A Bookseller’s Elegy

By posted at 6:00 am on July 19, 2017 246

“Do you have the book Hillbilly Elegy?”
“Yeah, we should have a copy on the front table; let me grab one for you.”
“Is it any good?”
“…It’s sold really well.”
“I hear it’s so powerful and important, especially now, since, well, you know…”

Working at an independent bookstore in the Greater Boston area, I find myself having some variation of this conversation a few times a week. To be fair, bookselling, like any retail or service job, comes with its fair share of repetitions. For example, the sales pitch for our loyalty program is so ingrained in me that it comes pouring out in a breathless flurry of words. Such things are largely innocuous, a necessary (if not occasionally tedious) part of the job. But when it comes to the above conversation concerning J.D. Vance’s bestselling memoir, there is something a bit more personal at stake, viz. my moral objection to the book that has become, for conservatives and liberals alike, a means of understanding the rise of “Trumpism.” And while it’s easy enough to take this moral high ground, it comes into direct conflict with that old chestnut about the customer always being right, to which even the most fiercely independent of bookstores largely adhere.

I don’t intend to review Elegy here. More capable pieces have already been written about the book’s “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” message, its condemnation of a supposed culture of poverty, its dismissal of the working class’s material reality as a determining factor in their lives, and its callous claim that the welfare state only reinforces a cycle of dependency. If any of this sounds familiar, it’s because these are the same rightwing talking points that have been leveled at the working class and poor for decades. As if that weren’t enough, the book also boasts glowing blurbs from the likes of Rod Dreher, whose oeuvre consists of transphobic screeds for The American Conservative; literal tech vampire Peter Thiel; and Reihan Salam, executive editor of the National Review (a publication which, under the guidance of William F. Buckley, promoted segregation and derided the Civil Rights Movement, among countless other odious stances, and which now primarily serves as a trust fund for a gaggle of #NeverTrump Republicans who hold the President’s views but gussy them up with a bowtie). And yet the customers where I work—largely liberal, well-educated and well-meaning people—have bought the book in droves.

covercovercoverWhile I have some theories as to why—mostly, liberalism and conservatism’s shared tendency to privilege individual agency over systemic forces—I’m more concerned here with my response as a bookseller. Despite the immeasurable good work independent bookstores and their staff do—from promoting children’s literacy to hosting readings and book clubs to being a vital part of local economies, and more—I’d hazard that the primary goal is always going to be customer satisfaction. So what can you do when a customer wants a book that you not only find objectionable but also believe actually dangerous in the lessons it portends amidst such a politically precarious time? If it helps, swap Elegy for any book that you find particularly insidious, whether it’s Atlas Shrugged, The Communist Manifesto, or The Bible. The question remains: without stooping to the level of crazed book-burning, does the bookseller’s role ever evolve past the capitalist exchange of money for paper and pulp? And are there meaningful ways to resist the continued sales of disastrous books?

covercovercoverMore often than not, my experiences with selling Elegy play out exactly as above, with me swiping the customer’s card, sticking a bookmark between random pages, and wishing them a good day. These instances of silence tend to eat at me the most. Other times, when we’re sold out of the book, I get to recommend alternatives: Arlie Russell Hochschild’s assiduously researched Strangers in Their Own Land (even if it does miss an opportunity to implicate the neoliberal state), Thomas Frank’s incisive and entertaining Listen, Liberal, Corey Robin’s prescient The Reactionary Mind (a revised second edition that addresses Donald Trump is due in October), et al. Occasionally, a customer will take me up on one of these suggestions, but usually they will just order the book they came in for or walk away empty-handed. Only once, when fatigue got the best of me, did I softly suggest that I had some ideological differences with the book—that was the end of that conversation. All of this is to say that I’ve yet to find a way to tactfully handle the subject. Even now, I fear that I’m slipping into a haughty and unproductive tone—that of an ideologically perfect soul who can’t seem to break through to the rubes. And that’s the last thing a bookseller or writer should be.

covercovercoverBut it’s a mistake to overlook the political role that indies have historically assumed. In his excellent essay “Independent Bookstore as Essential Political Act,” Scott Esposito notes how Cody’s Books “played a major role as a refuge and first-aid station during the Berkeley anti-Vietnam protests of the 1970s and …was firebombed for pointedly supporting Salman Rushdie’s right to free expression when a fatwa was leveled against him for his novel The Satanic Verses.”  Or, how Chicago’s Seminary Co-op “is a member-owned cooperative with 50,000 US participants and thousands more around the world.” This role was thrown into relief after the recent election. Whether it’s the books booksellers put on display—Sinclair Lewis’s It Can’t Happen Here and Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism have been popular and timely choices—the writers, artists, and academics that get invited to speak, the social media posts, or the donations made to groups like Planned Parenthood and the ACLU, indies across the country have found various ways to respond to the current political moment. The store where I work has done a combination of these and other things and has started a Sunday book club centered on socio-politically aware books (Hasan Namir’s God in Pink and Rebecca Solnit’s The Mother of All Questions have been recent selections). If so inclined, one can look at these efforts merely as cynical attempts to cash in on a particularly vulnerable political climate, but because I’m enmeshed in the bookstore world, I find these efforts commendable, no matter how small they might be.

Such gestures are not unprecedented or even exclusive to left-leaning businesses. As Chick-Fil-A, Hobby Lobby, and various bakeries that sell straights-only wedding cakes have demonstrated, there are plenty of business that will risk hurting sales for the sake of reactionary politics. And if, despite initial protests and boycotts, the public has shown it is willing to ignore homophobic and anti-choice practices for chicken sandwiches and cheap arts-and-crafts, respectively, then it’s likely it might also be amenable to the people selling them books having honest-to-god political points of view. Because, ultimately, what separates bookstores from fast-food chains and other retailers is the products they sell—bookstores traffic in ideas. Even if bookstores were to quixotically aim for some sanitized idea of bipartisanship (and make no mistake that this is what Amazon is trying and failing to do with its brick-and-mortar stores), every decision—what to stock, what to display, how to lay out the various sections, what events to host, etc.—is inherently a political one, because unlike chicken sandwiches, books have an intellectual use-value that extends beyond their physical components. Moreover, these decisions are made by human beings who have been constructed by layers of ideology. To expect them to also operate with the same blank efficiency as a self-checkout machine feels misguided.

coverHuman beings can also err, even when their intentions are admirable. Back when frosted-tipped, neo-Nazi Milo Yiannopoulos had a memoir coming out through Simon & Schuster (before it was canned on account of his pederast-sympathetic comments), San Francisco indie, The Booksmith, announced on its blog that they were refusing to stock or special-order the book, reducing their orders with S&S by 50 percent, and donating 4o percent of all S&S sales to the ACLU. While the former choice makes sense, and the lattermost is commendable, the middle one gives me pause. While I understand the message being sent—there are repercussions to publishing purveyors of hate speech—it strikes me as too sweeping and unfocused a gesture to really be effective. Like any major publishing house, S&S is home to dozens of imprints and hundreds of thousands of titles. Even if a partial boycott does affect S&S’s bottom line in any meaningful way, it also means carrying fewer Primo Levi titles, reducing the order for Jeremy Scahill and The Intercept’s investigation of drone warfare, The Assassination Complex; stocking less Jesmyn Ward, i.e. catching some of our most vital literary and political voices in the crossfire. This continues to hold true, as the Booksmith has doubled down on their promise even after Milo’s humbling, dissatisfied with S&S’s apology/ass-covering. I doubt the Booksmith has much concern for my contentions with their approach. Nor should they. What matters is that they targeted an issue they found important, consulted their staff and the community, and drafted and enacted a plan. Undoubtedly, they were aware of the customers they might be alienating, if not enraging, yet they chose to wield their economic weight regardless, embracing the potential of their store as a political space. And while it certainly helps their case that their target has built a reputation of hate speech and white nationalism, there is no reason why a softer, more personalized approach couldn’t be wielded against classist, poor-shaming books that have managed to gloss themselves with a veneer of bipartisan respectability—it would just involve some risk.

coverI am aware of the privilege that accompanies my fairly light moral compromise in purveying Vance’s book, but the question remains: is there any way I can use that privilege to benefit the bookstore, the customer, and myself, all at once? What have I done for the people looking for the answers Hillbilly Elegy claims to hold, and who am I to offer answers of my own? Certainly, I can continue to recommend alternative titles like the ones mentioned above; I can staff-pick books by Appalachian writers who tell their own stories, like Amy D. Clark’s Talking Appalachian: Voice, Identity, and Community or the novels and stories of Jill McCorkle; I can hide the stacks of Hillbilly Elegy in the back (if my boss is reading this, I’m just kidding). But I suspect that the most fundamental thing I can do is also perhaps the most trite: I can try to start conversations. Independent bookstores have continued to thrive in the face of the Amazon-ization of everything precisely because of their human component, and what is more human than honest-to-god conversation? But in order for this to be effective, it would require equal parts listening. Listening to what made the person gravitate towards the book in the first place, listening while withholding judgment, listening as if I don’t know all the answers.

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246 Responses to “A Bookseller’s Elegy”

  1. Lawrence, His Mark: X
    at 9:36 am on July 19, 2017

    What are droves?

  2. H.A.
    at 10:50 am on July 19, 2017

    Lawrence, to give support for “droves”, here in Canada the book is a “Heather’s Pick” at Indigo/Chapters the largest bigbox book store owned by Heather Reisman, with stores across Canada. Frankly, I don’t she is that well read, especially judging from her picks (which you can view on line on the Indigo website), but she is indeed managing to sell Hillbilly Elegy in droves.

  3. Nina
    at 11:31 am on July 19, 2017

    And this is why people prefer Amazon. Great prices, awesome delivery, no judgment. No hectoring. No bullying. No preaching. Clickity-click, and I’ve purchased what I want.

  4. Brittany
    at 11:41 am on July 19, 2017

    The BIBLE is “insidious”?! I’m not going to go into how insulting that is, and instead focus on the idea that you want to stop people from reading a book they want to read. It’s called freedom. It may be dangerous to you, or you may dislike it, or disagree with it, but none of those three personal views gives you the right to stop anyone else from reading it.

  5. Bentley Greg
    at 11:47 am on July 19, 2017

    Funny, wonder how he’d feel if a MAGA book seller deep-sixed Zinn’s People History of US or Freidan’s Feminine Mystique?

  6. Ken White
    at 11:50 am on July 19, 2017

    Someone on Twitter pointed out that the links to the potentially “insidious” books above are Amazon referrer links, providing income.

    A little on the nose, isn’t it?

    Maybe this is a Boston thing. 25 years ago I experienced a similar attitude from indie bookstores there — scorn at the idea they might carry ideologically incorrect books. Fortunately my experience at indie stores elsewhere has been completely different and free of snobbery and hipster judgment.

  7. Paul Marquardt
    at 11:58 am on July 19, 2017

    The moment you decide your role is to act as a gatekeeper shutting out the unworthy books, rather than a guide opening the door to new ones, you’re part of the problem. You’re no better than any other small-minded librarian/bookseller impeding access to books of which they do not approve.

    And I don’t like Vance’s book. You know how I know? I read it.

  8. Rob
    at 11:59 am on July 19, 2017

    Your owner decided to stock the book. Obviously, he or she wants to sell it. Sell it as best you can or find another job. No one forces the store to sell the book and no one forces you to work there.

  9. Teresa
    at 12:03 pm on July 19, 2017

    What a load of elitist arrogant BS. And the author probably thinks they are being open minded. Keep doing you liberals.

  10. Steve Johnson
    at 12:03 pm on July 19, 2017

    “Banning” a book is the fastest way to make it seem relevant to would-be consumers.

  11. Jack
    at 12:09 pm on July 19, 2017

    The lament of book burners everywhere. You’re either for free speech, or you’re a censor. Don’t be a censor.

  12. Jason
    at 12:10 pm on July 19, 2017

    What a horrifying, elitist, anti-freedom author. If I go to a bookstore, I don’t want some idealogue bookseller critiquing my taste in books. That is NOT your job. Why are leftists so controlling and anti-freedom??

  13. ND1
    at 12:11 pm on July 19, 2017

    “Its condemnation of a supposed culture of poverty, its dismissal of the working class’s material reality as a determining factor in their lives….” This line suggests you did not meaningfully engage with the source material, but rather judged it based on your pre-ordained conception of conservatives. I don’t personally agree with J.D. Vance’s political philosophy, and I have my own qualms with his book, but this is an overly simplistic characterization that badly misses any of the nuance in this memoir. I might suggest that instead of blocking out texts you don’t like, instead try to approach them more generously.

  14. Annie
    at 12:11 pm on July 19, 2017

    The fact that you feel unable to engage in debate without resorting to emotivist rhetoric, ad hominem attacks, and hostage-taking emotional blackmail perhaps means you shouldn’t be in the business of deciding what other people read. Good grief, the Bible? I mean, there’s ten thousand things I could say, but I don’t think any of them would do a bit of good. Here’s a prayer for you to open your heart, if not your mind.

  15. Kirk
    at 12:12 pm on July 19, 2017

    Doug must be one of those liberal snowflakes who only believe in free speech if it agrees with his nutty ideas.
    This attempt to shut down conservatism has a lot more in common with totalitarianism than anything Trump has done.

  16. KH
    at 12:15 pm on July 19, 2017

    Dummkopf. Figured I’d use the appropriate German word considering how ridiculous this blog post is and the comparison made.

  17. linda parris
    at 12:16 pm on July 19, 2017

    Are you by any chance a member of the Trump re-election committee? The sentiments you have expressed is how we got Trump.

  18. Joey
    at 12:20 pm on July 19, 2017

    I live in Boston, and I really wish I knew what store this was so I could avoid it in the future.

    This is classic elitism at its finest – discrediting someone’s opinion and experiences because you’ve read think pieces and “researched” situations better than someone who actually grew up in a given environment. Like it or not, these are real situations and circumstances that need to be addressed, but your warped sense of morality makes you think you can simply ignore the problem. And look what ignoring the rural poor and working class has gotten us.

    A desire to live inside of an echo chamber, regardless of political affiliation, is appalling and disturbing trend in the US, so congratulations for being a part of this movement I guess? “I can try to start conversations” – are you kidding me? What conversations? Conversations that fit your narrow scope and self-centered logic? Maybe the bookstore will allow you to officially change your job title to Thought Police if you’re lucky.

  19. David F
    at 12:21 pm on July 19, 2017

    If I discover the political leanings of a left-wing independent book seller, then I will go somewhere else to buy books.

    If a book seller want to influence the public arena, then enter the market place of ideas with public speech and then graciously accept the market’s reaction to their ideas.

    That’s the best choice.

    The other choice is to vote into power people who will forcibly suppress ungood speech. That is a real choice. But it is evil.

  20. John C. Randolph
    at 12:21 pm on July 19, 2017

    Gee, maybe sneering at your customers isn’t conducive to running a viable business.


  21. Wuzzadem
    at 12:21 pm on July 19, 2017

    When did Church Lady get a column?

  22. I Stanley
    at 12:25 pm on July 19, 2017

    So do you own the book store, or are you just an hourly clerk? Seems you could free yourself if this terrible burden by clerkin’ at the local Piggly Wiggly instead. There are plenty of hourly clerk jobs that won’t drive you to arrogant jack-leggary.

  23. Harris Abrams
    at 12:28 pm on July 19, 2017

    Jeff Bezos really should send you a few bucks for posting one of the most effective advertisements for I’ve ever seen.

  24. Joel M Mathis
    at 12:29 pm on July 19, 2017

    I wish people here had read all the way to the end of the piece. It’s clear almost nobody did.

  25. Butt Inspector
    at 12:33 pm on July 19, 2017

    This is antithetical to everything that attracted me to progressive ideology in the first place.

    What happened to the free marketplace of ideas?

    Hillbilly Elegy is a very fair book and a great read. Would recommend to anyone.


  26. Mitch H.
    at 12:36 pm on July 19, 2017

    Woo! ‘Banned in Boston’ rides again!

  27. KC Fleming
    at 12:36 pm on July 19, 2017

    This is the best parody of a snobby bookstore worker I have ever read!
    Hilariously accurate.

  28. daniel
    at 12:37 pm on July 19, 2017

    The smugness and condescension . . .

    “Moreover, these decisions are made by human beings who have been constructed by layers of ideology.” And you have not been so constructed? You are one who has escaped the cave! Perhaps you are The One?

    But you saved the best to last: “Listening to what made the person gravitate towards the book in the first place, listening while withholding judgment, listening as if I don’t know all the answers.” A fair inference is that you think you DO know all the answers.

