Retract “Pigdemic”

I believe you made a grave editorial error in agreeing to publish Molton’s cartoon [“Pigdemic”] featured in the May 6 edition of your paper. The cartoon is bigoted.

Hinging a commentary using uncreative, overplayed and unrealistic stereotypes is not admirable. But printing it? It’s as if you are endorsing ignorance. I can’t imagine that you want to do that.

To top it off, the sign in the cartoon specifies an area 67 miles away from Asheville, pointing a finger to a very real place with very real people. This targeting takes away any remote chance that I’ve misread the cartoon.

Please join me and my neighbors in building a safe, secure community, and retract your printing of the cartoon.

— Amy Sawyer

Editor’s note: Please see Xpress comments on this subject in the letter “Hypocrisy on hillbillies”.

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25 thoughts on “Retract “Pigdemic”

  1. Mysterylogger

    Perfect example of Asheville Diversity. Got to love that smug and snarky Asheville attitude.

  2. Betty Cloer Wallace

    Molton’s response is no more valid, or humorous, than his “Pigdemic” cartoon. The only difference is in the degree of smugness evident in his continued slur, and the letter writer, Alex Long, deserves better than Molton’s snarky response.

    Molton writes to Long: “Your concern for oppressed rural white people in our community is admirable.” So, exactly where are the “oppressed rural white people in our community”? And who is doing the oppressing? In that backhanded statement Molton continues a century of media stereotype that is trite at best and erroneous at worst, and ultimately debilitating to the people and economy of the region.

    Dating back to the 1850s, when New York cartoonists created the character of Sut Lovingood, the media obsessed over “hillbillies,” as if they had cornered the market on provincialism or racism in America. And now Molton, a century and a half later, continues in the same tired old vein, evidently blind to any historical or economic truths about the Asheville area.

    For Molton’s clichéd cartoon and subsequent limp response to Long, ignorant “hillbillies” (“oppressed rural white people”) once again get trotted out of the woods as the exclusive symbol of the region, the last “acceptable” slur in the country, however tired and trite. Even Saturday Night Live no longer airs such ethnic, racial, or cultural skits about “oppressed” groups. That’s old stuff, passé, and our nation has grown up beyond such base humor—except for a few alleged “humorists” such as Molton who, for lack of better ideas, recycles old stuff.

    Get a grip, Molton. We expect better from you. Apply your creative mind to more creative subject matter, and then we’ll appreciate your work. See if you can make fun of the H-word stereotype “in a nondebilitating way” as Elliston and Fobes suggest. My bet is that you can.

  3. Piffy!

    My God, Betty,

    Are you really going to say you’ve never made a statement using stereotypes?


  4. shadmarsh

    How does a newspaper go about retracting a cartoon? Does this mean I have to return the free copy of the Xpress? Because frankly that seems like a lot more trouble than it is worth.

  5. Betty Cloer Wallace

    Meggitymegs addressed negative stereotypes so well (on the “Fighting Back” thread), and I could not say it better, so I will quote her here: “I think it’s along the same lines of the N-word and the Q-word. You can own it and refer to yourself with it, and others within the community can use it acceptably, but it is still considered offensive if someone from outside those groups uses it—in most cases it is considered hate speech.”

    Mountain “hillbillies” are well aware of this, as are all other minority groups.

  6. Betty Cloer Wallace

    I am truly saddened that an opportunity for serious discussion about a serious century-old problem for many local people has seemingly deteriorated beyond salvation.

    My sensibilities recoiled when I saw Molton’s cartoon alongside my original commentary, but I held out hope that the MX readership would see the cartoon as an example of the inherent problem (which many did). Subsequence response, however, has deteriorated into such off-topic personal bickering that the intent of my commentary has been lost; and my dismay has grown with the refusal of MX and Molton to acknowledge their complicity in allowing the repulsive stereotypes to continue and even to grow more insidious tentacles.

