How JD Vance’s “Hillbilly Elegy” misrepresents Appalachia
January 14, 2021

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Transcript of discussion

Chuck and Big John dissect the book by JD Vance, Hillbilly Elegy, in part 1 of their series on the damage it is doing to Appalachia.

John Dammit Vance

Chuck Corra: We’re talking about hillbilly elegy today, john, why don’t you cue some of our listeners into what Hillbilly Elegy is and who JD Vance is. Or as I call him John Dammit Vance.

Big John Isner: Hillbilly Elegy is written by obviously JD Vance

Chuck Corra: John Dammit is what his name stands for. John Dammit Vance.

An introduction to the dumpster fire book, Hillbilly Elegy

Big John Isner:  Anyway Hillbilly Elegy is essentially what he calls a memoir. And it’s about JD Vance. He tells this story about growing up with a family that is in Appalachia. He has a strict upbringing and essentially tells us a story about his upbringing and then correlates it to what the rest of Appalachia is quote-unquote, going through. 

Chuck Corra:  JD Vance went to Yale, became the principal at a venture capital firm owned by Peter Thiel. Your typical Appalachian story of success, for sure.  And he wrote this book that became incredibly popular and was on the New York Times bestseller list for a really long time. And it talked about his life growing up, and people took it as a handbook for Appalachia and some odd terms.

In 2017, he was brought on to make sense of the non-college-educated working class in Appalachia. And he has since become a USe in contributing. And just found this out today, John, that he thought about running against Sherrod Brown in the 2018 Ohio US Senate race. 

Big John Isner: Yeah, I knew that.

JD Vance had political ambitions early on

Chuck Corra: He’s not someone super well-known outside of this book, so why are we covering this? I think a lot of people who might be listening to this already, Nova hillbilly, Elegy, maybe Reddit, maybe you’re pissed off about it, but if you don’t know about it, It’s essentially J D has written kind of his life story up unto this point, growing up in an Appalachian town of Jackson, Kentucky, but also in a rust belt town of Middletown Ohio.

We’ll get into the fact that he doesn’t do a great job of delineating between the two  it’s becoming international bestseller. And like I mentioned before, lots of people have read it and view it as.  The definitive book that describes Appalachia, which is extremely problematic that we’re going to talk about.

It’s also been used in many academic courses in different high schools and college curricula, which I find troubling. And it is  And I put lots of well-meaning white people read the book. It was just true. We are just sharing lots of, oh, I would say, lots of book clubs, like reading the book and talking about it.

Many well-meaning white people from the coasts like to read it and talk about how misunderstood people fly over the country, as they call it, are. But they’re big reason why we’re talking about it and why we’re talking about it now. Is that a movie is being made about it. Now the book came out; I want to say, was it 20, 15, 20, 16, John?

Yeah, I think so. And so it’s  how it’s like hay day. There’ve been a lot of responses written to it. It’s green-lit into a movie, not just a movie. Ron Howard is directing it, which means that already it’s getting a lot of Oscar buzz. It’s got Glenn close.

Senate’s got Amy Adams, two big headlining actresses. So this movie is going to get a lot of attention. And that’s why we’re talking about this particular book right now. And the movie I think  is slated to be released on Netflix later in the year. So, what we’re trying to do with this not only is talk about the book and talk about the problems with the book and its harm on Appalachia, but also just like at this time now, before this movie starts to really get a lot of.

Steam and a lot of attention, we want to make sure that we have set the record about it straight from our perspective before that comes out because it will get a lot of attention when it comes out. And I think  that is makes it all the more relevant. We’re planning on this being a three-part series today; we’re going to be talking about the book and breaking down some of the more problematic parts of it.

Next week, we will discuss the harm that it has done to Appalachia and the region’s perception. And then, for the third episode in this series, we’re going to be talking about the responses to it that have already taken place, and they’ve already been written, and how they set up the discussion for the future.

So that being said, John. What

Big John Isner: never fails. 

 Chuck Corra: They’re just excited, man. They’re like, yeah. 

Big John Isner: Yeah. Taylor’s not here. So they’re pissed. They’re pissed. 

Chuck Corra: No one em that that puppet Chino, the what? The puppet Chino. She always posts about the puppet Chino. Oh, 

Big John Isner: she’s literally bringing some home now. 

Chuck Corra: See. 

Big John Isner: She’s also bringing me Starbucks.

I can get through this. 

Chuck Corra: episode, so we’re going to get started. And the first thing we’re going to talk about is the underlying story in this book. We need to lay the foundation, and that’s the way we’re going to do it. John, take us through the actual story.  

