Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Leftists, Hillbillies, and Jeff Bezos

 

Recently a liberal filmmaker (Ron Howard) made a movie with liberal actors about the book Hillbilly Elegy. It has received strong criticism from both sides of the political aisle. But since this is not a conservative movie, and it was made by standard-issue Hollywood leftists, the criticism from the left is more interesting.

The book was written by a man who had grown up in Appalachia with a lot of poor white neighbors. He describes the pathologies of that culture, from drug use, to lack of planning for the future, to lack of interest in education, and so on. But he also mentions some virtues of some of his neighbors, as an increasingly desperate group of people try to cope with plant closures and economic changes that are devastating their neighborhoods. These occasionally sympathetic glimpses into the lives of poor whites are drawing the ire of leftists, and Glenn Reynolds thinks he knows why:

The old Southern Democrats maintained the allegiance of poor whites by making sure those poor whites felt they could look down on blacks. The modern Democratic Party maintains the allegiance of ­upper-middle-class whites by making sure they can look down on lower-class whites. By ­humanizing those lower-class whites, Netflix’s “Hillbilly Elegy” calls the whole enterprise into question.

All forms of powerful, centralized governments, which have enormous impacts on people’s lives, require a villain. If you ask for high taxes, increased regulation, and other restrictions on prosperity and freedom from your citizens, you need to convince them that you are protecting them from someone who is evil. “You may get frustrated with us taking your money and your freedoms. But trust us – we may be scary, but the other guys are worse. Vote for us.”

This works a lot better if you can dehumanize the ‘other,’ just like Democrats used to do with blacks, and as Democrats currently do with poor whites.


A group of 400 politicians from around the world, including two ‘Squad’ members US congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, recently wrote a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos criticizing his company’s financial practices:

“In a letter to Amazon’s 56-year-old chief executive — the world’s richest man with a net worth of $185 billion — the leaders say the world “knows that Amazon can afford to pay its workers, its environmental cost and its taxes,” but that the company has “dodged and dismissed [its] debts to workers, societies and the planet,” according to a report in The Independent.”

They continued, explaining that by following the tax laws of various countries with the goal of paying as little tax as possible, he was intentionally hurting governments that were just trying to help people:

“Through global tax dodging, you damage the public provision of health, education, housing, social security and infrastructure,”

So Mr. Bezos is not just selling books and dog food. He’s “damaging the public provision of health, education, housing, social security and infrastructure.

Golly.

So they are in the process of dehumanizing this vicious white man who has committed a sin against humanity. The sin of working hard and being successful. So they’re going after him.

Remember that Mr. Bezos is a strident leftist, supporting the same causes as those who accuse him of being evil and selfish. He has done more for leftism than all those 400 leftist politicians combined. He might have thought that would buy him a pass from such attacks. But he was wrong.

Yesterday, he was a darling of leftists. Today, he’s a target of leftists. As I frequently point out at times like this, Robespierre is chuckling somewhere.


The left loved lower-class whites. Until it became more politically convenient to dehumanize them.

The left dehumanized blacks. Until it became more politically convenient to elevate them to near sainthood.

The left loved Jeff Bezos. Until it became more politically convenient to dehumanize him.

And so on and so on.

There are a few facets of this that bother me.

First, the very fact that the left needs a villain to gain the control they desire – that is terrifying, when you think about it. That is a political movement to be feared.

Next, the flexibility of the left, as they change their preferred heroes and villains over time, as the political winds of the day dictate. They apparently don’t believe in anything or anybody, and will destroy anyone, even their own allies, if it will help them gain even a few extra votes. That is a political movement to be feared.

Lastly, the habit of the left to blame individuals on their ‘villain’ list for failures of the governments run by leftists. An extreme example is Hitler blaming the woes of Germans after WWI on the Jews. Another is 400 politicians blaming some guy who sells books and dog food for “damaging the public provision of health, education, housing, social security and infrastructure.”

Guess what, politicians – infrastructure is your job. That guy sells retail. Come on. But no, when government health plans stink and the roads are worse, it’s because of Jeff Bezos. Right.

That is a political movement to be feared.

Jeff Bezos is a smart guy. Surely he understands this.

But do you expect Mr. Bezos to start supporting Republicans, to push back against vicious tyrants like those 400 politicians? Of course not.

I find that very odd.

But I’m not a leftist. I know they hate me. But Mr. Bezos, apparently, still hopes to stay on their good side. Good luck, buddy.

