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The Redneck Manifesto by Jim Goad

Review by Marcia Darnell

Rural Life – December 1997 – Colorado Central Magazine

The Redneck Manifesto
By Jim Goad
Published 1997 by Simon & Schuster
ISBN 0-684-83113-9

IF YOU’RE LIVING in Silt and commuting to Aspen, or if you’re surrounded by vacation trophy homes while you scrounge for rent, or if you’re living in a trailer anywhere, The Redneck Manifesto is your bible.

Author Jim Goad dedicated this work “to everyone who lives between New York and L.A.,” saying that redneck-hood is a state of finances, not geography.

Essentially, he postulates that the real bigotry in this country is based on class, not race. While sexism, racism, ageism and other forms of discrimination are forbidden in this society, it’s still perfectly acceptable to dump on someone who struggles financially, even if she doesn’t drawl or wear a beehive hairdo.

“Redneck psychology is best understood by exploring labor history, not racial theory,” Goad says, and he does so, tracing the roots of class discrimination through slavery, war and corporations. The research is solid, so much so that it’s depressing.

I know two people who couldn’t make it past Chapter 3, citing the subject, not the writing, as being too difficult. I had problems with Goad’s defense of militia members. (Sorry, but being economically disenfranchised doesn’t excuse psychosis.) The tone of The Redneck Manifesto is over the top in places, and I could imagine Goad foaming at the mouth while typing some passages.

From indentured servitude to the wage slavery of the 1990s, Goad claims that “more hatred exists between bosses and employees than between blacks and whites.” He discounts the media’s focus on racism, saying that “the hugest story in America isn’t racism, it’s downsizing.”

Goad’s tone is humorous but vituperative, and readers could find his ranting exhausting. His vocabulary is often challenging, too. (Goad is a redneck with a college degree and a background in journalism.)

If it’s a fun read you want, treat The Redneck Manifesto as a rundown on the history, habits, and natural habitats of hillbillies. The chapters on redneck recreation and religion are hilarious. If you’re serious, read it as a discourse on class relations and economic slavery.

It’s something to think about on that drive to Telluride.

–Marcia Darnell