Big John Isner: JD Vance starts out by telling us a bit of himself.

 At the current time, he wants everybody to know that he went to Yale.  That’s mentioned a lot for a while. I thought that the book’s whole premise was just to tell us that he was going and that he went to law school. It turns out it was. 

Chuck Corra: We can attest that to being, not that special, to go to a not, 

Big John Isner: and I don’t know why you need to write a book about it, but anyway, so JD Vance essentially uses this book to tell us about his childhood.

His mom and how she had these drug issues and was constantly going from boyfriend to boyfriend. His mom and how she had these drug issues and was continually going from boyfriend to boyfriend. It was extremely rough, and Chuck and I both see that and understand what he had to go through. And we’ll talk about that as we go through some of the issues with the book; he also even talks a bit of it.

And that really essentially messed with him because he never really had that father figure, at least not that father figure that was constantly in his life except for his grandfather. And those are the two. The main characters would be the grandmother and grandfather besides JD.  And those were the ones that were really his parental figures and the ones that he leaned on the most to get through everything.

So he takes us through childhood all the way through law school and tells us about his life story. While also telling us about his perception of Appalachia. 

 Chuck Corra: That’s a good summary of the book, and I think. When we need to draw on the specific examples, we will, as we get into this. But like John mentioned the way that the book is written as both the narrative style of him telling a story and then broader explanations about society in Appalachia and culture in Appalachia that he extrapolates from those experiences many times with new evidence that he even talked to, the people that he proclaims to know so much about, or that is really just pulling off of his own one-off experiences.

The biggest thing about this book.  John and I will talk through several things that we find problematic here. Still, the biggest takeaway in our view is that JD uses personal experiences and unsubstantiated observations that he’s made to make broad, sweeping accusations about an entire region of the country.

And that’s the most significant and most problematic part of this book. And we’ll get into some of those specific examples, but a lot of times, he’ll take his own personal experience and use it to generalize an entire culture. And it’s just, as you will find it as a very.  It just is not representative of the region.

Let’s start with one of the first examples that he draws from John. He talks about working at a tile distribution company before going to college. And talks about a guy specifically who routinely would take long bathroom breaks and played hooky to escape work. 

Big John Isner: Yeah. So essentially, this guy.  J D starts out working, and of course, JD does a great job.

He constantly shows up to work on time. He’s the best worker.  The best worker you could ask for really a great worker, at least that’s what he tells us now. And that’s something that you’ll see throughout the book is that everybody else has issues except for JD.  In terms of the admits some faults, he also exempts himself from some of these Appalachia and  Stereotypes, but we’ll talk about that later.

 In this story specifically, a guy works at the shop with him and essentially takes these hour-long breaks to go to the bathroom and do all these other things. And finally gets fired. And when he gets fired, instead of saying  I, I shouldn’t have been doing this or apologize.

After the person who fires him and says, how could you do this to me? He doesn’t have a kid and says it’s really unfair to him. And then JD Vance draws a correlation between this guy’s story and the rest of Appalachia. And he says, essentially, this guy is the embodiment of what Appalachia. 

Chuck Corra: is.

W, which is insane that you would first take one example of a guy you worked with at a title company in college to extrapolate entire opinion about a region. But again, you mentioned, this is a theme that he draws from so many different times. It’s like he took a notepad and wrote this down and thought, Aw, this is everyone.

Big John Isner: Yeah. And this is, I say, I know a lot of people who have really great memories, right? I may not be one of them cause I forget things a lot, but there is no way in hell. I would tell you the exact specifications of something that happened. 10, 15, 20 years ago. It’s just not gonna, that’s not going to happen.

Some of these stories are frivolous. I don’t think they’re true, but he’s gonna obviously deny that, but he uses these stories to continue to push a narrative. 

  Chuck Corra: And it tells a good story, right? A real juicy story about this is people who aren’t working hard, but what it ignores is the other people working at that tile distribution company that we’re working on.

It. Doesn’t talk about them, including allegedly himself. So we’ve talked about yourself. Hey, it’s also hilarious because instead of focusing on. This guy, you know what? He could have focused on the guy who owns the business, who created as a good business Annapolis. Yup. But he didn’t. He chose to focus on the negative because JD Vance, as you read the book, you’ll know, is the negative guy?

Big John Isner: He’s very pessimistic. He’s only optimistic about himself, and that’s it.  And so this is again, are you running theme? He will pull the negative out of everything instead of focusing on the good. That’s the type of guy he is. And that’s what makes. So why don’t we 

Chuck Corra: move on from that example? And talk about how he describes one of his is one of the places he lived in growing up, Jackson, Kentucky, which when you read it, It sounds like he describes it as a place that he really loved.

