JOHN DERBYSHIRE: Jason Aldean, Eric Adams And The Strange Rise Of The City Bumpkins
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[Adapted from the latest Radio Derb, now available exclusively on]

Here’s the intro paragraph from Herb Scribner’s July 20, 2023 Washington Post story The outrage over Jason Aldean’s ‘Try That in a Small Town,’ explained:

Country music star Jason Aldean is facing immense backlash over his new music video ”Try That in a Small Town,” which combines news footage of Black Lives Matter protests, violence and crime with lyrics such as …

The Post then gives us sample lyrics. I’ll give you a few more than they give you.

Sucker punch somebody on a sidewalk,
Carjack an old lady at a red light,
Pull a gun on the owner of a liquor store.
Ya think it’s cool, well, act a fool if ya like.
Cuss out a cop, spit in his face,
Stomp on the flag and light it up—
Yeah, ya think you’re tough.

Try that in a small town.
See how far ya make it down the road.
’Round here, we take care of our own.
You cross that line, it won’t take long
For you to find out, I recommend you don’t …

Try That In Small Town Lyrics,

The song was actually released in May but didn’t go on YouTube as a video until last Friday, July 14. The video has news clips of the Floyd rioters trashing stores and assaulting police. Other clips show an attempted convenience store robbery and other apparent crimes.

10M views  7 days ago  #1 on Trending for music

The video also uses the courthouse of Maury County, TN as a backdrop. The Post’s Scribner tells us that a black guy suspected of having raped a white girl was lynched there, from the courthouse balcony, back in 1927.

What a banquet of good ol’ boy stereotypes for our Ruling Class to feed on! They’ve been clutching their pearls and shrieking from coast to coast. From the Washington Post article:

A channel devoted to country music videos has pulled the video out of rotation after accusations that it promotes racism and violence. But ”Try That in a Small Town” has also leaped to the top of many streaming charts, and top Republicans are defending Aldean, who insists the song has nothing to do with race.

As if there is anything in today’s U.S.A. that ”has nothing to do with race”! But I guess Aldean is just saying what his recording-company handlers tell him to say.

Sucker punch somebody on a sidewalk; carjack an old lady at a red light; pull a gun on the owner of a liquor store—If I had the patience and skill with criminal-justice databases that Steve Sailer has, I would be able to give you a total number, aggregate of all those crimes, for a recent year in the U.S.A.

If I did that, what proportion of the perps would be black? Ninety percent? Ninety-five?

For goodness’ sake: We all know that, to a fair first approximation, all street crime in the U.S.A. is committed by blacks.

As for that lynching: Is a Country singer supposed to research the history of a building a hundred years back before he poses in front of it?

And as I’ve told you before, lynching was no respecter of races. Blacks lynched blacks, whites lynched whites. In Clarksville, sixty miles north of the infamous courthouse, a white man thought to have raped a black woman was lynched by a black mob in 1914. The coroner’s jury decided it was a justifiable homicide and freed the black lynchers.

Truly, the past is another country. To appreciate that fact, you need some imagination—some ability to think about things in other than state-approved cookie-cutter stereotypes.

Our Ruling Class doesn’t rise to that standard.

This fuss over Jason Aldean and his song is in a long, long line of descent from one of the oldest social divides in human history: the one between town and country. Storytellers have been making fun of Country Bumpkins and City Slickers all the way back to the ancient Greek dramatists, at least.

That’s enough time for some peculiar twists and turns to have developed. Consider for example today’s U.S.A.

Our big cities now are dominated by Good People: blacks, progressive whites, petty criminals oppressed by poverty, and lunatics in need of community care.

There’s a seasoning of Bad People: cops, of course, some wealthy non-progressives like Donald Trump, a petite bourgeoisie of small storekeepers and franchisees.

They have no weight, though; it’s Good People—blacks and progressive whites—who call the shots.

The problem here is that not many of those Good People are smart—for sure not smart enough to think through the consequences of their policies.

For example: Petty criminals are Good People just struggling to put food on their families’ tables. It follows that punishing them for their petty crimes is wrong, wrong. Ergo, they’re not getting punished.

And the cops who once deterred and arrested those Good People no longer want to do so because they fear ending up in the dock themselves—like Derek Chauvin.

Here’s a story from CBS News last fall: ”Chicago Police Department struggles as burnt-out cops quit, with some heading to suburbs [October 11, 2022]. Since 2019, the story tells us, 3,300 officers retired, resigned, were discharged, were killed in the line of duty, or were fired. From that date up to last October, around 1,600 officers have been hired—half the number of the departures.

It’s the same in New York City, we get regular reports in the local news. Probably it’s the same in all our big cities.

More crime, fewer cops. Add to that the closing, because of unrestrained shoplifting, of retail drug stores that city inhabitants depend on for their daily supplies.

Stupid policies, bad outcomes. Along with normal values, another thing being inverted here is those ancient tropes of stupid Country Bumpkin and sharp-witted City Slicker. At any rate, looking at our major urban centers today, you have to think that what we have in charge there are City Bumpkins.

