Tuesday, January 31, 2006

A God in Colchester

Did we really need this?

Bush Highly Revered in Utah
Support for the president continues to be nearly unanimous in the tiny town of Randolph.

It's an amusing headline, recalling conquered barbarians worshipping distant Roman emperors as gods. The story, alas, is a mass of faux-anthropological cliches. The residents of ultra-red Randolph, in northern Utah, regard dijon mustard with suspicion. Evoking James Watt, the county is proud of its one Catholic, one Mexican (married to the Catholic), and the pair of African-American twins on the cheerleading squad. Residents have none of the problems afflicting the rest of America (Iraq casualties, homeless people, hurricanes, etc.) and thus no clue about what is going on anywhere else in the nation or world. A political analyst (another journalistic stock character) attributes their avid support for Bush to a lack of cynicism. David Finkel (who did similar portraits of Red and Blue communities before the 2004 election) implies that, like the president they revere, these people are living in a fantasy.

Perhaps they are. But this article tells us more about the Washington Post than Utah. Randolph and its inhabitants are rendered via typical elite media formulas: at best, they are salt-of-the-earth innocents, at worst, rubes. Part of this was doubtless a function of time - Finkel probably had very little of it, making it difficult to get a three dimensional portrait. With more time, perhaps he could have discovered hints of doubt or disquiet under the relentless cheeriness, or plumbed the sources of the town's ideological lockstep in people's lives and experiences. But he didn't, and you don't get the sense that insights were what the Post was after here.