But when you actually start getting into his example, he just talks about the people from there, which says, John, he described it as a place where quote and these are direct quotes, by the way, quote, nobody’s interested in holding down a job. One example that he draws from is walking through a neighborhood, I think with his uncle.

And he’s in, this is all conversations he’s having with his uncle, by the way, whom apparently, according to the book, he doesn’t talk to all that. Often his uncle told him when they were walking by this house, he said, it’s all full of drug addicts and one man who can find the time to make eight children, but not the time to support them.

And he said he told me the man had no job and was proud of it. And then JD Vance took this and said that it represents much about the lives of the people in Jackson. It’s a thing to say about the place where you grew up, and you seem to admire that nobody’s interested in holding a job there and that they just were proud of that.

Big John Isner: Yeah. Again, just focusing on. Something first off, who knows if this story is true because of how long ago it was. But secondly, there is so much shit talking in small communities.  Everywhere, not just Appalachia, but everywhere. So who knows  what his uncle actually knew about this guy or the fact that JD vans didn’t know shit about this 

Chuck Corra: and talk to him.

No, I didn’t talk to him, talked. 

Big John Isner: to him. He didn’t know anything about him. He used this story to create another narrative because he knew that if he used this narrative and would piss enough people off, it would get more people to buy the book. And he’d be in New York Time’s bestseller.

That was his only goal. 

Chuck Corra: here taking high school gossip, then writing it into a book that you’re going to teach people about high school for it’s stupid. And it’s also just, of course, it’s offensive. Like it, it, you take an example that may or may not even be true and use it to describe an entire town where you have a lot of roots in that’s, I don’t know.

That’s a, it looks pretty disrespectful to the people of Jackson. Number one, one of the other things he said about this too, which just, I think, irks me a lot is that. He was talking broadly. I believe about the people at Jackson. He said the people are physically unhealthy, and without government assistance, they lack treatment for the most fundamental problems.

Most importantly, they’re mean about it. They will hesitate to open their lives up to others for the simple reason that they don’t want to be judged.  I won’t get into the irony of that statement of coming from the guy who walks by people’s houses and judges, the people within they’re not even talking them, but this is just again like he has to taking these destructive stereotypes of Appalachia and giving life and breathing life into them.

Big John Isner: And it’s not true.  Yes, there are people that. 

Chuck Corra: Yeah, that’s important to say too. There are 

Big John Isner: people that embody this, who they are everywhere that he took. And this is what I think. Most people should know about this. He took something in the country and correlated it to a region, and said, oh, it’s only happening here.

It’s happening all over the country now, where I can pick and choose anything. I want to say negative about a particular area and then correlate it to that area. I could say things about Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles. It’s not that hard.

And so what he did was he. He was able to pick and choose the things that he wanted to mention. And this is one of them, and he wants to, and I’m glad you mentioned the irony behind this. He wants to talk about people, quote, unquote, being mean. This dude made a million; he made millions of dollars being mean.

It was literally as that’s all it is. The book 

Chuck Corra: is. And it’s like the burn book from mean girls. 

Big John Isner: Exactly. And let me tell you this Appalachia. Honestly, we don’t give a shit about JD Vance, and we don’t give a shit that he was mean. We offer a shit because of the problems that this book has created.

Chuck Corra: Yeah. And we, and look just as JD, Vance does not speak for all Appalachians. Neither do we also; we’re not putting ourselves out there as if we do, unlike him, but this is important because so many people take what he is saying as gospel. That’s what’s so problematic about this. It’s not that it’s like JD van spewing some bullshit.

 If he put this in a string of tweets, he’d just be  10 million other people that did that, but he’s made a boatload of money off this book. He’s; it’s getting made into a movie. It’s going to get a lot more attention, and people are going to continue to look at this like they did after the 2016 election, when you had a bunch of people from California in New York airdrop into different parts of Appalachia with a notepad and a pencil, like wanting to talk to the real Americans.

And so he’s their false prophet in that sense. And it’s just it. Again, like another poor example of somebody who purports to know about the region but then reinforces the harmful stereotypes that have hurt the region for so long. And this is just one of many examples of, yeah. 

Big John Isner: And I actually have a story about this.

When I had mentioned to one of my coworkers that we were covering hillbilly Elegy. And at that time, I was relistening to the book.  She had told me that she loved the book and that she had listened to it before she moved to Appalachia and found that.  Essentially she thought what he was talking about was true.

