Media Shit Storms and Heartland Reality

There seems to be no end to the media mediocrity we must suffer in this country. Now we have the Obama Guns, God and Bitterness shit storm, with the shit pouring forth from the same media scuppers (scuppers are outlet sewage blowholes on the sides of ships) as usual: The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, CNN.com, the Associated Press, Fox News, Reuters, Politico, the Lou Dobbs Show, Hardball, Olbermann’s Countdown, The Atlantic.com, The DailyKos, TalkingPointsMemo . . . and all because Obama mentioned something we’ve known for at least a couple of decades now: That the government has been screwing over the nation’s heartland towns and the “little guy” Americans inhabiting them.

To quote Obama:

You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. . . . And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not.

So what the hell else is new?

Then Obama adds: “And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

While not precisely correct, it’s a good enough generalization for an American audience not really listening anyway. Obama’s remarks were not in the least controversial and just plain boring in terms of content. Certainly not newsworthy.

Yet he had no sooner closed his mouth than this media manufactured hell broke loose. “Oh my gawd,” they screamed. This guy has the unmitigated gall to suggest that there might be some bitterness out here in the lily-white realms of Grant Wood, grange halls and Methodist church suppers! Right here in River City!” . . . where the combination of God rhetoric and Chamber of Commerce boosterism have managed to ban the word from public discourse. Even the mention of it can be explosive, simply because there is so much of it stuffed inside working folks, inside the lockbox of denial that comes with being the citizen of a culture in collapse.

Put more simply, the self-serving “blogger-reporters” and Hillary Clinton media machine had managed to kick Obama in the balls from behind.

Along with the bitterness charges came the guns-and-God stuff. Well, we Red State rubes out here in the working world do own a lot of guns, though very few of us “cling” to them in the desperate sense the speech implied. As to what Obama described as our clinging to religion, we do not so much cling to it as it clings to us . . . as a vestige of our heritage. It’s neither a good nor bad thing in and of itself, but mighty damned useful to fearmongering politicians and the screen writers of television crime shows. Hell, even I made a few bucks writing about its nastier side in my book Deer Hunting With Jesus.

For me, listening to politicians talk, then listening to the media talk about politicians talking, rates right up there with swapping spit with a gingivitis victim. I do not like, nor trust, nor much listen to Hillary, McCain or Obama. And I wouldn’t vote for any of the three even if they knocked on my door bearing a bucket of smoked pork ribs and a bottle of Jack Daniels. However, after hearing Obama’s March “race speech” in Philadelphia, I can understand the Obama cult a little better. Although his speech was full of national clichés and meaningless soaring rhetoric, somehow it was still a goddamned good one, and right on in my opinion. Maybe I liked it because, like the poverty victim he brought forth in typical Democratic Pity Party fashion, I too have eaten mustard and relish sandwiches growing up (or when lacking those condiments, plain sugar on white bread.) I loved the speech. But I still ain’t drinking the Kool-Aid. In any case, Obama has proven you cannot even use the innocuous word bitterness in conjunction with the national lie of white American culture. In the officially sanctioned media lexicon, Blacks can be angry, disillusioned and even bitter enough to burn down Watts. But the white race, being blessed by a Christian god and divine providence, never harbor bitterness in their hearts. The reason the word bitterness has caused such horror is because what is really going on out there is the sprouting seeds of class animosity. And no candidate or pontificating media mugwump dares touch that one because they are in the class that benefits from our classist society.

I’m from Winchester, Virginia, the very kind of place and people Obama was talking about when the rotten tomatoes started hailing down. So allow me to say this: we white members of the sweating class have been working alongside laboring immigrants, legal and illegal, for decades and have not been killing them with our personal arms in a rage of antipathy, in so far as I know. The reason, near as I can tell, is that we do not give a happy shit one way or another because most of us do not have interest or knowledge enough to fester on the topic. Nor the time. When we fester on stuff, it’s about making car payments and trying not to default on our mortgages. Working two and sometimes three jobs per household does not leave much time to develop political opinions, much less informed ones. I’d be willing to bet there is not a working class person within four blocks of where I now sit who has even heard of this media manufactured Obama fracas. Yesterday Smokey, the apartment maintenance man next door, helped me haul a dead washing machine to the city dump. I asked him what he thought about the Obama thing.

“Huh?” he said.

He spoke for millions.

Nobody out here that I know particularly “hates niggers,” blames Mexicans, or is willing to use their personal firearms against any of those people, unless they find one of them crack crazed and coming in through a bedroom window at 2 AM, in which case there will be a loud boom, and the perp is gonna look like a pizza splattered up against the wall. Otherwise we just stand before the incompressible system that fucks us blind. And in that there is certain bitterness.

