The latest strain of divisiveness to become virulent in American society is resentment and anger against “elites,” those pompous know-it-alls who have money, education, power, influence, go to work wearing suits, and listen to NPR. Certainly the Elites have asked for this backlash for a long time and in many ways, deriding “fly-over” country, mocking religion, demonizing communities that are slow accepting sudden cultural shifts like gay marriage, and reflexively using accusations of racism and xenophobia to mark conservatives as a blight on mankind. Nonetheless, the backlash is taking the form of outright bigotry, with elites now under cultural assault as “the other” in some shockingly blunt ways.
A dating service called FarmersOnly is running a series of national TV commercials that portray “city folk” as unfit for human association. These ads started off as benign—my initial reaction that it was just strange to be slicing the dating pool this thin. Here is an example from the first wave…
I can understand Christian Mingle, which aims for a market of singles who regard religion as central to their lives, but occupational dating restrictions seemed like a Saturday Night Live skit. What’s next? PlumbersOnly? AccountantsOnly? TerroristsOnly?
Then the ads turned nasty. First there was this, trading in pure negative stereotyping:
Then FarmersOnly.Com’s pitch became less about farmers finding farmers than about dividing the country between the “good” people and the assholes.
Guess who are the assholes.
Look at these ads:
The message is now that “city folk” are obnoxious, incompetent, stupid, and deserve to be mistreated (and that country folk are sadistic bullies, apparently, but that this is fine). That kind of sharp stereotyping was condemned ( by critics in the cities and the country) back in the Sixties when it was friendly and aimed at “rustics” in popular sitcoms of the era, like “The Beverly Hillbillies,” “Green Acres,” and “The Andy Griffith Show’…and don’t forget “Hee Haw!” In those shows, however, while specific “elites” might behave like jerks and end up in a pile of manure or being humiliated by someone chewing on a stalk of grass, nobody could detect real animus in the plots; for one thing, the country folk were always nice, never mean, and the lessons (about not judging people harshly by their accents, clothes and traditions) were good ones.
That’s not the message FarmersOnly is sending. It’s telling the country that “city folk” are rude morons; we’re invited to cheer as the good, competent country folk strand them in lakes and splash mud on their faces. In the last two, the “heroes” behave disgracefully, but because their victims are presented as worthy of hate, it’s acceptable…. you know, like the Nazis harassing all those greedy Jews on Kristallnacht. “Sign up for free to find a farmer, rancher, cowboy, cowgirl or animal lover here at FarmersOnly.com, an online dating site meant for down to earth folks only,” the site says. “City folk just don’t get it.” Translation: “We know we’re better than them.” This is the essence of prejudice.
I don’t like writing the obvious, but I also don’t like saying “it goes without saying” and then saying it, so I have to just come out and say it: imagine the reaction if the same tone was applied to whites dating blacks, Christians dating Jews, or vegans dating overweight people.
These are bigoted and divisive commercials that work to create a them vs. us environment by class and region. That is the last thing the United States needs right now, or ever needed.