Twitter Is A Strange Place For Global News Insights

Source: https://onemilliontweetmap.com/ as of 28 July 2020 at 3:10 PM U.S. Mountain Time (US MT)

At any given time the major cities around the globe are lit up on the Twitter activity heat map. They don’t sleep, but you’ll see after 5 PM things start to get busier for countries that run on a Monday through Friday work schedule.

For those of you losing your minds over that last statement, there are, in fact, countries that don’t run on the stereotypical Western work week. While I would love to get into how this is a detail I have yet to see a single author include while writing about these cultures, for now I will link the Wikipedia article here.

One of the great things about Twitter is that we can use it as an analytical tool to see what people are talking about across the globe and where they are having these thoughts exploding out of their brains and into a space limited to 260 characters.

So let’s go on an exploration of where the world is having deep thoughts reduced to hashtags/keywords using the free analytics tool One Million Tweet Map. I do recommend everyone to have fun and repeat this with hashtags and keywords you’ve selected. Please pick more positive/silly words than I did. I’m still questioning why I went the serious route. If you do repeat this, please tell me about it in the comments!

As a few notes before we begin, I took these map samples at a few different times to try and get the most interesting maps I could to then research what the related current events in the countries lighting up could be.

A Quick Survey

1. #covid19

Source: https://onemilliontweetmap.com/ at 3:52 PM US MT with search inclusive of all tweets using #coronavirus #covid19 #pandemic #covid #virus #socialdistancing #stayhome #corona #quarantine #lockdown

The coronavirus global pandemic is in full swing with the second wave commencing.

Top 5 countries tweeting about this are:

  1. United States – well this one makes sense. The pandemic hasn’t calmed down much here. Our case growth rate has increased to 2% (at the time of writing) from when we had it down to just under 1% for that brief glimmer of hope amount of time… before everyone who doesn’t understand how disease transmission and eradication decided it was time to “go back to normal” without sufficient social structures and a Health Belief Model in place to protect everyone – specifically the most vulnerable members of our population.
  2. India – Currently holding at a 2.3% mortality rate, India has 1.5 million cases compared to 4.5 million in the United States. To put this in perspective, the population of India is 1.35 billion and the population of the United States is 327 million. It’s coming up in the news because, much like other disease outbreaks in India, the populations most impacted are directly linked to socioeconomic stratification. This is drawing media attention.
  3. United KingdomThe UK has the highest number of coronavirus related deaths in Europe. That seems like a very legitimate reason for it to be at the forefront of people’s minds.
  4. Mexico – Mexico, like the United States and the United Kingdom, is one of the most impacted countries. Partially due to the wealthy foreigners fleeing to tourism destinations at the beginning of the global pandemic. This has lead to the closures of over 150,000 businesses as Mexico struggles with to tackle providing economic support while stopping the spread. All of this during a time when Mexico reaches near record daily death tolls.
  5. Spain – Citizens of Spain fear that it is entering its second wave as talks of a second lock down loom. At the same time, Spain is attempting to save its tourism industry – a major source of strife during this global pandemic.

2. Keyword: economy

Source: https://onemilliontweetmap.com/ at 3:30 PM US MT with search term “economy”

The Top 5 countries tweeting about this are:

  1. United States – The United States economy isn’t doing so hot. The Federal Reserve is leaving interest rates at close to zero. Some are arguing that the last financial quarter is the worst in United States history. Even Fox News is saying that the economy is only going to get worse with a second downfall expected.
  2. United Kingdom – Brexit is at the top of many minds it seems. The London School of Economics and Political Science suggests that businesses that escaped the fallout of COVID-19 will instead be destroyed by Brexit. The World Economic Forum predicts a slow recovery in early 2021 if the country can get coronavirus contained and controlled by the end of 2020. At this time it seems most of the concerns are tied to the economic impacts of the global pandemic combined with Brexit.
  3. India – It seems that economists are pessimistic about India’s recovery. The Reserve Bank of India continues to cut interest rates and India considers itself the 3rd worst economically impacted country – the first being the United States and second being Brazil. The ongoing border dispute between China and India contributes to this economic crisis. Other blame India’s economic reopening plans. Either way, for a third economic quarter, India’s GDP suffers.
  4. Australia – Economic news out of Australia tells a different story compared to the rest of the world. Expecting contraction and deflation, Australia expects only a 5% decrease in GDP. But that isn’t the whole story. Large numbers of Australians are unemployed and underemployed and others predict that Australia is approaching a fiscal cliff.
  5. South AfricaThe International Monetary Fund has provided $4.3 Billion in emergency support to South Africa. Retail sales collapsed to less than 50% of what they were a year prior in April, suggesting insufficient economic support during stringent lockdown procedures. With massive business closures in multiple industries and significant declines in spending, tax revenues have decreased. Restaurants in Johannesburg are protesting government actions while Business For South Africa (B4SA) predicts that the country is looking at a minimum of two years before any economic recovery begins.

