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Michelle, the white soccer mom, ctd.

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Today, Jim Romenesko posted an update to his article about a female cardboard cutout, which appears to resemble the stereotypical, white, on-the-go soccer mom, that is apparently being posted around various TV news stations as an example target audience for writers and on-screen personalities. In the original post, Romenesko was curious to know whether WSPA in Spartanburg, S.C., rolled out its cutout “mom” named Michelle on the advice of a TV consultant.

A female TV journalist responded to the question with the following rather damning critique of the type of advice a male consultant has been giving to Raycom Media-owned TV stations, which carry similar firefighters-to-the-rescue-type local coverage as WSPA. Consequently, Raycom owns WTNZ here in Knoxville; WSPA is owned a company called Media General.

The journalist had this to say about the consultant’s sage advice:

To answer your question regarding whether media consultants nationwide are giving similar advice, WSPA’s “Michelle” is a copy of the “Female Switchable” that [a consultant] has been preaching to Raycom Media-owned stations around the country for more than two years.

[He] describes her as a mother short on logic but long on social media obsession, terrified of her neighbors, needing constant updates on the weather and consumer trends, with the attention span of a fourth-grader and much less understanding of the greater world around her. She wants “lists,” wants to know how things “affect her.” She’s self-centered, myopic and terrified.

She is nothing like the women I know, and I’m glad you finally called television news out on this caricature. I’d really like to see the data that’s used to build that caricature, because as far as I can see, she’s the sexist mythology of overpaid consultants.

This consultant’s fallacy of the “female switchable” isn’t good for anyone. And it isn’t good for the company.

According to Romenesko, the consultant declined to comment other than to dispute these claims. Needless to say, if this critique is even half true, Raycom is putting forth a rather dim view of its own target audience, casting its female viewers as fearful, short-sighted and selfish. And that’s just what this consultant, or people like him, allegedly think about the target audience for local news, which apparently is the white, female, working mom demographic. I wonder what glowing traits these same consultants would bestow on black and Hispanic families, single moms and blended parental units?

In any case, I previously questioned whether white working moms should even be the target audience for a station located in Spartanburg, S.C., which isn’t exactly a mecca of affluent white suburbia. More than half of the population of the city of Spartanburg is black, after all; only parts of the county outside city limits are a majority white.

Reality has never really stopped local TV news stations from catering to stereotypes and offering shallow and trite coverage of their communities in the past; why should Michelle be any different?

Written by Jeremy

January 29th, 2015 at 5:50 pm

Map of slavery in the deep South

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According to historian Susan Schulten, in her book, Mapping the Nation: History and Cartography in Nineteenth-Century AmericaAbraham Lincoln consulted this map to keep track of slavery in the South during the Civil War. Here is the full map and a few comments on specific parts:

Credit: "Map showing the distribution of the slave population of the Suthern states of the United States. Compiled from the census of 1860. Drawn by E. Hergesheimer. Engr. by Th. Leonhardt." Library of Congress, American Memory Map Collections.

Credit: “Map showing the distribution of the slave population of the Suthern states of the United States. Compiled from the census of 1860. Drawn by E. Hergesheimer. Engr. by Th. Leonhardt.” Library of Congress, American Memory Map Collections.

This section of the map, which depicts areas along the Mississippi River, shows how crucial victory in the West was for the Union Army in breaking up the slave power. Vicksburg, along with sieges at Fort Henry and Fort Donelson, provided key leverage for the Union Army as it made its way eastward leading up to Sherman’s March to the Sea:


As a friend of mine pointed out, one can almost track the route Sherman took through Milledgeville to south Georgia and back up through South Carolina simply by following the counties in which slavery was the most entrenched. Sherman most certainly had a copy of Lincoln’s map or one like it to know where to go in order to strike the most severe blow possible to the slaveholders.

As he famously said:

Until we can repopulate Georgia, it is useless to occupy it, but the utter destruction of its roads, houses, and people will cripple their military resources. I can make the march and make Georgia howl.


The irony here of the next section is that in the land of Virginia natives sons, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe and Washington, men who helped build a nation that was based — loosely for a 188 years — on equality, slavery was deeply ingrained in their home state. The U.S. Constitution, of course, protected slavery, and many of the Founders, their best intentions aside, were more of less hamstrung to do anything about the peculiar institution lest they abandon striking any kind of compromise on ratification. Even with protecting slavery, ratification of the Constitution was far from certain.


Mountain folks largely eschewed slavery and preferred sustenance living, as we see a lower percentage of slaves in the foothills and hills of Appalachia. Some small-time, non-slaveholding farmers no doubt resented having to fight a war that was waged to protect the rich planter class and their ilk, who more or less spun the “state’s rights” argument to get Johnny Reb to keep supporting the war effort. And, of course, in the wake of Nat Turner and John Brown, Southern whites were constantly paranoid about the possibility for slave insurrections. Fear, as ever, is a powerful motivator:


View full sized map here.

