What the New Yorker Found in Ohio

…ahem. It’s difficult to know what to say at this point. Those of us living in flyover country like to rant and rave about the arrogant obliviousness of big-city fancy folks. Deep down, though, we hope we’re just jealous; we hope the New Yorkers and their ilk are a lot smarter than they seem. Time and again, though, the city slickers seem to go out of their way to prove they are just as ridiculous as they first appeared. Yesterday, for example, I took to these pages to complain about science-missionary attitudes. Today it just gets worse.

groucho marx surprised

I just don’t know what to say…

Today’s non-revelation comes from Amy Harmon, the author of yesterday’s article about science-missionary James Sutter. Harmon mea-culpa’d her way through today’s article, breathlessly sharing her revelations, brag-scolding herself for the “preconceptions that had shaped my original notions.”

For example, Harmon reported that she actually liked one of the climate-change skeptics she met, even “admiring her spunk in the face of a hostile world.”

And Harmon was wowed by the fact that there was diversity—even in Ohio! Some of the students embraced climate-change science.

To Harmon and her editors, such things counted as newsworthy revelations.

I’m flummoxed and I could use some help. Am I being unfair to Harmon and her New York presumptions? Or is it depressing that the nation’s leading newspaper really considered it “news” that people had conflicting ideas about climate change? …that some climate-change skeptics had otherwise admirable personalities?

Leave a comment


  1. You’re exaggerating a perfectly boring, innocuous, and inoffensive article. It’s not dripping with contempt or condescension. At. All. Your affected solidarity with “flyover country” is patronizing though. Nowhere in New York — especially large university towns — is really flyover country compared to the rural south, west and Midwest. You taught in metro Milwaukee (population 1 million) — have you ever lived in a red state or county, spent time in public and Christian schools there? I see patronizing outsider condescension in your defence of the fundamentalists in the mist, who can’t possibly be all that bad–except when they are. Maybe that seemed like a conciliatory niche several election cycles ago, but now it seems like a failure to take seriously dangerous corrosives at the base of our cracking national foundations which is having civilization and planet-wide consequences.

    If you really seek fairness, accuracy and balance, seek out the voices and experiences of real flyover people who have tried and still try to teach, study and live with beliefs that run counter to their alt-fact and science-denial cultures. The coasties aren’t going to do it, but neither is kicking sand on them from the distance of a 3-4 hour drive.

    • Ouch.
      You make some fair points, though. I don’t really live very deep in flyover country, though you wouldn’t know it to hear New Yorkers talk about sunny Binghamton.
      However, I don’t see why you have to make your points in such an angry way. You seem to be implacably hostile these days. Not just to me, but to everyone with whom you interact. I think it misses the point of an open forum like this. We’re considering ideas here, not just defending fixed positions.
      Having said that, let me offer a defense and a question. First, I’m not defending the folks in Ohio. I’m opposed to their climate-change denialism and I said so clearly. What I’m defending, I suppose, is a journalistic dream in which reporters from leading national newspapers don’t assume that “we” all agree on contentious issues.
      And here’s my question–for everyone: Is Dan right? Is the original New York Times article inoffensive? Did I read too much of my own patronizing condescension into the reporter’s attitude? Or does she really seem remarkably condescending to the folks in Ohio?

      • You can read newspaper articles however you want, just as you can read “angry” into critical comments. Projecting tone onto internet communications is a stereotypical way to dismiss people or escalate heat that wasn’t really there in the first place. The annoyance I get from reading the Times often, or things like this blog post comes from what I feel is being cut out. But thanks for taking some push and toe-stepping graciously.

        I’ve always been critical of your self-fashioned mediator position because I have always thought what I said above, I just haven’t put it this bluntly before. What I think you’re doing is demonizing the healthier, truer, better “side” and marshalling any evidence of niceness and humanity for the sicker, false, worse side in these educational ideological divides. Neither side really has monsters. Neither should be demonized. But neither should ugly facts and significant context be overlooked.

        The most important thing about this NYT piece is the lacuna around the students military service plans. What that means for the rural working poor, for “bicoastal elites,” why the author doesn’t go there. The American neoliberal world order — our permawars — are built on the breaking backs of “flyover people.” They have been whipped into a usable voting and fighting force by political and religious myths — and there’s a big downside to that. If you want to criticize elites’ complicity in a bad faith relationship with the other half, try this — everyone ignores it.

        Does that sound angry? I think it expresses urgency. You know enough of my story to understand that, I think. Outside the US, as close as Canada, the press and people are speaking like they’ve gotten past the funeral of a friend and must now get on together. I’m looking at headlines where “the west” is not meant to include the US, for its turn against its friends, allies, and western values. There’s a bigger picture you don’t entertain in your blog posts. But why not treat the subject of “parochial “or “provincial” thinkers in a more global way?

  2. Agellius

     /  June 7, 2017

    I think the author being surprised at “the students whose beliefs proved malleable, after all” is mildly insulting. It means that she expected their minds to be closed to evidence and reason based on nothing but where they lived. She herself admits that her preconceptions were “troubling”, and I agree with her.


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