Neil Middleton WYMT-TV
October 31, 2013
I am not sure why I was surprised by another distasteful, degrading, offensive and stereotypical portrayal of Appalachia. There are not enough adjectives to express my disgust and anger.
The ad depicts every stereotypical cliché ever associated with the mountains.
When WYMT contacted DIRECTV about this ad, a spokesman issued this apology.
“It certainly was not our intent to offend anyone and we apologize if there were customers that did not like the ad or found it offensive. The commercial ended its broadcast run on Monday and will no longer be airing.”
Seeing these stereotypical views on the national stage is nothing new. Every few years some national news organization wanders into our beloved mountains to show the rest of the world just how backward we are. They come in with preconceived notions and agendas. I find that a bit ironic in this day of “political correctness” and “sensitivity.”
Would any other minority group be treated so unfairly?
That’s the topic of a column in the Courier Journal by Patrick Baker, an associate professor of law at the Appalachian School of Law in Grundy, Va.
Here is an excerpt.
“Imagine the social and political backlash against DirecTV if they ran an ad that depicted and preyed upon African-American, Jewish, or Native American stereotypes. The media would crucify them as a corporate entity. Mountain folk are the last acceptable bastion for those who would mock and degrade a people based on heritage and culture.”
No one is denying we have our problems. But so does every other region in the nation. Appalachia has made great strides in recent years.
Just once, I would like to see the national spotlight focus on those successes and advancements. Show the rest of the world the Appalachia they have never seen. The Appalachia we love. The Appalachia we call home.
I was surprised by some of the comments on WYMT.com and our WYMT Facebook page suggesting anyone offended by the ad needs to grow thicker skin.
Think about this for a moment. Unemployment in our region ranks among the highest in the nation. Four of the five poorest counties in the nation are in Kentucky. We have 41 economically depressed counties in Kentucky. That’s more than double the number of any of the 13 other states with Appalachian counties.
Add to that the loss of 42 percent of our coal mining jobs in the last two years. That’s more than 6,000 coal miners out of work and that number doesn’t include the loss of jobs in other mining related industries like trucking.
Leaders across eastern Kentucky are racking their brains for ways to improve our economy and create new job opportunities. The last thing we need right now are more false images of uneducated, uncaring “crazing hillbillies.”
Think about the damage this ad did … yet again … to our reputation. A friend of mine put it this way.
“We’re working to diversify our economy. If any decision maker for a large corporation looking to relocate saw that ad, do you think there’s any possible chance they would even take our call.”
I don’t know about you, but I’m not laughing. I am proud of my roots and my Appalachian heritage.