So we had about an hour conversation on why a lot of the shit he says is complete horseshit. She was able to break down any false narrative that she had learned from this book. But the point is that if she had not talked to me about it, she would have continued to think that way. That’s why this book is trouble.

That’s why this movie will be a considerable trouble 

Chuck Corra: for them. He doesn’t just talk about people in Jackson. He talks about what the people he describes as hillbillies in general, which doesn’t, it’s like a loosely defined term, but. Say that it’s people in the region where he was from and Appalachia as a whole.

Cause that by context seems to be the case. Again, like just an example of where I, in my opinion, reiterate just like your quintessential Republican talking points throughout this entire book about laziness and just abusing the welfare system. And so one thing that he says is, and this is just when he’s talking about people in general, he says avoidance and wishful thinking are forms of coping that hillbillies learned to deal with uncomfortable truths by avoiding them or pretending better facts.

And it makes it hard to look at themselves, honestly. Okay. Talk about the armchair psychologist here. All right. So I heard, I thought that he went to law school. But here he’s acting like he is just like some psychiatrist he’s diagnosed this significant problem of hillbillies. They’re all just are avoiding things and re-operate on wishful thinking.

Big John Isner: You’re exactly right. And one of the funniest things about him passing judgment on people is that he actually says I don’t want to equate poverty to laziness during the second chapter. Poverty is occurring because of inactivity. And then these are the things that he says because he thinks them.   Let’s not beat around the Bush.

 This is a guy who has ideals currently that think this way. And obviously, this book resembles and 

Chuck Corra: Yeah, that’s like the saying the whole I’m not racist, but yeah, 

Big John Isner: exactly. He is always the best. Trying to position himself because, let’s be frank, this guy knew or at least knows that he wants to get into politics.

And so he doesn’t want to put himself in a box. So he always tries to work his way around, around it. He’s terrible at it. He’s horrible at it.  But he certainly tried. 

Chuck Corra: He’s terrible at it, but one of the problems is that many people who read this and talk about it don’t dig beyond the surface level.

It is more of a broad topic that we’ve alluded to a little bit, and we want to dive into it is this notion that he equates receiving welfare, receiving public assistance in any form as being like, like akin to laziness. And that’s where he is put to an advantage. And that’s what we’re trying to get at here.

I know this is personal for John, and it’s personal and meaningful in the sense that  It just is such a false assumption in so many ways. When he’s talking about Appalachia, he says the people are hardworking – except, of course, for the many food stamp recipients who show little interest in hard work. That is his narrative. And it’s one of the stereotypes that I think has been the most harmful to Appalachia. And it’s one of the stereotypes that I think has been the most damaging to Appalachia.

That he references in the book. He said he had a neighbor that was a lifetime welfare recipient who would talk about industriousness and build a construct in her head of not being a moocher. Wow. So far, if I’m his neighbor, I’m going to feel like shit after reading this. We don’t know. Maybe his neighbor was abusing the welfare system.

Maybe that’s the case. That’s entirely possible. But again, as we go back to it, you can’t assume something as fact based on a one-off experience and anecdotal evidence, like he’s essentially calling all food stamp recipients lazy. 

Big John Isner: Exactly. That, and this is a guy.  We’ll talk about how he really was his natural upbringing, things like that.

But this guy never had to worry about being on welfare because he always had his grandparents and his grandparents were pretty well off. And we can talk about that, but this guy never had to worry about these things. Like he did have a rough childhood. His mom was all over the place. She was addicted to drugs. His father wasn’t there and.

I think the thing that makes me the maddest about JD Vance is that his story and my story are very similar. Both of us grew up without our fathers, which obviously is a shame. It’s something that you hope that others don’t have to go through, but there’s a big difference between JD Vance and me, and that’s the fact that JD Vance when he looked around, he said that he saw several families that looked like to.

But in actuality, that wasn’t the case of at least for me. I always looked at other families in Appalachia and thought, why can’t my family be like that?  It’s obviously a different perspective than what JD went through, which is, again, why I think that there may be an underlying issue with why JD believes the way he does about Appalachia. Still, in general, For me, at least I didn’t.

 There were families like mine, but it wasn’t on every corner. It wasn’t every classroom. It was a ton of loving families, huge families. But my family wasn’t like that. And I  always thought, why not me? So it’s interesting to hear him say that his family’s essentially a picture of all of Appalachia because I disagree with that, and I didn’t see it when I was growing up.

One key thing to point out here is that when Vance discusses poverty and quote-unquote welfare Queens, he doesn’t even, first off, doesn’t even provide you with statistics. And second, wants to blame Appalachia and make it perceive like Appalachia is filled with quote-unquote welfare Queens. But if you actually look at the statistics.

