THE MODERN AMERICAN NOVEL: Franklin County Confidential!

TUESDAY, AUGUST 4, 2020

The Washington Post hears a Hoo:
As far as we know, we've never been to Franklin County, Virginia.

Back in the day, we often performed in Roanoke, a city of roughly 100,000 people. The city has been roughly that size from 1960 on.

Roanoke lies 25 miles north of Rocky Mount, Franklin County's county seat. But, as best we can recall, we never took that particular day trip, not even to Smith Mountain Lake.

Franklin County is located in the south central part of the state, only one county away from the North Carolina border. Its total population stands at roughly 55,000.

Rocky Mount, Va.—the country seat—is a community of roughly 4,800 souls.

We write about Franklin County today because of the Washington Post. In Saturday morning's print editions, the paper published a lengthy piece about this apparently Klan-infested jurisdiction.

It's a piece which we might call a Franklin County Confidential. It's also a piece which illustrates the tendency, at times such as these, to swap the procedures of journalism in favor of novelization.

The piece was written by Hannah Natanson, who's one year out of Harvard (class of 2019). Before that, she prepped at Georgetown Day, so her editors seem to think that she knows all about these things.

Natanson appears to be shocked that there could actually be such a place as Franklin County. In a manifestation of a truly ridiculous type of provincialism, a photo caption accompanying her report reads exactly like this:
PHOTO CAPTION: Katosha Poindexter, 33, Bridgette Craighead, 29, and Malala Penn, 23, are trying to found a chapter of Black Lives Matter in Franklin County, an extremely White and rural section of Virginia.
Exactly how extremely white is "extremely white" Franklin County? Before we answer your question, we'll share this:

"Extremely white" counties get even whiter as you move farther to the southwest of this surprisingly large, sprawling state! Back in the day, we performed at least three times at the Holiday Inn in Norton, Virginia, a small community located inside far southwest Wise County.

Wise County is even smaller and whiter than Franklin County is! And right next door to Wise County, Russell County is even whiter than Wise!

Russell County, in the far southwest, is 96.6% white! In fairness, its population is somewhat less than 27,000, so at least there's that.

In our experience, Norton was a tough place to perform a comedy act. (If memory serves, and we think it does, the venue was called The Shaft.) That said, people in Norton have a right to their taste in comedy too, as long as they stick to the law.

If editors at the Washington Post could get off their fainting couches for a minute, the famous newspaper might be able to offer instructive reports about jurisdictions such as these—reports which work from journalistic principles, as opposed to the childish novelization techniques which suffuse the Post's recent piece.

Imaginably, we might even learn about local racial issues and concerns in such reports. We might learn the good and the bad. Imagine such reports!

At any rate, regarding the aforementioned Franklin County, how "extremely white" is it? With a nod to the late Ed McMahon, the numbers look like this:
Race/ethnicity, Franklin County, Virginia
White: 87.2%
Black: roughly 7.5%
Hispanic: 2.9%
Multiracial: 1.5%
The town of Rocky Mount is roughly 18% black. "Rocky Mount itself is nearly 70 percent White," Natanson writes in her report, before falling back onto her editor's couch.

(We blame the editors for this journalistic gong-show, not the fresh-faced rookie kid.)

Franklin County, Va., is 87.2% white! That's much whiter than the nation as a whole, but it does get whiter.

To cite one example, the state of Maine is only 1.2% black! And how odd:

Despite the horror they may feel when confronted with places like Franklin County, people from the Washington Post, and from Georgetown Day, repair to that state to summer! People from Harvard somehow manage to force themselves to summer in Maine too!

At any rate, the Washington Post has offered a sprawling report about Franklin County, Virginia—a Franklin County confidential. We regard the report as a parody of journalism.

For our money, the report more closely resembles a tabloid novel. Included is a very strong hint of Faulkner, in which the past isn't even the past.

We only have three more days this week to discuss this novelized report about this Klan-infested place. We use that term because Natanson manages to evoke the Klan at three separate points in her piece.

None of her citations strike us as sourced or justified in the journalistic sense. In fairness, though, her references make for a scarier tale.

This garbage isn't journalism; it's a dumb, shrieking Gothic novel. It's also a tribute to tribalism—to the endless belief that our set is wise and morally good, and the others are secretly other.

