What do North Korea, North Carolina, North Dakota and North Charleston have in common?
Besides "North," that is.
All four have recently been disparaged in answers to poll questions.
North Korea, for the first time since 2004, drew Americans' most unfavored-nation rating in a Gallup poll that's updated annually, slipping past Iran into the top - or is that the bottom? - spot.
Inspired by that sweeping-condemnation concept, this column followed up Thursday and Friday with an exhaustive (and exhausting) survey of its own. A diverse cross-section of local residents responded to one, two or all three of ...
1) Name the U.S. state that draws your most negative opinion, 2) Name the town or city in the U.S., but outside of S.C., that draws your most negative opinion, 3) Name the S.C. town or city that draws your most negative opinion.
The state winners, er, losers:
Mississippi (8), New Jersey (6), Florida (4), New York (3), Arkansas (2), Michigan (2), North Carolina (2), North Dakota (2), Ohio (2), South Carolina (2), Texas (2), Alabama (1), California (1), Colorado (1), Delaware (1), Georgia (1), Idaho (1), Illinois (1), Kansas (1), Massachusetts (1), Minnesota (1), West Virginia (1).
One of those hypercritical anti-S.C. voters cited our "backwardness."
However, that person's name must not be revealed. All survey takers were assured of inviolable confidential-source status lest their candor put them in peril of reprisals.
Still, some folks seemed wary about answering. A few didn't want to say anything bad about any place.
Make that very few. Lots of people evidently enjoy ripping states and cities.
OK, so this "most negative" approach leads the witness toward such hard feelings.
But if you have a favorite place, don't you also need a least favorite place for contrast?
And if we can't fire up group contempt for especially loathsome places, the powers that be would have a much harder time talking us into going to war. After all, it's a short trip from hating a place to hating its people.
For instance, one century ago, this was a popular saying in Vienna: "Alle Serben müssen sterben" (German for "All Serbians must die").
That phrase, set to music in a jingle and emblazoned on billboards, helped spark what was initially known as "The Great War." Later re-branded as World War I, it produced more than 16 million fatalities - and killed the Hapsburg royal family's Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Fortunately, though, 21st century Americans' animus toward some U.S. states and cities doesn't portend armed conflict. We got that bloody Civil War mess out of our system in the 19th century.
Well, sort of.
Back to what the survey says: The numbers on the "most negative opinion" of U.S. municipalities not in S.C.: Detroit (9); New York City (6); Los Angeles (5); Newark, N.J. (4); Atlanta (3); Washington, D.C. (3); Camden, N.J. (2); San Francisco (2); Peoria, Ill. (1); Orlando (1); Tallahassee (1); Amherst, Mass. (1); Cairo, Ill. (1); Dallas (1), East St. Louis, Ill. (1); Gary, Ind. (1); Lake City, Fla. (1); Las Vegas (1); Seattle (1); Pittsburgh (1); State College, Pa. (1).
It's reasonable to suspect that one of those answerers roots against the Penn State Nittany Lions. And such bitter sports-related antagonisms drive many Clemson fans to pull for whoever's playing South Carolina, just as lots of Gamecock fans pull for whoever's playing the Tigers.
Extend that "enemy of my enemy is my friend" mentality to geopolitics, and it's easier to see why the U.S. has aligned itself with such unsavory sorts as Josef Stalin, Augusto Pinochet and Saddam Hussein.
The obvious choice
Back to the home front for results on the "most negative opinion of" S.C. municipalities: Columbia (15), Myrtle Beach (5), Florence (4), Allendale (3), Mount Pleasant (3), Orangeburg (3), North Charleston (2), Barnwell (1), Easley (1), Folly Beach (1), Georgetown (1); Goose Creek (1), Greenville (1), Hilton Head (1), Kingstree (1), Manning (1), Pelion (1), Pelzer (1), St. George (1), St. Stephen (1).
Hey, stop picking on Mount Pleasant.
Yet at least those three hurtful votes offer some consolation to defenders of North Charleston, which only suffered two.
And at least Columbia correctly won - or is that lost? - by a "most negative opinion" landslide.
Yes, Columbia has a swell zoo.
But it stole Charleston's rightful status as our state's capital city, with the Legislature first meeting there in 1790.
Then again, our Legislature still meets in Columbia.
So maybe we came out ahead on that deal.
Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is email@example.com.
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