Let’s get to the nub of this thing here: Obama, Hillary and McCain are farting through silk while playing out their roles in our theatrical state’s false drama called presidential elections, while smug and media sanctioned pundits snark from the edge of the proscenium arc of politics, each hoping to draw enough attention to have his or her own proscenium in that national cathedral of the American consciousness — television.

Before too long this earth shaking “incident” will be drowned out by the accumulating noise of the election year. Then even the election’s hoopla will all be wiped away when Oprah Winfrey, in one of her ever grander spectacles of televised largess, gives away the city of Detroit to the sixth grade author of the most heart rending essay on black poverty.

November is still seven months away. No normal person can stand, much less relish, seven more months of all this. But we will wallow in it all for the same reason a hog spends most of its life knee deep in shit. It has no other choice, it has plenty of company, and doesn’t know any other way of life.
One of these days, when it comes to the thundering non-controversy of Obama’s remarks, the blogosphere and the media may start asking the right kinds of questions. The kind Smokey asked me after I explained the Obama controversy to him: “Who the fuck cares?”

Joe Bageant is author of the book, Deer Hunting With Jesus: Dispatches from America's Class War (Random House Crown), about working class America. He is also a contributor to Red State Rebels: Tales of Grassroots Resistance in the Heartland" edited by Jeffrey St. Clair and Joshua Frank, to be published this summer by AK Press. A complete archive of his on-line work, along with the thoughts of many working Americans on the subject of class may be found on his website. Feel free to contact him at: joebageant@joebageant.com. Read other articles by Joe, or visit Joe's website.

14 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Rich Griffin said on April 15th, 2008 at 5:17am #

    “It is neither a good thing or a bad thing”… WRONG!! Clinging to religion has caused so much pain and suffering. Attachment to ancestral religions, attachment to guns, KILL people, animals, the planet. It provides solace, but it’s destructive and delusional – and it is used to harm others all the time. AND it is not a “belief”, it’s a form of brainwashing, with a historical fiction novel at its center.

    Obama is an ELITIST, and I don’t want an elitist as president (I don’t want anybody to be president, but that’s a different story!). His comments were problematic due to the VENUE the comments were made, not so much the comments themselves, which were just an opinion. But I believe in transparency: you have to live with your real convictions. If he had said these things in Pennsylvania I would have respected him more – and he would have lost tons more votes! (it’s still going to cost him tons of votes; that’s the fault of the voters – but he does need to be transparent. Live or die on your real convictions, not on your pre-scripted storyline).

  2. Rich Griffin said on April 15th, 2008 at 5:19am #

    “It is neither a good thing or a bad thing”… WRONG!! Clinging to religion has caused so much pain and suffering. Attachment to ancestral religions, attachment to guns, KILL people, animals, the planet. It provides solace, but it’s destructive and delusional – and it is used to harm others all the time. AND it is not a “belief”, it’s a form of brainwashing, with a historical fiction novel at its center.

    Obama is an ELITIST, and I don’t want an elitist as president (I don’t want anybody to be president, but that’s a different story!). His comments were problematic due to the VENUE the comments were made, not so much the comments themselves, which were just an opinion. But I believe in transparency: you have to live with your real convictions. If he had said these things in Pennsylvania I would have respected him more – and he would have lost tons more votes! (it’s still going to cost him tons of votes; that’s the fault of the voters – but he does need to be transparent. Live or die on your real convictions, not on your pre-scripted storyline).

    a “faith & compassion” forum?? Excuse me! How about separation of church & state??

  3. hp said on April 15th, 2008 at 10:18am #

    Thanks Joe. Good job. Proof positive Americana ain’t all bad.
    As long as guys like you, Fred Reed and that Morford shit are around, I’ll be laughing all the way downhill, wobbly as she goes. Happy that it is downhill. I’d hate to have to demise uphill, that would really be un-American.

  4. Don Hawkins said on April 15th, 2008 at 2:02pm #

    Joe you can’t write stuff like that? That’s the truth you just wrote are you out of your mind. Do you have any idea what could happen if more people started to do this and fast.

  5. Danny Ray said on April 15th, 2008 at 2:31pm #

    Profanity is a sign of a Damn small vocabulary
    but other than that I found this a very good read.

  6. hp said on April 15th, 2008 at 3:09pm #

    Beats the Hell out of all those exclamation points!

  7. Jim Crittenden said on April 15th, 2008 at 4:26pm #

    Nubbilicious!

  8. DavidG. said on April 15th, 2008 at 4:35pm #

    Glad to see some Americans laughing at themselves. Perhaps you could get together and laugh Bush out of office before he destroys our world?

    P.S. The TWO EMPERORS have met. Check my blog for searching analysis!