3. Keyword: Black Lives Matter

Source: https://onemilliontweetmap.com/ at 3:35 PM US MT with search term “Black Lives Matter”

Top 5 countries tweeting about this are:

  1. United States – There is so much news. There is so much information available. I am not going to even try to provide a summary with links.
  2. Canada – The majority of news here is in discussion of what is happening within the borders of their southern neighbor or local news stories regarding racial injustices occurring within Canada – such as whether or not police should be responding to mental health crises instead of emergency medical workers. In Toronto, Black Lives Matter protestors issued a list of requests, including the removal of racist statues and restructuring of the Toronto police department, including the defunding of many of its units and resources. In the same city, over 2,000 artists signed a letter in solidarity with the movement.
  3. United Kingdom – Between Elle announcing that Women are the leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement in the UK, the announcement of a Black Lives Matter TV series, the cancelling of London Pride’s joint event with Black Lives Matter, and active youth participation across the country, the UK is not an inactive leaf in the stream of history. Statues have become a major topic, leading one man to be jailed, police departments at risk for litigation, and one museum digging in its heels over the display of a statue of a slave ship owner. These events are inspiring intense art exhibitions, with some of the art inspired by this global movement going on to be displayed in Westminster.
  4. India – The Black Lives Matter movement has sparked necessary and pre-existing controversy over the cultural relationship between social status and skin color. Skin lightener brands, such as Fair and Lovely, is one of many targets currently being called out as an example of this frustrating example of colorism found throughout the country. The problem is that discrimination based on the color of skin is more complicated in India than I, or any American, can understand. At this point, requests are for concrete and basic anti-discrimination laws – a very different concept of need compared to what the United States and United Kingdom are seeing as protesters seek to bring social injustices to light. Even the Catholic Church is getting involved.
  5. Nigeria – Between calling for museums to return stolen looted goods, pride in Opal Tometi’s role in the American Black Lives Matter movement, the Nigerian Museum confronting Christie’s over the auction of stolen, sacred ancient artifacts, and the recognition that Nigeria is becoming a fashion capital of the world, there’s no shortage on news as to why Black Lives Matter is trending there.

4. Keyword: New Zealand

Source: https://onemilliontweetmap.com/ at 3:39 PM US MT with search term “New Zealand”

The Top 5 countries tweeting about this are:

  1. United States
  2. United Kingdom
  3. Canada
  4. India
  5. Nigeria

I’m going out on a limb here and saying people are talking about New Zealand for reasons that have not that much actually having to do with events going on in New Zealand… Just a hunch… After looking at articles and deciding they were too depressing to list here.

5. Keyword: Food Shortage

Source: https://onemilliontweetmap.com/ at 4:10 PM US MT with search term “Food Shortage”

Okay, seriously, why did I think these depressing searches were a good idea?

Top 5 countries tweeting about this:

  1. United States – Conflicting information arises as I do my investigations. Despite the USDA continuing to say there are no food shortages, supply chain issues are resulting in empty grocery store shelves across America. Food manufacturers are cutting corners and changing their recipes, and with the USDA and FDA’s permissions, food allergy labeling and ingredient labeling standards are less stringent, resulting in Americans with food allergies no longer being able to trust food labeling (as an aside, I am among them and recently had a peanut allergen labeling issue in violation of FALCPA with Tillamook – read more on the FDA website here). The reasoning for these changes in labeling standards? That food shortage that the USDA claimed isn’t happening, but now the FDA is saying food manufacturers are reporting. The blame is placed on a shortage of farm workers, with those working trapped in the United States on H-2A Visas where labor violations and back-wages owed are at an all time high. At the same time, these migrant populations live in conditions putting them at the highest risk for COVID-19 transmission. With online retailers other than Walmart and Amazon not allowed to accept federal assistance programs in 33 states, the most vulnerable populations are suffering the consequences.
  2. United Kingdom – It appears that there is a national food strategy for combatting shortages. This is stirring up some conversation about the resilience of supply chains and commerce. Some are worried that Brexit will make matters worse as record numbers of individuals in the UK can no longer afford food.
  3. Nigeria – It looks like Nigeria is taking the active intervention approach after the United Nations call it and 24 other countries likely to face devastating famine as a result of COVID-19. Some experts are urging the government to do more, as it appears only 3% of current interventions are coming from the government.
  4. India – India, while producing so much food exported to the rest of the world, was ranked 102/117 on the Global Hunger Index before COVID-19 hit. Now, the problem is getting worse. The impacts extend far beyond the human population, with tiger poaching hitting all time record highs as a result of subsistence hunting. Even rhinoceroses are suffering from a food shortage. Times are so hard, India is considering passing anti-famine amendments that have not been seen in over a century.
  5. Canada – For Canadians, many are concerned about the food shortages negative impacts on the long term survival of the polar bear. Others seem to believe a silver lining to the supply chain disruption is how it is saving community supporting, local agriculture. Agri-Canada is using this opportunity to create youth focused jobs to reduce the supply chain disruption.

