Is West Virginia’s anger misplaced?


The Elk River, where a chemical spill was reported last week, flows into the Kanawha River on a pretty winter day in Charleston Tuesday.


Monday night a Detroit Free Press reporter and self-described humorist invoked the wrath of West Virginians everywhere when she tweeted a tasteless incest joke. It was callous and ignorant, especially considering what we’ve been through in the past five days. More than that, it was unoriginal and not funny. Incest jokes are tired. We’ve heard it all before, haven’t we?

She proved what I’ve always known about my home state: we don’t let people mess with us. We are fiercely loyal and do not take lightly any use of the stereotypes that people have tried to peg us with. We do not let anyone get away with calling us names, especially when we know they’re not true. I don’t blame anyone for being angry over her words.

But while you’re tweeting at her and her employer, asking for her resignation over something she’s already apologized for and removed, remember the things that matter.

Her words were stupid, to be sure. But no one has gotten physically ill after reading them. No one  has had to stop bathing in and drinking tap water because of what she said. We should be so angry about what happened to our water.

It is not OK. It’s not OK that we don’t know what future harmful effects exposure to the chemical could have. It’s not OK that no one was prepared for this, despite the chemical being stored so close to the water intake. It’s not OK that restaurants lost untold amounts of money when they closed due to a lack of usable water. It’s not OK that my water and that of many others has been deemed “safe” to drink again but I’m still wary of it.

West Virginia, be mad. Be outraged. But keep it focused on the right things.

31 thoughts on “Is West Virginia’s anger misplaced?

  1. Elizabeth Gaucher says:

    You are right on it. I see this even more now that I’ve moved away. The troops rally against perceived threats vs. real threats, outsiders vs. those inside the castle walls who did this. I am not gaining any popularity by pointing it out, and you won’t either.

    It’s still true.

    It’s still important to speak it.

    • WVUnionMan says:

      Sad thing is…as both of you well know…West Virginians always catch it from every direction. We have developed a whole suit of armour and use it daily. It’s our survival instinct to bite back when back-bitten. We are loyal, cynical and above all forgiving. We just never forget…good and bad.

    • nancy ash says:

      YOUR efforts, are misplaced. Instead of allowing for a sigh of relief and hopes of less harm, you attacked the victims by continuing to justify an unprovoked attack. Yes WE are angry, and you allow us one more reason to be.

      • lorithebrave says:

        I’m not justifying what she said. It was ignorant. I’m not “attacking” the victims either. I’m simply saying there are bigger issues than someone who thinks we’re having sex with our cousins. That’s absurd. So why are we giving her the attention she’s seeking? Do we think she’ll change her opinion about us? No, she won’t but now she knows we’re also very angry.

      • Elizabeth Gaucher says:

        Lori, no one with sense thinks it is your job to “allow for a sigh of relief.” Someone needs that? Take it. Don’t ask permission and don’t go picking fights.

        No one here has ever “justified” the incest banter. But understand, it is a distraction. It has nothing to do with the chemical spill, and whining around about some idiot in Detroit who couldn’t tweet her way out of a paper bag, acting like it has any bearing on the chemical spill, is irresponsible.

      • rick taylor says:

        People in WV will not stand for a bad joke made about them. But they will stand to be made fools out of by the rich Republicans that use them to kill my home state? Ever since our great president was elected, no thanks to WV, all we have heard from WV is how they do not want EPA regulations in their state. Well you got it. The reason so many people were on the same water company, is because coal has already poisoned all the land water and you cannot drink well water there. From this old boy from Welch to anyone in WV MAKE UP YOUR MIND, do you want dirty Republican money or air and water? And when you don’t want our regulations to keep you safe, don’t want our money to clean up the mess you supported.

    • Nicholas Kidd says:

      Bigotry is bigotry. The only difference is the severity of which it occurs, and the nature in which it is applied. It is the act of being dehumanized and having one’s complaints or plight marginalized. If you don’t challenge it, if you don’t engage the arrogance it hides behind you will never change it. It will remain socially acceptable. There will always be “bigger” problems, but by the cumulative effect of our defiance to the status quo which misrepresents us will we create change. There were bigger problems than segregation faced by black Americans in the 1950s and 60s, and yet the sit ins and defiance had an immense impact. Obviously the bigotry that people from WV and Appalachia face is not comparable in severity to what was faced in the civil rights movement, but that does not undermine the validity of the comparison of the mechanics with which both were exacted.

      There is no difference between the social acceptability of a random reporter firing off an insensitive tweet at no one in particular, and former coworkers of mine who spread rumors that my wife was biologically related to me and our child was the product of incest. They are both protected by the same cultural norms.

      With all due respect to Lori here she is completely blind to the bigger picture.

      • Nicholas Kidd says:

        Another point to add: why is it that there is this assumption that speaking out against a bigot reporter is taking some kind of focus away from other issues pertaining to the contaminated water? Where does that come from? In the same way that empathy isn’t a finite resource, neither is outrage. Are people in these comments and the author of this post actually suggesting that people who have had their children burned, have lost wages, have been sent to the hospital, and are currently living in fear that their “safe” water which still smells…still burns them will cause them long term harm will somehow forget about all of that because they’re upset with reporter who cracked a joke about incest? .