It would be interesting to read a real report about "race relations" in Franklin County, but that isn't what the Washington Post has produced. In the few days left this week, we'll touch on as much of its clowning as we can.

We'll read about the "town pool" which won't admit blacks—the "town pool" which, as it turns out, isn't a town pool and apparently does admit blacks. We'll read about the restaurant which won't serve blacks—or at least, which wouldn't do so in the 1940s, or whenever it was.

We'll review those references to the Klan, including the clownish suggestion that "the old boys of Franklin County" recently took "a vow" that they "would ride again."

The Post should be ashamed of itself for publishing something as ugly and stupid as that. Unfortunately, the editors are too busy getting ordinary people fired from jobs because of past Halloween costumes.

What sorts of complaints might a person have about the real Franklin County? After reading the Post's report, we have no earthly idea. But as we review the Post's expose, we'll be trying to help progressives see this:

Our tribe is lost in the desert too. Our tribe just isn't the rational animal, and we never have been.

Tomorrow: The old boys take a vow

23 comments:

  1. "We regard the report as a parody of journalism."

    Meh. It's no parody, dear Bob.

    It's just liberal little eichmanns, your comrades, performing their goebbelisian duties, inciting a race war.

    You know it just as well as we do, dear Bob, but you still prefer silly euphemisms, like "novelization".

    Of course you would never call the activities of actual Joseph Goebbels "novelization", but here, tsk, you must.

    Sure, we understand. It's not your fault, dear Bob, it's the society...

    ReplyDelete
  2. From Trump's Axios interview:

    "When Swan looks at the chart, it becomes clear Trump is only considering death as a proportion of coronavirus cases—not as a proportion of population, which shows the U.S. is faring very badly.”

    Trump snaps back: “You can’t do that. You have to go by where… look, here is the United States… You have to go by the cases.”"

    This is the same game that Somerby plays. Somerby insists on his correct statistics because they present info the way he likes to hear it -- just as Trump does.

    Trump only likes the numbers that make him look good. The deaths? "They are what they are" says Trump. Somerby only likes the numbers that make journalists look bad. The deaths? He shows no indication that he understands what those deaths mean to actual human beings.

    Today Somerby is moaning because someone referred to the past racism on a mostly white part of VA. Somerby doesn't like it when journalists remind him that there are actual racists and they do exist. He makes it sound faintly wrong that BLM is attempting to start a chapter in such a place, but who needs it more? People without any black neighbors, friends or coworkers need to talk about race, especially if they have deliberately isolated themselves from others who are different, and who will they have such talks with if BLM is not there?

    Today, Somerby calls a young journalist a lot of names and he says mean things about her report, but he gives us no evidence to support any of his name-calling. We are supposed to find the article behind its paywall and figure out ourselves what upsets him, because he can't be bothered to actually show us what this hapless reporter did wrong.

    And isn't it great that a small white town like Franklin has a big white defender like Somerby to complain about those uppity reporters coming into their idyllic rural retreat and calling them nasty names, such as "white?"

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The phrase "mostly white" is ugly spin. The United States is mostly white. It's normal for a city or other subset of the US to be "mostly white".

      Delete
    2. According to the US Census, the US is 76% white, 13.4% black, 1.3% American Indian, 5.9% Asian, .2% Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, 2.8% biracial, 18.5% Hispanic or Latino, 60.1% white (excluding Hispanic/Latino).

      It is normal for some cities to be mostly white and also normal for other cities to be mostly Hispanic or Latino, mostly black, even mostly Hawaiian (in Hawaii, for example). You cannot assume that because the US as a whole is 76% white that means that any given city will also be 76% white. In the Southwest, along the border with Mexico, quite a few cities are nearly all Hispanic/Latino, as are most of the cities in Puerto Rico (which is a part of the US).

      In order for a city in the American South to have few or no black people, an effort has to be made to exclude them. This occurred in many suburban cities with sunset laws and redlining.

      From the name "The Shaft" mentioned by Somerby, it sounds like Franklin County is a coal mining area. While blacks did participate in coal mining in Virginia, Ronald Lewis in Black Coal Miners in America: Race, Class and Community Conflict, 1780-1980, says: "In the central Appalachians, although blacks enjoyed greater social equality, the mine operators manipulated racial tensions to keep the work force divided and therefore weak."

      This may account for some of the hostility toward black people in mining areas, lingering today. It has been common to blame those "outside agitators" for the hostility displayed toward them, not the entrenched racial attitudes which have little opportunity to be unlearned when there is little interaction between people of different races.