Another critical thing to remember here is that welfare recipient. 2011, for instance, the Medicare fraud control units, which investigate and prosecute fraud, found that the top three states with Medicaid fraud or California, Texas, and New York, none in Appalachia, but he doesn’t mention that to you. He says only things that he wants you to know. Isn’t.

They are not living a lavish lifestyle. They’re not doing these things to make money as he wants to perceive it. Sure. There are some people. Commit welfare fraud. We know that it happens, but let me break this down for you. Compared to the average American household, welfare recipients spend far less money on food, consumption, entertainment, and even healthcare costs.

In fact, families receiving welfare spend 154% less on entertainment and 123% less on healthcare costs. That is not this lavish lifestyle and is not this thing. This goal to be oriented to that. Vance wants people to think Appalachians are essentially striving to be. It’s not true. And unfortunately, he wants to portray this in the book itself without actually providing statistics.

Also, try to essentially convince you that if you’re poor, you’re lazy that he says he doesn’t correlate it to that. But he does several times throughout the book, things that advance forgets to mention when he talks about how poor people essentially are lazy.

And that’s why it’s perilous. It is something that he is constantly referring to. Even though he says that he’s not, he forgets that in Appalachia. Jobs are scarce, especially professional careers and the jobs that people have don’t pay.  In fact, in 2017, the number one and number two employment opportunities for Appalachians were food, lodging and entertainment, and the retail trade.

Those accounted for 26% of jobs. Think about that. Several of those jobs pay minimum wage or barely above it. If you want to continue to blame the poor, your in the wrong area because it’s not that people aren’t working or they’re refusing to work. It’s the fact that good-paying jobs have not come to Appalachia in mass quantities as other areas have. It’s just not happening.

Vance. Doesn’t mention this. He doesn’t talk about it. Essentially how people struggle because of the available jobs. Remember Appalachia, at one time, was an important manufacturing area. Still, with the decline of coal and manufacturing, jobs are scarce, and the jobs that are coming in our retail trade don’t pay a lot of money.

People don’t want to be dependent on the system. It’s something that happens. JD Vance, again, forgets the essential statistics that actually plague apple. I think the biggest thing that JD Vance misses is that not every place in Appalachia is the same as Jackson and Middletown, and essentially points out a couple of differences but equates both to the same type of terrible stereotypes that he has claimed to have fought against.

Has only actually continued it.  But an excellent example of this is actually the poverty rate in Appalachia. So, for instance, in Virginia, in 2014, the statewide poverty rate was 11.5%. The rest of Appalachia was 18.8%. This is totally different than the worst state in the region, which was Kentucky at 25.4%.

Appalachia is a unique region for a reason. It was even higher than the region. Every single. Place in Appalachia deals with different problems, some worse, some better, and grouping them all together is impossible. And you can’t group it all together, essentially.  You can’t. You cannot make an assumption about Jackson, Kentucky, and then say it’s the same in Middletown, Ohio, or Parkersburg, West Virginia, or Nashville or wherever.

It just isn’t true. And that I think is the biggest miss of all in this book. 

Chuck Corra: When you have somebody who writes an entire book, And tire book about their life growing up and the experiences they had and the places that they grew up in, but then is so dismissive and so disrespectful to the people that are from the same place where he grew up.

One of the things he said was people talk about hard work all the time. He said, “you can walk through a town where 30% of the young men worked fewer than 20 hours a week and find not a single person aware of his own laziness.”

 First of all, I don’t. I genuinely don’t understand how this was up to snuff with publishers because I don’t know where you can pull that stat out of your ass, but I, this is just so dismissive of people from there. I can tell you that. And again, look, I know we’re hitting anecdotal examples, but this is an anecdotal example here.

And I think that a lot of people will identify with it here. There are lazy people. There are certainly like I’ve worked with some that are, but the majority of people that I’ve worked with both in like manual labor jobs and otherwise are hardworking, well-meaning people and Appalachia and.

And that’s been the case with almost everybody I know, but the thing that happens is the lazy person often is the one that sticks out. And that’s the one that you remember. 

Big John Isner: There’s an issue with, I would like to know what the underlying problem is JD Vance. There’s gotta be something more to why he is angry at Appalachia.

I think he is. I think he is angry at Appalachia. He pretends that he’s not, but you don’t write a book like this and have such a pessimistic view. And literally he there’s nothing. He sees only the negative except for his, in his grandparents and his grandparents. He doesn’t mention positives about these.

 He does see positive in them, but of course, it’s his grandparents. So this is, there has to be some underlying resentment. 