Why Care?

It’s helpful to think about the world beyond our own individual experiences. We cannot live in a society where we think about everything with ourselves at the center of our personal universes. It is important to instead consider the experiences of those elsewhere – places we have never seen and may never see in our lifetimes. We are all interconnected and nothing we do exists in a bubble. Nothing.

Go forth and search for more positive things. I will try to do the same.

Thank you so much for reading my post today. If you enjoyed it, please like, comment, and/or share. This helps me know which posts my readers prefer and can help me cater future content.

Things That Influence My Writing: Linguistics And My Thoughts On Linear A

So I’m watching Trey The Explainer and he mentions this written language used by the Minoans called Linear A. It is related to and pre-dates Linear B. I love historical mysteries like this. Why? Because I love linguistics. I’ve talked about this previously a little when talking about my accent.

The Evolution Of Language

Languages have evolved over time and are still evolving. As an editor, I am in favor of embracing new defined versions of languages specific to geographic locations and unique communities. By defining language systems and fighting to preserve, rather than erase them, we fight language extinction if only in the written form.

I recognize that this gets to be a tricky area because depictions of dialects within racial communities have had a strong tendency to be inappropriate. Period. This is why I think it’s important for the rules of any language to be set by native speakers, that way if someone is attempting to write in a specific way to represent a dialect they are doing so in a consistent manner that has been created accurately. Sadly, this is a very slow process. Linguistics research, in general, is slow. You can help by participating in Accent Tag!

Since languages are constantly evolving, written languages are evolving along side them when present. One of the most fascinating cases of language evolution to me is that of the evolution of alphabets representing sounds – whether they are complete syllables or individual vowels and consonants.

Linear A

Linear A is the “undeciphered” ancient Minoan script that is similar to the later script known as Linear B.

Why Can’t We Use The Rules Of Linear B To Read Linear A?

Current interpretations of Linear A try to assume Linear B preserved the same rules. One of the issues I currently have with this assumption is that language evolution doesn’t mean that “shared phonetic symbols sound the same”.

In Europe, that’s not how phonemes translated to/from written languages worked – and there are letters that have fallen out of use in English and German since the rise of the printing press and Northern Renaissance. Then, during the Enlightenment some European dudes in really fancy pants decided lots of European languages needed to have defined grammar, structure, and spelling.

In China, this first started much earlier with printing presses (everyone knows Bi Sheng invented the first movable type printing press, right?) and was a constant battle between isolated populations with varying languages and the various national governments.

Standardizing languages doesn’t work out – but sadly, even La Francophonie often chooses to ignore basic human rights regarding autonomy and language preservation in favor of pretending that they do instead.

We can assume that as the language evolved into Linear B vowel shifts and consonant shifts happened, changing the assumed pronunciations for these symbols. Therefore, it’s an incorrect assumption to backward apply pronunciation and meaning since Linear B is a younger language. That’s like trying to read and understand Old English using the rules of Middle English.

How Would We Translate Linear A?

So what should we do instead? As with any problem, we have to establish what we know.

Well, we can’t look at anything Greek because genetic evidence suggests that the Minoans weren’t from Greece, rather they were from the East, meaning that the older language to look at would not be Indo-European.

After the fall of the Minoan Civilization, their culture, language, and genetics did merge with the Greek people.

They were seafaring traders that interacted with people living as far as the Iberian peninsula and Egypt. This provides us with some starting information to figure out a bit.

Another clue may be the unique behavior of the mathematical system that they used, that included a built in log scale. Mathematical systems can be a great indicator of the history and culture of a people because they develop out of necessity for explanation.