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Equal parts sad and pathetic

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This nonsense no doubt goes on in Christian private schools all over the nation, but I felt the need to write about this here because it involves my home state of South Carolina. The images below show an actual test given to fourth-graders at Blue Ridge Christian Academy in Greenville, S.C., which is about an hour drive north of where I grew up. Consequently, in college at Clemson University, I participated in a point-counterpoint debate in a student newspaper in which I defended public school education versus private schools. I was a Christian at the time, but even then, I recognized that private schools, unfortunately, provide a certain level of “shelter” from the real world, whereas public school students learn to interact with people of all backgrounds, and they get more of a well-rounded and less biased education.

These captures, from Blue Ridge Christian Academy, speak for themselves:



If this is not overt and immoral indoctrination of children, I don’t know what is. The “history book” of the universe is the Bible? Seriously? I could go point by point on each of these questions in this “quiz” and show how they are all terribly wrong in every single degree, but I think question 15 gets at the basic problem. Was the average size of a dinosaur a sheep? Nope. And far from it. But do believers teach their kids to be unquestioning and un-inquisitive sheep? Yep. And that is immoral, sad, pathetic and a pitiful record for the human species.

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North Carolina: Godland USA

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It looks like we can now throw North Carolina in with a growing cluster of states like Arizona, Utah, and to the surprise of no one, South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama, that don’t mind taking certain liberties with the U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause that establishes federal law as taking precedent over state and local legislation. Here is a refresher:

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding.

You see, it’s the second part of this sentence that excites the states rights crowd. And what really stirs them into a tizzy is the word, “nullification,” which is the notion that if states deem that a certain federal law is unconstitutional, like, oh, I don’t know, the simple truth that immigration enforcement is solely the federal government’s responsibility, they have the power to invalidate federal statutes. Except that they don’t. Unfortunately for those folks, the Supreme Court has concretely ruled against nullification in at least two cases (Cooper v. Aaron, 1958, and Ableman v. Booth, 1859).

But don’t let that stop the pioneering state of North Carolina, which is now considering a bill that would make it possible for the state to establish laws respecting religion, if not establish a religious state altogether. According to N.C. House Joint Resolution bill 494,

Whereas, the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States reads: “… Congress shall make no law respecting an Establishment of Religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” … Whereas, this prohibition does not apply to states, municipalities, or schools … each state in the union is sovereign and may independently determine how that state may make laws respecting an establishment of religion … The North Carolina General Assembly asserts that the Constitution of the United States of America does not prohibit states or their subsidiaries from making laws respecting an establishment of religion.

Notwithstanding what the First Amendment says that is completely to the contrary and notwithstanding the Founders’ own commitment to protecting the people against religious tyranny, the other hurdle facing zealots in North Carolina — thankfully the law provides many hurdles to tomfoolery of this sort — the Fourteenth Amendment further protects against the states “abridging” the privileges and rights of U.S. citizens. And, while I realize there are those believers who would just as well ignore the fact that freethinkers and skeptics walk in their midst and breathe the same air, last I checked, nonbelievers’ rights are as equally protected in the Constitution as believers’.

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Infidels be warned

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The International Humanist and Ethical Union has determined in a recent report that nonbelievers can be killed for their nonbelief in seven states. If you think religion is bollocks, you may want to avoid these: Afghanistan, Iran, Maldives, Mauritania, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Sudan.

Of course, as this article from Slate points out, the hostility toward nonbelievers does not just persist in radical Muslim theocracies. Right here at home, seven states — what is it with religious people and their fascination with the number seven? Yahweh‘s favorite number, no doubt! — ban atheists from holding public office. These bastions of reason and logic include Arkansas, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. Many of these, as you will notice, were, unsurprisingly, in the old Confederacy, including my home state, which can pride itself on being the first to leave the Union and the last to rejoin.

Just out of curiosity, I did a little fact checking on Tennessee, and as plain as day, here is the statute right there in the current state Constitution (ARTICLE IX. DISQUALIFICATIONS):

§ 2. Atheists holding office

No person who denies the being of God, or a future state of rewards and punishments, shall hold any office in the civil department of this State.

I think it’s also curious that not only does a person have to be a believer to hold public office, belief in a future state is also required. Why would the latter part be included? Perhaps so that if and when this public servant inevitably fails his constituents in some way or another, he and they can take comfort in the thought that they will one day walk on sunshine with Jesus, free from the trappings of this world and its tough decision-making. No, the state wouldn’t want any nonbelievers in office approaching life on the notion that they had better get it right the first time and that there are no cop out solutions like prayer if, by chance, they happened to make life for millions of blacks a living hell for generations after they were supposedly emancipated, or if they allowed hordes of KKK members and other racists to run rampant in the South, scarring innocent women and children for decades. No, they might say: “It’s all permissible as long as we teach those people about the good news of the gospel; my mistakes as a racist, oppressive public servant in the South and their misery and the misery of their children can all be scrapped because one day we will be reconciled under the warm glow of heaven.”