Chuck Corra: for something, I think you’re right. I think it really shows that there’s this book. This entire book is a projection of something. Not entirely sure what you’ve got all this built-up hate about a place where you grew up and where you purport to really care about, but then.

You just don’t; it’s like he found success. And as a way of saying thank you. He writes this book to dunk on the entire region, makes a couple mil off of it, and just rides the coattails of his own success and is high off of his own ego. If 

Big John Isner: I ever did this and wrote a book first off, Chuck, if I ever do this, just beat it out of me.

And secondly, you probably wouldn’t have to because my mom would. For me to go back on a community that helped me, she would whip my ass. And it, the fact that this guy has been able to get away with this is.  It’s insulting, obviously, but it makes me question, like, where is everyone else in his family?

I want to hear from them?  What do they think?  Because I think it would be an interesting case study to see what they think about this book, whether or not they believe it’s true, or whether or not they relate to his feelings, I’d like to know. I think it would be interesting. 

Chuck Corra: I think that actually rolls in really nicely into a separate section.

We really wanted to get into, which is that like the experience that he points out and like just his takeaways about this culture that he says is in crisis, his experience in many ways, conflicts with the reality for many and particularly what we’re getting at is from like a  like a socioeconomic perspective.

And that’s not the say that he was like wealthy enrolling. Dough, but when he has conflicting statements, he talks about his family being poor, but at one point in the book, he said, quote, we had plenty of money. My mom had a nursing license, et cetera. And he referred to them.

I believe at the time in the book that he was referencing, that was 1993, John. He referred to themselves as a rural high-low family with an income of over $100,000. So I made a little bit of an inflation adjustment for that and calculated that would be the equivalent of $179,000 today. Now look, you can get into many metrics about how far that dollar goes now, and then, but I’ll tell you rural Ohio, a hundred grand back then that’s not bad.

I can tell you that. And that’s, I can tell you that it’s a lot more money than most families had, and it’s a lot more money than most families have now. And so to what, to take these exceptions and paint with a broad brush, especially shitting on welfare recipients and saying that they’re lazy. Meanwhile, you come from a family of the purported privilege of making over a hundred thousand dollars a year.

In what world do you think that you can relate to those people? In what world do you think that is something that you can identify with?

Big John Isner: Yes, I think you hinted at this Middletown. First off, many would argue. It’s not Appalachia there. Let’s get that out of the way. There’s a lot of argument on that.

Secondly, it does not. Middletown does not look like most of Appalachia. It’s his town of 50,000 people. A little bit more well off yet. It has its issues, but it’s a little bit more well off than many places.  They’re they have a higher income or higher median income.  But the big thing that he talks about with, I think we didn’t mention this, his grandparents moved from Jackson to Middletown, and they never felt like they quite fit in Middletown, which makes me question.

If every place in Appalachia is the same,  JD Vance said. How did his grandparents not feel like they fit in? And it’s either two different things. He’s in a double bind. It’s either one, Middletown is an Appalachia, and he doesn’t actually know about the place that he’s writing about, or to Middletown is Appalachia.

And every place in Appalachia is different. It’s not the same. You can’t make assumptions. So this is, again, these are, there are so many holes in this book. And then, in this thought process, I’m glad we’re focusing on it, and I’m happy we’re pointing it out. And I think that this is something that a lot of people need to do.

And a lot of educators, if you’re an educator out there and you’re listening right now, and you use this book, take it off your credit.  It’s not what you want to teach. 

Chuck Corra: In addition to the income level that I think would probably fall well outside of the scope of the average person, where he was from John if you recall, he also referenced a lot of other things that I think people who don’t grow up with means don’t have the opportunity to do when they’re growing up, including the visited his uncle in Napa California to understand identity.

 He did mention  I’ll give him this. He did say that his other friends were amazed that they were. He was able to afford the airfare for that.  Again, tells you something about his experience versus the typical experience, I think. And then he also attended. Therapy sessions as a kid, both with and without his mom, which is excellent.

 Not definitely not discouraging that, in fact, a highly encourage it. But I think that like from a resource standpoint and from an insurance standpoint, many people don’t have the opportunity to have therapy sessions and can go there and work out some of the more complexities that they have grown up.

And so I think, again, that lends itself to this. The false notion that JD Vance understands the experience of people that grew up around him, but yet he’s purporting to and passing judgment on them for people like JD vans, they may come from Appalachia. Still, they didn’t have the same upbringing as most people.

Big John Isner: And for him to look at these people and this was his thought I   the way that he grew up is. It is how he was how he acts today. And for him, he looks at these people, and he says, how come you can’t get over your shit, but I can.  And that’s his point, but again, you just mentioned it.

