Are you a rural American? If you are, a UC Berkeley instructor said you deserve an “uncomfortable” life. In fact, he called rural Americans “bad people who have made bad life decisions.” And, if you haven’t guessed, his remark didn’t go over well.
Jackson Kernion is a University of California-Berkeley graduate student with a Ph.D. in philosophy and an instructor who has taught at least 11 philosophy courses at the university, according to his resume. He doesn’t seem to have a high opinion of rural Americans. In fact, he posted that he “unironically embrace[s] the bashing of rural Americans” as he took to Twitter to vent his repulsion.
Kernion made it clear that he believes rural Americans are “bad people” who deserve to live “uncomfortable” lives due to their lifestyle choices. “They, as a group, are bad people who have made bad life decisions,” Kernion said in a since-deleted tweet. “Some, I assume, are good people. But this nostalgia for some imagined pastoral way of life is stupid and we should shame people who aren’t pro-city.”
Kernion explained his academic reasoning behind his distaste for people from rural America on a thread that started with him advocating against affordable health care solutions for rural Americans, where he argued that promoting a need for “affordable rural healthcare” is equivalent to arguing for rural Americans “to be subsidized by those who choose a more efficient way of life,” according to Campus Reform.
“‘The need for affordable rural healthcare’ = ‘The need for people who decide to live in rural America to be subsidized by those who choose a more efficient way of life,’” Kernion tweeted, adding, “Rural healthcare should be expensive! And that expense should be borne by those who choose rural America!”
“Same goes for rural broadband. And gas taxes,” Kernion argued. “It should be uncomfortable to live in rural America. It should be uncomfortable to not move,” he added, making it clear that he believes rural Americans are purposely rejecting the more “efficient” city-dwelling life and thus should bear the consequences of more expenses because of it.
In an attempt to justify his statements and beliefs, Kernion tried to provide an economic argument, claiming that “we shouldn’t make rural life *artificially* cheaper.” But, that quickly devolved into personal attacks against the “bad people” in rural America who aren’t as considerate as those who are “pro-city.” Unsurprisingly, he faced backlash for his remarks and tried to walk it back.
Trying to put out the fire he started, Jackson Kernion issued a pseudo-apology but only apologized only for his tone, saying he came across “way crasser and meaner” than he believes himself to be. “Pretty sure I did a bad tweet here. Gonna delete it,” he wrote. “I’ll want to reflect on it more later, but my tone is way crasser and meaner than I like to think I am.”
As expected, his half-hearted apology went over about as well as his initial remarks. “Perhaps the issue isn’t the tone, but the person who is producing the tone. Food for thought. Food produced by rural people who deserve reasonably priced healthcare,” one seemingly unimpressed Twitter user responded before being blocked by Kernion.
“Many of these supposed rural rubes are poor and suffered dramatically sub-par public education, leaving them with few options. Yet the same people that excuse inner-city gang violence because of ‘the system’ mercilessly attack rurals for any flaw. Compassion would be better,” another Twitter user added.
“You were engaging in polemics or are a very bad communicator. But I think I got some of your point and, as a rural resident, agree with some of it (re: rural service costs more so should pay more),” wrote another, agreeing with Kernion in part, but another tore that argument apart simply by applying it to a different issue that’s often debated.
“Rural service costs more so should pay more,” the commenter wrote, paraphrasing Kernion’s argument before adding, “Apply this to women’s healthcare and they shriek endlessly. Why should rural populations be discriminated against.” But, whether you agree with Jackson Kerion or not, that’s not the real issue here.
It’s concerning that an educator would engage in the public “bashing” and “shaming” of a group of people, stereotyping nearly all of them as “bad” based on their lifestyle choices. This does nothing to promote a healthy discussion or debate. Perhaps this is a legitimate conversation that needs to be had. When you resort to ad hominem attacks, however, you steamroll any chance at meaningful communication. Let that be a lesson to us all.