I suspect that if he were around today, Robespierre would suggest that Mr. Bezos visit Appalachia, talk to some lower-class whites, and see if they think that the Democrats will remain as loyal to him as they did to them.

The left is a political movement to be feared.

Robespierre understands this. So do Appalachian lower-class whites.

I don’t think that Mr. Bezos has caught on just yet…

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  1. Stad Coolidge

    Dr. Bastiat:

    The left loved lower class whites. Until it became more politically convenient to dehumanize them. 

    The left dehumanized blacks. Until it became more politically convenient to elevate them to near saint-hood.

    The left loved Jeff Bezos. Until it became more politically convenient to dehumanize him.

    And so on and so on.

    So true. The day blacks realize the Democrats are using them like they did when blacks were slaves is the day the Democrat party joins the ash heap of history . . .

    • #1
    • December 4, 2020, at 2:23 PM PST
    • 6 likes
  2. RushBabe49 Thatcher

    Read Ralph Stanley’s autobiography, Man of Constant Sorrow, for a good description of growing up in Appalachia. I believe he remained a staunch leftist until his death.

    • #2
    • December 4, 2020, at 2:25 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  3. Percival Thatcher
    PercivalJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Dr. Bastiat: The left loved Jeff Bezos. Until it became more politically convenient to dehumanize him.

    The left eats its own. Bon appétit.

    • #3
    • December 4, 2020, at 2:38 PM PST
    • 9 likes
  4. Jim McConnell Member
    Jim McConnellJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Speaking of Jeff Bezos, can anyone name anything positive that the Left has ever created? Bezos has created Amazon, which I think is the most praiseworthy, customer-oriented business in my lifetime. But where has the Left ever done anything except leech off those who produce? I can’t think of an example.

    • #4
    • December 4, 2020, at 2:44 PM PST
    • 13 likes
  5. The Reticulator Member

    Dr. Bastiat:

    The left loved lower class whites. Until it became more politically convenient to dehumanize them. 

    The left dehumanized blacks. Until it became more politically convenient to elevate them to near saint-hood.

    The left loved Jeff Bezos. Until it became more politically convenient to dehumanize him.

    And so on and so on.

    There are a few facets of this that bother me.

    First, the very fact that the left needs a villain to gain the control they desire – that is terrifying, when you think about it. That is a political movement to be feared.

    I wonder when it will be the turn of the administrative state and its university and entertainment industry allies to be the villain. 

    • #5
    • December 4, 2020, at 2:56 PM PST
    • 5 likes
  6. Vance Richards Member
    Vance RichardsJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Dr. Bastiat: The left loved lower class whites. Until it became more politically convenient to dehumanize them.

    I read a review and saw things like:

    But while it is perhaps watered down to the point of near-palatability, Vance’s thesis that American poverty is the direct consequence of individual moral decay, laziness and retreat from organized religion is still there, just slightly off screen.

    Suggesting that poverty could be the result of anything other than victim-hood goes against the liberal narrative. The review also explained (as did others) why the book was successful:

    “Hillbilly Elegy” and its convenient timing propelled the author to the top of the talking-head circuit. And for good reason. This often-overlooked community had just thrown the nation into four years of Trump-branded chaos.

    These people voted for Trump. Why would you watch a movie about them?

    • #6
    • December 4, 2020, at 3:16 PM PST
    • 6 likes
  7. KentForrester Moderator

    Jim McConnell (View Comment):

    Speaking of Jeff Bezos, can anyone name anything positive that the Left has ever created? Bezos has created Amazon, which I think is the most praiseworthy, customer-oriented business in my lifetime. But where has the Left ever done anything except leech off those who produce? I can’t think of an example.

    Jim, I absolutely agree with your statement, “Bezos has created Amazon, which I think is the most praiseworthy, customer-oriented business in my lifetime.” And that is the main reason it has been such a success.

    • #7
    • December 4, 2020, at 3:42 PM PST
    • 5 likes
  8. Hoyacon Member

    Charles Murray’s Coming Apart sort of anticipated Hillbilly Elegy. The idea that there is a poor, victimized white underclass in the country is an extremely inconvenient notion for liberals. So let’s just ignore it.

    • #8
    • December 4, 2020, at 4:54 PM PST
    • 10 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  9. Sweezle Member

    I always thought Ron Howard was more ‘middle of the road’ instead of liberal or progressive. Looking forward to streaming this movie. 

    • #9
    • December 4, 2020, at 6:34 PM PST
    • 1 like
  10. Dill Coolidge

    Thanks for this analysis. I haven’t read the book or seen the movie, so I don’t have any context for this weird controversy.