    • rick taylor says:

      Let’s get back to facts, Phil of Duck fame was not fired and millions of people defended his right to free speach. To these deople do you only have free speach if it is about someone you do not agree with? That is fact 1. Fact 2, WV is one of if not the poorest states in the country, near the botton in everything, health, education, wealth, and yet WV in the last 4 election and back in the 80’s voted for a party and men that keep them that way. The people up there get up with their ignorance and bash president Obama, the EPA and everything good about the government, and scream they don’t want big government in their state. What they are saying is “WE ARE IDIOTS AND ARE TO STUPID TO SEE COAL IS USING US” This happens BECAUSE THEY SUPPORT PEOPLE THAT THINK ONLY OF GREED. If you paint your car pink, don’t bitch to us that you have a pink car, and now the people of WV want to know WHY, 2 WORDS, COAL and YOU. Am I attacking victims? What victims? The people of WV said with their votes that this is fine with them, you are not a victim when you approve what happens to you. The joke is not funny but when the people of WV support stupid things, like coal, then yes America is going to question why the people from there seem to not be very bright, yes people from WV voting for Republican and coal is stupid is it caused by incest? I grew up in McDowell Country I never heard of incest, till I moved. So no I do not think that is it, but something is wrong with people that hurt themselves and a lot of people do just that by supporting the very thing that keep them down, and yes that is stupid, and as Ron White said ” you just can’t fix stupid”

  2. Jim says:

    Phil of Duck fame and some cooking lady last year whose years old email was dug up both lost jobs for less. Words do not hurt me but a member of the press should be terminated for publishing her trash. Apologies and retraction of her free speech fine. Detroit Press is the one who hasn’t taken appropriate action.

    • Elizabeth Gaucher says:

      I agree there is a defensible reason to be angry at that Twitter Detroit person, if that is what you are saying. I did not mean to say there is no reason to feel anger about that. It was pathetic and cruel and ignorant and a softball pitch to trolls.

      BUT…..I think it’s the least of WV’s concerns right now. Save your ammo. She’s not worth it.

  3. Kimberly Stollings says:

    Yes we do feel the need to defend our beautiful state. We do feel the need to defend ourselves against ridicule and bad stereotypes. So do African Americans and Native Americans and anyone else who has been exploited and ridiculed in history! There have been wars over conflict that starts like this! Are we expected to be more tolerant because time has passed or because the laws are more strict? YES! We, as West Virginians are indeed very defensive when it comes to small-minded comments such as this one, but we are also forgiving people. We will defend our good name and our beautiful state, but in a way that shows class and dignity! Because we must still, to this day, prove that we do have class. We do illuminate with dignity! We must not forget who we are simply because someone has commented negatively on us. We are kind, loving, hard working people who deserve respect. If someone outside of our beautiful state chooses to disrespect us, that’s on them! It simply shows their ignorance. I can almost guarantee that this woman has never stepped foot inside of West Virginia’s beautiful boarders and I’m assuming, if she has any since at all, she never will! Because while we are a forgiving natured community, we also defend what is ours. After all, it isn’t just me she insulted, it’s my family and everyone in the world I love and respect!

      • eyesonly11 says:

        While I agree in theory, I think part of the outrage stems from the national media glossing over the human impact of this incident. The news circuit is more concerned with bridgegate than us. And it’s ridiculous. So as we are waking up once again to unusable water for most of us, to read such ignorance is hurtful. I am not from WV but I chose to relocate my family here and I will always stand by my choice. Similarly ignorant commentsmade about the residents left behind in Katrina were blasted. No one questioned their outrage so why ours? I think the people of this state have done enough turning of the cheek. People need to know we are not the dumping ground. It doesn’t need to be our focus, but she and the Detroit free press need to know this isn’t a joking matter.

      • Kimberly Stollings says:

        I am a citizen of West Virginia, but I am one of the few unaffected by this incident. I live in one of the affected counties, however, I do not use the company who distributes the polluted water. Therefore, while I am fortunate not to have to deal with the issues of the water, I am obligated to take the load of the other issue at hand. I cannot do anything about this water issue, but I can stand strong and proud to be a West Virginian and dispute any obscene comments made about my community. And while the water pollution is a major issue for West Virginia, our good name is as well! I won’t wage a war on moronic people, but I will argue back! It’s all I can do for my community right now. I love West Virginia and I will argue until the day I die about it’s beauty and grace and good wholesome citizens. Thank you for your story and I will continue to follow your page because you speak from the heart and mind and that is such a rarity in today’s writers. So, again, thank you.

  4. Sarah Lowther Hensley says:

    The reporter was stupid to say what she did. People were right to call her on it. But then – move on. We can’t let our focus be pulled away from the larger issue here – which is what steps will we take to make sure those responsible for this water emergency are held accountable and that future such problems are headed off. That’s where our outrage should be focused. You have hit the nail on the head.

  5. B. White says:

    The woman wanted some attention so she knew how to get it. She wanted her name out there. She just showed her ignorance.

  6. Honeybee says:

    It is possible to upset at two things at once. West Virginians are upset about both subjects and rightfully so. Yes the water crisis is the bigger of the two issues but it doesnt mean that people should just let this so called journalist get away with her immature, rude uneducated comments. By all means she needed called out on it and told how it is. J/s

    • Meems says:

      Absolutely right, Honeybee. One thing had nothing to do with the other. Why is Lorithebrave lumping them together and declaring the toxic water the one thing we should be outraged over? We sure as he!! can be outraged over both, and rightfully so!

  7. Beth Smith says:

    Very well said. Direct your anger towards the chain of carelessness that caused the poisoned water. Pay no mind to silly fools with no original words.

  8. M L R says:

    I think that it is ok to be angry over both issues. What we are going through right now was unthinkable to any of us little more than a week ago. For someone to tweet such trash at time when we are already dealing with this issue is unconsciounable. and unprofessional. She is supposed to be a professional journalist and at my age I darn well expect you to act like one if you are going to carry the title. If she wants to crack jokes on twitter then she should consider a career in comedy instead because she has no business in the career she is in. A professional needs to carry themselves with a higher level of decorum and respect and there is nothing wrong with people expecting such. The problem is with people who don’t. As long as we accept crassness and mediocrity that is what we get and it is apparent in how our society is devolving.

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