In the wake of the 2016 presidential election, a few newsroom managers sent reporters into the backward lands between America’s coastal super-cities in an attempt to understand what was bugging the yokels in flyover country.
Every now and then one of the big newspapers runs another National Geographic-style feature of this kind — since the odds are good that Jesusland voters will reject the 2020 candidate chosen by the Democratic National Committee and the Acela Zone chattering classes. It’s important to know what the great unwashed multitudes are thinking, since that’s an important source of material for late-night comics.
From a GetReligion point of view, these pieces almost always yield edgy examples of how many journalists see little or no difference between “political” beliefs and convictions that are rooted in ancient or modern forms of religious faith. Repeat after me: All things “political” are real. “Religion” is sort of real, or it is real to the degree that it affects “real” life, as in politics or economics.
This brings me a perfect example of this equation, a New York Times opinion essay by Monica Potts, who is currently doing research for a book about low-income women in Arkansas. This piece zoomed into the weekend must-read lists in many progressive corners of cyberspace. Here’s the double-decker headline:
In the Land of Self-Defeat
What a fight over the local library in my hometown in rural Arkansas taught me about my neighbors’ go-it-alone mythology — and Donald Trump’s unbeatable appeal.
As a rule, your GetReligionistas do not critique opinion pieces of this kind. So why mention this one?
To make a long story short, I could not resist noting a specific passage in this essay that serves as a kind of grand unified theory of how many journalists view the American heartland and the truly despicable — or at the very least lost and sad — people who live out there.
This long essay includes next to nothing, when it comes to reporting and writing about religion.