The View From Mississippi: More Dissents

Andrew Sullivan —  Mar 15 2012 @ 5:19pm

Readers rush to defend this one:

I'm a gay Mississippian who thoroughly enjoyed voting for Barack Obama, has spent the last three years in exasperation as the right has painted him with every offensive lie it can dream up and will eagerly vote for him again in November.  So this criticism does not come from anywhere near the Hannity-Limbaugh-Fox & Friends axis: This video is PRECISELY the sort of condescending, self-congratulating, tautological garbage that fuels the stereotype of the mainstream media as a band of snotty elitists who sneer at everything that resides outside the Beltway, NYC, Hollywood or San Francisco.

My family and friends in Mississippi are well-educated, well-informed, tolerant, open-minded people of differing political opinions – which is more, apparently, than we can say for Bill Maher and the daughter of the former Speaker.  We're lawyers, judges, doctors, teachers, counselors, farmers, students, business people, writers, artists, entertainers and home makers.  Some of my family and friends in Mississippi are deeply religious; some are atheist or agnostic.  Quite a few are fans of your blog and of Maher's show. We hail from the state that gave American culture William Faulkner (estimated as second only to Shakespeare as the most widely read author in the English language), Walker Percy, Eudora Welty, Richard Wright, Barry Hannah and Tennessee Williams.  This is the seedbed of the blues tradition (Robert Johnson, Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters, B.B. King) and the home of Elvis Presley, so it's fair to say we invented rock and roll, for fuck's sake. 

If Ms. Pelosi had stood for an hour with her camera outside Square Books in Oxford, or Turn Row Books in Greenwood, or Lemuira Bookstore in Jackson, she would have collected ample material to present a startling contrast from black and white Missisippians who have thoughtful political opinions and all of their teeth. But instead we have to sit here and take this tired barefoot-and-toothless Southerners shit from people who can't go a week without reminding each other how morally and intellectually superior they are to people who are quite obviously bigots.

Another also counters me:

Yes, the video does "speak for itself". It is the manifestation of why the Democratic Party, and left-leaning politics in general, are so totally irrelevant to many of the people who should, by all rights, be its base. The clip is patently offensive, and the fact that nobody on the left seems to get why is truly worrisome.

First, the setup: the extremely wealthy, Bay Area-raised daughter of Nancy Pelosi is going to go on a hick safari and cut together a bunch of clips of those dreadful rednecks she’s heard about all her life. Never mind that if she knew anything about demographics, she wouldn’t have to go all the way to Mississippi to hear these opinions; she could just travel a few hours northeast of the Bay into upstate California, where contempt of Obama runs just as deep. The problem, of course, is that these people don’t fit the stereotypes Alexandra needs for her caricature: they aren’t going to talk about the South rising again, and they don’t speak with a thick Mississippi twang. Moreover, what music would she use in place of the jangling banjos she can use for her highly academic "Shit Toothless Southerners Say" video.

Your dissenter suggested an alternative video that purported to interview gay people and only interviewed the most exaggerated lisping gay men from San Francisco. I think the better example is this: what if some white Republican filmmaker decided to go to Chicago and interview black people in the inner city about their views on Obama. Of the many individuals interviewed, the five most stereotypically black are selected, and each of their answers are cut up and sewn together so as to sound as absurd as possible. Then, they use generic hip-hop as a soundtrack.

This would also be obviously offensive, and for the same reason: it’s prejudice porn. Viewers (who obviously all already agree with the interviewer) see their every bias confirmed, from the production, with the banjo music serving as a screaming dog whistle declaring “THESE ARE REDNECKS, THEY’RE DUMB,” to the silly beliefs that maybe voting Republican will work this time (never mind that urban blacks keeping voting D and have yet to see any tangible benefit).

As long as this shit is accepted on the left, it should be no wonder that liberals are not welcome in white, rural America. It reeks of privilege, prejudice, and the superiority complex that taints the limousine liberal politics that run the Democratic Party. Until liberals can learn how to talk about the people they supposedly care about without this disgusting air of condescension and smugness, Mississippi, and everywhere like it, will remain a one-party state.


One of the subjects in the video, the man with the missing teeth, seemed to be a hoarder and is almost certainly mentally ill.  I find it highly objectionable to hold up a mentally ill hoarder on food stamps as a subject for ridicule.  His political thinking isn't the most coherent?  No shit.  Even liberal Southerners like myself feel resentment on seeing stuff like this.  I've been a social worker for the better part of a decade and have dedicated my working life to helping people like this man.  It's hard not to feel resentment against someone like Alexandra Pelosi who is able to make a much better living than I do by objectifying him rather than helping him.

Regarding the above video:

Maher went to great lengths to explain that Pelosi didn't single those folks out for how they looked or for their views. The stuff she didn't use looked exactly like the stuff she did. He said she had about 30 other interviews she left on the cutting room floor but they all looked like and expressed similar thoughts to the ones she did use. Now, I realize that means folks on the "right" have to take Maher and Pelosi at their word (something they're probably not very keen to do) but Pelosi is scheduled to be on his show tomorrow night, so you should be able to hear it straight from her.

Another reader who has her back:

I don't quite get the big deal regarding Pelosi's documented bigotry. Unless I missed an introduction where she says, "And this is how I think every single white Southerner feels!" why should we pretend we don't normally allow the media to interview a handful of lunatics who self-identify as a certain type and be outraged by what they have to say? There was no manipulation here, just folks speaking their (horrific) minds.

If 52% of Republican voters in Mississippi think Obama is a Muslim, according to recent PPP polling, I can't understand the harm in airing some of those views. Would Pelosi's critics prefer a reasoned, intelligent and less honky-tonk telling of how the President is a secret Muslim? Seeing as no such telling exists, I suspect, how can you fault her for relaying the voices of those 52%?