  9. Raven said on April 15th, 2008 at 8:25pm #

    Thanks for expressing my deep-felt frustration, and doing an EFFING good job at making me laugh while doing so.

  10. One Wing Left » It’s News To M_A - 4/16/08 said on April 16th, 2008 at 5:44am #

    […] Media Shit Storms and Heartland Reality For me, listening to politicians talk, then listening to the media talk about politicians talking, rates right up there with swapping spit with a gingivitis victim. I do not like, nor trust, nor much listen to Hillary, McCain or Obama. And I wouldn’t vote for any of the three even if they knocked on my door bearing a bucket of smoked pork ribs and a bottle of Jack Daniels. However, after hearing Obama’s March “race speech” in Philadelphia, I can understand the Obama cult a little better. Although his speech was full of national clichés and meaningless soaring rhetoric, somehow it was still a goddamned good one, and right on in my opinion. Maybe I liked it because, like the poverty victim he brought forth in typical Democratic Pity Party fashion, I too have eaten mustard and relish sandwiches growing up (or when lacking those condiments, plain sugar on white bread.) I loved the speech. But I still ain’t drinking the Kool-Aid. In any case, Obama has proven you cannot even use the innocuous word bitterness in conjunction with the national lie of white American culture. In the officially sanctioned media lexicon, Blacks can be angry, disillusioned and even bitter enough to burn down Watts. But the white race, being blessed by a Christian god and divine providence, never harbor bitterness in their hearts. The reason the word bitterness has caused such horror is because what is really going on out there is the sprouting seeds of class animosity. And no candidate or pontificating media mugwump dares touch that one because they are in the class that benefits from our classist society. Let’s get to the nub of this thing here: Obama, Hillary and McCain are farting through silk while playing out their roles in our theatrical state’s false drama called presidential elections, while smug and media sanctioned pundits snark from the edge of the proscenium arc of politics, each hoping to draw enough attention to have his or her own proscenium in that national cathedral of the American consciousness — television. Before too long this earth shaking “incident” will be drowned out by the accumulating noise of the election year. Then even the election’s hoopla will all be wiped away when Oprah Winfrey, in one of her ever grander spectacles of televised largess, gives away the city of Detroit to the sixth grade author of the most heart rending essay on black poverty. November is still seven months away. No normal person can stand, much less relish, seven more months of all this. But we will wallow in it all for the same reason a hog spends most of its life knee deep in shit. It has no other choice, it has plenty of company, and doesn’t know any other way of life. […]

  11. duaner said on April 16th, 2008 at 10:57am #

    Danny Ray: sometimes, profanity is indeed the crutch of the inarticulate. In this case, however, it is just another tool in the toolbox of a master wordsmith. Profanity can be the tabasco sauce on the scrambled eggs of everyday communication. Granted, some people put wayyyy too much tabasco on, so that you can’t even taste the eggs. I do not think that this is the case here. The use of spice is not “a sign of a damn small” cookbook. Loosen up, man.

  12. Danny Ray said on April 16th, 2008 at 5:35pm #

    Sorry i thought I was losse That was a joke duaner, sorry some got it some did not :-)

  13. tom payne said on April 16th, 2008 at 8:45pm #

    Yes, we’ll laugh the puppet Bush out of office. Then we’ll replace him with a new puppet. I’m betting that it will be the first black puppet. But when you are watching the same puppeteer and all he’s done is change puppets, you’d be foolish to think you’ll see a different show.

    BTW, its not ‘media mediocrity’. That implies it can be fixed by getting some better skilled technicians. I was reading comments on the night’s Democratic faux-debate. They said it took an hour to get passed this stuff and ask a single question about policy.

    That’s what its all about. Its about an hour that’s supposed to be about a discussion of issues that face our country and how we plan to solve them being diverted into a fake discussion of this sort of bull. That’s not media mediocrity. That’s deliberate misdirection. That’s what its all about.

    They are stealing us blind. They’ve given billions to their friends. That’s our money. They don’t want us to notice. So, no way is that ‘debate’ going to talk about giving billions of our money to Wall Street firms. The people getting the money own the media and the candidates, so they ain’t about to let them question it. Instead, we get an hour of ‘debate’ over Obama’s ‘bitter’ comment and Rev. Wright and Hillary In Bosnia. Its not mediocrity. Its deliberate misdirection.

  14. Joe Bageant said on April 17th, 2008 at 4:59am #

    Tom,

    You’ve said it out as clearly as it can possibly be said.

    I tried to gut my way through that so-called “debate.” About five minutes was all I could take.

    As a person I deeply respect, let me ask you this:

    Why do we all keep on shouting in this deaf ward called America?

    joe