The Scarlet Letter
Recently one of my favorite local restaurants closed. Not due to lack of business, health code violations, the quality of their meals, or high prices, but because of a donation the owner made in the 2016 elections. The abomination of local cultural norms was first reported by a small independent news outlet and quickly went viral. If this was all there was to it that would be one thing. However, there is more going on here than we realize.
At first I thought this was a fluke of investigative reporting by the local independent news that happened to recognize a local business owner’s name among the names from the 2016 campaign records. But then I saw another story from Minneapolis, Minnesota where a popular bar shut down because of… a donation the owner made to the same candidate. Also first reported by a local independent news outlet, the backlash there also caused the business to shut down.
At issue is the owners’ donation to the failed 2016 Louisiana Senate candidate, a former KKK (Ku Klux Klan) leader. For whatever reason the owners thought to make their campaign contributions, they are considered to be 100% aligned with the ideology of the candidate and are now labeled as racists, white supremacists, Nazi sympathizers and a host of other things.
The result of the ‘revelations’ in these two highly progressive communities has been to inundate the business pages with horrific reviews and unsubstantiated claims of racism. Employees and the community were shocked about the news and everyone even remotely associated with businesses or the owners is putting out statements condemning the racist owners.
What is absent in all the frenzy of accusations is anything that points to either owner as being racist themselves, running their businesses in anything but an inclusive and ethical manner or discriminating against anyone one for anything. This would of course be different if either of these businesses had a history of bias or if they made their politics beliefs part of their everyday business practices, but they didn’t. Meanwhile, how many employees, people who did nothing wrong or had no connection to any of this, are out of a job?
The donations happened, there’s no denying that. But how and why did this come to light? Is it possible two independent news outlets 2000 miles apart from each other just happened to recognize a local business owner’s name while browsing the list of donations to a failed Louisiana 2016 Senate campaign and report on it within days of each other? No.
Donation records are free and readily available from the Federal Election Commission. You can search right on the site or download the records. But browsing these records for something locally relevant would be like looking for a needle in a haystack. More than likely, what happened is someone downloaded the information and armed with access to a nationwide business registry such as Dun & Bradstreet, set up queries to find matches between the FEC records and the business listings. And, with the time being right to capitalize on it in the current mass media promoted anything anti-white supremacy frenzy, put the story out. In other words, this wasn’t the fine investigative reporting work of a couple of independent news reporters; it was a coordinated effort by someone with big pockets and an even bigger agenda.
Why? That’s pretty easy to figure out even for me. It was designed to punish the owners of these businesses. By selecting businesses in highly progressive areas, getting the businesses shut down was a sure bet. But I seriously doubt that was all there was to it.
First, this is going to put everyone who wants to make a donation to any non-locally supported cause on notice. If you donate to something that isn’t accepted in your community, you will be outed. Second, it is aimed at drying up financial support for anything not popular in your community. Third, and most chilling of all, it is designed to reign in free speech, independent ideas and punish thoughtcrime.
Quick sideline — even though it should be wildly obvious from everything I’ve ever written — before you label me as a while supremacist sympathizer as well, know that I would be just as outraged by this kind of underhanded, passive-aggressive, political shaming if the donations had been made to any party or any campaign. I’m also not being an apologist for their donations or condoning the activity or thinking of the individual they donated to, I’m simply pointing out the insanity of this situation.
Based on the huge viral reaction in these two cities, you know there will be further ‘revelations’. Will it be donations to the non-popular political party in general or just to a locally unpopular candidate? Perhaps it will be donations to an unpopular local, state or national issue campaign. Or maybe, just maybe, it will be because you did NOT donate to the locally sponsored candidate or cause. After all, doesn’t the logic go that if you aren’t actively supporting something, you MUST be against it!
I can only speak for myself, but personally I really don’t give a crap about a business owner’s politics. If they have a good product, a good price, good service and run their business in an ethical manner, why should I care who they vote for? Where I do care is when they start making their political ideology part of their everyday business model. Putting out a ‘unless you believe in what I believe in’ message to potential customers is an excellent way to not get my business. Otherwise, I’m not going to apply a political litmus test to every business owner before I order a meal.
While I selfishly want my local restaurant to reopen if for no other reason than their delicious Smoked Chicken Fried Rice, I would also like to believe the insane hysteria around a political donation, without any evidence of discrimination or other wrongdoing, is not enough reason to trash the lives of innocent employees and brand the scarlet letter into a business owner’s flesh.
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