Why Are Americans So (fill in the blank)

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In the months before a U.S. Presidential election, the quality of political discourse hits new lows, according to Renee DiResta, who along with her husband Justin Hileman, has come up with an interesting interactive map to show what states are known for according to key words associated with the state in Google searches.

“Blue State/Red State tropes dominate the news cycle as the media gins up outrage over perceived injustices in the culture wars,” DiResta says on her blog. “It’s all about our differences.”

So she started wondering, how do Americans really think about “those people” in other states? What are the most common stereotypes? For each of the 50 states and D.C., she asked Google: “Why is [State] so” and let it autocomplete. It seemed like an ideal question to get at popular assumptions, since “Why is [State] so X?” presupposes that X is true.

The map displays the results – just hover over the states. Most of the terms are about what we’ll call “culture,” or about the weather. Politics and economics also figure prominently.

Click on this link to see the map and check out your state.


Of course my home state of Alabama is seen number one as racist. It is good at football, however. But of course it is perceived as a place full of fat people.

If the algorithm had been taken a few steps further, it would have revealed that the state is also so very Republican, with all three branches of government controlled by the tea party thanks to the Christian Right and the Big Business Council of Alabama, run by Karl Rove’s old buddy Bill Canary.

I am considering starting a shit storm to get a conversation going here in a few days by posting the following comment on Finebaum’s Facebook page. What do you think? “I hope both Alabama and Auburn lose their season college football opening games this year, so maybe we can put aside the national championship talk for a change and focus for once on public affairs.”

The state has many real problems that need to be addressed, but they won’t be addressed as long as everybody is simply talking about football. This was confirmed by a union leader in a long phone conversation last night. He is frustrated he can’t get his members to talk about doing something to get involved in solving our political problems. But mention Alabama football, and everybody’s face lights up and they start chattering away.

© 2012, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.

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