      Delete
  3. "This garbage isn't media criticism; it's a dumb, shrieking Gothic novel. It's also a tribute to Trumpism—to the endless belief that Trump's set is wise and morally good, and the journalists are secretly liberal."

    ReplyDelete
  4. I lived for many years in Orange County, CA, where blacks made up 2% of the population. It was the birthplace of the John Birch Society and my neighbors elected conservatives. Now I live in a small semi-rural town where the Mayor makes national news for saying bigoted things, and took his rifle to a BLM protest in order to defend local businesses from looting by antifa (who never showed up).

    There are some lonely liberals like me living in such places, but pretending that there aren't truckloads of bigots, like Somerby seems to be doing today, is ridiculous. Trump supporters have to live somewhere, and we see them every weekend outside the local market selling Trump t-shirts and MAGA hats and proudly eschewing masks.

    But Somerby thinks we should all pretend that places like Franklin County are full of friendly, open-minded, tolerant folks who just happen to be Republican and would be nice to black people, if the BLM protesters just weren't so obnoxious.

    If a reporter writes about our troubled racial history as it has been enacted in Franklin County, does Somerby think that should all be forgiven and forgotten, or should a reporter warn that similar sentiments are on the rise in the places that are white refuges from multiculturalism and diversity.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think sins from 3 generations ago should be forgiven and forgotten. Only a few of the sinners or the sinned against are alive today. Dredging the up the sins promotes racial animosity.

      Delete
    2. And yet hatred is still alive and well in our country. How is that possible? Maybe sin doesn't die with the sinner. Maybe racial animosity has nothing to do with dredging up sins but occurs because those sins are lovingly nurtured and passed down from earlier generations to today's sinners.

      Delete
    3. "And yet hatred is still alive and well in our country. How is that possible?"

      Yeah, what a mystery. Have you been reading Bob's posts recently?

      The liberal cult has been inciting racial hatred non-stop, day in day out, 24/7.

      What is surprising is why your cult's race war is not in full swing yet.

      Delete
    4. Liberals are totally to blame for racism, due to their insulting and divisive views that black people should be equal to whites.
      Sad every Conservative ever.

      Delete
  5. Why would you need a law or a rule to keep black people out of your municipal swimming pool if no black people live in your town? Somerby seems to have found another quibble hook to hang a reporter on.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Somerby is a novelist himself. He portrays this Post story in overwrought, hysterical terms, as if it stemmed from the fever swamps of the most lurid anti-white propaganda factory.

    And that, simply because the author dares mention the historical facts of the Klan and Jim Crow.

    What stood out to me was not any hateful attitude toward whites, but rather the opportunity for dialogue that the “protests” in Franklin County afforded. (I put “protest” in quotes because they really were just get-togethers.) The three young black women who organized the events all grew up and currently live in Franklin County.

    They have living relatives who experienced the bigotry first-hand. For them, it isn’t something they are likely to forget.

    The biggest takeaway for me: even when guys driving trucks shouted obscenities at the protesters, the three women said “Always respond with ‘I love you’.” In other words, they aren’t trying to sow hate. But it is instructive to see how local residents respond to the perceived provocation of a diverse group of protesters.

    In fact, the story presents a number of examples of people responding respectfully as well. It isn’t anywhere close to the one-sided rant that Somerby describes.

    But then, he seems to respond like the guys shouting obscenities from their trucks, rather than the numerous townspeople who are willing to have a dialogue.

    ReplyDelete
  7. “Race/ethnicity, Franklin County, Virginia
    White: 87.2%
    Black: roughly 7.5%
    Hispanic: 2.9%
    Multiracial: 1.5%”

    Somerby, always with the statistics.

    In 1860, the population of Franklin County, Va was anywhere from 20-40% black, roughly speaking. Of course, not all of them were free.

    It’s anyone’s guess why less than 10% is now black. Klan/Jim Crow? Eh...ancient history.

    But the ones who stuck it out went through some things.

    It’s anyone’s guess why those experiences must not be discussed now. (So as not to embarrass or anger white people?)

    It’s also anyone’s guess as to why certain people get angry when these experiences are documented in news reports.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In the Right-wing, politically correct, corporate-owned media (AKA the media), they use the term "economic anxiousness" to explain it.

      Delete
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