As a soldier, I fought in both Iraq and Afghanistan; as a scholar, I performed most of the fieldwork for my doctoral dissertation in southern Lebanon. Nowhere in the world, though, have I ever encountered a more brutal, tribal and violent race of people than the Scots-Irish of East Tennessee. Any Georgian occupation force would inevitably get sucked into our petty politics and family vendettas. We might share a language, but Georgia would struggle to relate to its new foreign subjects, let alone entrench its authority over us.
The Melungeons are an ethnic group, commonly described as a “tri-racial isolate,” resident in the Cumberland Gap neighborhood of Eastern Tennesee, Southwest Virginia, and Eastern Kentucky. The Melungeons’ comparatively dark complexions and other exotic characteristics have been attributed to mixed Amerindian and Spanish or Portuguese descent. Other alleged origins included shipwrecked Turkish slaves or descent from Gypsies. One legendary account claims that they descend from a native people resident before the arrival of European colonists.
Recent research seems to offer a much simpler explanation: descent from African freedmen.
[A] new DNA study in the Journal of Genetic Genealogy [Not apparently yet available on-line] attempts to separate truth from oral tradition and wishful thinking. The study found the truth to be somewhat less exotic: Genetic evidence shows that the families historically called Melungeons are the offspring of sub-Saharan African men and white women of northern or central European origin.
Tennessee has passed a measure making it a crime to transmit by telephone, in writing or by electronic communication an image that would cause “emotional distress” “without legitimate purpose.”
“Emotional distress” is a standard of practically universal application. Anything at all might cause someone emotional distress, and there is no basis to determine whether someone experiences it, beyond his own say so.
What is and what is not a “legitimate purpose” also constitutes a legal nightmare. Who wants any judge to be permitted to decide what is and what isn’t legitimate?
Liberals are always arguing that we need to inform the American legal system with the superior wisdom of international jurisprudence.
From Brazil, comes the story of a court decision upholding the right of one Ana Catarina Silvares Bezerra, an accountant analyst who is allegedly afflicted with a female equivalent of satyriasis, to achieve personal gratification on company time, using the company’s computer and Internet access, for 15 minutes every 2 hours.
The flooding caused by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005 obsessed the media and produced a storm of criticism for an insufficiently massive and rapid federal response that turned national opinion finally against George W. Bush, making him into a lame duck for the rest of his second term, and presaging democrat recovery of both Congress and the White House. The New Orleans flood was treated as terribly important.
Recently, the Cumberland River crested Monday at 51.9 feet, 12 feet above flood stage, spilling over its banks into the city of Nashville, Tennessee, flooding a historic downtown, producing billions of dollars in damages and killing at least 30 people. Meanwhile, national news coverage has focused instead on an oil spill in the Gulf which had not even yet reached shore, and a car bomb in Times Square that did not even explode.
Why the differences in perceived significance and coverage? Andrew Romano explains that it’s a herd thing. They all cover what everybody else covers and they have a seriously limited attention range.
As you may have heard, torrential downpours in the southeast flooded the Tennessee capital of Nashville over the weekend, lifting the Cumberland River 13 feet above flood stage, causing an estimated $1 billion in damage, and killing more than 30 people. It could wind up being one of the most expensive natural disasters in U.S. history.
Or, on second thought, maybe you didn’t hear. With two other “disasters” dominating the headlines—the Times Square bombing attempt and the Gulf oil spill—the national media seems to largely to have ignored the plight of Music City since the flood waters began inundating its streets on Sunday. A cursory Google News search shows 8,390 hits for “Times Square bomb” and 13,800 for “BP oil spill.” “Nashville flood,” on the other hand, returns only 2,430 results—many of them local. As Betsy Phillips of the Nashville Scene writes, “it was mind-boggling to flip by CNN, MSNBC, and FOX on Sunday afternoon and see not one station even occasionally bringing their viewers footage of the flood, news of our people dying.”
So why the cold shoulder? I see two main reasons. First, the modern media may be more multifarious than ever, but they’re also remarkably monomaniacal. In a climate where chatter is constant and ubiquitous, newsworthiness now seems to be determined less by what’s most important than by what all those other media outlets are talking about the most. Sheer volume of coverage has become its own qualification for continued coverage. (Witness the Sandra Bullock-Jesse James saga.) In that sense, it’s easy to see why the press can’t seem to focus on more than one or two disasters at the same time. Everyone is talking about BP and Faisal Shahzad 24/7, the “thinking” goes. So there must not be anything else that’s as important to talk about. It’s a horrible feedback loop.
Of course, the media is also notorious for its ADD; no story goes on forever. Which brings us to the second reason the Nashville floods never gained much of a foothold in the national conversation: the “narrative” simply wasn’t as strong. Because it continually needs to fill the airwaves and the Internet with new content, 1,440 minutes a day, the media can only trade on a story’s novelty for a few hours, tops. It is new angles, new characters, and new chapters that keep a story alive for longer. The problem for Nashville was that both the gulf oil spill and the Times Square terror attempt are like the Russian novels of this 24/7 media culture, with all the plot twists and larger themes (energy, environment, terrorism, etc.) required to fuel the blogs and cable shows for weeks on end. What’s more, both stories have political hooks, which provide our increasingly politicized press (MSNBC, FOX News, blogs) with grist for the kind of arguments that further extend a story’s lifespan (Did Obama respond too slowly? Should we Mirandize terrorists?). The Nashville narrative wasn’t compelling enough to break the cycle, so the MSM just continued to blather on about BP and Shahzad.
Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus)
John Hinderaker, of Power-Line, is amused by the MSM’s ecological double standard. Changes of species’ ranges interpretable as evidence of the media’s beloved catastrophism are gleefully noted, but new appearances of sub-arctic species, like the Snowy Owl, in the Southland are just a curiosity devoid of any implications.