  29. Roxanne Chester
    at 12:38 pm on July 19, 2017

    It’s posts like this that have led me to the belief that it really is past time to kiss the old US goodbye and advance to a conscious uncoupling. The nouveau aristocracy is too entrenched and its faithful are too numerous. Let’s just get the split over with and move on. Let either the mid-Atlantic-New England states, or the Pacific states (just west of the Cascade/Sierras range) keep the USA brand. Those of us in the dirty flyover regions who might have “dangerous” ideas of freedom, individual rights, democracy (rather than faux democracy where only members of the “right thinking” party can be elected to office as currently the case in CA) can go back to living lives where we are accountable only to our selves, rather than some self-appointed aristocracy.

  30. Cardilover
    at 12:39 pm on July 19, 2017

    So you weren’t going to review the book, huh? Hahaha! You didn’t tell us you’re a comedian!

  31. Russ Meyer
    at 12:41 pm on July 19, 2017

    What a bunch of condescending nonsense. When you want to know why indie bookstores are going out of business, look back and understand that screeds like this are a big part of the reason.

  32. Michael
    at 12:43 pm on July 19, 2017

    From the comments, it’s pretty clear you spent too much time beating up on to-you insufferable ideologies without even a thought that this might actually make you come across as totalitarian-leaning and so everyone totally missed that you closed on the idea to just talk to people instead of banning books, which is actually reasonable.

  33. jimf
    at 12:45 pm on July 19, 2017

    Comments like that from Booksellers are why I shop on Amazon. I don’t patronize businesses which judge or pre-judge their potential customers based on political leanings

  34. Oliver
    at 12:46 pm on July 19, 2017

    And this is how and why you get Trump and may very well get more Trump. This is a soft form of totalitarianism. I must not read impure books or have impure thoughts by Doug’s standards. Yet more proof that creeping fascism is coming from the left, not Trump or the right.

  35. lance sjogren
    at 12:50 pm on July 19, 2017

    Yiannopoulos a neo nazi? Keep in mind, whenever you write something, if a person finds one assertion that is ludicrous then that is a pretty reasonable basis to dismiss the whole thing as ludicrous.

  36. DudeAbiding
    at 12:52 pm on July 19, 2017

    Just what we need. Censorship by our intellectual betters.
    They (and the government) always know what is best for us.

  37. Meursault
    at 12:53 pm on July 19, 2017

    I’ve never read a better case for abandoning the local bookstore.

  38. Alex
    at 12:54 pm on July 19, 2017

    To the credit of the author’s innate salesmanship, there would be no quicker way to get me to purchase a book than the bookseller suggesting it might be dangerous.

  39. Txcon
    at 12:57 pm on July 19, 2017

    Very clever to not reveal that you don’t own, but only work at the bookstore. I’ve got a simple solution for you: exercise the courage of your convictions- quit your job and start your own bookstore. Then you can carry only the books you want.

  40. Passerby
    at 12:59 pm on July 19, 2017

    Here’s a thought:

    Offer the “Purchaser of an Offensive Book” a free bookmark on which is printed useful rejoinders to the arguments presented in the book.

    “Thanks for your purchase of HIllbilly Elegy. Here’s a free bookmark that explains that the book is cryptofacist crap written by a guy who’s probably racist and may beat his children”

    Here’s your Bible. And please take this bookmark which has a great picture of Richard Dawkins and some really great quotes. Including some by Asimov.”

    and so forth.

  41. lance sjogren
    at 1:00 pm on July 19, 2017

    ‘“Banning” a book is the fastest way to make it seem relevant to would-be consumers.’

    Indeed. I never heard of this book. I will definitely be reading it. Off to to dowload it to my kindle.

  42. Dave
    at 1:01 pm on July 19, 2017

    You, sir, are not a bookseller. You are a clerk. The store owner(s) are the booksellers. They make the decisions about what to stock & sell. They put their money on the line as business owners. You get a paycheck. Just ring up the purchase, ask about the loyalty program, and put the books in a bag.

  43. JRDIII
    at 1:02 pm on July 19, 2017

    “. . . mostly, liberalism and conservatism’s shared tendency to privilege individual agency over systemic forces”

    Uh, this is not a “shared” tendency. There is no question that true conservatism privileges individual agency over systemic forces, but liberalism, as it exists today, does the exact opposite. I know you liberals like to think of yourselves as champions of individual agency, but in practice you are the antithesis. How can any group that believes so strongly in the efficacy of big government and socialist principles claim to privilege individual agency over systemic forces?

  44. Chris
    at 1:02 pm on July 19, 2017

    You could always assume that your customers are as smart as you seem to think you are, and trust them to read books and come to the correct conclusion on their own.

    Or you could take all the books with which you disagree out into the parking lot and burn them.

    Of course, trusting readers to come to their own conclusions probably terrifies you, as they might come to a conclusion that (gasp!) is different from yours.

    So you’re probably looking around for matches right now.

  45. Meursault
    at 1:04 pm on July 19, 2017

    FYI, the attack on Buckley is a references to his disgusting 1957 piece in National Review, “Why the South Must Prevail” a position which put him at odds with the majority of conservatives of his time (opposition to the Civil Rights bill came largely from southern Democrats). This is a position which Buckley and the magazine reversed by 1965. Is the author uninformed or simply choosing to misinform?

  46. smith288
    at 1:06 pm on July 19, 2017

    Looky here, a real life capitalist fascist! Telling those to not buy the books all the while providing their referrer link to make money off their freedom…

  47. Brad R. Torgersen
    at 1:06 pm on July 19, 2017

    “As Chick-Fil-A, Hobby Lobby, and various bakeries that sell straights-only wedding cakes have demonstrated, there are plenty of business that will risk hurting sales for the sake of reactionary politics.”

    Uhhhh, Douglas, you really need to double check yourself with the Chick-Fil-A citation. Chick-Fil-A has had *record* sales days, every time the political Left has attacked the owners, the chain, etc. Record. Sales. Days. As in, cars lined up around the store, out to the curb, and down the street sales days. So much business, in fact, the stores are sold out by midday.

    Do you work at the Women First bookstore, from PORTLANDIA?

    Seems to me you could afford to get outside of your bubble a bit more.

  48. f1b0nacc1
    at 1:07 pm on July 19, 2017

    While your bookstore (or rather your boss’s bookstore) has the unquestioned right to stock anything it wants and sell anything it wants anyway that it wants to, your own attitude shows that you really belong in a different line of work.

    Numerous other commenters have beaten me to the punch regarding your arrogant tone, your hectoring approach to those of us who don’t share your views, and your poorly disguised desire to censor others.

    If you argue that books are different than chicken sandwiches or wedding cakes because of their intellectual content, then aren’t you by suggesting that some books should be kept out of sight (hopefully your boss *DID* see that comment) betraying the high ideals that you believe booksellers should espouse?

  49. Jerm
    at 1:09 pm on July 19, 2017

    Do what you want. It is literally your business. However, please post signage that you curate your selections using your political views as criteria, so the random person who walks in knows up front that you are selling books and an ideology, and not confuse you with a store that just sells books.

  50. Michael Bunker
    at 1:12 pm on July 19, 2017

    I’m not a modern conservative or a liberal, but condescending douchy nonsense like this is the essence, the cartoonish example, of how you get Trump or someone like him over and over. Because reasonable people never want this guy, or anyone he supports, to ever be in charge.

  51. John C. Randolph
    at 1:20 pm on July 19, 2017

    ” its callous claim that the welfare state only reinforces a cycle of dependency. ”

    This is plainly obvious, and shame on you for attempting to deny it. Just look at the destruction of black families in our inner cities since Johnson started his program to turn them all into sharecroppers for votes.


  52. Paul Isaac
    at 1:23 pm on July 19, 2017

    Vance is a Yale Law graduate and former legislative aide who grew up in the environment about which he writes. Hillbilly Elegy after all , is a memoir. Koziol , the author of this piece of indeterminate background , has an MFA in Fiction from Emerson where he teaches first year writing when he is not writing a novel or clerking in a bookstore. Nothing in the information about Koziol would lead one to believe he has other than the most superficial knowledge about Vance’s subject matter . Koziol also seems to have caricature progressive opinions about politics outside his bubble . Why does he feel he has the credentials or expert knowledge to try to influence prospective purchasers of Vance’s book?

  53. Pol Pot
    at 1:23 pm on July 19, 2017

    My suggestion would be to burn all the books, burn all the libraries and put to death all who can read. There’s really nothing more progressive than this. #resist

  54. JJ
    at 1:25 pm on July 19, 2017

    I think this is a pretty fair assessment of your personal qualms/discomfort about selling a particular brand.

    I’ll note that all those other comments raging about you “banning” the book (which you aren’t at all suggesting here,) that they either a) didn’t actually read what you wrote (oh, what irony,) or b) missed a lot of the pertinent points (i.e. not that YOU find those other titles insidious, but that others might and have.)

  55. Nekulturny
    at 1:27 pm on July 19, 2017

    wait, what?

    listening as if I don’t know all the answers

    AS IF you don’t know all the answers?

    Way back when, the more special kinds of bookstores made sure TO HAVE the more controversial titles for just that reason, BECAUSE they were edgy.

    But hey! You knew that. You have all the answers, you were just having some fun with us.

    Answer this, what will you do when this store closes and you are out of a job?

  56. Katy
    at 1:33 pm on July 19, 2017

    “supposed culture of poverty?” Woah. Seriously, I will avoid anything written by Douglas Kosiol from now on. Do you feel this phrase is acceptable because you threw in the word ‘culture?’

    You obviously didn’t grow up in poverty. Or have ever tried to help anyone stuck in a “culture of poverty.”

  57. Kicko
    at 1:36 pm on July 19, 2017

    The author smears Milo as “neo-Nazi” (he isn’t, but that’s beside the point). The the author recommends book banning. Uh, anybody else see what’s wrong with this picture. Falsely calling someone a neo-Nazi, and then recommending a distinctly Nazi-like tactic – ban and burn books you don’t want people to read. Amazing.

  58. MarkJ
    at 1:37 pm on July 19, 2017

    My cordial advice to Douglas Koziol when selling “Hillbilly Elegy”:

    1. STFU.
    2. Take the money.
    3. Put it the drawer.
    4. Hand the book and receipt to your customer.
    5. Wish him a pleasant day.
    6. Did I already mention STFU?

  59. Michael Piz
    at 1:38 pm on July 19, 2017

    “Listening to what made the person gravitate towards the book in the first place, listening while withholding judgment, listening as if I don’t know all the answers.”

    “…listening as if I don’t know all the answers.”

    “…as if I don’t know all the answers.”

    If you claim to have to listen *as if* you don’t have all the answers, then you clearly believe that you *do* have all the answers.

    Apart from everything else that’s wrong with your ideas, that statement alone disqualifies you from the realm of rational discourse.

  60. Frew
    at 1:40 pm on July 19, 2017

    What a strange, made up world the author lives in. A world where Milo is a neo-Nazi, where Bill Buckley had ever been a segregationist, where insisting that there are just 2 biologically based sexes is bad, where Peter Thiel is a “literal tech vampire” (whatever that means), and where Thomas Frank knows a damn thing.

    There is no reconciling with people whose brains are like furnaces glowing hotly with sanctimony. There is only to stay away from them and their bookstores.

  61. LAA
    at 1:44 pm on July 19, 2017

    I read books from all different points of view and opinions. Even those I think I will probably disagree with. I always learn something even if it doesn’t change my opinion. Maybe you should give people some credit for being able to read and figure out on their own what they believe and agree with and stop thinking you know better than those buying books in the bookstore.

  62. PapayaSF
    at 1:45 pm on July 19, 2017

    This is another example of why comments on websites are so important: they’re often better than the original piece.

  63. Jesse
    at 1:47 pm on July 19, 2017

    I’m a big fan of the white men on here telling the critics of this hack author that they’re wrong. Please, white men – those in the comments and the author – tell us how we are to be thinking. Guide us, white man, tell us what we need to think. We need these things explained to us, saviors of society.

  64. James Harrigan
    at 1:47 pm on July 19, 2017

    I may have missed it, but nowhere does the author actually say that he’s read Hillbilly Elegy. I kind of doubt it.

    On a more constructive note, I’d suggest stacking a pile of Matthew Desmond’s Evicted next to Hillbilly Elegy. Thoughtful juxtapositions of books are one of the reasons I try to shop at indies.

  65. Will G.
    at 1:48 pm on July 19, 2017

    This was a great piece – thank you for a reasoned, well-thought argument. No realm is immune to principle, opinion, and conviction. That would be like saying “keep politics out of the budget” or “keep politics out of football”; by their very nature in the public sphere, as issues of public concern and public goods, they deserve a public debate. Steering someone away from something you disagree with and find loathsome is not only the human thing to do, it’s the right thing to do.

    So thanks for doing this, and thanks for writing this too.

  66. Francis W. Porretto
    at 1:49 pm on July 19, 2017

    Gee, you’re really good at slandering people who disagree with you! You might have a career at CNN!

  67. Jesse
    at 1:52 pm on July 19, 2017

    “Steering someone away from something you disagree with and find loathsome is not only the human thing to do, it’s the right thing to do.”

    hahahaha So when conservative Christians do this and send kids to Jesus Camps, it’s the right thing to do? How painfully simple is your worldview?

  68. roadgeek
    at 2:03 pm on July 19, 2017

    Two things…..

    1. This is how you get more Trump!
    2. Amazon, and you’re done!

  69. Will G.
    at 2:06 pm on July 19, 2017


    I mean, it depends what type of “Jesus Camp,” but more importantly, if it’s something egregious, the thing to do is to try and dissuade them from doing so. They don’t have to listen, and likewise, trying to steer someone away from a bad J.D. Vance book doesn’t mean that person won’t buy it anyways. But it’s your prerogative to try.

  70. Solane
    at 2:17 pm on July 19, 2017

    I’d have respected him if, instead of ending with “listening as if I don’t know all the answers.,” he’d have said “listening because I don’t know all the answers.” Big difference.

  71. Joe Ynot
    at 2:19 pm on July 19, 2017

    This reminds me of what happened to the Shakespeare & Co. branch on the Upper West Side. I’m a big book/magazine purchaser and love independent booksellers. I especially liked S&Co. because they had a wonderfully varied stock of contemporary literature in translation and all kinds of small-circulation magazines. The problem was the snide, at times insulting remarks from the clerks whenever I bought a conservative magazine or book. As soon as B&N opened, I went there and never returned, though, all things being equal, I would much have preferred Shakespeare & Co.

  72. mksr13
    at 2:21 pm on July 19, 2017

    I wasn’t aware of this book until your article. Hillbilly Elegy sounds like an interesting read, thanks for the heads up!

    Yes Douglas, I do believe you’ve just sold thousands more copies of this “dangerous” book. Thank goodness for dangerous books and our right to write and read them.
    You Dougie are a book burner, without a lighter.

  73. Phil Trubey
    at 2:21 pm on July 19, 2017

    Peter Thiel’s description as a tech vampire is quizzical at best. Sounds ominous, but what does it mean?

    You impune National Review for a stance it took 50 years ago, yet ignore Democrats embrace of segregation 60 years ago. Neither of which has anything to do with either group today.

    Your naked biases obscure your arguments. Basically you don’t want people to read things that are opposite to your views. Have you ever thought that maybe people should read lots of different things and be allowed to make up their own minds?

  74. Niall Kilmartin
    at 2:25 pm on July 19, 2017

    “Corey Robin’s prescient The Reactionary Mind (a revised second edition that addresses Donald Trump is due in October)”

    That is hilarious: “prescient” – but a revised second edition is needed to address Trump.

    Not that prescient then. :-)

    Maybe try the writings of Scott Adams if you want ‘prescience’?

  75. Ray Van Dune
    at 2:26 pm on July 19, 2017

    “Listening as if I don’t know all the answers.”

    I think that is going to be harder for you than you think, Doug. You have been told all you life that you and people like you DO know all the answers. I have been told just the opposite, by people like you.

  76. Will G.
    at 2:30 pm on July 19, 2017

    Do people really not know that Peter Thiel is both a literal and figurative vampire?

  77. Bob Delsol
    at 2:30 pm on July 19, 2017

    Everything is politics with the left. People can’t just come in and buy the book they want. The clerk thinks it’s his duty to jam books that affirm his world view down his customers’ throats — for their own good, no less. What happened to “celebrating our differences” that the left always preaches?

  78. Beamish13
    at 2:40 pm on July 19, 2017

    Just hint at Trump and the reactionary cockroaches here crawl out from under a rock. Good thing these crusty old fucks will be dead in less than 2 decades (or sooner, if the ACA is gutted)

  79. H.A.
    at 2:45 pm on July 19, 2017

    A compassionate and beautifully written essay. Thank you Mr. Koziol. I guess someone tweeted an alert for the christian right come here and lambaste you. Weird!

  80. steven augustine
    at 2:53 pm on July 19, 2017

    Ah, such a robust showing in defense of Free Speech! Since when did we abandon the supremely rational principle that debate-foreclosing tactics don’t belong in truth-seeking discussions of “controversial” topics? I looked at this thread of passionate Free Speech advocates and thought: “These are my people!”

