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(431 posts)
Fri Apr 5, 2024, 02:33 PM Apr 5

An Utterly Misleading Book About Rural America White Rural Rage has become a best-seller--and kindled an academic controv [View all]

Last edited Fri Apr 5, 2024, 05:50 PM - Edit history (1)

Hat tip to ocelot2 for finding this article!!!

“Rage is the subject of a new book by the political scientist Tom Schaller and the journalist Paul Waldman. White Rural Rage, specifically. In 255 pages, the authors chart the racism, homophobia, xenophobia, violent predilections, and vulnerability to authoritarianism that they claim make white rural voters a unique “threat to American democracy.” White Rural Rage is a screed lobbed at a familiar target of elite liberal ire. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, the authors appeared on Morning Joe, the book inspired an approving column from The New York Times’ Paul Krugman, and its thesis has been a topic of discussion on podcasts from MSNBC’s Chuck Todd and the right-wing firebrand Charlie Kirk. The book has become a New York Times best seller.

It has also kindled an academic controversy. In the weeks since its publication, a trio of reviews by political scientists have accused Schaller and Waldman of committing what amounts to academic malpractice, alleging that the authors used shoddy methodologies, misinterpreted data, and distorted studies to substantiate their allegations about white rural Americans. I spoke with more than 20 scholars in the tight-knit rural-studies community, most of them cited in White Rural Rage or thanked in the acknowledgments, and they left me convinced that the book is poorly researched and intellectually dishonest.

White Rural Rage illustrates how willing many members of the U.S. media and the public are to believe, and ultimately launder, abusive accusations against an economically disadvantaged group of people that would provoke sympathy if its members had different skin color and voting habits. That this book was able to make it to print—and onto the best-seller list—before anyone noticed that it has significant errors is a testament to how little powerful people think of white rural Americans. As someone who is from the kind of place the authors demonize—a place that is “rural” in the pejorative, rather than literal, sense—I find White Rural Rage personally offensive. I was so frustrated by its indulgence of familiar stereotypes that I aired several intemperate criticisms of the book and its authors on social media. But when I dug deeper, I found that the problems with White Rural Rage extend beyond its anti-rural prejudice. As an academic and a writer, I find Schaller and Waldman’s misuse of other scholars’ research indefensible.

After fact-checking many of the book’s claims and citations, I found a pattern: Most of the problems occur in sections of the book that try to prove that white rural Americans are especially likely to commit or express support for political violence. By bending the facts to fit their chosen scapegoat, Schaller and Waldman not only trade on long-standing stereotypes about dangerous rural people. They mislead the public about the all-too-real threats to our democracy today. As serious scholarship has shown—including some of the very scholarship Schaller and Waldman cite, only to contort it—the right-wing rage we need to worry about is not coming from deep-red rural areas. It is coming from cities and suburbs.”


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Anecdotally, from my southern, white, rural perspective, they (the book authors) are 100% correct about the rage. Lunabell Apr 5 #1
I found it interesting, that many people who consider themselves rural aren't. I hadn't heard of the RUCA metric. LauraInLA Apr 5 #2
While this is absolutely true, Lunabell Apr 5 #5
Oh, I get where you're coming from. I grew up in west Texas LauraInLA Apr 5 #9
Midway, fl. Lunabell Apr 6 #25
Here is a great tool that determines if an area is eleigible for specific grants and aid for rural populations Cheezoholic Apr 5 #7
This one also seems good and offers a lot of different sources LauraInLA Apr 5 #10
I grew up on a farm. That's rural. shrike3 Apr 5 #22
As a northerner is a purple state I agree Cosmocat Apr 6 #32
Oh no! *one* book! Must rush to the defense of rural people! unblock Apr 5 #3
This book says it's talking about rural whites, but it ISN'T. The reason I shared both articles LauraInLA Apr 5 #4
Are you counting women and POC in your "rural folks" question? yagotme Apr 5 #6
Understood. As well as lgtbqia+ and immigrants and so on unblock Apr 5 #16
Yes, the bigotry seems to be coming from everywhere. yagotme Apr 5 #17
For a good while between the 60s and Reagan, the media kept things fairly decent unblock Apr 5 #19
I find myself bigoted today.... and I'm someone who has always accepted different people and customs. albacore Apr 5 #21
Rural America is about 20-30% Democratic. We don't want to isolate rural Democrats. LeftInTX Apr 6 #37
Rural people not allowed to be defended? Bernardo de La Paz Apr 6 #29
Of course. I'm not a fan of over-generalizing or assuming individuals in a group unblock Apr 6 #39
I think what the authors missed is Republicans agingdem Apr 6 #33
That books a good read Johonny Apr 5 #8
I find it interesting that a lot of their sources LauraInLA Apr 5 #12
Dont think that matters Johonny Apr 5 #13
But a lot of the people they're categorizing as rural, really aren't. LauraInLA Apr 5 #14
If you listen to them Johonny Apr 5 #15
Yes, correct. Very interesting, but a lot of people won't listen. betsuni Apr 6 #26
I live in a urban area, however I live in one of the largest congressional districts in the country. LeftInTX Apr 6 #38
Ha! Think your district is gerrymandered? yagotme Apr 11 #40
We also have one like that. CD-35. Number given to the interstate it travels along! LeftInTX Apr 11 #41
Take an exit, change your district. Turn the other way, change it again. yagotme Apr 11 #42
Thank you for posting that article!! Cheezoholic Apr 5 #11
My closest White Friends live in Rural Washington State and Idaho. They are very active in MenloParque Apr 5 #18
I agree -- it's really easy to pick on a stereotype. LauraInLA Apr 5 #20
Thank you codfisherman Apr 6 #31
"elite liberal ire" LOL betsuni Apr 5 #23
The book told people what they wanted to hear Sympthsical Apr 5 #24
What did they tell people? betsuni Apr 6 #28
Let's put it this way Sympthsical Apr 6 #35
More divisiveness hits the bestseller list, great. Think. Again. Apr 6 #27
Not blaming liberal elites for the problems of rural America is divisive? How so? betsuni Apr 6 #30
The book itself, blaming a very specific subgroup... Think. Again. Apr 6 #34
Jim the Waco Kid said it best JanMichael Apr 6 #36
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