Fake news! Rolling Stone columnist disses Duluth

Indignant Minnesotan, the hilarious Twitter account that demands adherence to the notion that we’re No. 1 in everything, will need a defibrillator after reading Rolling Stone’s Thursday story ripping Duluth following this week’s appearance by the president.

It’s not pretty.

Like the more prosperous areas of Minnesota, Duluth is strikingly white. Look deeper than skin and you’ll find Duluth is a struggling post-manufacturing cipher with the highest drug overdose rate in the state.

U.S. Steel closed its gigantic Morgan Park plant in 1981, causing a slow cascade of desolation that stilled the concrete and hardboard plants and emptied out the grain elevators.

Today, the small city of 80,000 scrapes by on tourism and as a port. There’s a paper plant that has been on the verge of closing for 10 years. Duluth has a poverty rate (21 percent) that would rank it among the most desperate counties in West Virginia and per capita income just below that of Wheeling.

Lake Superior’s merciless beauty crashes up against a town whose shoreside skyline is dominated by stolid, brutalist mid-century relics and precarious-seeming industrial shipping contraptions, rusty and mostly silent. Downtown, every surface is covered with a thin layer of grime. It is, in other words, potential Trump Country.

Political columnist Ana Marie Cox goes on to savage “the myth of brave Minnesota settlers, enduring harsh winters and relying only each other – almost as if no one was here before them, either.”

Even the arena incurred her distaste, using the corporate sponsor as metaphor for the “weightlessness” of the people inside.

“Then again, there’s the Amsoil slogan: ‘First in synthetics.’”


The homeless shelter near the arena was full, she said, suggesting Duluth is the state’s outlier on the issue.

This seemed impossibly high for such a town not much bigger than the Twin Cities suburb of Bloomington, but I checked the city’s crime statistics – an imperfect measure, since referrals don’t necessarily come from the police or involve an arrest.

But still: In 2016 in Duluth, there were over 900 arrests for what Minnesota terms “violence against families/children.” There were 84 such arrests in Bloomington.

“You’d think I’d written about grape salad,” Cox said of the response to her column on Twitter, while promising to soften it a bit.

As she waited for Indignant Minnesotan’s response, she clearly knew what’s coming .

Duluth should have no problem dismissing Cox. She and her husband live in Minneapolis.

You know how those people are.

(h/t: Paul Tosto)

Update 11:18 a.m.

Friday, June 22nd, 2018An Open Letter to Ana Marie Cox and Rolling Stone:Those of us here on our “…lonely island…

Posted by Emily Larson, Duluth Mayor on Friday, June 22, 2018

Related: Craftsmen, backpacks, beer build hope in a needy Duluth neighborhood

  • MrE85

    I was about to drop the bomb that AMC was a fellow Minnesotan, but you beat me to it. I have followed her on Twitter for many a year.

    • crystals

      I think she’s rolling with the backlash pretty well. For those who don’t follow her, she’s said that she’s already made a few tweaks to the story, might have missed “real Duluth” and has said she’ll come back to do a “fuller report” of the town.

  • MrE85

    If that’s what she thinks about Duluth, I would love to hear her opinion on Superior, the most ironically named city, ever.

  • Rob

    When is the legitimate media going to get on the American Exceptionalism/Make America Grotesque Again train? Time’s a-wastin’!

  • kevins

    Good laugh for a Friday!

  • Barton

    Well, she isn’t wrong… though I did get my hackles up a little bit as I read it.

  • Jim in RF

    Duluth went strong for HRC over Trump.

  • Jerry

    Like most ex-industrial cities, Duluth is pretty much a 50/50 split between trashy and charming.

  • AL287

    The last time I visited Duluth was about 20 years ago as a side excursion during a camping trip.

    At that time the city was just beginning to redevelop the waterfront so Ann Marie Cox’s current description would have applied back then.

    From descriptions I’ve heard from my son’s recent trip there, things are definitely on the upswing for Duluth but I wouldn’t say it’s a must see tourist destination just yet.

    FWIW, I avoid Minneapolis like the plague. It’s impossible to park and the cost is outrageous.

    I much prefer it’s Cinderella sister next door.

    • >>I much prefer it’s Cinderella sister next door.<<



      • MReap


      • AL287

        Everything worth visiting in the Twin Cities is in St. Paul.

        But you and MReap knew that already.

        • >>Everything worth visiting in the Twin Cities is in St. Paul.<<

          First Avenue is in Minneapolis as is the Walker and MIA…

          Then again, I live right across from highland and have no qualms about visiting either city.


        • I LOVE getting the heck out of the Twin Cities. This state is sooo interesting and so different in every direction you can go.

          • AL287

            Try the Minnesota Marine Art Museum in Winona.

            It’s a real jewel.

    • Barton

      that is why one takes public transportation (ie: LRT) or bikes to Mpls 🙂

      • I take the LRT when I have the time to waste to get back to St. Paul at an indecent hour after Twins games. It’s insane that it takes 50 minutes to go 10 miles.

        When I drive, I can be all the way home and in the driveway in Woodbury — 20 miles — in 30 minutes from the time I start the car in the parking garage.

  • AmiSchwab

    i have a nephew who had a very unpleasant experience with the duluth police. a very unpleasant racial experience. strikes 1& 2 & 3. trump picking duluth means he knew he would find lots of deplorables. game over. duluth is not on my places to visit.

  • Jerry

    So what she is saying is that the Duluth, in her mind, was last relevant at about the same time that Rolling Stone was?

  • Sam M

    Duluth is far from perfect by I wonder how many people there for the rally were from Duluth. My guess would be that they would be the minority.