    I think an apology by MX to the targeted people would have been just as futile as Michael Richards (Kramer) trying to apologize for his racial slurs at an LA comedy club, and I neither wanted nor expected that, but I do think MX could have brought an end to the escalating, unfounded insults to local Appalachian people by moderating the posts and by formulating an acceptable response of their own. If MX wants their newspaper to contribute to the growth of themselves and the region, or to expand their readership, then ridiculing local people through insensitive cartoons and unmoderated forums is certainly not the way.

    Ultimately EVERYONE who lives here, native or otherwise, is damaged with such blatant stereotypes that hinder the positive growth and reputation of the region.

    For the past century, companies that have considered WNC for placing new enterprises have looked for local people (“hands”) to do their low-level jobs, while bringing in management and executives (the “brains”) from outside; and now fewer such executives consider Appalachia a place where they would want to bring their own families to live or where intelligent local people with brains might be available for employment. The negative “hillbilly” stereotypes are known far and wide, and are believed as truth. ?

    Further compounding the problem, too many of our local governments are now made up of second-rate pseudo-leaders who are interested primarily in promoting tourism at any cost. But who, we might ask, will own the new hotels and mountaintop second-homes and assorted eateries the appointed tourist boards and self-serving chambers of commerce say we need—and who will be paying increased taxes for infrastructure to support them, and who will be cleaning their rooms and waiting their tables and manicuring their lawns?

    The local “hands,” of course, are expected to do such menial jobs, and to pay more taxes for the opportunity to support the outside opportunists. This expectation is deeply embedded in our history and culture, and it is even embedded in our language. “He/she is a good hand to_____,” people say.

    All of us have perpetuated the stereotype of “ignorant hillbilly” simply by not rising up and fighting it, by picking up our pine knots and declaring war. And the management of MX could help fight it, too, if they wanted to. They could support the diversity in our great region, embrace it to include all people, and maybe even broaden their readership in the meantime.

  7. brebro

    Consider that cartoon mascots on food packages like “Aunt Jemima” and “Uncle Ben” get flack for being outdated stereotypes, but do you hear any outcry over the shoeless hillbilly representing Tennessee Pride sausage? What about the old coot they used to have on Mountain Dew bottles that recently returned in their “retro” design?

    Look at this Cream of Wheat ad and tell me which group comes out looking worse:

  8. Betty Cloer Wallace

    Since my “hillbilly stereotypes” commentary was published last week, I have received several contacts from gay and other-gendered people who have followed the discussion online and who are interested in why a number of persons commenting are so adamant about continuing the use of the word “hillbilly.” Their original supposition was that a local Asheville-area “billy foundation” or “hill billy clubs” (Hill Billy Clubs) were being formed to compete with the existing Billy Foundation and the growing number of Billy Clubs that are part of the original Billy Foundation in California.

    After I assured them that I knew nothing of their organization and that my commentary was certainly not intended to be representative of or contrary to or competitive with their mission, they began researching the matter and now say they are no longer concerned that their organizational charter is being infringed upon—but that they are concerned that continued use of the historical negative stereotypes for Appalachian “hillbillies” will be detrimental to “the growth and well-being” of their Billy Foundation in the future. Therefore, they say, they are supportive of all efforts to “excise the negative Appalachian ‘hillbilly’ word from the English language” so that the “supporters of the ‘hillbilly’ word with its history of negative connotations will not detract from the mission of the Billy Foundation and cast it in a bad light.”

    As information for MX and to any of you who have participated in this discussion, here is information that one of the aforementioned persons sent me, asking me to pass it on to the MX readership:

    /// The Billy Foundation is a non-profit organization in California with 501(c)3 status, guided by a Board of Directors that meets monthly to steer the growth of the organization. Through this Foundation, we produce six large gatherings each year and administer the Billy Emergency Support Fund for members. The foundation and associated clubs seek to foster the following: compassion, generosity, honesty, and respect for ourselves and for others; responsibility for ourselves, to each other, and to our community, including those in need; personal expression and growth; fun, frolic, and fabulousness; celebration of our sexual and spiritual natures; an environment conducive to our physical, emotional, and sexual health, safety, and well- being; welcoming and active integration of new Billys as well as openness to friends and family who share our values; diversity that embraces differences including race and ethnicity, class, age, body type, HIV status, physical ability, education, and financial circumstances. We welcome gay- identified transmen. the building of bridges to other communities that support our mission and share our values; authenticity; reverence for nature; and commitment to resolving conflict through active engagement. We encourage ourselves to be present and mindful by advocating an environment free of drugs and alcohol at our gatherings. We envision the creation of a world based on principles of nonviolence, sustainability, cooperation, service, and the building of deeper wisdom through shared perspective. Heart Circle is our central ritual and consensus is our process; they embody our values. If anyone wants to form a legitimate club as part of the Billy Foundation, we invite you to contact us online at ///