So what could Linear A’s parent be? Peter Z. Revezs seems to think it’s a shared ancestor of Hattic and Hungarian languages, making it a member of the Uralic language family. This also means we can use the algorithm developed in this paper to get more consistent translations with our growing set of written examples. Their consistency and applicability is compelling. What’s unique about this paper is that it examines only the linguistics using a computational approach and nothing having to do with DNA sequencing or the anthropological history of human remains. That said, more recent studies looking at the oldest remains of individuals come to similar conclusions. In fact, a number of individuals have now come to the same conclusions using vastly differing methods, but there’s still a significant amount of disagreement. […I do recommend reading that thread if you want an interesting source of entertainment and great laughs. There’s some incredible pettiness between researchers who can’t agree on anything and have absolutely no sense of what they look like to everyone watching. Have your popcorn ready.]

Why Is Linear A So Difficult To Crack?

If the Minoans were such prolific seafaring traders, why is it so hard to decipher their language when we are able to decipher Egyptian? Well, we don’t have a ton of writing samples.

We can also assume that Linear A was a language used by seafarers. These languages, such as English once the British decided they just had to colonize all the things, pick up words from other languages and evolve into variants at a much faster pace by forming pidgins with other languages along trade routes.

This means that whatever Linear A did originate from could be unrecognizable without seeing the in between pidgin forms that could be present at all of their trade locations and then building a linguistic timeline. We don’t have a large enough sample size for that. Hopefully, as we find more remnants of Minoan trading, most recently in places like France and Serbia, a timeline could develop to support or debunk the computational relationship to the Hattic language establishing it as a member of the Uralic language family.

Why Does Any Of This Matter?

The evolution of language matters because it’s one of the ways we can understand the evolution of the human brain and we can understand the things some cultures found important enough to write down. The written component of a language provides us with one small piece of the puzzle that is a dead language. The more we understand about how languages evolved, the more we can understand about contact between different human groups as well as how their civilizations were structured. Language provides huge insights into details about general views, such as the self and how one relates to past, present, and future.

All languages require the transmission of information from source to a receiver. This information must be encoded in some way. This information must then be passed to the recipient via a channel – such as a physical medium or sensory perception. This is the tricky part – if the recipient can’t decode the information effectively things can be problematic. We can’t decode Linear A, we can’t read things written in Linear A. To better talk about this I’m going to focus on language encoding because decoding is the reason why it’s all important.

We have 5 primary ways that we’ve communicated (encoded information) over time:

  • Pictographic
  • Phonetic
  • Written Phonetic
  • Signed Languages (Phonetic / Symbolic)
  • Interpretive or Body Language

Pictographic

Okay, see? You’re not crazy for thinking emojis are a natural part of English. Illuminated manuscripts contained illustrations to complement or work in place of written words, occasionally, in line. Pictographs are some of the oldest forms of language we have if you don’t want to count early stone stippling forms that often predate full pictographs on some continents. We have absolutely no way of knowing how languages that use these symbolic languages pronounced their words and often the false assumption that they had simplistic language structures is made. Modern symbolic languages and improved understanding of language evolution has provided evidence that this is not the case. One of the problems with pictographic languages is that they rely on subjective interpretation to convey messages. This leads to opportunities for miscommunications and that’s how arguments get started over who sent who the wrong emoji and what it meant.

Phonetic/Spoken

Purely spoken languages with no preservation disappear when the people do. This is why many indigenous languages are endangered, and why one of the only good things that came out of the messed up stuff those evangelical missionaries did during the colonization of the world was to come up with ways to translate the Bible into lots of indigenous languages. This didn’t save all indigenous languages and there are many that still need help to be preserved by supporting the sovereignty of these nations to teach public schools, print road signs, and write government documents, and have local media stations dedicate to indigenous languages. These methods have been used to save Welsh, Maori, and some indigenous languages here in the United States. I first learned about these efforts in 2006 when Congress passed the Esther Martinez Native American Language Preservation Act. This program runs out in 2024 and has not been enough, with many native speakers threatened now more than ever by SARS-CoV-2. When all innate speakers of a language die out, the reality is the language is gone forever, even if recordings and written documentation of the language remain. This is because a spoken language is more than just words. As previously mentioned in my post on accents, how a person sounds when they speak communicates information to the listener. With dead languages (no original speakers remaining) this information that could be compared to epigenetics in the sense that histone modification of gene expression is passed down through generations and can be traced through relatives based on their environmental exposures and life experiences. It’s weird.