    • Jerry

      Considering how blue the city is, I’d have to agree.

      • I heard from a local Duluthian who mentioned that most of the attendees of the Trump rally were from outside Duluth.

    • wjc

      I’d bet that most of the protesters were from Duluth, though.

  • Duluth is a nice destination. There are plenty of interesting shops and good eateries, and the walking paths are delightful. There is a decent art scene and several worthy museums. Hawk’s Ridge is worth a trip, too. As disgusting as the rally was, I wouldn’t diss the whole city on that account.

    • RBHolb

      Duluth has a great location: natural beauty, close to a major metropolitan area full of people who can make the trip for a short stay.

      Contrast Duluth with Thunder Bay. It also has a beautiful location, but it’s a much longer trek from any big city. The waterfront–the city’s natural draw–is cut off from the downtown area by busy railroad tracks. It’s not a city set up for casual tourism. It’s what Duluth would be without Minneapolis-St. Paul being just 3 hours down I-35.

  • Gordon near Two Harbors

    I had to laugh at the original post. Was it referring to 1982 Duluth? Duluth is a fantastic, up-and-coming small city—the type of place where hardy, young folks WANT to live, even though employment can be a challenge. A large number of big-city refugees have moved up here escaping the ever-increasing sprawl, congestion, high taxation and other problems that plague large American cities. Millions of acres of public land; thousands of miles of skiing, hiking, and biking trails; the crystalline waters of Lake Superior; waterfalls; pleasant summers; and real winter are all here or nearby.
    Some may (justifiably) complain about the lack of good-paying jobs, but the other side of the coin is that those jobs would bring in the teaming masses that have ruined so many other great places in this country.

    • And the current unemployment rate is only 2.7%.

  • JRuss

    I found her article quite refreshing and accurate. Duluth is trying, but those who struggle, struggle through generations. The tourist version is so very different than what those the west and near downtown can afford to experience. I grew up and attended college in Duluth (an anomaly for a westender) . I left as soon as I could and guffaw when people gush about the beauty of the city. Maybe on the surface, but there is a very sad, disenfranchised population in Duluth who could use a community who focuses as least as much on the needs of the impoverished working class, as it does on touting the tourism. This is not to say Duluth is a mecca of Trump supporters, but I do see why his staff would choose to rally in a place where the population may be open to a new message, no matter how ignorant that message nay be.

    • Isn’t it the case that natural beauty and the stuff tourists like are often in locations that otherwise lack one or more of the essentials for high-level economic success? In Duluth’s case, mining has evolved and with so much of its legacy business tied to that sector it needed to depend on its other economic assets. The problem is that these are relatively weak – its location is out of the way relative to the nation’s main centers of commerce, and while it boasts a port and an interstate highway, the former is seasonal and the latter is end-of-the line, so to speak. Agriculture is not a strong contender due to its northern location and the development of better storage and shipping options further south.

      Fortunately Duluth does have natural beauty and hospitality potential. But the tourist industry is not going to offer paydays as good as mining, and the region is going to have to adapt. There are plenty of other areas going through the same shrinking pains even as urban areas like Seattle struggle with growing pains.

      People do have to decide to leave or stay. The best and brightest have those options, graduating university and moving on. Others struggle at low level jobs in declining neighborhoods.

      I applaud those who stay and work hard to improve their community, but also admire those who leave for a better life. What I don’t like is listening to whining from people who do neither.

      Frankly, wouldn’t we be better off with immigrants who are willing to risk their lives to come to this country and take jobs in meat packing or nursing homes than those (Trump supporters) who live in America’s economic dead zones and who don’t have the ambition to even make a move to a vibrant urban area in their own country?

  • KTFoley

    Bob said in yesterday’s post that all politics are local. A friend spotted Hibbing native Kevin McHale at yesterday’s rally. So there’s that, alongside all the other Republican candidates from MN and elsewhere who clamor to be seen with Trump.

    I’d guess that Duluth is exactly the kind of place that would be chosen for a Trump rally. It’s just big enough and close enough to the Iron Range that people on the mining jobs side of the PolyMet conflict can believe he came to them.

    If I read their sentiment correctly, they feel that Twin Citians and environmentalists would let their towns & families starve to keep a bit of scenery and at last, Trump & Scott Pruitt are politicians on their side.*

    If a writer had that in his or her head on the drive up I-35, the aspects of Duluth that belie the lake shore’s strip of redevelopment — and which appeal to the very same people threatening the Rangers — would probably show up in the story. I can’t dispute that in Duluth (and in the rest of the Arrowhead) one doesn’t have to go very far inland to find year-round poverty among the summer homes.

    *I’m describing a side of the conflict that doesn’t necessarily line up with my own convictions. Empathy and all that, right?

  • Mike Worcester

    I’m of two thoughts on this — First is that I highly doubt anyone in the leadership of Duluth will deny that the stats about their city’s ethnic makeup or their overdose problems so broadcasting them is an effort to what? Shame city leaders?

    Second, in a couple days nobody will care about what Ms. Cox wrote as we will (hopefully) move onto bigger, and more vital, issues facing us.

    Somewhere out there the ghost of Rep. J. Proctor Knott is laughing just a bit.

    • JamieHX

      Why would they be ashamed of their “ethnic makeup”?

      • Mike Worcester

        No implying they’d be ashamed of anything. Simply wondering why the writer of the article would offer stats that are quite likely well known to city leadership.

        • JamieHX

          I did wonder why she mentioned that Duluth is “strikingly white.”

          • Mike Worcester

            You and me both. As a percentage it is “whiter” than Minnesota as a whole but still, what as gained by noting this?