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The Vance Grift



Liberals are rubes too. There’s a certain kind of grift they will fall for. It’s the kind that claims to help them understand part of the world they don’t understand, even if the material being pushed is hooey. And right now, there’s no shortage of desire from white liberal NPR listeners to know something about the white working class. And J.D. Vance is there, ready to profit off their curiosity, with his garbage book that does a good combination of providing justification for conservatives doing nothing for the poor with satisfying that liberal curiosity. Whatever Vance is doing here, it’s not for the people he writes about. But he’s certainly making himself seem as a Reasonable Knowledgeable Voice of Those People to liberals who don’t understand how poor white people could vote for Donald Trump even though they would benefit from the social programs of Democratic presidents. Personally, I would recommend listening to 40-year old Merle Haggard songs as a more insightful view into the white working class than Vance provides. Or, you know, spend time around white working class people. Or not. But don’t fall for the bullshit that Vance is peddling. From The New Republic take down of his book a few months ago.

Elegy is little more than a list of myths about welfare queens repackaged as a primer on the white working class. Vance’s central argument is that hillbillies themselves are to blame for their troubles. “Our religion has changed,” he laments, to a version “heavy on emotional rhetoric” and “light on the kind of social support” that he needed as a child. He also faults “a peculiar crisis of masculinity.” This brave new world, in sore need of that old time religion and manly men, is apparently to blame for everything from his mother’s drug addiction to the region’s economic crisis.

“We spend our way to the poorhouse,” he writes. “We buy giant TVs and iPads. Our children wear nice clothes thanks to high-interest credit cards and payday loans. We purchase homes we don’t need, refinance them for more spending money, and declare bankruptcy, often leaving them full of garbage in our wake. Thrift is inimical to our being.”

And he isn’t interested in government solutions. All hillbillies need to do is work hard, maybe do a stint in the military, and they can end up at Yale Law School like he did. “Public policy can help,” he writes, “but there is no government that can fix these problems for us … it starts when we stop blaming Obama or Bush or faceless companies and ask ourselves what we can do to make things better.”

Set aside the anti-government bromides that could have been ripped from a random page of National Review, where Vance is a regular contributor. There is a more sinister thesis at work here, one that dovetails with many liberal views of Appalachia and its problems. Vance assures readers that an emphasis on Appalachia’s economic insecurity is “incomplete” without a critical examination of its culture. His great takeaway from life in America’s underclass is: Pull up those bootstraps. Don’t question elites. Don’t ask if they erred by granting people mortgages and lines of credit they couldn’t afford to repay. Don’t call it what it is—corporate deception—or admit that it plunged this country into one of the worst economic crises it’s ever experienced.

No wonder Peter Thiel, the almost comically evil Silicon Valley libertarian, endorsed the book. (Vance also works for Thiel’s Mithril Capital Management.) The question is why so many liberals are doing the same.

An acolyte of Peter Thiel. Well, I guess the true route to pulling yourself up by your bootstraps is selling the blood of your children to the living Nosferatu!


But yes, the key issue is why white liberals want to buy this garbage. You know, it’s not hard to go find white working class people to talk to if you want to know about them. They are all around you. Certainly, you don’t need a National Review contributor who serves Peter Thiel the blood of the young to do so for you.

And if you need more evidence that Vance is full of it, see the following:

J.D. Vance is 32 years old. And I have to say, if there’s one thing we know about the 90s, it’s that no one cared about making money!

This is pure 100% bullshit, just like his whole schtick.

How could this get any hackier? How about a Ron Howard movie adaptation! My own projection is that, assuming anyone actually watches this thing (and really, why would you watch a Ron Howard film), the audience will skew about 90% Democrats.

Or maybe the real lesson is the missed opportunity. I should have written a book about growing up in a dying Oregon logging town with no economic opportunities, talked about all the bootstraps I pulled, and use it as a way to get liberals to buy my book so I can explain all the whites. I just never think of the good scams before someone else gets to them first.

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