State politics blog West Virginia Blue informed me last month that "Bill O'Reilly Hates You." Now, I already knew that Bill O'Reilly hates me, as a woman, and as a person with more learnin' than him, but I was quite surprised that he hates Appalachians. (I'm not pretending to be an Appalachian--I'm an Iowa farm girl, and wouldn't dream of putting on airs. Still, I feel offended on their behalf, and on behalf of all put-down rural people.) I thought that my neighbors were part of "Real America," and that they had Bill's approval. I know a majority of West Virginians voted for George W. Bush twice, and many of them watch Fox News regularly. Turns out, Bill runs with the inbred, toothless, drunken hillbilly story, (just like the Yankee newspapers did in Hatfield and McCoy days!) and thinks Appalachians should all leave home for Miami.
I think Bill may be a little confused about Appalachia's geographical identity. Living in New York City as he does, he's probably confusing it with "The South." Or perhaps he doesn't know about the "Hillbilly Highway."
The bona fide Appalachian member of our household believes that negative stereotypes should be encouraged, as they serve to discourage annoying tourists and the sort of people who move here and want to make it like the place they moved away from. He only regrets that Bill didn't go for "inbred hillbilly cannibals," as seen in Wrong Turn.
For a serious response to Bill's nasty rant, see Betty Cloer Wallace's essay on Dave Tabler's excellent blog, Appalachian History. She is eloquent, but I have mixed feelings about campaigns against "hillbilly" stereotypes because I believe the real problem is a matter of social class, not ethnicity. Poor whites are especially hated by the well-to-do classes because their existence reminds the wealthy that privilege can be lost--it could happen to them. Believing that poverty is "their problem," because of some racial, ethnic, or regional identity keeps that fear at bay. I expect this sort of labeling to get worse with increasing fears of hard economic times.