Written Phonetic

Written phonetic languages are those that tell you exactly what they sound like. Or at least they try to. Vietnamese and Arabic are both great examples of a written phonetic languages. It’s important to note that not all languages will neatly fit into either a Written Phonetic language or a Pictographic language – Modern English and Japanese both doing great jobs of demonstrating this and Linear A is an additional example.

Spoken languages rely on body languages, subjective implication, and contextual interpretation for the full communication for information. Written phonetic languages, while preserving a bit more structural information about a language, without the other components provide the bare minimum regarding the information being conveyed. Subjective interpretation of written phonetic languages is something that requires

Signed Languages

An accidental study and total violation of human rights lead to the discovery that humans will always develop natural language when in a sufficiently socialized group, even if non-auditory. Natural signed languages do not naturally possess a phonetic linkage except in communities where there is full integration between auditory and non-auditory communicating communities.

Some phonetic signed languages are constructed languages. When I was a kid, I learned Cued Speech with a childhood friend. We didn’t really talk using words, instead relying on our own sign language I wish I remembered today. She used Cued Speech to learn how to use phonetic pronunciation in a speaking world and I used it for speech therapy.

Signed languages are distinguished from body language by the use of specific gestures with unique meanings and the defining unit features of a language required to designate grammatical rules. When a sign language dies with no record, much like a spoken language, it is considered a dead language and even the signed languages that American Sign Language was based on have now died.

Body Language

Different elements (forms) of non-verbal communication [14].  
Source: https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Different-elements-forms-of-non-verbal-communication-14_fig1_221217376 <- really cool paper on non-verbal communication in video game avatars.

Body language is the major component to the communication of language that is often left out. It’s the most subjective, easy to misinterpret, and complementary to spoken/phonetic language or signed languages. Body language can often be broken down into “universal” and “non-universal”.

Body language studies are fairly controversial and some of the best studies focus on the behaviors of non-human primate species. “Universal” body language seems to have some level of genetic predisposition and in neurotypical infants is among the first forms of language to be understood. This “universal” body language is considered easier for neurodiverse individuals to learn thanks to clear definitions.

“Non-universal” body language includes gestures that may fall into a scenario where gestures can represent a number of things depending on context related to a local region, spoken language, and a specific culture. This kind of body language is highly subjective and evolves (or becomes extinct) quickly. This kind of body language is the kind often related to miscommunication, misinterpretation, and culture shock. What may be polite to one person may be like slapping another person’s grandmother.

Linguistics Is More Complicated Than This

I don’t want anyone to be under the impression that this is all there is to linguistics. I have barely scratched the surface with the above introductions to inaccurate terms that are a bit friendlier to a non-jargon seeking audience. My interests tend to focus on the documentation of unique variants of languages and the cracking of written languages that are not yet understood so they can be decoded. If you’re interested in linguistics, you should read primary literature on these topics and consider getting involved in citizen science efforts such as the Accent Tag.

Language extinction hurts everyone. Because language gives structure to abstract experiences, loan words between languages allow for the expression of and adoption of words for human experiences that had not previously been given concrete language or attempts at understanding. That means that, in some regard, by preserving global language diversity, we have the ability to control our intellectual evolution.

TL;DR

I advocate for people to:

  • Learn about threatened and endangered languages
  • Learn the basics of linguistics
  • Learn about language evolution, so it can be embraced and accepted

If you enjoyed this, please like, comment, and/or share – it helps me know which types of content my readers want to see.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read my rambling about Linear A and linguistics today. Without you these would be bits of data floating around waiting to be accessed in that 1.2 petabytes we call the internet.

Things That Influence My Writing: Small Town Gene Puddles And Not Liking “Gone With The Wind”

Listen – you’re going to see a lot of posts involving inspiration from Reddit’s /r/Mapporn or similar subreddits. I love maps and I’m a very visual/spatial thinker. Sometimes these will make you laugh and sometimes these will make you scratch your head because I’m posting a map about the percentage of first-cousin marriages per population found in each region of Turkey (see below) and wonder “how does this relate to Southern Gothic?” Well, no one’s dared to make one of these maps for the United States as far as I can tell. Cowards.

I promise it will all make sense. Now take a deep breath and listen for the imaginary banjos playing “Turkey In The Straw.”

Gene Puddles And Regionalism

Source: https://www.reddit.com/r/MapPorn/comments/hiny8f/rate_of_marriage_with_first_cousins_per_turkish/?utm_source=share&utm_medium=ios_app&utm_name=iossmf

I grew up in mostly small town areas, save a few years in Northern Virginia. When living somewhere for generations with five other family names to choose from in terms of social circles, let alone dating, it’s not uncommon for people to accidentally date their cousin(s). Or date their cousin(s) on purpose – I don’t know the culture and I don’t want to judge. I’m from the American South (yes, a weird edge-case part of it). I’ve seen a lot of weird things happen at family reunions.