    So, as long as I’m here, Fam, I have a “controversial” theory, I’d like to discuss, regarding “9/11″…

  81. D
    at 2:56 pm on July 19, 2017

    Amazing. This thread almost makes the average Yahoo comment look sane in comparison. I imagine most of the genius “patriots” in here skipped the last few sentences.

  82. Ray Van Dune
    at 3:00 pm on July 19, 2017

    “I’m a big fan of the white men on here telling the critics of this hack author that they’re wrong.”

    I can’t speak for all the commenters here like you can, but most of them seem to me to be responding to the moral issue the author of the article raised, not on his critique of the book he picked to raise it with.

  83. Ray Van Dune
    at 3:06 pm on July 19, 2017

    “Even now, I fear that I’m slipping into a haughty and unproductive tone…”

    Reminds me of my wife’s usual retort when I tell her she’s driving me crazy: “Well, it must have been a short drive.”

  84. Not a Russian bot
    at 3:07 pm on July 19, 2017

    What right wing freak site did this article get picked up by?

    Because there’s something fishy in most of these comments and by fishy, I mean “insane.”

  85. Nyota Uhura
    at 3:07 pm on July 19, 2017

    @ Jesse — I am black, female and conservative Believe it or not, we exist. I am one who believes that the real motive behind LBJ’s “War on Poverty” was revealed in his stating that “We will have the (N-words) voting Democrat for the next 100 years.”

    I have read “Hillbilly Elegy,” and found it to be honest and pulling no punches about the subculture in which he grew up. There are problems with subcultures in my own race as well. I submit that we need MORE books like these, not less. They are certainly not “dangerous.” If anything, it is more dangerous NOT to publish them.

    As others mentioned, by inserting the words “as if” (I were listening) you subconsciously outed yourself as an elitist who thinks he DOES know it all.

  86. steven augustine
    at 3:11 pm on July 19, 2017

    @Ray Van Dune

    Your comment, and the comment you cite, form such a bewildering knot of ideological double-negatives that I still can’t figure out what he/she is for or against that you appear to disagree with. Which seems to be a microcosm of the thread itself.

  87. Not a Russian bot
    at 3:11 pm on July 19, 2017

    I knew somebody somewhere had directed his rabid followers here:

  88. The_revenannnt
    at 3:13 pm on July 19, 2017

    Just to be clear, the essay is implying that someone’s individual experiences are invalid hyperbole if they they support conservative views? Because my bet is that the author holds the opposite view in regards to personal life experiences that affirm liberal views.

    Here’s an experiment. Take a look at the NYT nonfiction bestseller list this week. Of the five, three are openly conservative. I wonder why?

    What I’m most amazed by is the failure of a single person to address even one of the myriad of problems and fallacies pointed out by the many critical commentators. Here is the structure of this thread:

    Argument: Essay.
    Counter-argument: Critiques of logic and ideological assumptions of the essay.
    Counter-counter-argument: White men! White malesplaining! Also racist!

    Honest question – do people really not see this structure? Because to me, and many other “conservatives” (which, btw, I’m not one), this structure is clear as day. This same structure defines many, if not most, of the more argumentative Millions posts. If you don’t see the structure, why not? If you do, how are you not just repulsed by, and moved to start admitting that something massively wrong has occurred or is occurring on the left?

  89. Not a Russian bot
    at 3:14 pm on July 19, 2017

    Although Stephen Miller’s okay – in this day and age, a conservative who didn’t sell out isn’t that bad a guy.

  90. Nyota Uhura
    at 3:21 pm on July 19, 2017

    @ Not a Russian bot — I followed a link from Instapundit (who has millions of readers). He is a libertarian, FTR.

  91. Red Black
    at 3:24 pm on July 19, 2017

    My interest in Hillbilly Elegy increased just because Koziol doesn’t want me to read it. He must be working for J.D. Vance. Of course I’ll buy it at Amazon instead.

    Interestingly enough, I’ve also read the Bible, Atlas Shrugged, and the Communist Manifesto. Who knew with all those dangerous ideas peculating in my head I was playing with fire?

  92. Not a Russian bot
    at 3:31 pm on July 19, 2017

    Liberterian is another way of saying “pave my road but not my neighbors.”

    But whatever – Instapundit’s terrible, but not horrible, so there’s that.

  93. Nyota Uhura
    at 3:31 pm on July 19, 2017

    @ Not a Russian bot — meant to add that I wonder how you know I’m “rabid.”

  94. Beamish13
    at 3:32 pm on July 19, 2017

    Milo Yiannopolous is a neo-fascist piece of shit. The transphobia, hatred of women/the impoverished/those living with persistent health challenges and/or disabilities is the alt-right in a nutshell.

    Did Drudge link to here? This is getting crazier than a goddamn Deadline Hollywood post

  95. Beamish13
    at 3:34 pm on July 19, 2017

    Libertarians-like Republicans, except somehow even dumber. They like weed, but they still want the country to turn into Gilead from The Handmaid’s Tale

  96. Nyota Uhura
    at 3:35 pm on July 19, 2017

    @ Not a Russian bot — You come across as following the easy path of generalization. Some libertarians are as isolationist as you say, but by no means all.

  97. steven augustine
    at 3:37 pm on July 19, 2017


    Jesse wrote:

    “I’m a big fan of the white men on here telling the critics of this hack author that they’re wrong. Please, white men – those in the comments and the author – tell us how we are to be thinking. Guide us, white man, tell us what we need to think. We need these things explained to us, saviors of society.”

    Nyota, you wrote:

    “@ Jesse — I am black, female and conservative Believe it or not, we exist.”

    Can you and/or Ray Van Dunne explain to me what you think Jesse meant and what you don’t like about it?


    When you wrote “hack author” did you mean the writer of the article (in which case you agree with most of the comment thread) or did you mean the author of the book in question… in which case you agree with the person who wrote the article… which would be confusing, if so, because you also wrote “Please, white men – those in the comments and the author – tell us how we are to be thinking.” What did you mean and which “side” are you on?


    Searching for clarity here,


  98. Not a Russian bot
    at 3:41 pm on July 19, 2017

    @nyota – you seem like a real person. One can never be sure!

    Yes, I am vastly generalizing. I save my intellectual energy for literally anywhere other than comment threads on articles I don’t even agree with. I was just amused that all these comments were clearly directed from elsewhere.

    Maybe we would semi-get along in real life. In the internet world, sadly, you remain a villain. This is the way it must be.

  99. Nyota Uhura
    at 3:45 pm on July 19, 2017

    @ Steven Augustine — At no time did I ever describe anyone as a “hack author.” Not sure whom you were quoting. Apologies if I misread your post.

    To me, Jesse appeared to be parroting the current fad of blaming white men for every societal ill, using a hackneyed sarcastic tone. I do NOT believe every social ill is due to white men — rather, I believe they are due to bad traits inherent in EVERY race that have been allowed to fester over the centuries, for whatever reason.

    I give those white men who developed the idea of the rule of law — regardless of their own upbringing of “otherism” — full credit for the comforts and discoveries we enjoy to this day.

    Beginning with the Magna Charta, the ONLY reason people the world over live as well as they do (to varying degrees) is due to that, and that alone.

  100. Thomas Medford
    at 3:47 pm on July 19, 2017

    Interestingly this is precisely why I stopped getting my books at book stores. Despite me loving the smell of the stores, and the great feeling of walking out with precisely the book I wanted where I could literally start reading the moment I left, I got tired of the judgement.
    “Oh you want THAT book.”
    “You mean HATEnity?”

    Bookstores went from being my favorite place to being the place I felt most uncomfortable. And independent book stores were the worst. That obviously isn’t ALL bookstores. But it was enough of them that I really didn’t want to continue to have that treatment.

    All this could be easily avoided. When a customer wants an opinion on book you don’t like, “Sorry, it’s not really the kind of book I would read, so I can’t give you an objective opinion.” Most times when they ask you, they simply want confirmation. It’s like when my friends ask me my “honest opinion” on their band. I could say, “Your vocals lack creativity, and the music sounds like you are purposely trying to offend my auditory palate.” Instead, I say, “I tend to listen to more classics like Frank Sinatra and the like, so I’m not the best person to ask.”

  101. Nyota Uhura
    at 3:48 pm on July 19, 2017

    @ Not a Russian bot — I have no doubt we WOULD get along in *real life* :)

    I don’t mind being a villain, if it suits you. In fact, I will freely admit that far too many conservatives inhabit the hive mind than should, and perhaps they deserve the mantle of villainy.

    Thanks for engaging with me courteously :)

  102. Jesse
    at 4:10 pm on July 19, 2017

    @Nyota –

    I should have been clearer – I meant the author of the article, not the book. And if you look at the earliest defenders of Koziol, it’s the prototypical white man explaining why this author is right to people they consider too dumb to comprehend this tripe – standard fake wokeness from Koziol and his followers because they have a certain degree or have read a certain book.

    And of course the defense is always “the naysayers didn’t read the article” rather than addressing the concerns of what naysayers said. You see this from the inner cities to the deepest parts of Appalachia – white men with degrees claiming to be an authority on people too simple to understand them.

  103. steven augustine
    at 4:15 pm on July 19, 2017


    Yes, you misread my post (you missed the “@Jesse”).

    We’ll have to wait for Jesse to clear up the intent of that passage, I suppose. But the following is risible, isn’t it?

    “I give those white men who developed the idea of the rule of law — regardless of their own upbringing of “otherism” — full credit for the comforts and discoveries we enjoy to this day.”

    A) “White men” didn’t invent the “rule of law” and B) the Magna Carta(s) ameliorated “rules of law” that preceded them. “Rule of Law” is not a positive value in and of itself. Depends on the laws (and how they’re applied), no? Auschwitz had its own traffic court. after all.

    BUT: The “rule of law” riff is such a Conservative White Guy shibboleth that I can’t believe a “Black Woman” invoked it. Also, you can certainly be conservative regarding specific issues… but calling yourself a “Conservative” is grotesque. The ideological definition of Conservative entails a worldview in which you are, at best, a Second Class citizen (whose natural right to the protections of the “Magna Carta”, such as they are, are debatable). What does a “Conservative” want to conserve? A world in which you’d be expected to wear a figurative (if not literal) maid’s uniform.

    As I write this, Conservatives are still hard at work both trying to re-open the Racial IQ “debate” *and* sneaking up from behind with quasi-anthropological “evidence” that “Blacks” and “Whites” are different branches on the Homo Sapiens tree. If you claim to belong to this Conservative cohort (and you really are a Black Woman), I’d put some time into figuring out what the cohort is up to, if I were you. None of my business but it makes you look silly, advocating support of the pathological attitudes asserting your “natural inferiority”.

  104. steven augustine
    at 4:18 pm on July 19, 2017

    erratum: “is debatable”

  105. Dan
    at 4:18 pm on July 19, 2017

    I’m from the hills of Tennessee. Figured out how to get out of there and did. Joined the Army, got a degree and now work in a national law enforcement position. I do appreciate that this book exists, I’ll have to buy it.

    I now know from what bookstore I will not buy it, though.

  106. steven augustine
    at 4:20 pm on July 19, 2017


    “And if you look at the earliest defenders of Koziol, it’s the prototypical white man explaining why this author is right to people they consider too dumb to comprehend this tripe – standard fake wokeness from Koziol and his followers because they have a certain degree or have read a certain book.”

    So, you’re defending “white men” (white men qua white men) against “white men”!


  107. Nyota Uhura
    at 4:24 pm on July 19, 2017

    @ Steven Augustine — ” The “rule of law” riff is such a Conservative White Guy shibboleth”

    I respectfully disagree. It is perhaps true (and I am not an historian) that other *races* (the Code of Hammurabi, perhaps) contributed to the evolution of the rule of law — but it is indisputable that the white men of the Enlightenment, and subsequently the foundation of the United States, codified and solildified the tenets of the core principle.

  108. Not a Russian bot
    at 4:24 pm on July 19, 2017

    As a white man, if I had the opportunity to drive all the other white men over a cliff with me, I would do it and I blast Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby” out of the speakers as I did so.

  109. steven augustine
    at 4:27 pm on July 19, 2017


    “but it is indisputable that the white men of the Enlightenment, and subsequently the foundation of the United States, codified and solildified the tenets of the core principle.”

    What “core principle” would that be?

  110. Steven Dust
    at 4:27 pm on July 19, 2017

    Did you even read the book? Elegy represents what millions went through in various nuances. The story of these people, I bet, match the economic and cultural trek of many living in the bungalows and flats even forms you walk or bike by in your carbon free life on the way to your quietly judgmental gig in some otherwise interesting bookstore. Glad you’re there, wish I had the shop, here. On behalf of those and millions of others- thank God they made the journey, bore the problems, fed their kin in two or more places, and allowed the 3rd or 4th generation to realize life dreams in America as the first generation American family of any race or origin hoped to be their legacy. Maybe bike down to PA or even MD and see if your perspective falls apart when you talk to people off campus. On second thought, just stay there–

  111. Jesse
    at 4:28 pm on July 19, 2017


    Where am I defending white men against white men? Do you think everyone here who disagrees with this article is a white male? Are you calling Nyota a liar in this case?

  112. steven augustine
    at 4:31 pm on July 19, 2017


    “Where am I defending white men against white men? Do you think everyone here who disagrees with this article is a white male? Are you calling Nyota a liar in this case?”

    So you think the anti-article comments in this thread contain a minority of white men? Interesting! Laugh.

    And: re. “Nyota”: this is the Internet and I am not a virgin.

  113. Tony M
    at 4:40 pm on July 19, 2017

    How about this? Say:

    “You know, I’m not a fan. You should read it, but also read .”

    That way you may get to sell two books, making your boas happy; you get to prompt a boom you like better, making yourself happy; and maybe you wind up in a conversation rather than giving a lecture.

  114. Jesse
    at 4:41 pm on July 19, 2017


    Of course not. You’re clearly in a serious relationship with your thesaurus.

  115. steven augustine
    at 4:46 pm on July 19, 2017


    I was certainly in a “serious relationship” with my Thesaurus, various Dictionaries and all kinds of books, in general, as a kid. Now I still read quite a bit but I don’t really need the Thesaurus. But my Daughter just loves it: cool, no? So much better than self-sabotaging ignorance.

    But, now, back to your point, Jesse. What was it?

  116. Jesse
    at 4:52 pm on July 19, 2017


    Basically, if you and your cohorts (author included) can’t understand how you’re part of the classist problem that leads to people holding their nose while they vote for Trump, then you never will.

    Class is a serious problem in this country. It’s unfortunate that pseudo-intellectuals such as Koziol only worsen the problem with lines like “supposed culture of poverty,” as if the rural poor is just a made up issue.

    But you all go right on defending him and pretend you have an inkling of the problems that penetrate the country when it comes to class. I mean, you all are so well educated, surely you can enlighten us all.

  117. steven augustine
    at 4:54 pm on July 19, 2017


    Do you understand what the article-writer meant by “supposed culture of poverty”?

  118. Nyota Uhura
    at 4:57 pm on July 19, 2017

    @ Steven Augustine — the principle that all men are created equal.

    Don’t get stuck on the dated language.

    Under the Magna Charta, the English codified that the King did NOT have absolute rule over the people.

    Under the Constitution of the United States, it was codified that certain rights were inalienable, namely life, liberty and the PURSUIT of happiness (NOT the guarantee).

    No other country before, nor since, ensured that adherence to the rule of law was the best mechanism for ensuring the best possible life for the most number of people.

    Do certain subcultures not benefit from this? I submit that it is because they willfully ignore the very infrastructure that ensures their life and their rights.

  119. steven augustine
    at 5:06 pm on July 19, 2017

    “Nyota” (or Bubba)

    “@ Steven Augustine — the principle that all men are created equal”

    Being that you’re self-confessed naif on matters of History, I’ll let you slide on that irony… as it pertains to North America’s post-Enlightenment 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. It’s an old irony and everyone (but you) knows it. Which is only meaningful, at all, in this case, because you’re supposedly a “Black Woman”…. “Sister”.

    “Do certain subcultures not benefit from this?”

    What are you, my Comedic Straight Man? But I’ll bite: Yes, yes, certain “subcultures” do indeed benefit. The joke is, you ain’t among them… either way. Either way, you’re definitely too poor to live the life of a Lord among Serfs (the subculture you mean, surely). Whether you’re Nyota or Bubba or Smithers.

  120. steven augustine
    at 5:09 pm on July 19, 2017

    Hey Jesse!

    I hope you try to answer my most recent question to you. It might clear a few things up.

  121. Nyota Uhura
    at 5:10 pm on July 19, 2017

    @ Steven Augustine — Regretfully, I will stop my conversation with you. I respect your right to your views, as Voltaire so eloquently stated, and would (and have, via my military service) defend your right to have them to the death.