    Oddly enough the complaints I have seen about the movie seem to be along the lines of “The movie is blaming these people for their poverty and struggles, and shows urban areas as places to escape to!” To me, this seems the opposite of dehumanizing. It seems to me the leftists are arguing the movie is dehumanizing. (Not that I agree with this critique, just that it seems reasonable.)

    Am I missing a major segment of the complaints from the left? What am I not getting?

    • #10
    • December 4, 2020, at 7:11 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  11. Rōnin Coolidge

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    Charles Murray’s Coming Apart sort of anticipated Hillbilly Elegy. The idea that there is a poor, victimized white underclass in the country is an extremely inconvenient notion for liberals. So let’s just ignore it.

    Both are excellent books. Hillbilly Elegy hit a little to close to home me, it was the first time I’ve ever wrote the author to thank him. Had I not enlisted when I did, I would have ended up like my parents and siblings – in jail or dead.

    • #11
    • December 4, 2020, at 9:21 PM PST
    • 7 likes
  12. Rōnin Coolidge

    Dill (View Comment):

    Thanks for this analysis. I haven’t read the book or seen the movie, so I don’t have any context for this weird controversy.

    Oddly enough the complaints I have seen about the movie seem to be along the lines of “The movie is blaming these people for their poverty and struggles, and shows urban areas as places to escape to!” To me, this seems the opposite of dehumanizing. It seems to me the leftists are arguing the movie is dehumanizing. (Not that I agree with this critique, just that it seems reasonable.)

    Am I missing a major segment of the complaints from the left? What am I not getting?

    The movie “generally” follows the book’s story line, but I think the point of the movie is to make the urban pseudo-intellectual leftest feel superior about themselves watching the now hated white lower middle working class and culture kill itself off. The book is somewhat historical as the author describes what happens to a people as national and world events change where and how they live and work over 75-100 year period. I highly recommend reading the book.

    • #12
    • December 4, 2020, at 9:39 PM PST
    • 7 likes
  13. Mark D Raftis Lincoln

    Rōnin (View Comment):

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    Charles Murray’s Coming Apart sort of anticipated Hillbilly Elegy. The idea that there is a poor, victimized white underclass in the country is an extremely inconvenient notion for liberals. So let’s just ignore it.

    Both are excellent books. Hillbilly Elegy hit a little to close to home me, it was the first time I’ve ever wrote the author to thank him. Had I not enlisted when I did, I would have ended up like my parents and siblings – in jail or dead.

    @Robin Yours and his life just goes to show you how grit and determination and the freedom of movement and mobility of this country rejoice in your journey and success to charge a life.

    • #13
    • December 4, 2020, at 11:00 PM PST
    • 5 likes
  14. The Reticulator Member

    Rōnin (View Comment):
    The movie “generally” follows the book’s story line, but I think the point of the movie is to make the urban pseudo-intellectual leftest feel superior about themselves watching the now hated white lower middle working class and culture kill itself off. The book is somewhat historical as the author describes what happens to a people as national and world events change where and how they live and work over 75-100 year period. I highly recommend reading the book.

    Always choose the book over the movie, especially if it claims to be historical.

    (I don’t practice what I preach when it comes to Russian movies.)

    • #14
    • December 4, 2020, at 11:07 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  15. Henry Castaigne Member

    Dr. Bastiat: But I’m not a leftist. I know they hate me. But Mr. Bezos, apparently, still hopes to stay on their good side. Good luck, buddy.

    I find a similar pattern with Asian-Americans and their donations and support of the left that resemble protection money. Perhaps this I am wrong about this observation but here is my theory.*

    If a Republican and a Democrat are running for office in your district, the Republican will very likely leave you and your successful business alone. Even if you support the Democrat, the Republican guy by his own standards (or at least his professed standards) can’t interfere with you. If a Democrat wins, you want to be able to remind that pol that you backed him financially and politically in order to be left alone or to get favors from him.

    What’s more, up until recently, the regular Republican citizen would still frequent lefty establishments because they understood that not all of life was political.

    If Bezos wants to be left alone in order to recreate the economy to be more efficient, it makes sense to be on the left. All the incentives are to be on the left. In the short-term anyway.

    *In my observation of Asian people and culture, there is a stronger tendency towards conformity and shame. The American left is great at using shame to make people conform.

