After writing close to 3,000 columns, I’ve learned that people sometimes read what they’re looking for, often as a result of a headline, rather than what I wrote.
Same words, different prisms.
The same is true of the spoken word. What did she just say?
Listener 1: “She said all Southerners are stupid.”
Listener 2: “No, she didn’t. She was saying that whenever political operatives or the media need to show someone who is confused or clueless, they always find somebody with a Southern accent. Parker’s been writing about this for years. Besides, she is a Southerner.”
Let’s hear it for Listener No. 2!
This exchange might have taken place after I recently appeared on “Meet the Press,” where I made a comment about Southerners and an ad attacking the Affordable Care Act. Apparently, at least one person with a laptop was offended and social media took it from there. Think Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds.”
To recap, NBC host David Gregory showed a clip I hadn’t seen before in which a fellow expresses how confusing he found Obamacare. He said he felt like he was in a “haze.” The clip followed my comment that the greatest challenge to Democrats in the midterm elections is the broad understanding that those who passed Obamacare had no idea what they were doing.
Rather than continuing this thread, I reacted to something that has irked me for years — the media stereotype of the Southerner as a befuddled hayseed — and that has been a theme throughout my body of work.
In the moment, my gut got the better of my brain. I said surely they could have found someone without a Southern accent to express confusion about Obamacare. My follow-up was that there are plenty of other people (who might be considered smarter and more sophisticated by certain folks) who were also perplexed by the law.