    I wish you well.

  122. steven augustine
    at 5:12 pm on July 19, 2017

    “I wish you well.”

    I’ll bet you say that to ALL the Black Guys.

  123. Swog Hollow
    at 5:21 pm on July 19, 2017

    Lol, after the first five comments, I was like, what rightwing nutcase linked to this on Twitter, and I guess the answer is Instapundit. I thought it was a good, thoughtful article OP.

    Btw, the funniest, and by “funniest” I mean “most mind-meltingly infuriating” talking point on the right is that the left’s dislike of right wing intolerance–as represented in virtually all of their policies, be it taking HC away from poor people, suppressing the black vote, not to mention all the overt racism and idiocy–is in fact, the REAL INTOLERANCE. Snowflakes that they are, it is not enough that they be selfish bigoted shitheads, they must have their horrible bigoted shithead ideas listened to with utmost respect, or you are the REAL BIGOT. So gross to see itt how that idea has been imprinted in all their little pea-sized brains.

  124. AVP
    at 5:25 pm on July 19, 2017

    If this was written by an independent bookseller, why does EVERY book mention have a hyperlink to Amazon? Perhaps include a link to next time?

  125. Jerald A. Rowlett
    at 5:29 pm on July 19, 2017

    You have every right of course not to carry the book. If someone can’t find it in your store they will just go to one of the chains or Amazon. Course you run the risk of losing future sales those costumers since they now have a relationship with the other seller.

    I’m not going to tell you that you seem to have gotten everything you think about the book wrong. Anymore than I would agree you got it all right. I do find it odd and a little sad that a book seller would decide for me how I am going to see a book. I would rather read it and judge it myself. Even if you are right you still should carry the book. You don’t hide darkness, you drag it out into the light for all to see. Otherwise it just grows in the shadows.

  126. parker
    at 5:31 pm on July 19, 2017

    What the author wrote: “I have qualms with this book, which I read. In light of its extreme popularity, I wonder if its promulgating toxic ideas. I wonder if the bookseller, located at the center of the marketplace of ideas, has a moral obligation to consider what he/she is selling. I could hide this book. But I won’t. I guess the best I can do is to start dialogues.”

    What the people in the comments section got from it: “I have qualms with this book, and anyone who reads it is problematic just like Trump. I’m going to hide this in the back, so no one could ever read it.”

    Holy shit. Here we have someone facing a moral quandary and INVESTIGATING IT. He’s not even practicing the more extreme logic expressed in that, he’s just THINKING ABOUT IT. That’s what an essay does, you morons.

  127. steven augustine
    at 5:32 pm on July 19, 2017


    I thought the funniest part was Right Wing White Guys attacking a guy for defending (essentially) “Trump voters”. When a member of the Conservative Onslaught (Jesse) started using the “Whitemansplaining” riff, it was… trippy.

    Was this written in Medieval French…?

    “I don’t intend to review Elegy here. More capable pieces have already been written about the book’s “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” message, its condemnation of a supposed culture of poverty, its dismissal of the working class’s material reality as a determining factor in their lives, and its callous claim that the welfare state only reinforces a cycle of dependency.”

    Aha: I bet he used a *Thesaurus*… throws people off every time.

  128. Tank
    at 5:57 pm on July 19, 2017

    I didn’t vote for Trump but consider myself a conservative. This is just another example of the left talking down to conservatives, calling us Nazis, racist, stupid. Oh, you’re a Christian, stupid hillbilly, oh you eat at Chick-fil-a, racist, oh you think bathrooms should be for the gender you were born with, homophobe. They really do want 4 more years of Trump.

  129. Hoss
    at 5:57 pm on July 19, 2017

    Problem is, Dougie, it won’t always be people who think exactly like you who have the power to decide who’s allowed to read what, which is why no sane person wants to open that illiberal can of worms. This is elementary political philosophy. Maybe you should try reading some of it instead of wringing your hands about all the mindless dupes being allowed to fill their heads with wrongthink without you there to act as a chaperone.

  130. H.A.
    at 6:09 pm on July 19, 2017

    Parker – you get it. Beamish, swoghollow – thanks for weighing in to give balance to the bizarre comments. Steve – as usual. Over and out.

  131. DJEB
    at 6:29 pm on July 19, 2017

    You are too delicate for the book-selling business. You need to look for some other line of work.

    Also, Milo is a dick, but “neo-Nazi?” You need to take a vacation for a decade or two.

  132. steven augustine
    at 6:30 pm on July 19, 2017


    Check in tomorrow… I’ll be surprised if this thread isn’t buried under new (generic) comments from Conservative White Guys misreading the article-writer’s plainly stated sympathy for, and defense of, Poor White People. On the other hand, it’s only a paradox to the extent that Conservative White Guys pretend to be Pro-White… when, the truth is, they’re just Anti-Poor. They (the lumpen Bourgeoisie) despise “Poor White Trash” (not my phrase; I abhor it) more than so-called Lefties or Liberals do… but they need the numbers. Any book that victim-blames The Poor as a “subculture” of pathologies… from “The Bell Curve” to “Hillbilly Elegy”… is guaranteed to curl their toes. As if (again) many of them aren’t (Facebook Rich/ Credit Card destitute) Poor, too!

  133. orthodoc
    at 6:54 pm on July 19, 2017

    …and this is why I don’t shop at indie bookstores. I don’t need your help, and I certainly don’t need your condescending sanctimony. And if that means going to Amazon (or iBooks, or Kindle) for everything I buy to read, so be it. Sorry about your failing business model.

    Here’s a tip, Sparky. Amazon got market share by listening to their customers. Try it sometime. And without the attitude.

  134. Rich H
    at 7:15 pm on July 19, 2017

    You cannot be both a liberal and a Manichean. You must choose one and one only. Inherently a liberal must believe they are not in possession of the one and only true vision of “good” in the world, which is the reason things like toleration, freedom of expression, and a skeptical mind have always been valued by liberals traditionally. A Manichean need not worry about any of that crap. The world, for them, is simply a battle between the forces of light and the forces of darkness. Toleration is not needed because, duh, that’s the ENEMY over there. Freedom of Expression? What? So the enemy can spread FALSEHOOD! And who needs skepticism when you are already hold the only true ideas in existence…. only you can discern the righteous from the morally tainted.

    The major problem with your average Manichean is they are such prigs.

  135. Pat Loudoun
    at 7:34 pm on July 19, 2017

    Does this writer even realize that this topic is why he will be out of business? Very, very soon?

  136. Jesse
    at 7:46 pm on July 19, 2017

    I just can’t take Steven seriously – first “he” says you can’t believe Nyota is an African American because it’s the internet, and everyone lies on the internet. Then he makes grandiose claims about his “knowledge” and how smart “his kid” is. And we’re supposed to trust this appeal to authority from a stranger online who just told us not to believe what other people say online because…?

  137. gmmay70
    at 8:24 pm on July 19, 2017

    It’s laudable, but telling.that a hopelessly ignorant, profanity-laced, buzzword-filled comment like Swog Hollow’s above was published.

    For those who seem to think that the negative comments came from people who didn’t bother reading the article, I’d suggest re-reading it for comprehension. Then try as hard as you can not to mis-characterize the opinions of those with which you disagree.

    For those who think the opinions expressed in this screed are “elitist”, please try not to dignify it with such a label. There is nothing “elite” about it. It’s simply filled with fashionable, yet intellectually shallow sociological buzzwords and moral preening. The only thought it provokes are those which reflect upon the author. Not to mention the fundamentally self-contradictory main points.

  138. H.A.
    at 9:20 pm on July 19, 2017

    Jesse, stop provoking. Read Evicted by Matthew Desmond. Then compare/contrast with Hillbilly Elegy. Mature discussion is welcome.

  139. JVP
    at 9:53 pm on July 19, 2017

    I read a lot of book blogs, including this one. Been looking to trim them down, only so much time in the day you know? This article was quite helpful in deciding which one should go first.

    I mean, I’m a liberal/democrat, in Massachusetts, but this article is just a load of crap.

    Thank god the author is here to protect us from the evils of books with messages that he doesn’t agree with. Never mind the fact that I’m not sure he even read the book that he’s writing about……

  140. Fen
    at 10:27 pm on July 19, 2017

    It’s not your place to be a gatekeeper of approved thought.

    And even if it was, you are too ignorant for such a responsibility – I stopped reading your post halfway through when it became obvious you haven’t the first clue what the other side believes.

    And you have the audacity to label them as bigots and nazis? Go find a mirror. Someone of your obvious intelligence, literally surrounded by a diversity of thoughr, and still you are blind. You should be ashamed of yourself.

  141. Fen
    at 10:41 pm on July 19, 2017

    “Didn’t read to the end of the article where…”

    I skimmed it, didn’t care. The author became irredeemable the moment he ignorantly slimed Milo as a Neo-Nazi.

    “Fuck you. War” – Andrew Breitbart

  142. ETNMountainMan
    at 10:57 pm on July 19, 2017

    Some writers make it so difficult to refrain from ad hominem insults.

    My wife and I both grew up and still live in Appalachia. She is currently reading Hillbilly Elegy and has had more than one “Ah hah!” moment, having lived much of the same cultural experience as J.D. Vance. I haven’t read it myself (yet), but from her comments and the reviews I’ve read, I can confirm the truth of what Vance says. Mr. Koziol’s cultural experience seems to be about as suffocatingly narrow as Mr. Vance’s upbringing, although he appears to be oblivious to the fact, unlike Mr. Vance, and only too eager to instruct those of us who don’t share his Progressive politics in his superiority. Perhaps this is why my son, currently residing in Boston, hates the place and can’t wait to get out.

  143. Fen
    at 11:02 pm on July 19, 2017

    “Please white men tell us – ”

    No problem. See, there is this market place of ideas:

    People on my side believe in Liberty – that everyone has a right to form their own opinions, based on the best information available. If an idea is good, it will rise on its own merits. If an idea is bad, it wont survive a venue that allows for feedback.

    People on your side believe in Authoritarianism. Their ideas can’t withstand scrutiny so they seek to censor any ideas that compete with theirs. They believe people are too stupid to choose for themselves and need to be indocrinated against any diversity of thought.

    But I do appreciate your racist and sexist framing against white males while culturally appropriating from the civilization their ideals of Liberty created. So entertaining, so ironic.

    Because let’s be honest – if it wasn’t for the white males you hate, you would still be squatting in a grass hut trying to remember what hand you wiped with.

  144. MrJimm
    at 11:13 pm on July 19, 2017

    I had never heard of ‘Hillbilly Elegy’ until I read this commentary. Now I want a copy, and will be delivering it to my door in just a couple of days.

  145. Mercury
    at 11:42 pm on July 19, 2017

    Good grief, is there one positive comment on this article at all?

    I mean, I’ve never been to this site before but clearly many others have and it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect that it’s readership was generally simpatico with the most/all of the content. Clearly that is not the case here!

    Is Mr. Koziol happy to have had his ideas and arguments given a stage in front of a large group of people which clearly includes a sizable percentage of ideological unfriendlies?……or does he wish said “No thanks” in the first place???

    There’s nothing wrong with running a specialty bookstore or specialty anything else. But it sounds like Mr. Koziol’s bookstore’s owners are aiming for a broader clientele. Take your issues up with them, not the marketplace. I used to love to go to crazy, Left-wing book stores back in the day. You might find a cool art, music or comic book there among other amusements even if you had no real appetite for all the Marxist BS (It will work next time!!!).

    Mr. Koziol might have more aptitude as a SPECIALIST in the book/idea trade and by the end of his sermon here I think he starts to realize that himself:

    “And while it certainly helps their case that their target has built a reputation of hate speech and white nationalism, there is no reason why a softer, more personalized approach couldn’t be wielded against classist, poor-shaming books that have managed to gloss themselves with a veneer of bipartisan respectability—it would just involve some risk.”

    Sounds like the kernel of a business plan Douglas. Welcome to the magic of Free Enterprise.

  146. Left Coast Ron
    at 1:51 am on July 20, 2017

    Mr. Koziol is to be congratulated for laying bare his Leftist instincts: one part old fashioned liberal who is trying to balance opposing views, five parts Progressive, someone whose faith in structural forces/Marxist Manicheanism instinctively requires him to correct the incorrect views of others. And, yes, to give Mr. Koziol the benefit of the doubt, I did read all the way through. Near the end, his resolution to his conundrum is to sell the book but in so doing, to start a conversation with the buyer, undoubtedly to change his incorrect views. For few things are more dangerous to a Progressive than incorrect books.

    I found Vance’s book to be powerful, very honest and self-critical, and deeply aware of issues of class. To imply that he’s a dangerous white nationalist or racist, even covertly, is insane–and it proves that Koziol hasn’t read it. Besides his grandmother, primary influences on his life were his marvelous Law Professor Amy Chua, who insisted he write the book and who participated in his wedding to an American of Indian (subcontinent) heritage, the third major influence in his life. Neither, to my knowledge, are evil White Males.

    Koziol’s inability to see beyond his narrow, predetermined Marxist “structural forces” biases, makes him unable to see the humanity of Vance’s work. Of course, like today’s campus Progressives, when confronted with ideas that are “troubling” because they don’t conform to rigid Progressive prejudices, his instinct is to censor. Luckily, there’s enough of old fashioned pre-Progressive liberalism in Mr. Koziol to at least make him pause in carrying out those thought-suppressing instincts, but not enough for him to want to live and let live. He feels compelled to start conversations so as to correct bad ideas when people buy books he doesn’t approve of. Mr. Koziol, I don’t give a rat’s ass what you think about my choice of books and I didn’t ask you for your opinion. Quit meddling. Quit trying to improve the rest of us. Take your Boston neo-Puritanism and shove it. How would you feel if I saw you carrying the latest bunkum by Naomi Klein and interrupted your day to try to convince you that your book was utterly worthless conspiratorial crap? Luckily I don’t feel a compulsion to correct you. Please extend to me the same courtesy to be left alone. Bug thats something that Progressives cannot do–leave others alone.

    Beyond Koziol’s need to make others conform to his prejudices, there’s much else that is even more troubling in this thread.

    All cultures and civilizations have screwed up. All of them. There’s nothing uniquely evil about the West. Luckily, the West has often (but sadly, not always) risen above the barbarism living below the surface of every culture. The ridiculous notion that the West or that “Whites” or “White males” uniquely suffer from some sort of Original Sin—the popular Progressive idea that you can demonize an entire racial or social group or sex this way is entirely loathsome. Some whites are evil. (Fidel, Che and Bull Connor come to mind.) So are some members of every other group.

    The need to demonize whole groups, or as one of the more unhinged commentators put it, to “drive all white men off a cliff,” is purely racist insanity. (And, no, I don’t buy the scientifically unfounded, Progressive (but here I repeat myself) and self-serving drivel that “marginalized people cannot be racist.”)

    What is being said today about the inherent evil of whites, AKA the “problem of Whiteness,” is written in precisely the same spirit in which Julius Streicher, Alfred Rosenberg and Adolph Eichmann wrote about the Jews, in their eerily similar version of Critical Race Theory. That so many commentators in this thread condemn those who post because they are white or males (and usually both) as inherently evil is utterly repulsive and a profoundly false narrative—but one that is fast becoming mainstream in Progressive circles. That this racist crap is being taught at colleges across North America, Australia and the UK as scientific, is no more so than Rosenberg’s promulgation of Racial Science in National Socialist Germany. Telling whites that their opinions don’t matter, that anything a white has to say is false, racist or oppressive is pure evil. If said about any other group, it would drive the speaker fro the Public Square. When said about whites or males, it is accepted as obvious fact. And to question it is itself “racism”

    This bigoted tendency within this thread is far worse than Koziol’s instinctive dislike of intellectual diversity. As for me, I am proud of my European heritage and while not a Christian, am extremely grateful for the civilization that the Christian West created. Always perfect? Of course not. But no civilization is. And few civilizations have been as self-critical as ours. And we’ve no better representatives of our self-critical civilization than Amy Chua, JD Vance and his wife, Usha–all committed to maintaining our civilization through its legal institutions.

    Thank you JD Vance for a thoughtful and provocative book. And thank you Douglas Koziol for giving us a clinical look at today’s Leftist mindset, torn between tolerance and censorship and clearly leaning towards the latter. You are sadly (as your essay proves) a perfect representative of a once tolerant liberal tradition that no longer values intellectual diversity in its quest to rigidly control society’s discourse.

  147. Andrew Jones
    at 2:01 am on July 20, 2017

    It’s interesting to see the potential customer strategy here. What this bookseller is offering isn’t just books, but a particular viewpoint. Those who don’t want or who actively disagree with the viewpoint will find it annoying and go elsewhere. However, that’s part of the strategy.

