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, VirginiaThe 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.
Black: roughly 7.5%
(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