    My personal feeling about this information and turn of events is simply, “Now ain’t life always a surprise.” (BCW)

  9. Betty Cloer Wallace

    John wrote: “I’d like to see if Molton has the stones to make equally intense stereotypical cartoons about other groups. Let’s see him go after the hispanic, gay, black, women, arab, native american, etc groups.”

    John, Molton’s cartoon was a slap in the face of local people on the same order of the professor saying right to Charles Frazier’s face at a dinner party, “Imagine that, a hillbilly with a PhD!”

    Neither Molton nor the professor would ever blatantly deliver a slap in the face like that to any of those other groups. Only “hillbillies” get that special treatment, since we’re expected to be so dumb as not to even know we’re being demeaned.

    We have all kinds of ways in which people are segregated into their separate little cubicles–sometimes consciously, sometime not. Sometimes it’s obvious, e.g. what kind of uniform one is expected to wear for certain jobs. But other kinds of segregation are far more subtle and insidious: invisible uniforms of sexism, ageism, racism, gender-ism, place-ism, accent-ism, dialect-ism.

    Susan Boyle unexpectedly breaking out of her expected cubicle (middle aged, dowdy) was a joy to see; and even the judges had the good grace to apologize to her for their preconceived low expectations.

  10. Susannah G

    “Imagine that, a hillbilly with a PhD!”

    Excuse me, but where I’m from we call a degree holding Southern Appalachian a “Hill William”.

    I’ve been hearing that joke my whole life…

  11. Betty Cloer Wallace

    Susannah G,

    The slur Charles Frazier received happened in Colorado, and it was not a joke.

  12. Betty Cloer Wallace

    Megittymegs wrote: “I am as equally offended when someone calls me a hillbilly as when someone calls me a b****, c***, w****, or any number of discriminatory things based on aspects of my existence that I neither have control over nor embody as typifying the stereotype.”

    1. I so agree with you, Megittymegs, and your statement made me start thinking about an even deeper issue here, and a different issue regarding the “Pigdemics” cartoon and our responses to hillbilly stereotypes.

    2. I suspect Meggitymegs herself inserted the asterisks in her statement, since MX’s censorship of my comments differed in regard to keystroke, but I do not know.

    3. On the “Fighting Back” thread (for the record), my use of a word for a part of the female anatomy that is used internationally in “Vagina Monologues” discussions (it’s a favorite on college campuses) was censored by MX in this manner: “####”

    4. That’s OK by me, since I don’t go around using that word much anyway. In fact, not at all.

    5. But, I do wonder now why MX allowed my use of the word “vagina” to be printed but not THAT word. Why was it so offensive to MX that they censored it as “####”?

    6. Actually, my underlying questions are even deeper.

    7. Is this a gender issue rather than a hillbilly issue?

    8. Or is it a censorship issue?

    9. Why is it OK for MX to print and defend a cartoon about men fornicating with pigs but words for women that men often use (“XXXX” and “b****, c***, w****”) are so unmentionable as to be worthy of censorship?

    10. Which is worse?

    11. Is one truly worthy of censorship but not the other?

    12. Why?

  13. shadmarsh

    Will this thread ever end?

    How can so many people have this much to say about a man on pig joke?

  14. RonHarvey

    Will the MountainX now start deriding Mexican-Canadians? It’s only a little man on pig joke. Right?

    Alberta Pigs Likely Infected with Flu from Worker

    In what would be the first reported case of its kind, a farm worker with the swine flu virus is believed to have infected about 200 pigs in Alberta, a top official with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said Saturday.

