Sunday, June 5, 2011

Freedom of Speech or Yellow Journalism

UPDATE - The offending photo was removed from the article listed below.  To see how genealogists are handling this, visit Thomas MacEntee's site.

For those of you who don't know, the 42nd Annual Genealogy Jamboree will be held June 10 - June 12 at the Burbank Airport Marriott Hotel and Convention Center.  While I won't be attending, I have been vicariously sharing the enthusiasm of my fellow bloggers and genealogists who will be.  

Until this morning.

There was an article published on the LAWeekly website regarding this event.  I won't say promoting because that is far from what this author did.  Oh, she did get the dates right, as well as the place.  The name of the event is correct.  However, in what the author obviously thought was humor and what LAWeekly curiously gave the go-ahead to amounts to nothing but yellow journalism in my opinion.  In a world where newspaper circulation has been converted to web page views, she's done her job.

The graphic that accompanies her post is the offending item.  I won't even go into what it is, you can look for yourself.  What that graphic infers are stereotypes that have plagued my beloved Southern Appalachians for over 120 years.

This author did nothing more than what reporters have been doing all along.  Sensationalism sells.  That's how the stereotype of the "hillbilly" began.  She references the Hatfield and McCoy feud.  Thanks to journalists of her type, the lies that came out of the hills during the feud have meshed with truth until people don't really know what was real and what was made up to sell newspapers.  In the process, a whole group of people have become the last group that it is still socially acceptable to malign.  Not even acceptable - it's encouraged.

I remember about 15 years ago, I met someone and that person immediately asked, "You're from the South.  Do you wear shoes?  Do you live in a shack?  What about inbreeding?"  Yes, they were serious.  While I handled the situation with humor, I was horrified that in this day and time, people still thought these things, much less expressed them.

My family came from those hills and hollows.  Most have lived there for over three hundred years.  They came from Scotland, Ireland, England, Germany, Switzerland.  They carried their ideas and traditions with them.  The traditions, many times, were not to trust outsiders.  There were generally between 3 and 5 families that traveled to the new frontier together, hence the dreaded examples of inbreeding.  Some married Cherokee women and pushed further into the "Wilderness".  Some fought in the Revolutionary War.  A few of my ancestors were Overmountain Men.  They found their way through the Cumberland Gap - here's a hint - one of my uncles is famous for it.  Uncles and direct ancestors fought in the Civil War, yes on both sides.  I had three direct ancestors who lied about their ages, shaving off between 10 - 20 years so they could go fight!  That courage, that sense of duty to country cost them their lives.  They made it through the war fine, but they were never able to work again.  During the Depression, some of my family made the drive north to find a better life.  I believe that's called "Living the American Dream."

Yes, we have Freedom of Speech, but with that freedom, there is responsibility.  And with that freedom, there are repercussions.  And you, Skylaire Alfvegren, are feeling them now.

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