He was able to get out of the region when he wanted to. He was able to see a therapist. If the many Appalachians had the ability and have the resources to see therapists, it would access. Yeah. In the access, you think about all these rural communities right now, where all these hospitals are shutting down.

If people had access in Appalachia to a therapist, let alone a hospital, that it’s becoming even less than it was. And in that time, and it will continue to dwindle, I think, but imagine. People actually had access to do these things. We would probably have a lot less of these quote-unquote resentful people that he talks about.

 They didn’t get the same opportunities he did. And I think  that’s something that he’s 

Chuck Corra: missing.  Another thing to add to this whole, like the money aspect of and socioeconomic aspect of his experiences, John, you’re not going to see in the headlines of Hillbilly Elegy about him defending payday lending.

But he definitely defends payday lending in this book, which is just, again, telling you all you need to know about like this dude, as he talks about, I believe it was when he was working for a state Senator or the highest statehouse and how. The guy working for was one of the only people to vote against this payday lending bill or something.

 And there are specific problems with the bill that they pointed out. But like in general, it regulated payday lenders, and he just thought that this was so crazy. And like he took a payday loan out once and paid it back with a minimal, modest amount of interest and was fine. And it was because he didn’t qualify for creditors, something like that.

And I’m sitting here thinking this is  fucking dangerous.  This guy is getting up here defending one of the institutions that keep people poor that keeps Appalachians poor payday lending. You’re going to get up here. You’re going to write this God damn piece of dog hit book. And you’re going to cap it off by saying, I just think payday lending is terrific, and people just don’t. People don’t really understand the benefit of it.

Let me tell you something. You don’t understand the detriment of it when you’ve got interest rates out the ass 400, 500, 600%. 

Big John Isner: Yeah. And look, it only took one subject to get Chuck fired up.  And that’s what this book does.  I think that’s a great personification of it, but and I, when it comes to payday loans, I get what he’s saying to a point don’t kill me, Chuck he, he says, look, it’s a way for people to put food on the table if they don’t have money and yada yada, we get that.

But the regulation that his Senator would vote against would be to at least make the situation better. And for him to say like that, he paid it off with this modest amount of interest. If he did, he’s lucky, and to whether or not that story is accurate, we’ll never know. And but there are plenty of people who can use actual facts on accurate statistics and show that payday lending leads to Appalachians still being poor and making them remain poor.

And JD Vance may have one story that he thinks proves wrong, but he is so dead wrong. 

Chuck Corra: Yeah. He was like my experience was that I was able to pay it off quickly with modest interest. So that experience is obviously the experience there. Oh yes. And the thing that pissed me off is like we actually talked about this in the last episode of Bernie Sanders Appalachia. Go and listen to it if you haven’t already.

But one thing we did talk about is access to banking and access to credit, which is a good point that JD Vance almost made. He almost gets there, Johnny, he just, he gets right up to the edge, almost gets up the heads, but then he hits the bed, and he hits the bed. In this way, John, because he scoped the idea that these could be predatory, is just factually inaccurate.

It’s wrong. It’s damaging. It’s hurtful. And anybody that’s reading this fucking book needs to close it, throw it in a goddamn fire, and just read something else. 

Big John Isner: Pick up another, pick up the Bible. 

Chuck Corra: Pick up Harry Potter and the philosopher’s stone. Because that’s more of a non-fiction book 

That’s my whole rant about that.  And the last thing I’ll say on the finances part is he said he basically went to Yale for free and didn’t really have to take out any loans.   Yeah. Tell him, come back to me again when you understand the student loan issue.  JD, because I would be willing to venture a guess that most Appalachians have student debt that has actually gone to college.

Oh. And he does dunk on community colleges, by the way.  I won’t get into that.  One thing, John, I did want to dial back on real quick because you did mention that this guy has an interest in politics, and that is true. As we mentioned, he was thinking about primary and shared brown, and he got a lot of good reception, as he said, a lot of good reception.

 Didn’t do it, but a lot of good reception.  Number one, the reason why he didn’t do it, cause he would’ve got his fucking ass kicked by Sherrod Brown. But the other thing is that he doesn’t have his politics. He keeps citing like multiple times, Joe, numerous times he goes back, and he’s a Republican really took over Appalachia after Nikki. Who’s legitimate. God damn American and Ohioan.

And again, I’m not going to get into the context of the discussion. I just really need to point this out.  That is absolutely in controversy, probably untrue.  You want to. I get it from a broad base. Look at the 1992 presidential election where Democrats took Tennessee, Georgia, Kentucky, west, Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, or even before that.