    What this business is offering is an identity experience. The chance to be with like minded people and feel the pleasure of being part of the club. In a bookstore, it even implies a more educated and better informed club than outsiders. Frankly, when competing with “we don’t care as long as your money is green Amazon”, a focused club that provides emotional attachment and community as part of its value proposition is a pretty good strategy.

  148. steven augustine
    at 3:06 am on July 20, 2017


    “And we’re supposed to trust this appeal to authority from a stranger online who just told us not to believe what other people say online because…?”

    Well, I’m hoping you’re honest enough to admit yourself that none of my arguments, in this thread, are grounded in my online persona; you don’t have to take anything I say on the faith that I am what I say I am (although, surely, a general sense of anyone’s intelligence is available through their commentary? Cough. Laugh).

    So, when you wrote, upthread,

    “Class is a serious problem in this country. It’s unfortunate that pseudo-intellectuals such as Koziol only worsen the problem with lines like “supposed culture of poverty,” as if the rural poor is just a made up issue.”

    You made an error based on a misreading of the phrase “supposed culture of poverty.” I can explain that error to you whether you believe I’m a straight Black radical expat American male or not… none of those details about me are necessary or relevant to this explanation (but, just so you know: it’s usually Conservative White Males who pretend to be Black Men or Women, online, in order to get away with disparaging same).

    The article-writer was (among other things) *defending* Poor People against the popular accusation that something *intrinsic to their culture* causes the Poverty, rather than external forces (eg predatory banking, underfunded educational institutions, politicians beholden to Corporate Structures selling out their constituencies, et al). In other words, the phrase “culture of poverty” is a Conservative dog-whistle of victim-blaming… it’s usually deployed against Poor Blacks/ Hispanics but Poor Whites are often targets, too.

    You zeroed-in on the phrase “supposed culture of poverty” but you misread it to mean “supposed poverty”.

    See how important reading comprehension is? Speaking of which…


    “But I do appreciate your racist and sexist framing against white males while culturally appropriating from the civilization their ideals of Liberty created. So entertaining, so ironic.”

    Even more entertainingly ironic: you just attacked one of your own gang. Jesse, meet Fen.

  149. Scott
    at 8:07 am on July 20, 2017

    @Thomas Medford “Interestingly this is precisely why I stopped getting my books at book stores. Despite me loving the smell of the stores”

    I had a great “used” bookstore in my home town when I was young- “Toots’ Tobacco and Books”. You could smell all the different blends of pipe tobacco and the old books at the same time… And Toots was a sweet older lady who was always kind to me.

  150. Bandit
    at 8:13 am on July 20, 2017

    Just don’t stock all the books you don’t like and refer the customers to Amazon – that’ll fix everything

  151. Not a Russian bot
    at 10:17 am on July 20, 2017

    @Left Coast –

    How dare you call me unhinged when you don’t even know me.

    If it’s any consolation I’d let you pick the music when we went over the cliff. You can play Manilow or Neil Sedaka if you’d prefer.

  152. Swog Hollow
    at 10:22 am on July 20, 2017

    Wow the dittoheads keep on comin, huh? Interesting to see how many times the same big words appear–Manichean is not an everyday word, yet it appears in post after post, signalling the presence of a hive mind (as if that wasn’t already obvious).

    As Parker noted upthread, the really sad thing is that the essay is essentially about finding certain books problematic as a bookseller, thinking about it, dealing with it, etc. The guy is expressly saying he won’t/shouldn’t advocate for books to be censored but predictably, the snowflake brigade here has to march in, shields up, to scream about liberal bigotry, when their reading choices are criticized. I guess I should be heartened that they [can] read, although I don’t doubt it’s limited to ideologically safe non-fiction and sci-fi/Brad Thor.

    But yes guys, let me confirm something for you: when you support a party that, in word and deed, evinces nothing but contempt for poor people, non-white people, gay and trans people, women, academia, artists, and basically everyone but white men (including poor white men, but they have been successfully mislead on this point through cultural signifiers for eons), you alienate yourself from all of these groups as a human being, yourself. Crying in comments fields about how hurt your feelings are that your “ideas” (see above) aren’t being treated with respect, is risible. Trump is your perfect avatar, a dangerous idiot with absolutely zero regard for others, who cannot stand those others having zero regard for him.

  153. H.A.
    at 10:26 am on July 20, 2017

    So one last comment. Some books are so repellant that my independent book seller was embarrassed to have them in stock. In one case it was the fifty shades of grey books. My book seller told me that he cringed as he sold them, but no judgment as it was just really shitty fiction. Koziol is writing an essay, my book seller was not. A very astute essay and compassionate essay which is left leaning, and which I respect. Clearly a tweet went out to attack this essay and its author. My belief is that the attack was orchestrated by the christian right and the negative response to the essay is by people who do not read and have no curiousity about the world, who go to church on Sundays and ironically believe in the death penalty.

  154. H.A.
    at 10:28 am on July 20, 2017

    Swoghollow! Yes!

  155. steven augustine
    at 10:51 am on July 20, 2017

    Meanwhile, to put things in perspective (while we nurture our harmless little virtual kerfuffle here)…

  156. H.A.
    at 11:03 am on July 20, 2017

    Steve, won’t play in my country. Is it kind of like my line of thought: meanwhile in Syria?

  157. steven augustine
    at 11:05 am on July 20, 2017


    Exactly, my friend! Exactly.

  158. steven augustine
    at 11:09 am on July 20, 2017

    (Where are you, btw? Australia or Canada…? Interesting that, wherever you are, they’re blocking political content on YouTube…! GEMA in Germany blocks vids, but that’s usually owing to music and copyright issues)

  159. H.A.
    at 11:09 am on July 20, 2017

    Steve: Truth. :)

  160. steven augustine
    at 11:13 am on July 20, 2017

    (I get fairly steady traffic from Australia and Canada and was wondering if one of those was you! laugh. Stop over sometime so we can speak freely and without fear of shitstorms…!)

  161. H.A.
    at 11:13 am on July 20, 2017

    Oh dude, you know me. I had to go anonymous after some psycho weird harassment on this site after talking about sexual assault. Remember that guy who pretented to be an Arabic victim of sexual assault? What a weirdo eh? You even have my email – Heather Curran.

  162. Gene Schulman
    at 11:16 am on July 20, 2017

    As a former independent bookstore owner in Geneva, Switzerland, I really have to laugh at some of the ridiculous comments made on this post. Most of the respondents don’t seem to notice that the bookseller did not try to dissuade the customer from buying the book. In fact he actually retrieved it from the stack to offer it. It was the customer who began asking the questions and commenting on the book. As any good bookseller should, he engaged the customer in discussion about it.

    I recently read the book in question during a reading group seminar and found it very distasteful. But that would not have kept me from stocking it in my book shop, especially if it were a best seller. After all, my business was selling books. Distasteful as I found them, I stocked copies of Protocols of the Elders of Zion and Mein Kampf in my store, much to the dismay of some of my Jewish customers.

    These days, I am a retired gentleman who spends much time browsing my local book shop. There are stacks of Hillbilly Elegy on the counter and in the shelves. Whenever I see a customer reach for one, I ask why he is interested in it which usually engages us in a discussion about it, in which I verbally review it. After telling him why i disliked the book, I usually encourage him to purchase it and see for himself. My bookseller appreciates my secret work.

  163. steven augustine
    at 11:17 am on July 20, 2017

    omg! (laugh) I do remember that weird, Lynchian interlude! Those right wing sock puppeteers… always claiming to be women of color, weirdly… (glances upthread)…

  164. H.A.
    at 11:27 am on July 20, 2017

    Yeah no shit, I am afraid of glancing upthread at this point. You defended me nicely against that sock puppet, thank you!, but he really freaked me out. I get that humans are flawed but I also have to acknowledge that some humans are just plain cruel and fucked. Xo

  165. steven augustine
    at 11:34 am on July 20, 2017

    Hey, the world is a dangerous place. One thing the Internet has taught me in 20+ years is that I had *no idea*.

    Comment threads are a good place to learn about People (minimal repercussions)…

  166. Roger X
    at 11:44 am on July 20, 2017

    How are we ever to understand and criticize opposing viewpoints – better yet, our own – unless we deliberately expose ourselves to idea that are counter or alien to us? Sir what you have done here is proven the accusations of tone-deafness in the regressive left’s echo chamber. Such smug condescension, I’d suggest it’s unbelievable… but yet here we are, where social media has become a contest of trying to win the culture war by righteous indignation and outrage.

  167. Barry Cooper
    at 11:45 am on July 20, 2017

    Amusing: “listening as if I don’t know all the answers.” You could have said, “listening, KNOWING I don’t have all the answers.”. But you didn’t.

    No, what you described was the silence of someone who seethes every time someone has the temerity to disagree with you, despite the fact that you did not think your way into your emotionally rooted and completely irrational, bigoted reactions.

    Perhaps, my young in brain if you in body friend, you “know” only a fraction of what you think you do, and perhaps that liberal arts major which finds you working in a bookstore made you a LESS critical thinker, LESS able thinker, than you would have been had you gone to work as a plumber or bricklayer.

  168. H.A.
    at 12:01 pm on July 20, 2017

    Yeah Barry, already pointed out. Your attack is repeating itself – YAWN

  169. J. Schulz
    at 12:39 pm on July 20, 2017

    After reading this essay, I had a lot of things to say as a response, but after reading through the comments, most people have already said them. One thought persists: how do you presume to know why a person is buying a book? Perhaps a person is buying a book because they know it is written from a perspective different from their own and they choose to read it to learn about what other people think. When all you read are books that agree with what you already believe, then how are you growing as a person (empathy, enlightenment, education all come to mind)? Wouldn’t you want a conservative to purchase a book like Just Mercy? or The New Jim Crow? or Ghettoside? I’ve read all of these plus Hillbilly Elegy. And guess what? I’ve learned a lot from all four. You would most likely not be able to guess my political leanings based on what I read. I read to educate myself and learn about different ideas and perspectives.

  170. Linnie Greene
    at 1:08 pm on July 20, 2017

    Wow, I’m kind of stunned at these accusations of “banning” or “censorship” or what have you. Can we separate the individual writer from the place he works? I worked in indie bookstores for 7 years, write freelance, and resent the idea that he’s supposed to be some automaton. A hyperbolic (but illustrative) example: would you feel particularly peachy handing someone Mein Kampf, even if it’s a historically significant document?

    Just like the readership that chooses to patronize the store, he is a PERSON with a particular TASTE, taste is he allowed to vocalize. If a customer could be so easily dissuaded by his expression of dismay (“I haven’t read it because I don’t necessarily agree with its ideologies”), then yes, I do worry about their cognitive abilities–discord and dissonance are healthy, maybe even essential, if the end goal is to be an empathetic and intelligent person. Also, I don’t know, there is a difference between exposing oneself to a new idea and literally putting money into the pockets of a writer whose ideologies might decimate a community you care about.

    This writer and bookseller is expressing his misgivings about selling a book. He isn’t a machine filling a box at Amazon (thank god); he’s a PERSON, entitled to feelings about art and the role of such a commodity in a capitalist country.

  171. karrick
    at 1:27 pm on July 20, 2017

    Bookstore version of MSNBC. Shielding viewers from truths that you find objectionable. If you don’t believe that Appalachian poverty is a culture that needs to be condemned, then you’ve probably never lived there. Just another problem to be solved by big government, I guess. How dare an author tell a story that kills the narrative of being permanently trapped by the circumstances of our upbringing. To liberals, it’s almost as offensive as Ben Carson’s story. Better hide it.

  172. Kirk
    at 2:03 pm on July 20, 2017

    I think I understand the Left’s problem with Elegy. Their narrative is that only “people of color” can be poor and wthout privilege. To hear it from a white guy firsthand simply does not compute with their narrow thinking.

  173. Barry Cooper
    at 2:23 pm on July 20, 2017

    H.A.: so, to be clear, you YOURSELF consider further learning, further thought, and wrestling with unfamiliar views to be something which simply does not interest you?

    Don’t bother to answer. You already have.

  174. Swog Hollow
    at 2:42 pm on July 20, 2017

    “I think I understand the Left’s problem with Elegy. Their narrative is that only “people of color” can be poor and wthout privilege. To hear it from a white guy firsthand simply does not compute with their narrow thinking.”

    The mental gymnastics required to be a member of the party trying to rip HC and Medicare away from millions of working class people, including–particularly including–poor white people in opioid-ravaged communities in Appalachia, and simultaneously hold the view that the other side is the one that scorns poor white people, is truly hard to imagine. Policy-wise, the GOP is the party that routinely pretends poor white people don’t exist, except for three months every four years, when they secure their vote by stirring up old racial anxieties and a sense of cultural grievance. Just amazing.

  175. Swog Hollow
    at 2:45 pm on July 20, 2017

    Like, this may shock you, but literally RIGHT NOW in the Senate, forty-eight democratic senators are a human shield preventing millions of poor white people that us democrats supposedly don’t think exist from losing essential benefits, including cancer and diabetes and opioid treatment. Crazy huh?

  176. Swog Hollow
    at 2:52 pm on July 20, 2017

    “Bookstore version of MSNBC. Shielding viewers from truths that you find objectionable. If you don’t believe that Appalachian poverty is a culture that needs to be condemned, then you’ve probably never lived there. Just another problem to be solved by big government, I guess. How dare an author tell a story that kills the narrative of being permanently trapped by the circumstances of our upbringing. To liberals, it’s almost as offensive as Ben Carson’s story. Better hide it.”

    Or maybe they just think it’s a shittily written piece of self-congratulatory dreck that caricatures Appalachia, with a simplistic and reductive view of how to fix things, i.e. just bootstrap it. The latter part is incidentally why it’s #6 on Amazon (all of you can relax, btw, it seems Vance is doing fine), because it provides anecdotal confirmation of the right’s flimsy articles of selfish political faith. Fwiw, I am from Appalachia, read the book, and think it sucks.

  177. Swog Hollow
    at 2:56 pm on July 20, 2017

    As as a funny side note, JD Vance lives in San Francisco and works at a Silicon Valley investment company. I cannot help but think he would find the rubes, I mean white knights rushing in to wage a culture war on his behalf, at least mildly amusing and/or pathetic.

  178. steven augustine
    at 3:21 pm on July 20, 2017


    “As as a funny side note, JD Vance lives in San Francisco and works at a Silicon Valley investment company.”

    Hilarious find.


    “I think I understand the Left’s problem with Elegy. Their narrative is that only “people of color” can be poor and wthout privilege.”

    If you couldn’t even read this article with something approaching 50% comprehension, how reliable is your opinion of a book? This comment thread seems stocked, largely, with back-of-the-room-ers from a remedial reading class… gone AWOL. There’s not even the possibility of the pleasure of a little Ideological Jousting, in most cases… so much of the energy has to go to pointing out fundamental misreadings of the text, owing to the very poor reading skills of the Visiting Hostiles.

    A fearsome ideological insurgency you ain’t, kids. Rowdy Sweat Hogs (that’s a classical reference), more like.

    Is there time for a few more to come in and repeat the near-identical paragraph of inaccurate criticism…? Here, I’ll make it easy for you; these are your Bullshit Talking Points:

    1) The article-writer has contempt for poor people.
    2) He wants to burn books he doesn’t agree with.
    3) He thinks he knows everything.
    4) He’s a Marxist, Transgender, Flag-Burning, Negro-Loving, Christ-Killing, Self-Hating White Abortionist who fears the NRA and threatened Trump.
    5) White Men invented Laws, Self-Criticism and toilet paper.

  179. Left Coast Ron
    at 3:35 pm on July 20, 2017

    @Swog Hollow

    Swog, let’s correct a few mistakes, shall we?

    Boy, you sure nailed me as anti-Academic! Good going! Such insight! As a former tenured professor of Medieval and Early Modern European history (at a major public university) I did learn up close and personal the positives and negatives of academic life. Indeed, as was once said of a celebrity who didn’t attend college, “he has the kind of glowing respect for higher education that only someone who had never been to University could have.” And, yes, today’s campus monoculture does suck.

    Apologies for my hive mind in mentioning Manicheanism, which is just a right wing meme. Oh, wait—regarding our buddy, Mani, I’ve actually read and lectured about Manicheanism from sources such as St. Augustine. Guess mentioning the followers of Mani must makes me some sort of Hive-ist, right? And how inappropriate–comparingProgressive dualism to Manicheanism. Children of Light vs. the Children of Darkness. You know, you Woke folks vs. the rest of us. If you’re not oppressed, you must be an oppressor. Marginalized versus marginalizers. Sure seems like those who divide us into the woke vs. the damned are practicing Manicheanism 4.0. (2.0 were the Cathars and Albigensians; 3.0 the doctrinaire Marxists vs. those of us with false consciousness.)

    Oh, yeah—If you’re going to insult JD Vance, get your facts straight. He no longer works for Peter Thiel’s venture arm. Vance and Usha have moved back home to Appalachia–JD to devote his energies to non-profit foundation to combat opioid addiction. Guess that makes him an unfeeling tool of the Patriarchy, or something.

