To M. BowlingTo which the young journalist replied courteously:
I just read the story on the AP about the Census worker who was hung. What I want to ask you is, are you people for real down there? I mean what kind of f---ing animals live in Clay County? I live in New York State, and this story is above and beyond even for New York!
Are you a bunch of uneducated, ignorant, toothless, dirty scumbags? What f---ing century are the residents of Clay County living in? Do you realize what this crime makes you people look like? Good God! What kind of people are you? This is a story one would expect would come out of Iraq or Afghanistan!
What are you people, backwoods ignorant freaks? Let me tell you this ranks up there with terrorists cutting peoples' heads off. This crime is a reflection of all the residents of Clay County. Are you all proud of that?
What is the average education level of the residents of Clay County? Third grade? You are all disgusting pigs, and if one could level a curse at a community, then I curse the whole lot of you. May Clay County Kentucky be wiped off the face of this earth by fire or some other disaster such as a flood or an earthquake!! And may all the residents of Clay County -- man, woman, and child -- rot away in Hell forever!!
Mr. S-----,Well, we could leave it at that, but let me tell you a little bit about this 20-year-old college junior who works full-time as a professional journalist. When she met me in the lobby of the Enterprise on Tuesday afternoon, Miss Bowling led me back to her office and I noticed a tattoo on her back, just below her neck.
If you've read the story on the AP about Mr. Sparkman, then I hope that maybe you've been following other coverage . . . and you might know that details given to the AP surrounding Sparkman's death may or may not be true, according to police and the FBI.
What has happened to Mr. Sparkman is a tragedy, and no one is saddened more than I that this happened here.
To answer your question, no, we are not animals. People here are just as educated as anyone might hope to find in New York. Rural Appalachia is a sincerely beautiful land and I challenge you to find a place parallel in beauty to this region.
The stereotype we have been slapped with is unfair, undeserved and, like all stereotypes, born of fear and blindness. . . .
But the truth is, the world is filled with ignorant, evil people, Mr. S-----. And if you honestly believe that this incident, which was an isolated incident, can't happen anywhere else, then that shows how ignorant you are.
I feel sorry for you, because you can only see the very elaborate picture the media has painted for you. Maybe if you pulled the wool off of your eyes, you might accept this for what it is: a horrible tragedy that shouldn't have happened here, or anywhere else.
But it's easier to hate than to accept, isn't it?
Miss Bowling is not exactly what someone in New York or Washington might expect a small-town Kentucky girl to be. She wears black fingernail polish and black clothes, has a sort of alternative-rock hairstyle and sports a "Johnny Cash Is My Friend" bumper sticker on her car.
After we had talked for several minutes about the Sparkman case and the situation in Clay County, I asked her, "What's up with the tattoo on your neck?"
She laughed and told me that actually she has four tattoos. The one on her neck says, "Born to Suffer" -- the same motto as her grandfather's tattoo, the one he got while serving his country in Vietnam, more than 20 years before Morgan was born.
Miss Bowling was largely raised by her maternal grandmother. Her father, who never married Morgan's mom, was named John Farmer. He was murdered -- gunned down in an ambush -- when she was 4 years old. Her father's murder has never been solved, and the case is still in the cold case files of the Kentucky State Police.
After Miss Bowling and her staff finished this week's edition of the Enterprise on Tuesday evening, we had dinner at the Huddle House (where we interviewed Kelsee Brown, who is not a right-wing extremist) and had a very interesting conversation.
After explaining how I ended up in Washington, D.C., I told Miss Bowling that I'd been a mentor to many young Washington journalists (among them Josiah Ryan, now of the Jerusalem Post). I was giving a thumbnail version of my career pep talk and, when I got to the point about finding a role model to emulate, Miss Bowling interrupted.
"Let me ask you something," she said. "What do you think about Hunter S. Thompson?"
Heh. As I always say, whenever in your journalism career you are confronted with a tough decision, sometimes it helps to ask yourself, "What Would Hunter S. Thompson Do?"
Then I told her the story of how, in January 2008, I'd made the decision to leave the Washington Times and go to Africa. I told her about my resignation letter, in which I wrote that it was as if God said, "Go."
People thought I was crazy, and maybe I was, but if I hadn't made that crazy decision to become a freelancer, I wouldn't have been sitting at home Saturday fuming about Andrew Sullivan's portrayal of Clay County as a fetid swamp of violent troglodytic backwardness -- and gotten the gonzo idea to make this trip. Once more, it seems, God said, "Go."
Anyway, just so TV and radio producers can get an idea of Miss Bowling's persona, I did a short video: The producers of Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, "Red Eye," etc., should contact Morgan Bowling (e-mail) at the Manchester Enterprise, (606) 598-2319.
Please also see my American Spectator article, "Murder and Motives in Clay County," and my "Reply to S.L. Toddard" at the Hot Air Green Room.