill's money is guilt money. It's insurance that, should the worst happen and we get a President Santorum or a President Romney, he's hoping that the viewing public are all so stupid as to be swayed by his mega-donation enough to forget the past four years he spent undermining the President to the point that he made several racist comments.

Pelosi, for all her Emmy Award-winning pedigree, is simply naive. She is the present-day reincarnation of Tom Wolfe's radical chic, and Wolfe, I might add, was a Southerner.

A minute-and-a-half into the second segment, Pelosi acknowledges something: that the doorman featured in her latest film comes from an entire family of Democrats, yet he's voting Republican, based on what he sees every day across the street from his building in Manhattan. He sees what he reckons to be an entitlement culture, which is the same view as is held by ... yes, the rural Southern whites.

Pelosi acknowledges that the Democrats are losing the Joe-the-Doorman types - working class white ethnic Northern Americans. The Democrats lost Joe's equivalents in the South and rural Midwest forty years ago. She asks, "Why?"

The answer is obvious, but not to her San Francisco logic and certainly not to Bill Maher, raised in affluent and white Northern New Jersey, schooled at whiter Cornell and now living ensconced in a gated community in Brentwood.

The two-minute mark is especially infuriating, when Maher says that "as a liberal," he wants to help the toothless Mississippi guy in the original clip get teeth. Again, I quote Charles Blow, a fellow Southerner ... Southerners don't like to be caricatured. Southerners, white and black, are proud people who don't like condescension from people like Maher who reckon their Left Coast credentials makes them morally superior. Maher, however, is an equal opportunity bigot. When he meets Toothless from Tupelo and then jets North to meet Mr FoodStamps in Manhattan, he'll have a long decontaminating bath after having shaken hands with them both. Cooties are cooties, after all.


  1. She is living proof that mediocre people can make it big if they have the foresight to choose the right parents. If I were Speaker Pelosi(she's getting the gavel back) I'd slap my daughter for embarrassing me. It's sad she didn't inherit her mother's brains.

    So this is what we do now. We laugh at people that aren't doing as well as we are. This is some low character shit. And to not see why she was wrong demonstrates a pretty wide moral blind spot.


  2. I share your concern. Maher and Pelosi's attitudes towards the South have just as much to do with deflecting their own racism as it does with demeaning an entire region. Many white Northerners still believe that racism is primarily a Southern thing. Yes, the South does have major issues with race, but so does the entire country. As an African-American, my experiences with racism never happened in the South. They happened in the states of Kansas, Ohio, and New York. And are we to forget about all the "redlining" that took place in just about every major Northern city? Forced bussing was just as much of an issue in the North because despite having no laws requiring it - many Northern schools were just as segregated as anything in the South.

    So when any Northern white liberal tries to pass off the racism as a mostly Southern problem – I get a bit ticked off. It very similar to the argument suggesting that racism exists only in the GOP or on the right wing when we all know that this is not true. Bill Maher and Alexandra Pelosi have just proven that.