Letter to the Editor – Gabe Firment

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August 25, 2021
Re: Letter to the Editor of The Advocate
Advocate staff writer Sam Karlin’s August 23rd article addressing low vaccination rates in rural Louisiana started off with erroneous information, and only regressed from there. The second sentence of the article inaccurately identified the population of the Grant Parish town of Colfax as 2,500 instead of 1,558 as actually indicated by the 2010 census. However, it is obvious that as usual Mr. Karlin and the Advocate were more interested in regurgitating liberal talking points, promoting racist stereotypes, and demonizing conservatives than worrying about little details like the actual facts.
One can only conclude after reading this masterpiece of investigative journalism that the people of Grant Parish and all of rural Louisiana are not stampeding to the local health clinic to get their Covid-19 vaccine because most of us are poor, white, uneducated Conservatives who don’t do anything but go to church and attend high school football games. Mr. Karlin must have failed to proofread his article before it was published because he somehow forgot to mention that most of us are also deplorable Trump voters who enjoy hunting, fishing, four-wheeler riding, and chewing tobacco. Of course, our esteemed medical director quoted in the article confirmed Mr. Karlin’s suspicions that Grant Parish residents are “very resistant to intellectual argumentation” because we are poor and uneducated. This is not surprising coming from Dr. David Holcombe who previously stated in an April 8, 2020 Advocate article that vaccine hesitancy in rural Louisiana was attributable to “poor, White, Republican men” and Blacks who had been mistreated by Whites.
Perhaps the most dishonest and repulsive sensationalism in the article is the writer’s allusion to what he refers to as the “Colfax Riot” – a historical event that occurred in Grant Parish during Reconstruction. I have no idea what connection Mr. Karlin is trying to make between current low levels of vaccination in Grant Parish and something that happened in 1873, but it appears that he is apparently attempting to make the case that since we are poor, white, uneducated, and conservative then it only stands to reason that we are also racist.  This is yellow journalism at its finest and a perfect example of why most Americans have rejected the mainstream media as a source of accurate, unbiased news. To claim that Colfax is best known for something that happened 148 years ago is simply a lie and a clear example of reporting that is lazy, disingenuous, and agenda-driven. A quick poll of a handful of people from Central Louisiana would have quickly revealed that Colfax is without question most notable for The Louisiana Pecan Festival which takes place on the first full weekend of November each year and attracts 60,000 to 75,000 visitors each year from all over Louisiana and the United States.
In one masterful sentence the author simultaneously argues that low vaccination rates in Grant Parish are due to our inability to access the internet and schedule a vaccine appointment, but when we do manage to miraculously get online our low education levels cause us to buy into every conspiracy theory and piece of misinformation we happen to come across.  All that is missing from the article are a few Jeff Foxworthy “You Might Be a Redneck” jokes from Mr. Karlin to confirm every single preconceived prejudice he has against rural Louisianans who obviously fall far short of his elitist ideals.
Although Mr. Karlin saved most of his vitriolic rhetoric for Grant Parish, he also dragged LaSalle and Winn parishes into the conversation.  A cursory review of the Louisiana Department of Health’s website would have revealed to the journalist that at the time he wrote the article Winn and Grant Parish had the lowest and third lowest Covid test percent positivity rates in the state and LaSalle was in the lower third of the state. In addition, despite their lower vaccination rates Grant and LaSalle both have lower rates of Covid deaths than more urban Central and North Louisiana parishes such as Rapides, Caddo, and Ouachita.
Perhaps Mr. Karlin and the Advocate should stick to their daily attacks on Jeff Landry and Clay Higgins instead of exporting their inept and slanted attempt at journalism to parishes above Interstate 10. I would like to personally invite Mr. Karlin to come back to Grant Parish anytime for a tour of our beautiful lakes and rivers or a hike through 100,000 acres of Kisatchie National Forest. But be sure to call first because I will probably be hunting, fishing, watching a high school football game, or at church – you don’t have to be rich, smart, or have the internet to do those things in Grant Parish.
Gabe Firment
District 22 State Representative
Proudly Serving Grant, LaSalle, Natchitoches, Red River, and Winn Parishes