    • #15
    • December 5, 2020, at 1:15 AM PST
    • 6 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  16. Jon1979 Lincoln

    Obama’s 2012 election convinced the Democrats they had a permanent Electoral College majority of their rich and upper middle class whites in urban areas mixed with their various special interest coalitions, including minority groups. Combined with their disdain for the grass roots Tea Party movement that caused them such grief in the 2010 midterms, it convinced the Democratic pols that they no longer needed any of their past Flyover County coalition members, whether that be poor rural southern white or mid-sized city blue collar workers. That’s how you get things like Hillary’s ‘Deplorables’ comment, though Trump’s win caused Biden (the few times he actually said anything) to try and walk the open contempt back this time around….

    …but the contempt has been in the open in the pop culture world for far longer. Robert Schmeigel did this bit 16 years ago after the Bush-Kerry election for his “TV Funhouse” segment on Saturday Night Live — while it gets in a shot or two at Rush Limbaugh and conservatives, the main target is the open contempt pop culture media types had for ‘Jesusland’, because they voted the wrong way:

    That goes towards the blowback Howard’s getting here for “Hillbilly Elergy”. He wants to tell a character-driven story based on JD Vance’s book, but others both in Hollywood and in the media and far left political world don’t want nuance. They want the series to be a polemic against those they hate for not thinking like they do, and want all of pop culture media to join in with ‘othering’ the deplorables so they will be written out of the political conversation, in ways they thought they had accomplished in 2008 with Obama’s election (when they thought Flyover County were mindless drones who wouldn’t know what to do if they intimidated all the GOP politicians and right-leaning pundits into silence by threatening to throw the race card at them and write them out of the political conversation).

    • #16
    • December 5, 2020, at 6:19 AM PST
    • 2 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  17. Stad Coolidge

    Hoyacon (View Comment):
    The idea that there is a poor, victimized white underclass in the country is an extremely inconvenient notion for liberals.

    Sort of debanks the concept of “White Privilege,” doesn’t it?

    • #17
    • December 5, 2020, at 6:23 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  18. Jon1979 Lincoln

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    Dr. Bastiat: But I’m not a leftist. I know they hate me. But Mr. Bezos, apparently, still hopes to stay on their good side. Good luck, buddy.

    I find a similar pattern with Asian-Americans and their donations and support of the left that resemble protection money. Perhaps this I am wrong about this observation but here is my theory.*

    If a Republican and a Democrat are running for office in your district, the Republican will very likely leave you and your successful business alone. Even if you support the Democrat, the Republican guy by his own standards (or at least his professed standards) can’t interfere with you. If a Democrat wins, you want to be able to remind that pol that you backed him financially and politically in order to be left alone or to get favors from him.

    What’s more, up until recently, the regular Republican citizen would still frequent lefty establishments because they understood that not all of life was political.

    If Bezos wants to be left alone in order to recreate the economy to be more efficient, it makes sense to be on the left. All the incentives are to be on the left. In the short-term anyway.

    *In my observation of Asian people and culture, there is a stronger tendency towards conformity and shame. The American left is great at using shame to make people conform.

    I think it also depends on where you live and the prevailing political party in that area. Asian groups clustering in bi-coastal urban areas who seek political influence are going to try to get people inside the Democratic Party power structure of those urban areas. In the case of something like the Vietnamese who settled along the Texas Gulf Coast to get into the fishing industry there, you see far less Democratic voting, because the Democrats have minimal control in those areas.

    The question in the urban zones is how long to Asian voters stick with Democrats if they’re overtly pushing policies that hurt Asian voters economically?

    • #18
    • December 5, 2020, at 6:24 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  19. TBA Coolidge

    I gotta read this book. 

    • #19
    • December 5, 2020, at 6:38 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  20. Henry Castaigne Member

    TBA (View Comment):

    I gotta read this book.

    I support it. The obviously about human psychology are as clear as they are profound.

    • #20
    • December 5, 2020, at 8:55 AM PST
    • 1 like
    • This comment has been edited.
  21. CACrabtree Coolidge

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):

    Read Ralph Stanley’s autobiography, Man of Constant Sorrow, for a good description of growing up in Appalachia. I believe he remained a staunch leftist until his death.

    You are correct; Stanley’s autobiography (and the lyrics of his song) do capture the essence of the region.

    Sometimes, I’m a bit amused at the attention being paid to Appalachia these days; it always seemed to me that we were usually ignored or denigrated. It also seemed to me that, outside of Appalachia, we became caricatures in the same manner as Tom Fletcher in his famous picture with LBJ on his front porch (in Inez, Kentucky).