I knew people in high school that accidentally ran into the person they were dating at their family reunions. Yes, that’s plural.

State Laws on Marriage to Cousins
Source: National Conference of State Legislatures | The Washington Post 25 April 2005
If you’re wondering why these marriages are illegal in some states and not others, you can primarily look to American religious communities and The American Eugenics Movement.

Isolation and deeply intertwined family histories breed family lore in the South and throughout the United States. Genealogy is a big deal because family lore stretches back for generations. I love this and I love my family – in our own genetic and paper trail based research, we have found some unique family scandals. This lore is where American Gothic stories find many of their metaphorical/literal skeletons and demons to unearth and/or summon to expose. It’s a safe way to discuss the atrocities committed by and done to our ancestors without shame or guilt – instead we can say, “This Is America” with honesty and fun colloquial phrases. The horrors of our past become ghost stories, biopic hero legends, hauntings, crazed outlaws and precautionary tales of devil encounters that act as reflections of reality.

Deeply Flawed Close-Knit Families

The isolated small town communities across the United States provide the most incredible inspiration for American Gothic writing. Growing up in the South I tend to focus on Southern Gothic, but American Gothic includes New England Gothic, Midwestern Gothic, Pacific Northwest Gothic, Southwestern Gothic (aka Western Gothic). When I write American Gothic and Southern Gothic short stories I think about these close knit family ties between characters. The story a reader sees will only show a small portion of the full cast of characters.

In my short story, “The Disappearance of Lula Mae Darling” I choose to introduce readers to the characters of Lula Mae Darling, Uncle Rod, Becca Lynn, and Henry “Hank” Bryan. But I mention other characters and the types of relationships all of the characters have with each other around this family business, the gas station off I-95 near a South Of The Border billboard.

I waffled on how to include Lula Mae’s mother and absent father in the story. I knew their presences (or lack thereof) were essential for communicating the concept of “Southern Escapism,” and the social and economic disparities that lead to the development of this pattern of behavior.

That is not to say that the Darling family does not demonstrate unconditional love toward one another, even with their extreme differing and, in the case of Uncle Rod, bigoted opinions. In these small town communities you’re all each other has, even with these deep, painful disagreements.

In another short story I am currently submitting, I discuss a family that dies out over the course of several years after they elect to discontinue their own family trade and traditions in favor of gaining additional status and power to join the elite upper class.

I try not be heavy handed in my discussions and criticisms of cultural nuances. No reader enjoys being beaten over the head with the author’s opinions as far as I’m aware. This is why I focus on writing stories in the way I like to read them: nuanced with the ability to take from it as much or as little as I want with each read.

What Is And Is Not American Gothic?

One of the problems that constantly needs to be addressed in all American Gothic genres, particularly Southern Gothic, is glorification. An unfortunate problem with these genres is that many readers and authors have become confused by the inclusion of antebellum or “Good Ol’ Days” glorification narratives. Glorification is not the point of these genres, nor should literature focusing on glorification be included in these genres. I do like the phrasing of themes used in the opening introduction of the Southern Gothic Wikipedia page. “Common themes in Southern Gothic literature include deeply flawed, disturbing or eccentric characters who may be involved in hoodoo,[1] decayed or derelict settings,[2] grotesque situations, and other sinister events relating to or stemming from poverty, alienation, crime, or violence.” I extend this to include several other factors as well. One such being the deep stratification of society that remains as a result of failure to reconstruct the Southern economy and deconstruct social, economic, and legal power structures after the Civil War.

Throughout the South there is the omnipresent racism in language use while individuals will claim it does not influence their actions across these stratifications in modern day, but stepping backward in time reveals stronger influence in action. With these deep societal divides, some horrifying community-wide behaviors can be found in historically impoverished and non-slave holding, religious Southern communities such as something akin to the Tall Poppy Syndrome. This same or similar societal strata is often associated with the worst oppressive reinforcement of racial divides thanks to the influence of white elites. This still persists to this day and gives a lot for American Gothic authors to write about.

There’s an unfortunate part, particularly among class preservationists that would prefer to reinforce Tall Poppy Syndrome among the lower strata. They pretend none of these problems existed and instead glorify only specific details, pretending anything unsavory, shameful, or embarrassing never happened. This still happens today with modern issues and is a common problem throughout the South. I have no doubt that this is the origin of Jenny Lawson’s memoir title “Let’s Pretend This Never Happened.”

