Friday, October 27, 2006

Our Ignorant Cousins

Today on Reason Hit and Run there is a post about homosexuality in the wild. Apparently, there is evidence for it after all, at least according to the BBC report that inspired it.

But the Hit and Run post isn't so concerned with natural homosexuality as it is with knockin' on a certain commentator's opinions of it. Admittedly, this guy says some pretty dumb stuff. In addition to dragging out the tired old argument that homosexuality can't exist in nature because it would cause the species exhibiting the behavior to go extinct (as though homosexuality would be caused by a single gene that could be selected for, or as though overtly homosexual humans don't sometimes mate and reproduce anyway), he also wants to say that Norway's "Homosexuality in Nature" museum exhibit has a "clear political reason" based on the fact that "In some countries, laws are on the books which call homosexuality a crime against nature." Right, because in some countries women have to wear veils, ergo there is a political motivation behind tittie bars? Whatever - I can't make this stuff up, go have a look see yourself.

What's interesting is why this two-bit net troll has attracted the attention of Reason Hit and Run. He seems like pretty small potatoes to me. I've certainly never heard of him before. But I suspect I know what's behind it...

Hit and Run notes:

The BBC also reports that one unnamed American commentator described the exhibit as "propaganda invading the scientific world." The commentator in question turns out to be one Nathan Tabor, described in his author's bio as "a conservative political activist based in Kernersville, North Carolina."

Interesting that they should have stoped the quote there. Here it is in full from his webpage:

Nathan Tabor is a conservative political activist based in Kernersville, North Carolina, where he owns a successful small business and was recently a candidate for Congress. He has his Master's Degree in Public Policy from the Robertson School of Government at Regent University.

Now at the very least, you would have expected them to complete the sentence - you know, fill in the blank all the way to the end of that bit about owning a successful small business. Or at least, that would be the default. But then, we're lampooning Tabor, and it's no fun if we have to say nice things about him.

So forgive the soapbox, but why does the stuff that counts against him include the fact that he's from North Carolina?

I find this stuff really fucking annoying. Maybe I'm reading too much into this, but the implication seems to be "see, guys, he's just another one of those dumb conservative southern rednecks, and we all know how ignorant and closed-minded they are."

Now, full disclosure: I'm from North Carolina and damn proud of it. I fully intend to move back there after I graduate if at all possible.

That said, I've lived 9 of the past 11 years in other places, and I'm not aware that there's any more opinions of this kind in North Carolina than anywhere else. It's just like Foxworthy used to say about the South in general: "It's not that we're stupider than anyone else, we just can't keep the dumbest among us from off the television set!"

But I suppose as long as it makes the rest of the country feel better about itself, we'll keep on executing this feedback loop. I sort of wonder if the Reason post wasn't actually a (subconscious?) response on the part of its author to this line from the BBC report:

An American commentator said it was an example of "propaganda invading the scientific world".

Again, seems strange. A BBC report about a museum in Norway needs to quote an (unheard-of) "American commentator" ... why exactly? Surely there is someone in Britain who feels the same way ... surely. This article about the exhibit on Yahoo! News, for example, notes only that "local church groups" are angry over it. Presumably, "local" means "Norwegian." And this article only mentions "evangelical Christians." Exactly what's important about Tabor's being "American" isn't clear, save that the BBC has the same kind of interest in promoting the "backward Americans" stereotype that Hit and Run has in promoting the "backward Southerners" stereotype. Always comfortable to assume that prejudice comes from somewhere else.

So maybe there's a cascade effect here. The BBC subtly lays prejudice at Americans' feet, and Jesse Walker wants to make sure everyone knows it not Americans per se, just those ignorant secessionists down South.

Yeah - spare me. Well, as I said, I might just be reading to much into this. There certainly isn't any reason why news sources have to cite local opinion exclusively. But I can't shake the notion that there's some preconceived thinking going on in Reason's choice of words, and the BBC's choice of commentators, all the same.


At 2:56 PM, Blogger noahpoah said...

We'll exact our revenge when we're laughing all the way to the UNC-Chapel Hill Credit Union, with our sweet tenure(-track) jobs.



At 6:13 PM, Blogger Jesse said...

Well, as I said, I might just be reading to much into this.

You can say that again. Absolutely none of your assumptions about my post are true. Indeed, I grew up in North Carolina myself, and it remains one of my favorite parts of the country.

At 7:54 PM, Blogger Joshua said...

HA! Glad to hear it. Sincerest apologies.


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