    @Not a Russian Bot:

    Why did I call you unhinged without knowing you? Well, for starters, I assume that anyone who thinks genocide is a good thing (wanting to drive all whites off a cliff, for example) is at least a little bit unhinged. I don’t need to know you to think that dreams of mass murder of an entire race (even if said mockingly) should qualify you for a bit of therapy. After all, you want to kill millions of people you haven’t met, either.

    And regarding our death ride off the cliff, thanks for letting me choose the music. I’m debating among Schubert’s Death and the Maiden, Beethoven’s Opus 130 and Siegfried’s funeral music. Got a preference? As for the guys you suggested, never heard of either of them, but appreciate that you are expanding my options.

  180. gmmay70
    at 3:38 pm on July 20, 2017

    Swoghollow, undoubtedly ideologically aligned with collectivist thought, has the cheek (or I suspect a breathtaking lack of self-awareness), to label opposing viewpoints as “dittoing” and from a “hive-mind.

    And doing so while spouting the same leftist platitudes and talking points and insults that have been rendered meaningless to all but the most dedicated neo-puritans of today’s left. You could try actually engaging an argument in an intellectually honest fashion, or you could continue impugning the cartoonish caricatures cavorting in your imagination. If you want answers to political polarization, look no further than these sort of nonsensical comments which pervade public discourse. .

    And it seems a few more have chimed in claiming that the author didn’t say what he so obviously did. I’d suggest reading and metabolizing the whole instead of forgetting what was said when encountering a paragraph break.

  181. Swog Hollow
    at 4:05 pm on July 20, 2017


    I wasn’t talking to you, nor do I care about you or what you think about the putative ongoing holocaust of the white man, who somehow despite the evil left’s best efforts still owns and runs everything (to be clear, I say this as a progressive white man, or, in your fellow travelers’ parlance, a cuck). But anyway, I think you’re getting your sock puppets confused.


    Your comment is an unreadable wash of meaningless stuff about the left and platitudes. Hilarious though, that a member of some group who clearly got their marching orders from nimrod on high and chewed their way into this nice website like an infestation of termites (mixing metaphors, sorry), would dispute the hive mind thing, I mean please.

  182. Swog Hollow
    at 4:21 pm on July 20, 2017

    Meant to add: good on Vance for the non-profit, but weird you would read my restating his bio as an insult to him. I was meaning to insult all the credulous windbags leaping to defend his honor against a bookseller with the temerity to think his book is lousy (which it is).

  183. steven augustine
    at 5:23 pm on July 20, 2017

    @Left Coast Ron

    Ah, much better… it’s too bad the others couldn’t have gotten together and decided to send you, to the thread, alone. Now, then…

    “All cultures and civilizations have screwed up. All of them. There’s nothing uniquely evil about the West.”

    If we care about the matter of particulars… and scale… you’re quite wrong there. Until Putin or Ahmadinejad decide to vaporize a city of c. 250,000 people (even more deaths than The West scored, against the West, in the fire-bombing of Dresden) *in order to make a point*, “The West” is still leading, in the category of technologically-amplified, post-Biblical Evil, by 1 to 0.

    Leopold-in-the-Congo (still “The West”) scores about 10 million dead (this isn’t counting the stats for the Belgian sport of punitive mutilation). Assigning Hitler to Team West and Stalin to Team East, we find: “All in all, the Germans deliberately killed about 11 million noncombatants, a figure that rises to more than 12 million if foreseeable deaths from deportation, hunger, and sentences in concentration camps are included. For the Soviets during the Stalin period, the analogous figures are approximately six million and nine million.” (quoted from NYRB, March 2011).

    I only dwell on the “West”/ not “West” dichotomy because “The West” is the term you used, whereas, in point of fact, “The West” is usually a euphemism for The Anglo-American/ European sphere of influence governed by… sorry.. White Males… the only counter-force to which would be China. Barring the self-inflicted wound of the Cultural Revolution (we won’t mention the American Civil War’s death toll, either), how many mega-deaths has China scored as an Imperial force on the planet? Even the “self-inflicted” atrocity of the Rwandan genocide was a smaller figure than the death toll as a result of American invasions/ occupations of the “Middle East”. If we add the death toll from America in the Philipines and Puerto Rico… but, wait. Have I forgotten to mention the genocide perpetrated against the Aboriginal Inhabitants of what we now call America?

    Well, obviously, “Western Civilization” has been able to dominate in the field of Fundamental Evil owing to the superior technology of its killing machines… but is that a moral alibi? If so, the thrill-killer who uses an Uzi instead of a machete is also off the hook. Further: consider: (crude?) nuclear weapons have obviously been available, to the highest bidders, since, at the latest, the fall of the Iron Curtain and the auctioning off of the old Soviet military apparatus. But have the supposed mad men, like Qaddaffi, or Hussein or Khomeini or even Idi Amin… ever used them? No. Thus far, that Evil has been strictly a White Guy Thing. Hmmmm.

    But I agree with you: all (or most) of us, commenting today, have benefited, directly, or indirectly, from the spoils accrued to the meanest Techno-Imperial “Civilization” on record; America didn’t spring whole from Zeus’ ball-capped head: we inherit and supersede the Empires before us. And exquisite Cultural refinements… from Opera Houses to Op Art to Liberal Arts degrees and Nashville… and the fading luxury habit of Book Chat we’re indulging in a dilute parody of today… were all made possible by the leisure time and Bourgeois security that riches secured and maintained, by the ruthless exploitation of natural riches (from slave labor to bananas to rare earth metals and, of course, oil) without opposing armies to defend them, afford us.

    Yes, we’re all lucky as Hell. But is that really all there is to it?

    And, anyway, some of (literally half of) my best friends are White Males and they’re great guys… probably because they know that OUR great advantages have come at the cost of the absolute misery and degradation of substantial chunks of the planet, going back centuries. And I’m just as unhappily complicit as they are. But at least we have the *balls* (sorry, Sisters: a lapse into the vernacular) to admit it to ourselves. Admitting it, as you’re smart enough to know, is the first step.

    But let’s talk about the article: do you honestly believe that the misery of Appalachia is entirely (or even mostly) self-inflicted? And that if Poor Whites modified their culture/ behavior the Poverty would vanish? Because, let me suggest: the economy is a Closed System. The more billionaires we (carelessly, craftily) sprout at the top… and so forth.

  184. Swog Hollow
    at 6:14 pm on July 20, 2017


    “But let’s talk about the article: do you honestly believe that the misery of Appalachia is entirely (or even mostly) self-inflicted? And that if Poor Whites modified their culture/ behavior the Poverty would vanish? Because, let me suggest: the economy is a Closed System. The more billionaires we (carelessly, craftily) sprout at the top… and so forth.”

    Ron does seem smarter, or at least better read, than the rest of the invading commentariat (damning with the faintest of praise), but in a general sense, yes, of course this is what they believe. Like Ben Carson, Vance’s fame and adoration on the right is entirely and uncritically based on the fact that he confirms one of their most cherished canards: that success in America is still mostly a matter of how hard a person works and not the fortune to be born to the right parents. An odd belief given 1) the plain observable facts of the world, and 2) the fact that many of the holders of this belief are themselves victims of circumstance, facing the steep, structural inequities as almost all of the rest of us. Nonetheless, they persist.

  185. steven augustine
    at 6:22 pm on July 20, 2017

    Oh, and re: “I’m debating among Schubert’s Death and the Maiden, Beethoven’s Opus 130 and Siegfried’s funeral music.”

    I’ve got the best performance, of the best over-the-cliff-music, for you (an amazing anachronism)… it will have to be a very high cliff:

  186. steven augustine
    at 6:26 pm on July 20, 2017


    “that success in America is still mostly a matter of how hard a person works and not the fortune to be born to the right parents.”

    As a fairy tale meme it’s absolute genius; much better than the Easter Bunny; it endures despite (somehow even because of) the ever-increasing deluge of contradictory evidence. And when people *finally* hit that wall, they go nuts.

  187. Not a Russian bot
    at 7:58 pm on July 20, 2017

    @Left Coast –

    If you’ve never heard of Neil Sedaka you truly are the most effete liberal academic out there – you don’t deserve to be in the car when we go over.

    “Beethoven.” Even on an anonymous message board people like you can’t help but be ridiculous.

  188. rEPOSTER
    at 3:46 am on July 21, 2017

    Reposted from

    “The question remains…does the bookseller’s role ever evolve past the capitalist exchange of money for paper and pulp?”

    WAIT. Wait just a minute. For years now, Christian small business owners have been in the news for refusing to sell their services for same-sex marriage ceremonies to which they have religious objections. And for just as long the left, in general but overwhelmingly, has found this to be simply incomprehensible. ‘What? By what right does a seller of goods and services presume to limit who and what she’ll sell to? Surely once you enter the marketplace, you must sell to anyone who has money to exchange! If you don’t like it, you can just NOT HAVE A BUSINESS.’

    But now that some Bostonians want to buy Hillbilly Elegy (of all places to draw the line), it’s suddenly dawned on our bookseller here that just maybe, the sale of goods and services may have some moral content not reducible to raw economics. He wonders sellers may have some ground for refusing business which would involve them in what they consider immoral. And he wonders this as if it’s a radical new insight which has only just occurred to him.

  189. Not a Russian bot
    at 8:21 am on July 21, 2017

    It’s just stupid though – nobody’s saying to ban the book, he’s saying “I don’t like selling it, but I guess I will.” Which is the same as saying “I don’t like to give gay people cakes, but I guess I will.”

    If “Christians” (quotes because they’re all so phony) get to discriminate, then so do I – I actually could not sell to “Christians” or anybody I don’t want too. It goes both ways.

    That’s why it doesn’t work at all – because then you’ve got enclaves like Kosovo and how’d that work out.

    It’s stupid – conservatives are hypocrites because this sort of discrimination is EXACTLY what they want the right to do, and then they’re upset when it gets targeted in their direction.

    They’re a joke and they’re incapable of self-examination – which at least this essay is some evidence of.

    It’s a joke. The whole thing’s a joke.

  190. Swog Hollow
    at 12:09 pm on July 21, 2017


    Yes, to be clear, the comparison being made above is to Christian bookstore owners who WILL NOT SELL various items they find irreligious. Here we have ~200 rightwing commenters motivated to barrage an article because the author… felt uncomfortable selling a book he disliked. But we’re the snowflakes, har.

    It reminds me a little of the health care debate. Republicans and republican pols are okay with stripping medicare from 20 to 30 million Americans and taking away protections against preexisting condition bans and lifetime limits, actions that will result, demonstrably not figuratively, in the deaths of thousands of people. But God forbid the left mention that impolitic fact, and when we do, out come the fainting couches.

  191. Doug
    at 12:17 pm on July 21, 2017

    Your comments about Vance’s book are so reductive I have to wonder if you even read it. Nowhere in the book does Vance espouse a “pull yourself by your bootstrap” ethos or unconditionally condemn the welfare state. He credits his community, relatives, teachers for saving him and criticizes only those government programs he finds dysfunctional. This illiberal notion that you should somehow be the gatekeeper to some right-thinking cultural community is both obnoxious and juvenile.

  192. Swog Hollow
    at 12:26 pm on July 21, 2017

    “This illiberal notion that you should somehow be the gatekeeper to some right-thinking cultural community is both obnoxious and juvenile.”

    Smug self-righteousness is admittedly a vice of the modern left, an attitude made so very difficult to resist by the right constantly being wrong about almost everything.

  193. steven augustine
    at 4:38 pm on July 21, 2017


    “Smug self-righteousness is admittedly a vice of the modern left, an attitude made so very difficult to resist by the right constantly being wrong about almost everything.”

    Yes, but now for the nitty-grity: aren’t the Poor poor whether the politicians supported by Liberals, or the ones supported by Conservatives, are in charge? (ha ha: surely you knew this was coming!)

    I know you don’t want to discuss this… but is this not True? And is it not Relevant to this Lib/Con debate?

    *Aren’t just as many Muslim schoolkids blown up by drones in school, or at weddings, or at the funerals for kids blown up by drones?

    *Aren’t just as many greedy Corporations despoiling the environment, or poisoning our meals, and shipping (originally, or potentially) American jobs to Third World (plutocrat wet-dream) labor markets?

    *Don’t just many innocent people Die By Hair-trigger Cop when a Dem is in office as when a Repub is?

    Certainly: things have gotten worse, over the decades, than they once almost were… but the shift doesn’t graph to superficial partisan values… it’s just a function of time… a cancer metastasizing across a rostrum of quack doctors.

    Was Clinton better than Daddy Bush? (Clinton, with his stooge Gore, was the guy who sold us the middle-class-killing NAFTA, and dismantled the “Welfare State”… what they used to call The New Deal… like a crypto-Right Wing champ, and the Clintons normalized the modern practise of Democrat racial-dog-whistling with their “Sister Soulja” and “Super Predators” riffs; we all know about The Clintons and Kosovo, right? ). Did Obama end the Bush Wars or ramp up a few of his own (using terrorists as a proxy army)? Trump is a buffoon, a prick, an ass… but his civilian kill record will take some time to catch up to Obama’s, to the Clintons’, to the Bushes’. Do the slaughtered care about the politics of their killers?

    Sure: Liberals and Lefties are more congenial (for me) than Conservatives (my friends are all either radical or liberal), but what’s the difference on the Grander Scale of Things?

    When will we go beyond this partisan McCoys vs Hatfields half-time show and face the structural problem that the US Government doesn’t give a damn about its own Serfs… while busily killing Serfs abroad?

    Were conditions in Appalachia better under Clinton, then worse under Bushes, then marvelous under Obama? Maybe Democrat rhetoric is nobler. Maybe the Republicans are more honestly, selfishly, repulsive. Maybe Trump is the perfect Rodeo Clown.

    The Dems point their fingers at the Cons and vice versa.

    The Denial is bipartisan.

    Isn’t it all a con while rich psychopaths get richer and consolidate the firmness of the headlock on us, chuckling quietly while we argue with each other?

  194. Swog Hollow
    at 4:59 pm on July 21, 2017


    “Sure: Liberals and Lefties are more congenial (for me) than Conservatives (my friends are all either radical or liberal), but what’s the difference on the Grander Scale of Things?”

    This seems like your central Q. I think it’s a pretty huge difference. In present political terms, 20-30 million insured, versus not. In terms of wars started, Iraq/Afghanistan vs. ?? In terms of taxation, environment, voting rights, reproductive rights, you name it, the same.

    I take your point that these problems exist under the left as well. I agree that a wholesale dismantling and reimagining of our political process would be ideal. I agree that Clinton is unreasonably lionized, likely a sexual predator on Trump’s level. I disagree that the sometimes incremental differences in policy approach don’t make a massive difference in real people’s lives. You can hate the system in place and still recognize how vastly better it operates when Ds run it than Rs.

  195. steven augustine
    at 5:53 pm on July 21, 2017

    In the interest of saving on my keyboard’s wear ‘n tear…

  196. Fen
    at 6:55 pm on July 21, 2017

    “Would you feel peachy if – ”

    Not my place to “feel” anything. Not my place to judge someone for purchasing Mein Kampf. Would be hypocritical anyway, as I’ve studied several National Socialist tracts as opposition research to learn the history and patterns of the Left.

    “Isn’t that crazy”

    Human shields? LOL. They don’t care about the poor, socialized medicine is about transferring power to the State. But you just keep playing with your fake narratives in your alternate realities. It’s why you never saw Trump coming, and why you will get 8 years of him. It blinds you and yours, which suits me fine.

    The best part is what comes after. Trump is not the revolution – like Brexit, he is just the first wave. So stay smug, stay arrogant, remain ignorant. Cocoon in your alternate reality of phantom racist sexist homophobes. We will let you know when it’s safe to come up.

  197. steven augustine
    at 6:57 pm on July 21, 2017

    Also interesting (and not that I’m trying to sway you, Swoggers, but I want to provide a door to another perspective, for any readers open to it)… written, at the end of BHO’s first term, at Black Agenda Report:

  198. steven augustine
    at 7:00 pm on July 21, 2017

    Regarding “Health Care” (also published at Black Agenda Report, in 2014):

    “With the ACA, we have now passed that crossroads and are headed down the road to a completely market-based system of privatized health care. This is not something to celebrate. Dr. Adam Gaffney recently wrote an excellent history in Jacobin on the turn we have taken away from the concepts of universal health care and economic justice to a neoliberal model. We are inundated with market rhetoric telling us how wonderful it is to have the choice of shiny silver insurance in the brand new marketplace. Insurance plans are called products and we are consumers of them.