A great example of a book where this happened and was culturally amplified was “Gone With The Wind.”

Why I Dislike “Gone With The Wind”

At one point I mentioned not being a fan of “Gone With The Wind” by Margaret Mitchell and the movie related to this book. I have seen this book listed on “Top Ten” lists for Southern Gothic Literature. I do not believe this book belongs on those lists. I personally believe it was poorly written and its publication and success is more indicative of the politics of the United States in the mid-1930s than it is of the book’s quality or value to history beyond the significance at its time of publication. The book was poorly written compared to other books written by other female authors at the time to the extent that even the book’s editor, Harold Latham, almost refused the book due to its poor writing, but changed his mind after deciding the story was more important than the bad writing. He went so far as to tell Mitchell it was “the worst looking manuscript he’d ever seen.” What changed Harold Latham’s mind about the story? According to the telegraph Mitchell received regarding her manuscript, most likely, it was due to the “Advisers” at Macmillan Publishing.

Image may contain: text that says 'BY DIRECT WIRE FROM WESTERN SIGNS -DayLetter UNION (10) Deferreda NWOM QL202 TWS PAID 3=NEWYORK 220P MRS MARGARET MITCHELL MARSH= EAST SEVENTEENTH ST= MY ENTHUSIASM YOUR NOVEL SHARED BY OUR ADVISERS WE WOULD MAKE ITS PUBLICATION FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS ADVANCE HALF SIGNING BALANCE DELIVERY MANUSCRIPT ACCOUNT PERCENT ROYALTY FIRST TEN THOUSAND THEN FIFTEEN STOP MY RENEWED CONGRATULATIONS AND ASSURANCES UNDERTAKE PUBLICATION WITH TREMENDOUS ENTHUSIASM AND LARGE HOPES STOP DO WIRE APPROVAL COLLECT THAT MAY SEND CONTRACT IMMEDIATELY= S LATHAM.'
Source: Margaret Mitchell House Archives Retrieved from their Facebook page

Margaret Mitchell wrote the book based on her correspondences with exclusively white Southerners while writing for The Atlanta Journal. After the book’s publication and shortly before her death the majority of these correspondences were burned, leaving historians unable to confirm the contents. An additional interesting detail to note is that one article on Margaret Mitchell notes that she was even raised by her family to believe that the South had originally won the Civil War.

I am under the firm belief that the only reason “Gone With The Wind” became popularized to the extent it did was due to the campaign efforts of the Daughters of the Confederacy, the marketing efforts of New York’s Macmillan Publishing, and the planned success of its film adaptation. Margaret Mitchell was a member of the Daughters of the Confederacy and received an award from them for “Gone With The Wind”.

These marketing efforts extended to include multiple celebrity endorsements from former residents and veterans of the Confederacy, including Helen Keller. Although, the Daughters of the Confederacy did campaign against the casting of Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara in the film adaptation.

Margaret Mitchell receiving United Daughters of the Confederacy citation
Here’s Margaret Mitchell receiving her award from the Daughter’s of the Confederacy. Source: https://digitalcollections.library.gsu.edu/digital/collection/lane/id/14324

Given the timing of the publication of “Gone With The Wind” it comfortably fits in among the 1930s Era of the American Eugenics Movement and the rise to power of Southern Confederate “cultural preservation” groups. It advanced the antebellum narratives that they wished to push and helped to define the vision of the Old South that they claimed they wished to fight to preserve, while silencing Black voices during the early days of the Civil Rights movement. It is important to note that the majority of marketing efforts to use the book and film as pro-Confederacy propaganda did not take off until after Margaret Mitchell’s death, particularly during the 1960s in response to the Civil Rights movement.

TL;DR

  • American Small Towns = Gene Puddles = One Of The Sources Of Material For American Gothic Literature
  • Gene Puddles = Close Knit Families That Are Deeply Flawed But Love Each Other Unconditionally
  • Glorification Of “Good Ol’ Days” Is A Problem And Does Not Belong In American Gothic Literature
  • I Don’t Like “Gone With The Wind” – This Is A Personal Opinion

If you enjoyed this post, please like, share, and/or comment on it to let me know. Doing this helps me know to write more posts like this one.

As Always, Thank You For Reading – Without You These Words Are Floating In A Void Of Approximately 1,200 Petabytes.

