Eminent Class Bigots: Tad Friend and The New Yorker, Part 2

My last post detailed the bigoted writing of Tad Friend. Descended from generations of East Coast, Ivy League preppies, Friend found himself writing for New York in 1994. He surveyed America and decided that “white trash” were destroying society. The magazine published his bizarre conclusions and Friend moved up to The New Yorker four years later, where he remains.

Even in 1994, it was obvious that our national decline was due to a rapacious elite: bankers, executives in the energy and weapons industries, and the upper echelons of the investor class. So I found it remarkable that Friend could affix so much blame to people at the bottom of the social scale.

Had he targeted women or minorities in the same manner, his article would not have been published in New York. If it had somehow made its way into the magazine, Friend and the editor who approved it would have bid adieu to their careers. Had such an article appeared and gone unnoticed at the time, it would have provoked justifiable outrage whenever it was discovered. Friend’s continued immunity from criticism tells you all you need to know about elite media. Class bigotry is considered not merely acceptable, but laudable.

Friend’s ludicrous assertions in “White Hot Trash!” have not improved with age. For instance, there is this discussion of crime.

An even more damaged trash response than being chubby and riding without a helmet is serial killings, which are almost exclusively committed by white men between the ages of 25 and 40. More serial murders have been reported since 1970 than in all previous American history combined.

Friend blames “white trash” for that, though most American serial murders that occurred before or after 1970 were perpetrated by the social elite. Even after the passage of the Affordable Care Act, thousands of Americans die every year due to lack of health insurance. Why? Because the rich owners of the private-health-care industry want it that way. When you add preventable workplace deaths and the casualties of the elite’s imperial wars, the body count is not even close.

And what about this passage?

Real-life Lolita Bridget Hall, the 16-year-old model with an eighth-grade education from Farmers Branch, Texas, stayed with Ford Models head Eileen Ford when she came to New York but refused to eat her chili because it didn’t come from a can.

Bridget Hall’s family was so poor they could only afford canned food, and Tad Friend found that hilarious. It was equally disgusting to call Bridget Hall a “Lolita,” a charge that Friend connects closely to poverty.

This is a clear case of an over-privileged white guy calling a 16-year-old girl a slut for being born poor. It makes a sickeningly creepy spectacle. Where were feminists when this article was published? Where are they now?

I thought someone should ask Friend about the views he expressed in “White Hot Trash!” So, a couple of months ago, I e-mailed The New Yorker and asked if I could interview him about that piece. When I didn’t get a reply, I e-mailed my questions and asked the PR department to pass them on to Friend. The magazine’s PR coordinator, Adrea Piazza, wrote back and asked, “What publication are your writing for?” I had already mentioned that I worked freelance and did not have an assignment for the piece I was writing. I explained that again.

Time passed and I didn’t get a reply. I wrote: “Since you work in the PR department, would you like to answer one or more of my questions? Take your pick.” I included a link to “White Hot Trash!” and wrote: “Here is the article that prompted my questions. What do you think of it?

Piazza replied: “Thank you very much, but unfortunately Tad is not available.” He’s apparently also indefensible, because The New Yorker’s PR coordinator did not venture an opinion on “White Hot Trash!” I’m beginning to question the work ethic of my betters.

If you work for a major media outlet, and you feel like challenging bigotry and practicing journalism, here are the questions I tried to ask Tad Friend. Feel free to ask any or all of them. If you’re feeling especially adventurous, you might also ask Adrea Piazza and New Yorker Editor David Remnick why they apparently don’t see any problem with Friend’s views. Let me know what you find out.

1. In the article, you warned that white trash were having a destructive impact on America. But haven’t subsequent events (George W. Bush’s presidency, Wall Street’s depredations) as well as previous events (George H.W. Bush’s presidency, Wall Street’s depredations) shown that the real threat to America comes from rich, white, Ivy League preppies—i.e. your social group?

2. Discussing fashion-model Bridget Hall in “White Hot Trash!” you wrote: “Real-life Lolita Bridget Hall, the 16-year-old model with an eighth-grade education from Farmers Branch, Texas, stayed with Ford Models head Eileen Ford when she came to New York but refused to eat her chili because it didn’t come from a can.” It seems that, in addition to mocking Hall for coming from an impoverished family, you also implied that Hall’s poverty made her a “Lolita.” Would you care to comment?

3. Many of your examples of typical “white trash” behavior involve rich people: Zsa Zsa Gabor, the Menendez brothers, and “men in ties and suspenders” who frequent strip clubs. Here is your explanation for that apparent contradiction: “A clear symptom of the white-trash epidemic is that trash signifiers and behavior have become slipperier.” Another explanation would be that posh people like yourself tend to blame poor people for bad behavior by members of your own social group. Isn’t “White Hot Trash!” an example of that phenomenon?

4. I would characterize your article as class bigotry. Am I wrong?

5. One of the underlying assumptions of “White Hot Trash!” is that immorality is hereditary. For instance, you explain the Paula Jones scandal with these words: “Our president’s family tree has bubbas on every branch.” Isn’t your attitude on that point very close to those who advocate eugenics?

6. Has anyone at The New Yorker commented on “White Hot Trash!” during the time you have worked at that magazine? Do you recall any specific reactions?

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