Paul Greenberg

This time it's a duly certified, establishment-vetted, card-carrying member of the Mainstream Media who's been caught, tried and convicted by the always watchful PC Police. This time it was no Howard Stern or Don Imus, or even a football coach lettin' 'er rip at a press conference. This time it was NBC's own, always respectable if not downright pedestrian Andrea Mitchell, aka Mrs. Alan Greenspan. Goodness. What did she do? It seems the lady went and referred to an area of southwestern Virginia as "redneck, sort of bordering-on-Appalachia country."

Ooh-wee! The linguistically delicate of southwestern Virginia are still squealing. These easily offended types must be crying in their martinis - because the folks who prefer Schlitz couldn't care less. The real rednecks in southwestern Virginia must be wondering what all the fuss is about.

It happened when Ms. Mitchell was using her cultivated nasal tones to describe footage of a campaign stop by the Democratic presidential nominee presumptive and a former governor of Virginia in lovely Bristol, Va. And this is what she dared say:

"Interesting images today Š Barack Obama, Mark Warner in southwest Virginia. This is real redneck, sort of bordering-on-Appalachia countryŠ."

You'd have thought she said Those Dumb Crackers. All overly sensitive heck broke loose on the poor woman.

The speech cops swooped down on her in an instant. How dare she use the R-word? The local paper got all uppity. To quote the Bristol Herald Courier: "To correct Mitchell, Bristol doesn't border "Appalachia" country.' It is part of the Appalachian Mountain region. While the region faces challenges, it doesn't deserve to be the butt of jokes."

The butt of jokes? The use of "redneck" when referring to what was once known as the Southern yeomanry is now a joke - and one in bad taste at that? The rednecks in these parts, and probably everywhere, tend to 'ppreciate redneck jokes. ("You might be a redneck if you're stopped by a state trooper, he asks if you have an I.D., and you say, 'Bout what?' " -Foxworthy, J.)

So what term are we enlightened. reconstructed, re-educated Americans of the thoroughly thought-reformed 21st century supposed to use instead of "redneck" - working-class white? That's not English, it's sociologese. Redneck is a brief, vivid descriptive phrase for an American type we all know. Once upon a time, brief, vivid description was what good journalism was about. Naturally the term now has been declared verboten.

Andrea Mitchell, on her way to the stocks, was quick to apologize for speaking plain, the ultimate sin in our denatured times:


Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.


 


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