Until 200, West Virginia had a Democratic trifecta. That means that democrats held the governorship and controlled both chambers of the legislature. But after Nixon, John 1976, Jimmy Carter swept the entire south and all Appalachian states, except for Virginia. And even up until 2004, Tennessee red ass, hell red is hell Tennessee.

Up to 2013, Democrats had it up to 2013. So this is just yet another fact that he gets wrong, and it’s not a hugely consequential one in the book, really, but it’s just going to show you that he has no clue what he’s talking about. 

JD Vance
JD Vance.
New America, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Big John Isner: Yeah. And again, it’s probably because he looks at a subset of people, and here’s them at that time after Nixon.

Talk about, let’s say, conservative politics when he’s growing up and thinks that’s how everybody else thinks. And that’s what this book is about. It’s constantly one person told me this, so it has to be true. This guy must love Wikipedia because it’s just one place where he can read something and automatically think it’s true to mean he’s at a point like I would hate to be his professor. After all, he’d have one source for everything.

He didn’t need multiple sources. 

Chuck Corra: John, it would be a shame if somebody listening to this went on to JD Vance’s Wikipedia page and changed some of the facts on there, but we’re not encouraging that at all. We’re not encouraging that.  But I want to just to put a button on the politics thing, John, I’m going to, I’m going to pretend to be JD Vance.

You’re given a stump speech for you, and you tell me how you think this might be received in Ohio. Okay. All right. Let me just pretend like I’m addressing a crowd here. I’m JD Vance, and I come up. Hi, my name’s J D Vance.  I’m a, I’m an Appalachian, and I’m running for United States Senate in Ohio because I think that you all are lazy and you need to stop using welfare and just try harder at your job and not take so many bathroom breaks.

Big John Isner: I like the fake country accent because that’s what you’d have to put on. 

Chuck Corra: What’d he say, come in, do you think people bite for that? 

Big John Isner: Ooh, 

 Chuck Corra: Home run, right? Yeah. Knock it out of the park. Definitely would win that.  And 

 Big John Isner: That’s kinda my thing too. I’m from West Virginia, which is obviously live five minutes from Ohio.

If I’m from Ohio and know that he wrote this book and runs to be my Senator, why the hell would I ever vote for him?  He, this is a guy who doesn’t think shit of me.  He believes that I am the lowest of the low. If JD Vance runs in Ohio, I will do everything in my power to have him not win.

And I’ll go to, I’ll go to Ohio as much as I have to because this is it’s ridiculous that this guy thinks that he should be a US Senator.

 Chuck Corra: John, I think if he does run, I don’t know if he’s really going to need much help from you to discredit himself.

If he just opens his mouth and says any of the. Books and he’s toast. 

Big John Isner: And what is he going to do? Like it, is it going to go back and be like that was a different time.  He can’t this to me. This book should cripple any political movement he 

Chuck Corra: has. I hope it does. I think it’s incumbent upon us to make sure that it does because he doesn’t have any business running for public office.

If this is how we’ve used, the people that he purportedly knows best insane. It is insane. Anyway.  Let’s maybe wrap up the discussion on hillbilly Elegy. I think we hit on a lot of the main criticisms that we have for it. And again, we’re going to be doing two more episodes on this. That kind of breaks down things a little further, but John’s takeaways here are that.

JD Vance, just like he uses his one-off experiences to basically inform his opinion on an entire region, an entire subset of people, and a whole town in such an ignorant way. And one that is just like a shameful representation of Appalachia. And I think it’s harmful. It’s very detrimental. 

Big John Isner: Definitely is and the F and for the people who think oh man, cause some people thought we shouldn’t cover this and gave it lousy press or whatever, or was giving him more notoriety.

Firstly.  We’re just a rinky-dink podcast, right? That whoa people, sorry, we are a highly, you know what, you’re right. We shouldn’t have done this because we’re. We are just massive. No, but the truth is. We’re not the ones who are actually giving him notoriety. It’s the people who thought that this should be made into a movie.  Netflix will put this out for the world to see, and if people don’t talk about it and don’t tell people that this isn’t true, this one.

Crippled the region even more than it is right now because people will think that these stereotypes we are just now trying to move past it, and this will bring all of them. 

Chuck Corra: back.  Netflix is still going to do the movie. So yeah, either we can provide more voices on this pushing back, or we don’t, that’s what it.

Yeah. So that was hillbilly Elegy. We hope that you take away something from this. And that takeaway is that it’s a dumpster fire. Don’t read it. Don’t give it any money. 

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