Be a Good Neighbor: Go Away or Give Back

Montana farm in Sweetgrass County. Photo by Don Pogreba


That’s how I reacted when I ran across an Oprah Magazine piece about the country crooner, influencer and TV host Kelly Clarkson showing off her—of course—rustic cabin in Montana while everyone is battening down the hatches to stave off the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s a nice getaway for our family,” the subheadline amazingly read.

What? Unbelievable.

And, then, even more unbelievably, the editors added a bulleted drop quote: “We actually get to hang out here while this is going on,’” Clarkson explained in a YouTube video shared by her eponymous daytime talk show.”

Ain’t that America.

Crass influencers can’t even stop their depravity during a pandemic when our frontline healthcare workers across the country are risking their lives to save lives, small and large businesses have been shuttered, and millions of workers — including a record number of Montanans — are filing for unemployment.

But at least you can see inside Clarkson’s Montana “getaway” retreat called “Vintage Valley.”

My God, talk about out of touch — both Clarkson and The Oprah Magazine.

Some are calling this new social distancing, that is seeing the rich and not-so-famous people hide out in rural areas, “disaster gentrification.”

Part-time Livingston resident and guitarist John Mayer didn’t instantly jump on his Instagram feed to help himself at the Influencer Feeding Trough that is social media. No, Mayer helped his community the old-fashioned way: by donating money to the Livingston HealthCare Foundation to purchase ventilators, the Livingston Enterprise reported.

In America and across Montana, people are reaching out and finding ways to help their friends, neighbors and families, including by being responsible and staying home so that they don’t get others sick and overwhelm our healthcare systems and first responders.

Flaunting herself as if she were at a Daytona Beach Spring Break Beach Blanket Bingo, Clarkson’s basically saying, “Look at me. I’m rich and famous, and I’ve got a rustic cabin in the hinterlands of Montana that we can escape to so that we don’t have to worry about getting sick.”

The City Council of the northwestern resort town of Whitefish, another version of Big Sky and the Yellowstone Club, on Sunday firmly and rightfully took action on this crisis by “becoming the first city in Montana to prohibit guests from staying at lodging facilities and vacation rentals in response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the Whitefish Pilot reported.

Good for Whitefish by taking decisive action and showing what’s important — the health and safety of its residents and the importance of its healthcare system and workers.

“We take the responsibility of protecting the health and safety of our citizens seriously,” said Whitefish Mayor John Muhlfeld. “I understand the sacrifices that many of our businesses are making to do this.”

And Whitefish residents also recently publicly shamed a rental company — Whitefish Escapes Vacation Rentals — that had advertised the resort town as a coronavirus hideaway. The company had sent an email blast that had advertised the area’s “low population to help with social distancing” for people “looking for a great spot to isolate or self-quarantine.”

“As the owner and founder of Whitefish Escapes Vacation Rentals, I wish to apologize for the promotion we sent out offering vacation rental options during this time,” wrote Jim Dixon, owner of Whitefish Escapes. “Our marketing group felt they were doing the right thing at the time but obviously it was the wrong message.”

Facebook posts responding to the email and apology reflected the fury of the community at a business trying to make a buck in a pandemic.

“This was nothing more than greed,” one respondent wrote to the Facebook apology. “Inviting people from out of the area to shelter was outrageous!”

My favorite apology response was simple, though: A dumpster, on fire, floating down a river in what looks like a town during a flood. Classic.

All of this certainly is nothing new. Clueless social influencers and craven businesspeople are everywhere and have been omnipresent throughout history. Where there’s attention to grab and a buck to bilk, you’ll find people like Kelly Clarkson and Whitefish Escapes at the trough of depravity with dipping ladle in hand, ready to scoop up cups of lard to grease their griddle to make their lives just slightly more comfortable than it already is.

Montanans, however, can spot a socially distanced phony a mile away.

Montanans are about being good neighbors: Either go away—or give back.

It’s that simple.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.

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E.G. James


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  • Good post. And I’m afraid that we’re just beginning to see the tip of the iceberg in terms of the ways in which the Rescumlicans and “disaster capitalists” look to profit off of this mess. A good time to revisit Naomi Klein’s “The Shock Doctrine”, and ready ourselves (the progressive community, that is) for the manifold fronts that we’ll need to defend…
    Stay safe and healthy, all.

    • This article was hateful and as a Montanan it was not very neighborly. You don’t have a clue what she does or does not do for Montana. Give the hate and disrespect a break and let people live, she is just proud of her home.

  • I agree with Kimmie. Living anywhere is contributing to the economy first of all. And you even refer to Mayer as a “part time” resident. So it’s the same. Her ranch, by nature of the ranching business, is contributing to the local economy. And if she donated to local charities and publicly announced it you would bash that probably. Your writing is just trumped up hater piece to get reads so you can get paid. I think that makes you more of the problem. I felt compelled to comment, not because I’m a huge Kelly Clarkson fan but because you need to be called out. Change your purpose in life man.

  • I agree too, you sound real douchey man. Montanans are not about hate. I get that the rich can sometimes disrespect places that natives spend generations loving and cultivating, but this is obviously not an example of that. If you actually read the article you so naively attempted to bark big words about, you’d see they’ve got five+ people in a one room cabin, not exactly what most would deem a “luxury retreat.” If you want so badly to come off as an educated critic, first try education, and then maybe read the whole article before you attempt to comment. Or maybe just find a state where people are more gullible and enjoy your pointless judgment.

  • “E.G.” YOU are a large part of what’s wrong today. You have no clue what Kelly (and many others) does for others, simply because it isn’t made public.
    Some people help others everyday without feeling the need to make it public.
    I have no idea how you came to be a “writer”. Frankly you suck at it! Why would anyone consider donating money to YOU and your publication? Your views are skewed. Your opinion is moot. You try to disparage Kelly and her family. Why? Just because they’re successful? You are a pathetic and narcissistic person.

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