If you want an example of this strange new genus, the City Bumpkin, I offer you the current Mayor of New York City, Eric Adams.

His Honor is clueless to a degree that it’s hard not to find comical. Mayor Adams might indeed have stepped out of a play by Aristophanes. I recently related the humiliation he suffered at the hands of New York’s suburban counties—country slickers, near enough—when he tried to unload thousands of illegal aliens on them.

That’s Mayor Adams’ most pressing problem right now: not how the city can afford a thirteen-million-dollar payout to Antifa rioters who got their hair mussed [ NYC agrees to pay $13M—or nearly $10K each—to protesters beaten, arrested in 2020 Black Lives Matter demonstrations, NY Post, July 21, 2023], not his dwindling police force, not neighborhood drugstores closing all over because of shoplifting. No, it’s the illegal aliens swarming into the city: more than ninety thousand since last Spring, fifty-five thousand of them still resident [New York City Tells Migrants There’s ‘No Guarantee’ of Finding Help Here, NYT, July 19, 2023].

Fifty-five thousand is more people than can be got into Yankee Stadium. Where can the Mayor put them all?

The city does have shelters for homeless people, but they were already full when the illegals showed up: fifty thousand native vagabonds right there, for a total hundred thousand city residents with no place to live but what the city provides for them.

Most of those citizens living in shelters are crazy people or addicts. Under a rational government they would be in asylums or jails. All Good People believe, however, that it is wrong—wrong!—to lock someone up against his will, unless of course he’s a Bad Person with wrong opinions.

The Mayor is playing it by ear, desperately juggling his tiny stock of options in hopes of looking effective. Balls in the air this week have included:

  1. Limiting adult illegals to sixty days of city shelter, after which they’ll have to reapply. What happens if, after sixty days, there’s no shelter for them? TBD.
  2. Printed fliers in English and Spanish to be handed out at the southern border warning wetbacks that New York City is really, really expensive and they should look at other locations.

    This program has hit somewhat of a snag, however: Neither federal authorities nor the National Guard is willing to hand out the fliers [National Guard refuses to hand out NYC’s pamphlets telling migrants not to come, ‘consider another city’, NY Post, July 20, 2023]. Solution? TBD.

This mess is all a plain, foreseeable consequence of New York having proudly designated itself a Sanctuary City. Many of us are still wondering after many years why Congress has not acted to ban Sanctuary Cities. Personally, I’m just glad I don’t live in a Sanctuary Suburb.

Nicole Gelinas, in the New York Post, July 19th, spelled out the cost of all this:  Social-services spending under Mayor Adams soars thanks to the migrant crisis .

Executive summary: New York can afford all these illegals only by cutting back on every other kind of spending—schools, sanitation, police, Medicaid, etc.

And in fact Adams is already doing that. Soon the city will be being run mainly for the benefit of people who have no proper legal right to be here.

Quote from Ms. Gelinas:

[Mayor Adams’] refusal to acknowledge that New York City cannot take on the burden of housing an undefined, open-ended number of migrants has created an entire new issue, one we haven’t seen since the welfare-reform days: a long-term social-services spending burden we can’t easily get out of.

Adams has never offered an answer to the obvious question: What’s the strategy to move migrants out of temporary shelter?

That question may be an obvious one to you, Ma’am, but to a City Bumpkin like Adams, it’s way down the obvious list.

The City Bumpkins are doubling down, though. We here at just retweeted a post from one of them at Reddit. It’s an extract from a longer post you can read in the Twitter thread, posted in all seriousness so far as I can judge. I’ll just quote the part we retweeted. Quote:

 So what is to be done? The Democrats should pursue policies that crush rural voters and make rural life as miserable as possible. Things like refusing federal flood insurance to rural areas, leaving rural roads wanting for federal dollars, not using federal money to build bridges or expand electric or sewer, ending federal ethanol subsidies and other farm subsidies, etc.—all of that can make rural life even less attractive than it already is and force that population of irredeemables into the cities where they can be reeducated and turned into citizens with something to contribute. With Trump, they let the mask drop and all of the country can now see: there is no reason for the United States to ever spend another dime on rural America, and the sooner rural America is just a memory, the better. 
Comment by Crake, r/AskALiberal, 23 days ago 

Hmm … a sort of reverse Khmer Rouge policy.

I hope it works out better than the original.

John Derbyshire [email him] writes an incredible amount on all sorts of subjects for all kinds of outlets. (This no longer includes National Review, whose editors had some kind of tantrum and fired him.) He is the author of We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism and several other books. He has had two books published by com: FROM THE DISSIDENT RIGHT (also available in Kindle) and FROM THE DISSIDENT RIGHT II: ESSAYS 2013.

For years he’s been podcasting at Radio Derb, now available at for no charge. His writings are archived at

Readers who wish to donate (tax deductible) funds specifically earmarked for John Derbyshire’s writings at can do so here.

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