We didn’t secede from the Internet! (Catching up on some Real Southern News)

By Matt Howry (CC-BY 2.0)

It’s been a while since our last post here on RSM. Forgive us – or me, really – but it’s been a bit of a trying Fall. To quickly sum up: film festivals, self-publishing, freelance editing, Mom with cancer, holidays, home life.

That should clear things up nicely. Now … what have we missed while we’ve been away?

Oh, yeah! The world came to an end one Tuesday in November … or was saved from itself, depending on your political affiliation. (Raise your hand if you voted for the greater of two evils. Anyone? No, I thought not.)

It was merely hours after the election that things got interesting for us here in the South. A plethora of news reports gleefully explained how the Southern states had the highest incidence of racist tweets following the re-election of President Obama, with sweet home Alabama leading the charge.

There are many things that bug me about this story, but I’ll focus on just a few:

1. Yes, there are racists in the South. I don’t like it. My friends and colleagues don’t like it, but history has a funny way of hanging onto a place. Just look at the map of how individual counties voted. The bigger cities, especially along both East and West coasts went Democrat, but so did broad swaths of the South, most notably in poor, rural areas with a rich history in agriculture. These regions, like Alabama’s Black Belt, have a higher concentration of citizens of color – a result of pre-Civil War slavery and later sharecropping. Also predominately blue were counties along major waterways, like the Mississippi. These river towns were more cosmopolitan than their land-locked counterparts in previous centuries, due to the mix of cultures coming together at these trading crossroads. And that history is still playing itself out today.

2. Most of the tweets sampled in the Jezebel article were by teenagers. People, wake up! Hate is an ugly thing, and so is unemployment, which is exactly where you’re headed for many years if you post such venom on a public forum.

3. The sampling size was too small and the methodology too simplistic to yield conclusive results. I’m no statistician, but neither are the people who published this report.

4. The media simply ran with the story without questioning its worth or validity … and without regard for the fact that their reporting was only serving to divide the nation even further. It seemed that they wanted nothing more than to prove the worst stereotypes about the South to be true. Remember kids, generalizations and stereotypes are bad. Unless they’re about Southerners. In that case, it’s open season. Feel free to make up a few Southern stereotypes of your own.

Fortunately, we live in a time of short attention spans and even shorter news cycles. But just as the racist tweet map story began to die down, some jack wagon decided his state should secede from the Union. That state was Alabama. Of course. Again, the media had a field day.

As it turns out, by the time the story hit the web, TV and those antiquated things called “newspapers,” there were already petitions filed for 20 states to secede. That number is now up to 50. Here’s the thing: the petitions are meaningless. They aren’t submitted by the states themselves. They’re simply the product of angry, bored or mischievous individuals. Heck, more than half the signers of the Alabama secession petition weren’t even from Alabama! (Yeah, yeah … we get the hint.)

But did that matter to the media? Of course not. They simply ignored reality and presented the ridiculous stereotype that best suited them: that Alabama and other Southern states were trying to secede … again.

Here’s my question: where’s the petition I need to sign to secede from the lazy, headline-driven media? How can I leave this sorry state of affairs for a world in which reporters actually know something about their story before they report it? And in which facts matter more than sensational headlines?

Oh well, I guess that won’t be happening any time soon. I may as well get to work on some new Twanglish Lessons. Somebody has to do some serious journalism around here.

One Response to “We didn’t secede from the Internet! (Catching up on some Real Southern News)”

  1. Yes, the media twists everything. I agree with all you said!
    And I hope your Mama’s doing okay.

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