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Americans for treason

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Via Twitter:


Interestingly but not surprisingly, among the petitions for various states to leave the union, South Carolina’s petition is the only one that does not include the word “peacefully.” Apparently, the spirit of 1861 is alive and well.

Written by Jeremy

November 12th, 2012 at 2:02 pm

Belated thoughts on the Civil War sesquicentennial

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This was first published on Blogcritics.


Within the Veil was he born, said I; and there within shall he live, — a Negro and a Negro’s son. Holding in that little head — ah, bitterly! — the unbowed pride of a hunted race, clinging with that tiny dimpled hand — ah, wearily! — to a hope not hopeless but unhopeful, and seeing with those bright wondering eyes that peer into my soul a land whose freedom is to us a mockery and whose liberty is a lie. — W.E.B. Dubois, “The Souls of Black Folk”


I realize I’m a few days late posting anything on this, but Tuesday was a 12-hour war of attrition at work, and I didn’t get around to writing anything until today.

Nevertheless, for anyone who may have been living under a rock for the past couple weeks, Tuesday marked the 150th anniversary of the start of the American Civil War. On April 12, 1861, the confederate shots bombarded Fort Sumter off the coast of Charleston, S.C. Nearly four years to the day and 500,000 dead troops later, Lee surrendered on April 9, 1865. Four years and two days after the start of the war, Lincoln was shot by the firebrand, John Wilkes Booth, at Ford’s Theatre in Washington.

As an original resident of South Carolina, the first state to secede from the Union, I am interested in examining both the causes of the Civil War and the effects from the fallout. My Civil War professor at Clemson University, Paul Anderson, supplied me and my fellow history students with this pithy summation of the root causes of the War Between the States:

Both slavery and anti-slavery caused the Civil War.

Credit: Library of Congress photo collection - Morris Island, South Carolina. Battery Weed. Five 10-inch siege mortars.

Southern aristocrats and politicians, of course, were fighting for the extension of slavery into the territories and for the continuation of slavery in the South, the South’s economy being almost exclusively dependent on the peculiar institution. That’s not to say that the North didn’t have a stake in the preservation of slavery. It was both a purchaser of Southern goods and an implicit participant in the slave trade, as slaves would often be brought to America on Northern ships. I’m sure Northern ship owners profited mightily from this enterprise.

But the South seceded for another reason: to protect the aristocratic way of life, as Anderson notes in this op-ed piece for The State. They were also interested in preserving

the unique aristocratic tone of the state’s politics and culture.

Against that backdrop, the loss of Charleston signaled the immediate end of the slaveholding Confederacy, but it also ushered in a second kind of civil war, an internal struggle between the antique ethic and a newer, empowered force of democracy.

Many Southerners today talk a lot about the issue of states’ rights and how the start of the Civil War was, in part, fueled by the federal government encroaching on state sovereignty. While states’ rights was on the minds of Southern leaders, they were thinking of states’ rights to preserve slavery and fight for its extension into the territories. There was simply no other main cause of the war. All other purported “causes” dreamed up by Southerners today attempting to soften the legacy of their ancestors are subsets of the main cause. Lincoln’s first inaugural address, which was devoted almost entirely to the issue of slavery, makes this abundantly clear:

One section of our country believes slavery is right and ought to be extended, while the other believes it is wrong and ought not to be extended. This is the only substantial dispute.

Southern leaders prior to the war and afterward, shook in their trousers at the thought of four million black people previously subjugated by rich whites. Thus, in the aftermath of the Civil War, a “new kind of civil war” commenced, as Anderson puts it, between the struggle mentioned above. South Carolina’s 1895 constitution signaled the

shotgun wedding of democracy and white supremacy.

And a new kind of subjugation, then, persisted for another 100 years following the end of the war in the form of the Black Codes and Jim Crow. It’s a sad commentary that we, as a nation, took so long to recognize the true liberty of four million other human beings who played no small part — mostly against their will and without compensation — in helping build the economic foundation of our-still young country in the 19th century. The 150th anniversary should be as much about honoring their legacy as remembering the half million people who died for their respective causes.

Written by Jeremy

April 16th, 2011 at 3:17 pm

Southern secession myths

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After reading over Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural address, I recently posted the following quote to my Facebook page while thinking about the possible causes of the American Civil War:

One section of our country believes slavery is right and ought to be extended, while the other believes it is wrong and ought not to be extended. This is the only substantial dispute.