    The problem with these public relations messages is that having health insurance doesn’t guarantee access to health care and health care doesn’t belong in the marketplace. As patients, we do not have a choice of whether or not to purchase health care when we need it. Delaying or avoiding necessary care can and does have serious consequences. And we can’t predict how much health care we will need or when we’ll need it. In a market-based system, profits are the bottom line and people receive only the amount of health care they can afford, not what they need.

    The ACA is transferring hundreds of billions of public dollars to the private insurance industry to subsidize plans that leave people underinsured, unable to afford care and at risk of financial ruin if they have a serious accident or illness. And even at its best, tens of millions of people will remain without insurance.

    Most of the 7.5 million people who purchased health insurance on the exchanges were already insured. More than 80 percent bought the lower-tier silver, bronze or catastrophic plans with the hope that they would not get sick. These plans have the lowest premiums but require that patients pay thousands of dollars out of pocket before insurance kicks in, and then pay 30 to 40 percent of the cost of covered care. The result is that underinsured people will continue to self-ration, delay or avoid care due to cost, as 80 million of us did in 2012.”

  199. H Woldke
    at 7:19 pm on July 21, 2017

    This is really very simple.
    1. You run a bookstore. It’s physically impossible for you to stock copies of every book in existence, so you make your inventory choice. The choice is yours, for your reasons. Include and exclude anything you wish.
    2a. Once you’ve decided to stock a book, why on earth wouldn’t you sell it to someone who wants to buy it? Otherwise, what’s the point in having it in your store? It’s a store, not a personal library.
    2b. You’re free to refuse to carry a particular title, but you are not free to refuse to sell a title you do carry to certain people because of your opinion of them. (This is why the refusal to stock a given title and, say, a florist’s refusal to sell roses for a same-sex wedding are not analogous.)
    3. Some one asks you your opinion about a book. At that point, you’re free to say, “Well, we stock that because there’s a demand for it, but between us I think it’s an idiotic book. I’d recommend any of these three instead, all of which treat the topic much better than that one does.”
    4. Now, if you work in the bookstore but don’t run it, and your boss says, “Don’t you dare tell anybody any book we stock is idiotic if they ask you about it,” then you have to decide whether you can live with that. If you can’t, you can either try to change your boss’s mind (maybe by explaining how it’s counterproductive) or you can go job seeking elsewhere.

  200. steven augustine
    at 7:23 pm on July 21, 2017

    So, Swog, you write:

    “You can hate the system in place and still recognize how vastly better it operates when Ds run it than Rs.”

    And Fen writes:

    “Trump is not the revolution – like Brexit, he is just the first wave. So stay smug, stay arrogant, remain ignorant. Cocoon in your alternate reality of phantom racist sexist homophobes. We will let you know when it’s safe to come up.”

    Why can’t either of you guys see that you’re both lost in cozy narratives of choice and ignoring the very simple fact that the overwhelming majority of the country is either poor (and in debt) or desperately poor… and getting poorer… while the only “winners” are the .001% and the Corporate Mechanisms (including the military) they use for all that wealth-stripping, at home and abroad?

    I only wish I could watch this Kafka-cum-Beckett play from a safe distance… but there is no such thing. The Neoliberal Net is global. Why do you hate each other more than you hate the Neoliberal Net?

    It’s baffling.

  201. Pat Loudoun
    at 7:33 pm on July 21, 2017

    I’m amazed this post is still up given that Koziol is being torn to shreds for his obvious dishonesty and sanctimony. You went full smug.

    You never go full smug.

  202. Julie Z
    at 10:17 pm on July 21, 2017

    You’ve done something useful by starting a dialogue. Thank you for letting me bring to the surface my discomforts with the book, which may not be the same as yours but which I’ve pretty much stuffed because it is politically incorrect to say I didnt entirely “get” the author’s drift, though I got a bit of a look through the looking glass. Something was missing, only part of which was that he floundered a bit at the end in coming up with a solid point and real “solutions.” What I liked most was his finding his way and using his experinece in the military for the structure he needed to move forward. But hey, that is the exact personality in the book “Don’t Think About Elephant” – describing the whole Trump phenomenon.

  203. H.A.
    at 7:21 am on July 22, 2017

    Pat Loudon – was that the object? Your concerted effort to have Mr. Koziol’s lovely and insightful essay removed would never have worked. He has not been torn to shreds at all, you’ve made him famous. Also the comments are equally organised hate and informed support. And taken down? What?! The Millions would do better removing hate comments – they stand by and support their essayists.

  204. Swog Hollow
    at 7:32 am on July 22, 2017


    The thing is, we’re really talking about two different things. On one level, I completely agree with you. The system is fucked. We live in a neoliberal nightmare that funnels wealth to the top .000001% and says good luck to everyone else. Through this lens, yes, what’s really the difference between Bush and BHO?

    Yet this *is* the world we live in, and in that world there are substantial policy differences. That HC quote is actually a perfect example: OCare does indeed funnel new patients into a neoliberal HC framework that enriches insurers. At the same time, it put in protections for lifetime limits and preexisting conditions that didn’t exist before. It is, in my view, an upgrade from 2012. My father, for example, would almost certainly be dead if he’d gotten sick prior to ACA.

    Put another way: I listen to both Chapo Trap House and Pod Save America. I find Chapo Trap House funnier and probably “truer.” But I find PSA more useful.

  205. Swog Hollow
    at 8:11 am on July 22, 2017

    Dear rightwing nuts,

    Your work is done here, please return to or or whatever hellhole of conspiratorial bullshit from whence you came.

  206. Linda Cohen
    at 3:20 pm on July 22, 2017

    For anybody who complained about bookstores who curate their stock, get a clue, all Indies do it as they have limited funds and space and frankly it’s their store to do as they wish. They try to be inclusive in terms of customers, but you can’t stock everything. I can tell none of you people have ever worked in a bookstore, so until you’ve experienced it and yes, dealt with overwhelming stupidity day in and day out, then you haven’t a clue. Their is an expectation of a certain level of intelligence when a person comes into a bookstore but sadly this is not the case in reality.

  207. steven augustine
    at 6:03 pm on July 22, 2017


    I say we throw the bums out… *all* of ’em. We could, actually… but we would need to be a WE. Maybe in a century or two…? I’ve got time.

  208. Swog Hollow
    at 6:36 pm on July 22, 2017


    I’m with you. Let me know when you have a workable plan. In the meantime, I will continue voting and agitating for the Bullshit Party over the Nihilist Ignoramus Death Cult

  209. TS1
    at 6:40 pm on July 22, 2017

    This actually kind of makes me want to read this book. I don’t have to agree with everything I read, and I think we should read more books that we have to think critically about and not just absorb.

  210. steven augustine
    at 6:55 pm on July 22, 2017


    I have a workable plan but people aren’t ready for it! Oh well!

  211. steven augustine
    at 7:13 pm on July 22, 2017

    (I mean, how will things change if you support The Bullshit Party and the “other” ones support the Nihilist Ignoramus Death Cult… that just means that The System, which consists of BOTH, will continue to enjoy near-100% support. And PS The Bullshit Party is a Death Cult, as well: lots of blood on both sides… which is generally ignored by both sides… which is why The System continues to thrive and rule. Opting Out would be just as incremental… and hard to believe in, therefore… as Voting is. The difference being that Voting entails fixed results: The Shits continue to rule, when you Vote, since The Shits decide who you Vote between. Brilliant. Nefarious. Obvious. Oh well. But am I really the Dreamer in all of this…? )

  212. Swog Hollow
    at 11:36 am on July 23, 2017


    The answer, it seems to me, is that you don’t have to choose. You can work to change the system as a whole, via protest, acts of intellectual insurgency, boycotts, and a general awareness of the fuckedness of it all, while acknowledging that for the foreseeable future, this is the system we have, and making the best of that. You are not going to convince me there aren’t substantive, meaningful differences between Ds and Rs–as I said, my father’s life is more or less owed to humane protections in ACA. Reproductive rights, environmental and consumer protections, progressive taxation, etc.–these all matter and are impacted by who runs things.

    I think it’s also a false dichotomy to paint the left and right as essentially the same in character, just arbitrarily arrayed against each other. It has long been a matter of established sociological fact that right-wingers tend toward an authoritarian, hive-mind impulse, something this thread, in fact, exemplifies. To be sure, the left has its own orthodoxies and articles of faith, but the visible spectrum of progressive politics extends from Hilary centrism into the Bernie camp and beyond, people agitating for a modern, workable socialism (which I think, approximately, is your position?). So I think it’s pretty facile to cast both sides as equally credulous. Someone like me, who generally believes that the system we have is all we’re going to have, is at least willing to have this discussion. Drop into Instapundit some time and try the same.

  213. steven augustine
    at 2:19 pm on July 23, 2017


    “Someone like me, who generally believes that the system we have is all we’re going to have, is at least willing to have this discussion.”

    I totally appreciate that! In the end, for me, the point is not to persuade you of anything, the point is to present this conversation to readers who, perhaps, aren’t normally exposed to it. This is as disruptive to the conformity/uniformity of Belief, that Propaganda works toward, as anyone can get in a comment thread at a Lit Site. So, you know: I go for it.

    “people agitating for a modern, workable socialism (which I think, approximately, is your position?)”

    Social Democracy, more like. In other words: Capitalism minus the Psychopathy. I think “Marxism” is a dead end that may or may not have actually been designed to that purpose (and most of the “Communists” I know are just Oedipally disaffected members of the Bourgeoisie).

    Social Democracy is (or was) a system with a real track record… before Neoliberalism started chipping away at it (although it’s still far more sane/ humane/ constructive, in its hampered state, than the economic meat grinder in the US is). It just means, essentially: A) humane working conditions (including paid maternity, vacations, solid unemployment support) B) top notch Universal Health Care. Both of which confer more safety, happiness and dignity to the masses.It should be non-negotiable, since these masses generate the wealth required to support the social net I’m describing… they deserve a reasonable share of it.

    The Owners/ Bosses should learn (as they did in Scandinavia) to live with less spectacular profits; in the end, it’s worth it to all involved. American Plutocrats build gilded palaces surrounded by fracked, strip-mined, Oxycontinated Dystopias full of millions of hopeless people who will soon enough be screaming for plutocrat blood (while also fighting civil race/gender wars): American Idol can only work, as a pacifier, for so long. The Scandinavian Industrialists were a little smarter than that, it seems.

  214. Swog Hollow
    at 6:43 pm on July 23, 2017


    Well-said and agreed, cheers.

  215. Phil Trubey
    at 10:17 pm on July 23, 2017

    It’s fairly obvious that the article writer has not read the book. Either that, or he is a moron. What he says the book espouses and what the book actually says are completely different. That’s all you need to know about the article.

    As far as the book is concerned, it is entertaining, informative, and I couldn’t put it down. Well worth reading.

  216. Charles Pluckhahn
    at 11:13 pm on July 23, 2017

    In list form:

    1. The first duty of any business is to stay in business. I don’t know how much your store charges for “Hillbilly Elegy,” but I’ll climb out on a limb and guess that it’s more than what Amazon charges. The difference helps keep the store in business.

    2. As an employee, it’s not your job to choose what to sell, and that extends to passively discouraging a sale.

    3. That much said, if a customer wants to discuss the book with you, and you’ve read it, I’ll crawl out on another limb and suggest that some customers might be interested in your view of it. Nothing wrong with offering your view to a receptive customer, but not in such a way that will discourage the sale. See #1 above.

    4. It took me until my early 30s, in graduate school, to realize that no author has all the answers, no matter how good they are. Any writing is, in the end, one take on a subject, and should be seen as such — regardless of whether you “agree” or “dsagree” with what you have read.

    5. Intelligent readers will make their own judgments. If a book is “influential,” there is all the more reason to read it. I have a personal hate-literature shelf, and it includes The Communist Manifesto, Mein Kampf, Mao’s “little red book,” In the Belly of the Beast, The Turner Diaries, and some others. I don’t “agree” with these books, but I think they’re important to have read.

    6. Your reductionism of Dreher, Buckley, etc. is sadly comical. If this is emblematic of how you think, and of how you present your views, I think most of your customers will dismiss your opinion of Hillbilly Elegy.

    7. I read Atlas Shrugged when I was in high school. I laughed. You seem to think that the act of reading someone’s viewpoint will mesmerize the reader. Wrong. Sometimes, the articulation and dissemination of a point of view is the most effective means of discrediting it.

    8. Sometimes, a chicken sandwich is just a chicken sandwich.

    9. Do you stock “The Bell Curve”? I read it. Did you?

    10. Quit telling people what to think, even by inference. It’s obnoxious.

  217. Mitchel Ahern
    at 7:37 am on July 24, 2017

    Aren’t conservatives wonderful? So full of understanding and sympathy. So willing to engage in non-vituperative discussion; never resorting to name-calling. I like how they read through to the end, they’d never just skim and fire off their favorite talking points and insults. It’s the lack of arrogance and hypocrisy I find most charming.

  218. Amanda Nash
    at 9:41 am on July 24, 2017

    Thank you for this article. I appreciate your position. I think, as you conclude at the end, that the best thing you can do is to start conversations. I read this book for probably the same reasons all of your other liberal/progressive customers did. I like to think though that if I had come to your store and talked to you about the book I might’ve walked away with a different book… which would’ve been a good outcome for both of us. One thing I do want to add though is that you may be discounting the intelligence of your customers. I read the book and came away with a similar opinion of it to your own. It was still a useful read. I didn’t come away feeling that I now understood the people it examined; I didn’t adopt the position of the author. I just felt that I had a little bit more information.
    Now b I’m going to have a look at the books that you might have recommended :-)
    Thank you.

  219. toad
    at 10:06 am on July 24, 2017

    I spend a few days beyond the iron grasp of the internet and I see I’ve missed quite the kerfuffle here! Lots of LOLs all around. There’s too much to say:

    1. “Free speech” is about government censorship – whatever this “discussion” is about, it aint free speech.
    2. I’m astounded by how openly people love monopolies these days. I suspect this is because most folks are utterly ignorant of history. Regardless, “this independent business is anti-freedom so I’m going to shop at a monopoly with a history of predatory-pricing competitors out of business and treating its warehouse employees like indentured servants” is hilariously 2017.
    3. “Don’t tell me how to feel about a book. Vance’s book is awesome and if you don’t think so you’re a moron.”

    On and on and on. Ideas are dead, critical thought is dead, reading is dead. Politics in 2017 is two factions thinking they’re pissing all over the other side, but they’re both just pissing into the wind. Meanwhile the plutocrats have seized power and monopolies rule the economy. When folks wake up they’re going to be in for a shock! Hopefully it isn’t too late. Meantime – sure, yeah, let’s argue about whether a bookseller has a right to dislike a book. Progress!

  220. Charles Pluckhahn
    at 1:12 pm on July 24, 2017

    Um, toad?

    The bookseller’s employee posted a discursive rant about people who like a book that he doesn’t like. And now you’re mad that people replied. Tell me, what is it about liberals these days that makes so many of you unable to stomach the possibility that someone might debate you?

    Good God, what are you afraid of?

  221. toad
    at 2:55 pm on July 24, 2017

    Chuck, dude, I’m trying to figure out which part of my comment triggered you…I’m guessing #3? This is a fun/sad parlor game – Where Did The Culture Warrior Stop Reading?

    Anyway, I’m not a liberal – what is a “liberal” these days anyhow? – so let’s debate! Re: your comments:

    1. Nice summary of price elasticity. Indie bookstores charge more than Amazon – no argument there!
    2. Good boss-to-employee advice. You come across like a firm but fair boss.
    3. Your customer service philosophy is commendable. You should try your hand at bookselling!
    4. Again, I agree that most writing strives to have a point and that the reader may choose to agree or disagree with that point.
    5. Spot-on again! I wish there were more of these intelligent readers/media consumers of which you speak.
    6. Here I feel your point is underdeveloped. Why is the writer’s “reductionism” comical? Has he made an error of fact? This seems to be a matter of opinion – you seem to be more forgiving of Dreher, Buckley, et al. Is the writer not entitled to the freedom to be less forgiving? I also disagree that people don’t like reductionist thinking. People LOVE reducing complex issues like immigration, race, religion, etc into grossly simplified sound bites. What say you?
    7. I mean, I agree with your point here again, but didn’t you already note this in Point #5?
    8. I agree that chicken sandwiches are chicken sandwiches. Best one I’ve ever had was at a little Ecuadorian restaurant the next town over – my daughter ordered it by mistake. Now we can’t go a month without it.
    9. Not sure what you are getting at here. Is this supposed to be a “gotcha”? You seem to imply that if the bookseller does not stock Bell Curve, or has not read it, that makes him anti-free speech or a bubbled elite. Surely you agree that businesses should be free to sell whatever products they like? Also, Bell Curve is different from Hillbilly Elegy in that the former is based in junk science, which has been thoroughly debunked, and the latter is simply one man’s opinion/memoir. I’ve read Hillbilly Elegy and don’t find it at all “insidious” like the writer of this piece, but merely unserious, the work of a writer who believes writing is a process of documentation, rather than intellectualism and discovery. Bell Curve, again, is a different animal: a science book based on junk science. (Full disclosure: in my day job I’m a scientist) I haven’t read it; I have read a couple articles debunking the science, and that’s enough for me. Why would I waste my time on something that has been proven wrong? There are far too many interesting books in the world. That doesn’t make me left-wing, or right-wing, or close-minded, or what have you. It simply makes me uninterested in eugenics. (I’m also uninterested in semiotics and industrial engineering and a raft of other things – not everything is political; as you say, sometimes a chicken sandwich is a chicken sandwich.) I do think it is dangerous to dress up spurious ideas in the somber garments of science, though.
    10. This is an interesting point. Would you have made it if this bookseller made a stirring pro-Elegy argument to every customer that walked in the door? You’ve used several points to tell the bookseller how to think. I think you have a misunderstanding about the concept of free speech. People have been writing opinion pieces for centuries – Plato’s ouevre, for example, could be pithily summarized as “telling people how to think.” A writer pens an essay or opinion piece as an act of persuasion – if you don’t hope to influence the reader, what’s the point? Much better to let these voices speak and, per your Points 5 &7, let the reader decide whether or not to listen.

