My story in the Washington Post on the rise of Redneck and Hillbilly-themed shows on cable has drawn a lengthy response from a reader in Buford, Ga., whose argument may be undercut by his own ethnic bias. He writes:
About the only thing that former Governor and Senator Zell Miller said that I agreed with 100% was when he said that the Southern people, particularly the Southern Appalachian people (and both Zell and I are simply that), are the most denigrated and vilified people in the US.
We are assaulted from every angle and we stand there or sit there and take it. I have never seen one of us get upset about it – we think it is nothing but a big joke.
If the same negative attention were focused on Blacks, Catholics, Jews, Fundamentalist Christians (even Southern Appalachian Fundamentalist), or any other single group there would an uprising of souls coming to the defense of the vilified peoples. But with rednecks and mountain men nothing like that happens. The reason for that is that rednecks and mountain me are relatively secure in who they are, the other groups are not.
Generally we are portrayed as ignorant, uncultured idiots with a pack of dogs under our front porch and when someone drives by the house we pull out a gun. That, however, is not the case in reality.
My first encounter with it was in a college out west that I attended – I was a hick. The second came when I was in the Navy – hick again, and the third came when I was selling books for a major publishing house in NYC – some even told me that I must have been jerked out from under a rock.
I had held down a territory for Random House/Alfred A. Knopf for almost two years in unproductive Florida turning that state into a profitable territory for the company for the first time and because of that, I was transferred to a territory based in NYC. I lived in Spring Valley, NY where, for the first time, I was definitely in a minority. It was my sales calls in Manhattan, however, that provided me the most entertainment. I doubled the sales of my Ivy League predecessor in NYC.
If you lived in Spring Valley at that time and did not speak Yiddish, you were in trouble. I spoke German going in and learned Yiddish rapidly so when I got to Manhattan and started making my calls on college professors I had fun listening in offices where there were two or more professors speaking Yiddish amongst themselves and basically calling me all sorts of names and hurling insults at me that I was not supposed to understand. I did understand, and when I was ready to leave the office, I would approach the door, turn the handle and then turn to them and in Yiddish I would tell them that I was happy to have met them and have the time to discuss my books and would look forward to seeing them on my next visit. They turned Coca Cola red!
When someone you are in a conversation or argument with thinks because you are from a specific area you are stupid, you generally have the upper hand. I found that would work for me in all instances where I was on the receiving end of insults that I was supposed to not understand. I don’t let things like that bother me, I have dealt with worse.
The way that you handle a situation like that is to play dumb (that is what they want) until you see an opening to turn the other man into an absolute fool. You don’t throw it into his face, you just leave after the argument knowing that somewhere around midnight the man will come to realize what a food he was. It works! I have found that New Yorkers (or the Near East in general) and Californians think that someone from the South can never get the upper hand in a situation because we are slow – retarded, if you wish – and therefore not wise enough to get the best of them. I have, however, convinced those erudite people that I have had some jobs that could not possibly exist and have them believe it.
It works this way – if you can seem unpretentious, and you are good bull shitter and can keep a straight face while you are bull shitting, 80% of the people you bull shit will believe everything you say. I guess I could have been a Con Man and gotten my own 30 minutes on American Greed, but I don’t take anything of value from anyone, I just walk away with the last laugh. My abilities to jack people around come, I guess, from a very good education and a strong Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
I was working in Manhattan when the movie DELIVERANCE came out and the number of people that thought what was shown in that movie was pro forma in the Southern Appalachians was amazing. I took all sorts of questions about that since that came out after I had come to know most of my customers. I had to tell them, however, that in the mountains we did not screw fat boys, we would choose instead to screw a stump broke cow.
Now to the article. You state in the article that Ms Kaplan has had no negative comments about the shows. You don’t have to wonder why very long, first you have to find out how to get in touch with her – which is nearly impossible – and then it takes 15-20 minutes just to navigate through the system that is there to communicate. Ms Kaplan’s ethnicity stares at me. Like I said above, if I was to do shows about her ethnic group similar to what she is doing about mine, she would bitch to the ends of the earth.