A sour leftover from this past weekend. “Tech giants should move to middle America and revitalize their communities” is a point often made since Amazon’s HQ2 search began but this is the first time I’ve seen it presented as a “F*** you” to those communities.
Most of the chatter about this on political Twitter has zeroed in on Maher’s comparison between Wolfgang Puck, the alleged epitome of au courant blue-state cuisine, and Chef Boyardee, the supposed hallmark of red-state low. You can rebut that all sorts of ways (for instance, last year’s James Beard Award winner for outstanding restaurant is located in Birmingham, Alabama) but I liked Dan Foster’s funny rephrasing of Maher’s point since it captures how passe Puck is, and what that tells you about Maher’s allegedly superior cultural awareness: “We have ‘Thirtysomething’ on Laser Disc, they have ‘My Two Dads’ on VHS.” If you’re going to be snobby towards the lowbrows, gotta aim higher than “barely middlebrow.”
The whole rant is like that. Imagine thinking that the best thing about food in major cities is that you’ll find Spago there rather than 10,000 amazing little ethnic-cuisine joints per mile, all run by people who grew up making the food in their native countries and now offer it for like six bucks a dish. (Maher nods at this by mentioning Chinese restaurants at the end.) Cities aren’t great because “our roofs have solar panels” or because they’re “where people drive Teslas and eat artisanal ice cream,” they’re great because they have more people and thus more commerce, more cultures, more classes, more attractions, more opportunity. “Artisanal ice cream” frankly sounds like something you’d hear in a Jeff Foxworthy set about why cities suck. It’s as if Maher took a blue-collar comedy bit goofing on the most superficially pretentious aspects of coastal culture and just turned it inside out.
I’d be curious to hear his theory why, if red-staters secretly want to be blue-staters, most stay put instead of migrating. Some might be too poor to pick up and move, but not all. What is it that attracts them to rural or small-town (or smaller-city) life that lets them resist the siren song of roofs with solar panels? Another way of putting that is, does he think rural areas have anything to offer culturally, starting with intangibles like a greater sense of community?
Congrats to him on resisting a “We have coke, they have meth” jab, a joke evidently too hacky even for him (although not for me).