Southern resistance to vaccines, and the Southern inferiority complex (entailing the Scopes trial); Republican commitment to fossil fuels despite climate change; false claims via social media; fasting and prayer.
Slate: The South’s Resistance to Vaccination Is Not As Incomprehensible As It Seems, subtitled, “The psychological forces driving ‘red COVID’ have deep historical roots.”
Rebecca Onion: What’s the idea behind your argument about a white Southern inferiority complex? Where do you see the dynamic of criticism and retrenchment, over the years?
Angie Maxwell: The phrase inferiority complex was coined by the psychoanalyst Alfred Adler in the early 20th century. He said that we all feel a sense of inferiority sometimes, but for that to develop into a “complex,” there have to be a couple of elements: a consciousness that you are deemed inferior, which comes at some kind of moment when you realize, “People think I am less than.” Then there are some environmental conditions that make that person who has that moment of realization more likely to develop a “complex”: lack of education, poverty, authoritarian religion. In the wider South, as a region, all three of those environmental conditions are prevalent.
Can you describe one example of what that resistance might have looked like, in one of your histories?
In the 1925 Scopes trial, the state of Tennessee had passed the Butler Act, which banned the teaching of evolution in public schools. The ACLU looked for a test case to challenge this, and some community leaders in the town of Dayton, Tennessee, decided it could be a big publicity stunt for the community—to bring interest in a community that was kind of dying off. So they got John Scopes, the football coach and science teacher, to use a textbook with evolution in it, in school, to be the test case.
What people thinking of the Scopes trial today don’t realize is how intense the public scrutiny was, of the region, during the trial. Telegraph wire was laid across the country to cover the trial live. It was on the front page of the New York Times, the L.A. Times, international newspapers like the London Times. Clarence Darrow, the most famous defense attorney in the country, came to defend Scopes, and William Jennings Bryan, the populist leader and former secretary of state under Woodrow Wilson, and three-time candidate for president, came to aid the prosecution. This was a celebrity trial.
At the end of the trial, Scopes was found guilty, which was sort of what his side wanted, because they wanted to appeal. But Clarence Darrow called William Jennings Bryan to the stand, and Bryan testified on the literal truth of the Bible, how Jonah survived inside the whale, and so on. After hours on the stand, he mentioned the idea that the seven days of creation could be interpreted as different time periods, and Darrow seized on that, and said Oh, this could be any kind of time period? Not a 24-hour day? So this was the moment the media covering the trial basically said, This is the gotcha. Civilization and science are victorious.
But a few days later, Bryan, who was devastated that he didn’t get to redeem himself in his closing argument, since the defense moved for an immediate verdict, literally died. Just a few days later!
Salon: Joe Manchin has made $5.2M from his coal company — and gets big donations from fossil-fuel industry, subtitled, “Senator blocking Biden’s agenda has gotten rich off coal, and takes more fossil-fuel money than any other Democrat”
The Atlantic, essay by the great science writer Ed Yong: What Even Counts as Science Writing Anymore?, subtitled, “The pandemic made it clear that science touches everything, and everything touches science.”
Again and again, Republican arguments about the Big Lie election and the dangers of Covid have been simply lies, to appeal to their base.
Salon: Rudy Giuliani openly admits his election fraud “evidence” came from social media posts, subtitled, “Giuliani also admitted he never fact checked any of the claims — that would have made him a ‘terrible lawyer'”
Comment: More evidence for my disrespect for lawyers, who argue their cases, uninterested in the actual truth.
Patheos, Hemant Mehta: Despite Worst-in-Nation COVID Rate, TN Governor Calls for “Fasting and Prayer”