It’s been too long since an outsider did a good, old-fashioned hatchet job on the San Joaquin Valley. One that combines complete ignorance of this region, bad journalism and snot-nosed condescension.
Fortunately, a blogger for Harper’s magazine named Aaron Gilbreath has filled the void. Gilbreath has peenned a classic rip-and-run blog essay, “Driving the San Joaquin Valley: An afternoon with Starbucks customers in the armpit of California.”
Here’s his first graf:
“The nearly three hundred flat miles of Interstate 5 running through California’s San Joaquin Valley are some of the most loathed in America. If travelers stop at all along this section of highway, it’s to visit the Petro stations, Starbucks, Del Tacos, and In-N-Out Burgers that dot the roadside. In the parking lots of these chain stores, drivers lean against their cars and smoke cigarettes, enjoying a moment of sunshine before quickly resuming their trip. Though the San Joaquin Valley, together with the Sacramento Valley, produces a quarter of America’s produce, many Californians refer to the area as “the armpit of California,” dismissing it as a roadside bathroom break, or joking about it being the haunt of rednecks and meth-heads.”
Gilbreath doesn’t base his “most loathed” ranking on any data; he just asserts it. He knocks the plebian highway businesses, but what’s roadisde along the highways where he lives? Palaces, or typical American roadside commerce?
That’s all just superiority. Where the bad journalism comes in is obvious. He didn’t talk to anyone from here. If you ask L.A. residents what they think of the rural areas of course they’re going to knock them as provincial. But when your sources tell you that they themselves know nothing about this region … oh, never mind.
That line about Valley meth heads is a good one, too — because, you know, of course no on in L.A. does drugs. Lindsay Lohan is addicted to Girl Scout cookies.
I could go on dismantling this egregious piece, which reflects as poorly on Gilbreath’s editors, who never should have let it through with its amateurish lack of good sources. I’ll just ring off by marveling at the piece’s conclusion. Gilbreath escapes the land of lowbrow In-N-Outs and reaches the Xanadu of sophisticated San Francisco where “a vegan restaurant … served me organic ketchup sweetened with agave nectar.”
Where do you think the tomato in that ketchup came from, knucklehead? The most successful farming operation in the history of the world.