    I could identify with some of J.D. Vance’s story. I did choose military service as my way out of the region. However, my family was not as dysfunctional as Vance’s.

    My own recommendation for background on Appalachia would be Back Talk from Appalachia; a collection of essays that deal with the stereotypes that have arisen in the last few decades.

    • #21
    • December 5, 2020, at 11:40 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  22. Basil Fawlty Member
    Basil FawltyJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Dr. Bastiat: He describes the pathologies of that culture, from drug use, to lack of planning for the future, to lack of interest in education, and so on.

    Which culture?

    • #22
    • December 5, 2020, at 2:49 PM PST
    • Like
  23. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat

    Basil Fawlty (View Comment):

    Dr. Bastiat: He describes the pathologies of that culture, from drug use, to lack of planning for the future, to lack of interest in education, and so on.

    Which culture?

    Appalachian culture. Or as my former neighbors in the mountains of Tennessee would describe it, the culture of Appalachian-Americans.

    • #23
    • December 5, 2020, at 2:58 PM PST
    • 1 like
  24. Basil Fawlty Member
    Basil FawltyJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):

    Basil Fawlty (View Comment):

    Dr. Bastiat: He describes the pathologies of that culture, from drug use, to lack of planning for the future, to lack of interest in education, and so on.

    Which culture?

    Appalachian culture. Or as my former neighbors in the mountains of Tennessee would describe it, the culture of Appalachian-Americans.

    Is it anything like black culture?

    • #24
    • December 5, 2020, at 3:10 PM PST
    • Like
  25. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat

    Basil Fawlty (View Comment):

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):

    Basil Fawlty (View Comment):

    Dr. Bastiat: He describes the pathologies of that culture, from drug use, to lack of planning for the future, to lack of interest in education, and so on.

    Which culture?

    Appalachian culture. Or as my former neighbors in the mountains of Tennessee would describe it, the culture of Appalachian-Americans.

    Is it anything like black culture?

    Yes. Very similar.

    Thomas Sowell discussed this in Black Rednecks & White Liberals.

    • #25
    • December 5, 2020, at 3:21 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  26. Henry Castaigne Member

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):

    Basil Fawlty (View Comment):

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):

    Basil Fawlty (View Comment):

    Dr. Bastiat: He describes the pathologies of that culture, from drug use, to lack of planning for the future, to lack of interest in education, and so on.

    Which culture?

    Appalachian culture. Or as my former neighbors in the mountains of Tennessee would describe it, the culture of Appalachian-Americans.

    Is it anything like black culture?

    Yes. Very similar.

    Thomas Sowell discussed this in Black Rednecks & White Liberals.

    I think that book is even better than Hillbilly Elegy

    • #26
    • December 5, 2020, at 6:33 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  27. Henry Castaigne Member

    Ben Shapiro did a very good job of talking about the movie. It’s very dispiriting how the lefty elites think about poor whites. 

    • #27
    • December 5, 2020, at 8:20 PM PST
    • Like
  28. The Reticulator Member

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    Ben Shapiro did a very good job of talking about the movie. It’s very dispiriting how the lefty elites think about poor whites.

    It’s not new news to me. I spent most of my working life around lefty elites. I enjoyed working with them when they stuck to their business. But in so many of them (not all, but far too many) there was this attitude toward the poorer people around us that sometimes made me gasp. I figured that my colleagues and I were leading a privileged life, and it’s not good to have such attitudes towards those who were left behind.

    • #28
    • December 5, 2020, at 9:23 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  29. Samuel Block Support

    I just saw the movie. It was clumsily done. One critic put it well with, “Howard displays no ability to convey common experience.” 

    I’ve tried to plug it before, but once more won’t hurt: Jeff Nichols’ Shotgun Stories (2007) is one of the great American independent movies. It managed expressiveness without melodrama and empathy without sentimentality. More people should’ve seen it.

    • #29
    • December 5, 2020, at 10:07 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  30. Hoyacon Member

    Samuel Block (View Comment):

    I just saw the movie. It was clumsily done. One critic put it well with, “Howard displays no ability to convey common experience.”

    I’ve tried to plug it before, but once more won’t hurt: Jeff Nichols’ Shotgun Stories (2007) is one of the great American independent movies. It managed expressiveness without melodrama and empathy without sentimentality. More people should’ve seen it.

    Unfortunately, “currently unavailable” to stream on Amazon. Something called “Mud” by the same director, w/ Matthew McConaughey, is available.

    • #30
    • December 6, 2020, at 10:21 AM PST
    • 2 likes