    I look forward to continuing the debate!

  222. Charles Pluckhahn
    at 3:31 pm on July 24, 2017

    No need to reply to everything.

    6. I offer this gem: “Rod Dreher, whose oeuvre consists of transphobic screeds for The American Conservative.” If that’s not reductionism, then reductionism doesn’t exist. It’s comically stupid. If you don’t see it, then that would be willful blindness.

    9. That was a sheer taunt. Forgive me for having fun. That said, I don’t think The Bell Curve’s thesis was spurious, nor was it based on “junk science.” If it’s junk science you’re looking for, I suggest reading up on the anthropogenic global warming hypothesis.

    10. The article’s author comes across as someone who doesn’t just have an opinion, but feels the need to disparage those who don’t share it, and who would dare to even consider alternatives. Sadly, this is the attitude we see from far too many liberals in recent years.

  223. Swog Hollow
    at 5:02 pm on July 24, 2017

    “6. I offer this gem: “Rod Dreher, whose oeuvre consists of transphobic screeds for The American Conservative.” If that’s not reductionism, then reductionism doesn’t exist. It’s comically stupid. If you don’t see it, then that would be willful blindness.”

    Fair point. Dreher’s oeuvre consists of plenty of stupid and terrible screeds about things other than the trans menace.

  224. steven augustine
    at 5:04 pm on July 24, 2017

    ” I don’t think The Bell Curve’s thesis was spurious, nor was it based on “junk science.”

    Well, it’s only Junk Science unless it “confirms” one of your oldest and fondest prejudices, at which point it transcends matters of Science entirely; the book’s reception among literate racists, when it first came out, equaled the tail-thumping ecstasies of a million red-eyed, coon-hunting hounds having their bellies scratched. The Bell Curve is special, third-generation Junk Science in that its foundational elements are the super-soft semi-science behind the IQ test and the older, wholly goofy “science” of Race. (Although I do miss that picturesque era during which the Irish had a race to themselves).

    Just as air travel is more a triumph of engineering than it is of Science (still no stable consensus on what creates “Lift”, kiddies!), the IQ test is more a triumph of Social Engineering than it is of science’s quantification fetish as applied successfully to the squishy variables of Intelligence. And no, I’m not about to treat you to a 7-year-old link to an article on the Flynn Effect (they’re going to have to rename that, eh?)…

    … instead I’ll link to a humorous thing for you literate types, with ten minutes to kill, here (under the linked heading, look for the second section, titled “2. THE DUBIOUS UNDERPINNINGS OF OUR ASSUMPTIONS, Part One: A BRIEF BIO of ALFRED BINET (collected from various sources) in six bites”:

  225. Swog Hollow
    at 5:11 pm on July 24, 2017

    “10. The article’s author comes across as someone who doesn’t just have an opinion, but feels the need to disparage those who don’t share it, and who would dare to even consider alternatives. Sadly, this is the attitude we see from far too many liberals in recent years.”

    This truly is the condundrum of modern liberalism, i.e. how to humor the legion of conspiracies, factual stupidities, and/or racist/homohobic/sexist things that the right believes without seeming “smug.” I would hate, after all, for an Infowars listener who thinks the CIA is running a child porn ring out of a pizzeria, to find me uncivil! We need to welcome all thoughts, including the risible ones created daily by the rightwing propaganda machine, into the marketplace of ideas!

  226. toad
    at 5:14 pm on July 24, 2017

    Hi Chaz, thanks for the response!

    6. I’ll grant that’s a reductionist sentence. I contend that if the sentence instead read “…whose ouevre consists of brilliant screeds…” you would not call it reductionist. As a culture we reduce things all the time. So it’s a meaningless label.
    9. I disagree with the notion that laypeople have valid opinions about proven science. Alternative facts are not facts. (You want to talk about smugness – the idea that Joe Everyman is going to blithely dismiss the consensus of 97% of the experts who dedicate their entire lives to studying the climate – well, that is the absolute height of arrogance/willful blindness.) If you are interested in the science behind intelligence theory (I doubt you are, seems like you’ve made up your mind):

    Here’s a solid dismantling of the Bell Curve’s “science”:

    Unfortunately, a lot of this gets conflated with the Murray/college campus hysteria. I.e., if the screaming liberals are against Murray, he must be correct, right? It is possible, believe it or not, to dismiss Murray’s junk science while simultaneously condemning the campus outrage. I wish he would speak more, because his work is so easy to poke holes in. A smart activist would let him speak, then dismantle him with sober scientific questioning.
    10. Agree on the epidemic of liberal smugness. One would think the 2016 election would have humbled that crowd a bit…I don’t see it though. I don’t think this article is an example of that disease, though. I mean, here’s the last line:

    “Listening to what made the person gravitate towards the book in the first place, listening while withholding judgment, listening as if I don’t know all the answers.”

    That doesn’t sound smug to me.

    Anyway, thanks for the conversation!

  227. steven augustine
    at 5:47 pm on July 24, 2017

    [at the risk of veering giddy-far Off Piste, Swoggers, judging the accuracy of a theory/fact by the intelligence/niceness of *some* of those who do, or do not, believe it, is a logical fallacy common to our info-overload era. Plenty of racists believe or accept The General Theory of Relativity, for example… as do some idiots. And lots of “conspiracy theorists” believed in Gary Webb’s reportage on what became, years later, “Iran/Contra,” back when most people considered Webb and his readers to be wacko. A close look at the Dutroux case in Belgium, or at the “Call Boy” Congressional Page scandals in Daddy Bush-era Washington indicates that pedophilia…aka Powerful Old White Guy Disease.. is endemic in the corridors of power; it may well be one of Alex Jones’ functions to taint such theories with his vocal presence, in fact: Lee Atwater wasn’t the beginning and end of dirty tricks in politics]

  228. pido
    at 5:58 pm on July 24, 2017

    “…there is no reason why a softer, more personalized approach couldn’t be wielded against classist, poor-shaming books that have managed to gloss themselves with a veneer of bipartisan respectability—it would just involve some risk.”

    Yes, the risk of someone’s privacy (hint: not yours).

    “listening while withholding judgment…”

    After you’ve passed judgement, obviously.

  229. Charles Pluckhahn
    at 6:22 pm on July 24, 2017

    So, steve, do you deny the existence of intelligence, or of its measurement by I.Q. and related testing, or both?

    And are you one of those “race is only a social construct” believers? If so, then we really need to get rid of things like “Black Lives Matter” and “the Congressional Black Caucus,” no?



    6. Okay, so you’re saying, in effect, that there’s no such thing as reductionism. I can join in then. Let’s reduce the Hildebeast to, say, just one uranium deal.

    9. That 97% consensus is phony, but that would be a fact and you would be a liberal who desperatrely clings to his religion. (Hey, reductionism is okay now, right?) And even it was true, there are plenty of cases in science where the consensus was overturned.

    When your crowd says that “the science is settled,” you betray ignorance of the scientific method. This isn’t surprising, because global warming has never been about the science. It’s politics, religion, careers, grants, and groupthink. But not science.

    Finally, his ending sentence had all the authenticity and sincerity of Richard Nixon’s famous tagline, after describing all the things that should be done to his enemies: “But it would be wrong.”

  230. Charles Pluckhahn
    at 6:33 pm on July 24, 2017

    @ Swog Hollow

    It’s always amusing when people conform to stereotype.

  231. steven augustine
    at 6:37 pm on July 24, 2017


    “So, steve, do you deny the existence of intelligence, or of its measurement by I.Q. and related testing, or both?”

    I believe Intelligence expresses itself in a myriad ways, on many levels, and that too much that is Intelligent goes unperceived by those not quite Intelligent to catch it. It may be Quantifiable one day but it isn’t yet.

    “And are you one of those “race is only a social construct” believers? If so, then we really need to get rid of things like “Black Lives Matter” and “the Congressional Black Caucus,” no?”

    Charles, are you Intelligent enough to grasp the fact that, if Race (as we think of it) is a Social Construct, a Social Activism group (a la BLM) is not (necessarily) a wholly inappropriate construct with which to address it?


    PS (I, personally, have a problem with BLM but that’s another thread….)

  232. Swog Hollow
    at 6:45 pm on July 24, 2017


    Omg, right back at you pal.

    I mean, you could not prove my point any better if you were trying. Are you trying? Your criticism of liberal closedmindedness toward rightwing “ideas” while defending the Bell Curve and global warming skepticism is like a fine Burgundy paired with rare filet *kisses fingers*

  233. Swog Hollow
    at 6:54 pm on July 24, 2017

    Sorry, I know this is pointless, but Charles, also:

    “And are you one of those “race is only a social construct” believers? If so, then we really need to get rid of things like “Black Lives Matter” and “the Congressional Black Caucus,” no?”

    I can’t ever tell if it’s that conservatives are incredibly stupid or just intellectually dishonest, or at what point those distinctions become meaningless. You realize, I hope, that a person can simultaneously hold that 1) race is a social construct while also being aware that 2) this social construct creates very real class/racial/economic injustice for people, creating the need to organize? You don’t even have to agree with it being a social construct, or for that matter the need to organize or protest, to see that there’s no conflict there.

  234. Not a Russian bot
    at 8:06 pm on July 24, 2017

    Charles is posting from an Albanian content farm.

    All so boring. So very, very boring.

  235. Charles Pluckhahn
    at 8:36 pm on July 24, 2017

    @steve, and therefore do you classify anything that accepts “g” and its measurability as “junk science?” Are you by chance related to ol’ man Lysenko?

  236. toad
    at 8:59 pm on July 24, 2017


    See, this is exactly why I wish your buddy (and namesake) Murray spoke more, not less – he, like you, can only hide his lack of intellectual rigor so long. I mean, you committed the fatal unforced error of bringing global warming into the discussion, then proceeding to betray an embarrassing paucity of knowledge on the subject. Before you introduced global warming, I would have considered you reasonably intelligent; now I sincerely doubt you know the meaning of the term “scientific method”.

    I won’t argue the science of climate change with you – the science is not political, it’s science. What to DO about climate change – that’s politics. Why are the deniers so uncomfortable with the strategy of accepting the science of climate change, but arguing that, say, we have bigger, more immediate problems to worry about? This way they won’t come off as an anti-science dingbat and ruin their credibility on that and any other issue. In essence this is what Trump has done with his Pittsburgh-over-Paris rhetoric – one of the few examples, in my opinion, where he displays even a modicum of political skill.

    What I will do is let you in on a little secret: you lost. The deniers lost, and the delicious part is that most of ’em don’t even realize it. The most consequential thing about the Paris Agreement was the fact that nearly the entire world agreed on something. The actual terms were non-enforceable, and very modest. So Trump’s withdrawal was mostly a symbolic gesture. Those of us who work on these issues know that the real policy work on the climate is being done at the local level – states (California is leading the pack) but even moreso cities. Almost every major US city has signed the mayor’s pact to continue to follow the Paris Agreement, and most had already set more aggressive carbon reduction goals anyhow. In my flyover-country region, every inner-ring suburb in the metropolitan area has committed, via ordinance or similar measure, to a minimum 80% carbon reduction by 2050. Coal is dying; natural gas has peaked; renewable energy is as cheap as fossil fuels when all government subsidies are stripped out. Renewable energy is as much an economic issue as an environmental one; people are realizing how nice it is to have reduced electrical bills and increased property values when they throw a few solar panels on the roof. (This is not to suggest we’ve “solved” the problems of climate change – plenty of work to do there – I just mean you’ve lost the stupid intellectually-dishonest “is science real’? debate.)

    In other words, the wheels of action on climate change were in motion long before the likes of Scott “What’s Carbon Dioxide?” Pruitt and Rick “Supply Creates Demand” Perry came along, and there’s no going backwards now.

    To paraphrase an old song – something is happening here but you don’t know what it is, do you, Mr. Pluckhahn?

    Two final thoughts – you are aware of the Human Genome Project, correct? We’ve got a pretty good handle on this genetics thing. (Well, some better than others, I guess.)

    Also – you should come up with a better slander than “liberal”. I’m beginning to think you don’t understand the meaning of that word either.

  237. Charles Pluckhahn
    at 9:24 pm on July 24, 2017

    I know a lot about your AGW religion. See, you’re liberal and you think you know everything. Anyone who disagrees with you is a stupid “denialist.” You don’t consider me “intelligent” because I’m not part of your cult, and because I am willing to call it exactly what it really is.

    Americans tend to call things by their real names, and like it when others do. That’s why the president you loathe got elected rather than the corrupt, arrogant, dishonest, ugly old harridan who you preferred. She didn’t like facts, and neither do you. So it was a great match.

    Now, what were we talking about again? Oh, suppy creates demand. That would be Say’s Law. But hey, I’m too stupid to breathe.

  238. Swog Hollow
    at 9:33 pm on July 24, 2017

    “@swog, you’re cute when you’re sputtering. Do you live in Brooklyn or Portlandia and sport a man-bun? I want you to know what I am an excellent marksman, and can shoot one clear off (which my AR-15, natch) at 150 yards.”

    Cool, i.e. you have no response other than lame doctrinaire right wing machismo. Just go back to please, you lame, boring troll.

  239. Swog Hollow
    at 9:36 pm on July 24, 2017

    Btw, Charles, you really should consider the possibility that you’re on the wrong side of almost everything. Hint: you really are, and history will not judge you or your ilk well. I guess in the years to come, I’ll just have to somehow deal with the memory of being called smug by the most worthless people in the world.

  240. Charles Pluckhahn
    at 11:05 pm on July 24, 2017

    @swog, where’s Sethrichpizzatown? Couldn’t find it in Northern Idaho. Maybe I’ll have to see if Mark Furman can direct me.

  241. Charles Pluckhahn
    at 11:20 pm on July 24, 2017

    Oh, but wait! “swog” shops in farmer’s markets, unaware that the “farmers” stopped at the local grocery store, bought a bunch of produce, and marked it up double. You have to love them cynical Brooklynites.

  242. Charles Pluckhahn
    at 11:37 pm on July 24, 2017

    “Almost every major US city has signed the mayor’s pact to continue to follow the Paris Agreement, and most had already set more aggressive carbon reduction goals anyhow.”


    The Paris charade would’ve committed the U.S. to pay $308/year/person to your favorite 3d World kleptocrats. Now — Let’s see, for example, if the City of San Francisco, home to 865,000 people, will ship $266 million each year to said thieves.

    Will the state of California write an annual check for $12 billion? Or is this all just another exercise in empty liberal virtue signaling? Do you somehow think that no one notices? If so, better think again.

  243. Swog Hollow
    at 8:17 am on July 25, 2017



    I live in a red state. It’s probably why I get so enraged by the intellectual dishonesty and tone of whiny grievance in these types of comment sections–bc it’s so familiar to me. People in Brooklyn probably give the right far too much credit as at least being “authentic” or something. Regardless, your insults are hilariously out of touch, like everything else you’ve posted–will you call make fun of people who drink lattes next? Can’t wait to see!

  244. toad
    at 8:51 am on July 25, 2017

    Chuckles, keep talking, man, you’re doing great!

    Seriously, thanks for the discussion & be well.

  245. Charles Pluckhahn
    at 10:24 am on July 25, 2017

    @swog, so do you all get together and talk about the time you drove through Tennessee and didn’t get killed by those rednecks in the pickup truck on the Interstate? Adjunct professor + barista?

  246. C. Max Magee
    at 10:33 am on July 25, 2017

    We’d like to thank everyone for their robust participation. At this point, 245 comments in, we don’t believe there is anything new to add to the conversation that hasn’t been said, so we are closing this to further comments. Thank you for reading The Millions.