    Senior research scientist Dr. Karuna Karunakaran works in the vaccine research lab at the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control during a demonstration for media in Vancouver on Thursday. Twenty-two cases of swine flu are now confirmed in B.C.

    Dr. Brian Evans, executive vice-president of the CFIA, said at a news conference in Ottawa that the pigs were apparently infected by a farm worker who had recently been in Mexico and fell ill upon his return.

    The worker returned from Mexico on April 12 and worked at the Alberta farm two days later. He “may have exposed pigs there to the illness,” Evans told reporters.

    The man has since recovered. The pigs are also recovering and the herd in question has been quarantined, he said. Samples from the infected pigs are being analyzed.

    “We have found the virus is the one being tracked in the human population,” Evans said. About 10 per cent of the 2,200 pigs at the farm exhibited flu-like symptoms such as loss of appetite or fever, he said.

    “I want to be clear — there is no food safety concern related to this finding,” said Evans.

    It is common for pigs to contract influenza, he said. But this is the first known case of the H1N1 virus being transmitted from humans to pigs.

    Normally, detecting influenza in pigs wouldn’t generate a response from food safety officials, but with an international flu outbreak the current circumstances are different, Evans said.

    “The chance that these pigs could transfer virus to a person is remote,” said Evans.

    The outbreak among pigs, he said, was confined to the herd in question as none of the pigs have been moved outside the farm or sold elsewhere.

  15. Betty Cloer Wallace

    Fortunately some “outlanders” do “get it” and are embarrassed by the bigotry of the “Pigdemic” and “Stereotypes” cartoons, but the fact remains that no one outside of an abused group can truly “feel” it without having “felt” it, without having experienced that shameful disregard personally.

    No one without minority physical characteristics or any other personal or cultural differences can truly “feel” that discrimination. No one other than someone with a mountain accent (or any other accent or dialect outside the prevailing norm) can “feel” a job interviewer lose interest when you open your mouth to answer a question.

    Bigotry and discrimination based on media stereotypes affect us on so many levels — personal and economic — and the effects are multigenerational.

  16. Betty Cloer Wallace

    Susannah G wrote: ” The most useful response to insult is to ignore it (Pigdemic cartoon), rise above it, and move on- think how many more people have seen this cartoon now that there has been an outcry- if there had been no controversy it would have been forgotten in a day. How many more people have heard the phrase “nappy headed ho” because of controversy in the media, versus the number of people who would actually have listened to Don Imus’ radio program in the first place?”

    Remember, Susannah, that Imus was fired for making that “nappy headed ho” comment, and he will certainly not be so blatantly racist in such a manner again. It will happen again, of course, but his firing did dampen the racism coming out of many mouths. Same thing with Kramer’s racist language in the LA comedy club. Same thing with the closing of the old Sambo’s Pancake Houses.

    Southern Appalachian people have tried to overlook blatant cultural stereotypes for over a century to no avail. Trying to ignore the insult and taking a “step-n-fetchit” response has reinforced it and perpetuated it in the minds of so many people that they think it is all right to continue the insult.

    Simply ignoring it and allowing it to continue in such a blatant manner is an awful legacy of submission to leave to our children and grandchildren.

  17. Eli Cohen

    Betty, you’re not a separate minority group, the term hillbilly simply means rural white trash. Move somewhere else, where your kids can get an education and find a decent job and keep them away from the livestock and you won’t have to complain about it anymore.

  18. Betty Cloer Wallace

    Eli Cohen wrote: “The term hillbilly simply means rural white trash. Move somewhere else, where your kids can get an education and find a decent job and keep them away from the livestock…”

    Shades of Bill O’Reilly! He suggested Miami as the place for our children to move “to save themselves.”

  19. travelah

    Bety, don’t take Eli too seriously. Just picture that mug with 50 inches of waist jammed into a chair too tight having devoured far more than his share of good kosher BBQ.

  20. Eli Cohen

    But T, it’s a serious question! Why stay in a place that has limited opportunities for you and your children? Only the weak ones stay behind…and by the way, I love Lexington Barbecue, it’s the best.

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