Things That Influence My Writing: Missing And Unidentified

Why Am I Drawn To The Stories Of Missing People?

I have a tendency to wander off – in grocery stores, in parking lots, in Costco. I get this trait from my father. At one point this led to an interesting scenario where I was 17 and in the back of a police car, but that’s a story for after I’m dead.

This is why I wear a GPS enabled watch with Find My Friends and cell service. It’s because my husband loves me and genuinely cares for my safety and is the only person on this planet that has access to that information in case he can’t find me one of these times I’ve wandered off somewhere. Flowers and books can be distracting when you’re in the woods.

There are a lot of people like me in this world. And there are a lot of people mixed up in bad 💩 one way or another. I look at these cases and I see missing people that could have been me, but I’ve always found my way back. I’ve never been lost – for some reason I have a confident sense of direction even when in wilderness areas. I can’t explain that part, but I bet many of these people felt the same way – they tripped and fell without a way for someone to find them.

I think about their families and that’s where I get stuck. I struggle with understanding extremes of emotions – I tend to shut down instead. I think about how many of those families also shut down and the generations down the line that shutting down impacts. It’s like a death with no closure – it’s so much worse because it’s unknown.

Montana has a huge number of missing persons and cold cases. A lot of these cases are children and there is some suspicion that some of these kids end up in Canada, human trafficking, (sometimes both of those), and worse.

Unidentified Remains

For more information: https://canadasmissing.ca/index-eng.htm

The world is full of unidentified bodies and missing persons. Some of the reconstruction methods for unidentified bodies are better than others – the (Combination) Manchester Method used in the video above is one of the better methods and is a more recent improvement. And all of these bodies are missing their stories.

With these newer methods we are finally putting faces to the skeletons of unidentified remains. These faces have helped family members identify lost loved ones years after their disappearance and finally put what happened to them to rest.

Last autumn I listened to The Disappearance of Des on my commute. It’s a podcast about Desmond Francis Carr – an Australian man who died in 1979. It was when I started listening to missing persons podcasts that I realized just how many unsolved disappearances. In fact, every few years a news network like NPR in 2013, or even Local News Stations in 2019 notes just how many cases go unsolved and that some states seem to have more than others – in that report Alaska, Arizona, and Oregon has the top 3 lead, with Georgia, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts having the fewest missing people per 100,000 residents.

According to NAMUS the United States has 4,400 unidentified bodies found every year and 600,000 people go missing. I think of the number of lives impacted by those 600,000 missing stories and then I realize that’s why all of those podcasts exist. That’s why people need to keep talking about these missing people.

Recent Cases In Montana

As of Friday, 56 children are missing in the state of Montana. The demographics break down as follows:

Here’s a nifty chart I made for everyone to show the comparison.

Without equal representation in both sex categories, I can’t run a full analysis, so I had to throw one of the categories out. If we focus on just the white and native children and look to see if there’s any statistically significant difference between the numbers of children missing in these groups, there isn’t (this is assuming boys and girls all have equal representation within the population).

There are going to be those that argue with me about the inaccuracies of this analysis because of the identities of these children. If the identity is impacting the way the child is now presenting to the world that’s important information that people should come forward about, but that is not information available on the sheet provided by Montana DOJ. I am working only with that information.

I ran it with a generous 95% confidence interval:

The chi-square statistic is 0.1922. The p-value is .661126. Not significant at p < .05


The chi-square statistic with Yates correction is 0.0195. The p-value is .889073. Not significant at p < .05.

There is one thing that is significant though – these populations are supposed to be statistically different. Only 6% of Montana’s population is Native American, so why are 37.5% of missing children from that demographic? If children were being selected randomly from the population, then the distribution should be proportionate to our population, not insignificantly different between the two groups.

That would mean that if missing children were proportionate we would expect only 3.36/56 missing children to be Native American versus the reality of 21/56 missing children (following the percentages mentioned above). Comparing these proportions with a one-tailed Z-test and a generous significance level of 0.05:

The value of z is -4.0403. The value of p is < .00001. The result is significant at p < .05.

NAMUS has a special program in place because of this issue. You can check out the United States Department of Justice’s data sheet here. Montana is one of the states that has not yet passed legislation mandating case entry into this database. I understand that a lot of decisions will need to be worked out.

Anyways, that’s a lot of rambling. This is a heavy subject to write about. If you have any interest in this topic consider volunteering your time to write about a missing person cold case for some form of media. There are a lot out there – more than have been written about.

Thank you for reading. Without you these little bits of data aren’t anything – communication requires a recipient and for you I am grateful.