Anyone who has studied the Civil War in depth well knows that the causes of America’s bloodiest four years on record are and have been in much contention during the 150 years since the first shots rung out at Fort Sumter (April 12 will mark 150 years since the Confederacy fired on Sumter). I’m under the firm belief, however, and in agreement with Lincoln, that while smaller issues were astir at the time (states rights, the different economies between the North and the South, western expansion, etc.) the only substantial dispute was, indeed, slavery. Or, as one of my professors at Clemson University once mused:

Both slavery and anti-slavery caused the Civil War.

True enough, many in the North were just as racist as folks in the South, Northern ships were often used in the slave trade and the North, to some degree, did benefit economically from the peculiar institution. But, we should remember that Lincoln did not initially wish to end slavery. If nothing else, he wanted to save the Union, and at the most acute level, the Civil War began because the Confederacy attacked a federal fort. Lincoln’s abolitionist tendencies only came later. All that said, slavery was at the heart of the war, and nearly all other concerns were sub-issues implicitly bound up with the one big issue. Of this we can be certain: in the days leading up to Election Day 1860, the word “secession” was already on tongue of many, if not most, Southern leaders if Lincoln were to take office. For good reason then, Lincoln used almost his entire first inaugural address to discuss the slave question and the divided nation in March 1861.

Here are five myths about the causes of secession from The Washington Post.

Written by Jeremy

March 27th, 2011 at 8:25 pm

Another 2-child fatality in S.C.

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Something must be in the water supply in the midlands and piedmont of South Carolina. Susan Smith, the notorious mother who was convicted in 1995 of killing her two sons, is currently incarcerated in the Leath Correctional Institution near my hometown of Greenwood. Now, we have 29-year-old Shaquan Duley, who allegedly didn’t wait to get to the water before suffocating her two sons and then running a car containing the bodies into the Edisto River.

According to a report from The Daily Beast report:

… Duley, who confessed to her crime late Monday night, has shed some light on that question. Unemployed and financially strapped, she was living, along with her two sons and her 5-year-old daughter (who she spared) with her mother, says Orangeburg County Sheriff Larry Williams. Williams says Duley had an argument with her mother over the weekend about her care of the children and had checked into Orangeburg’s Trumps Inn motel, where investigators believe she killed the children.

What exactly that argument was about is unknown. What is known, however, is that Duley had been complaining for a long time about the way her own mother needled her for not adequately providing for her kids.

“I believe she was fed up with her mother telling her that she couldn’t take care of the children, or she wasn’t taking care of the children,” says Gadson. She believes that “there was an emotional rush” to the killing. “The opportunity presented itself, and she reacted … I believe she just wanted to be free.”

“It has to be some chemical imbalance,” says Gadson. “Something wasn’t right.”

According to Sheriff Williams, Duley drove around with the deceased children in the backseat until she found the rural Shillings Bridge Road boat landing where she either pushed or rolled the car into the river.

Written by Jeremy

August 17th, 2010 at 11:35 pm

Nikki … Paley??

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If you haven’t heard of her yet, Nikki Haley is the next in a series of Sarah Palin clones — that would be to say, very unremarkable and obscurant — who are making inroads this primary election season.

If you’ve heard one speech from someone in the Tea Party camp, you’ve heard them all, so here’s Haley speaking Wednesday in Columbia, S.C., following the Tuesday vote which placed her just 2 percentage points back from winning the primary outright against Rep. Gresham Barrett (R-Westminster). The two will enter a run-off on June 22 to decide the the Republican gubernatorial candidate for governor.

What is remarkable about Haley and for what I will be proud is my home state’s ability to A, elect its first female to the highest office in the state and B, to elect a non-white (Haley is Indian-American). The New York Times offers this piece on Haley, which at its start, offers this bit of lucid imagery:

Credit: AP

As she entered the top-floor suite of a downtown business club here on Tuesday, Nikki Haley passed an oil painting of nine former South Carolina governors. All were men, all were white, depicted seated along a long table like a political version of “The Last Supper.”

But — and there is almost always a “but” — Haley is riding the far right train to, not just win on the Republican ticket, but to attempt to trade or change the state’s overriding Republicanism to conservatism, whatever that might mean. And in South Carolina, a state whose elected officials routinely ignore the interests of their minority constituents (In nastier cases, hostile to them), Haley’s tired and boring “us versus the establishment” rhetoric can get votes every time.

So, while it will be historic, and possibly refreshing, to have a female governor in a state that has historically trampled on the rights of every race and gender — except white and affluent males — it will not be a surprise and not terribly, if at all, dissimilar to having Palin herself (One can catch glimpses of the Palin charm in Haley’s speech, minus the Alaskan vernacular. She must be practicing).

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