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OPINION | MASTERSON ONLINE: Bias, hypocrisy on display

by Mike Masterson | April 10, 2021 at 8:06 a.m.

Name-calling, accusations of racism carelessly flung in every direction and those who hypocritically cherish their own brand of bigotry as superior sadly have become epidemic across our once United States of America.

Reader Sue Joyce of Hot Springs in a recent letter to this newspaper likely spoke for millions by expressing her disdain for the scourge of sanctimonious thought police and zealots with no right whatsoever to "re-educate" others with the right to believe differently.

I couldn't agree more. An emotionally overwrought segment of society has decided to trample free speech by resorting to a tyrannical anathema to our freedoms that allow us each to reason and speak as the U.S. Constitution allows.

In short, the only acceptable free speech in the minds of these intolerants lies only in what they happen to believe. Neither truth nor others' thoughts matter when compared with their own. Think Communist China, Syria, Russia or Venezuela.

Lester Holt of NBC even reflected a perverse view of media objectivity the other day while accepting, of all things, a journalism award. He told his audience, "I think it's become clearer that fairness is overrated." Two style points for Holt's honesty.

Is it any wonder a recent Gallup poll found only 9 percent of Americans polled had "a great deal" of trust in the media while 60 percent have none or "not very much."

One recent example of what I consider media bigotry and unfairness comes from none other than USA Today's now former "Sports Media Group's Race and Inclusion Editor."

Hemal Jhaveri was canned last month after falsely claiming on her Twitter account that Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, 21, who migrated from Syria when he was a toddler and is accused of killing 10 innocent people at a Boulder, Colo., supermarket, was an "angry white man."

This particular former editor of inclusivity at USA Today spewed her pronouncement with a typical blanket accusation: "[I]t's always an angry white man. Always."

Well, not always, Hemal, as you might have discovered had you waited just a bit longer to hear police say the accused shooter was born in Syria.

It was just another example of the intolerance and thoughtless reactions we witness regularly today when it comes to irrationally demonizing opposing views.

One news report said Hemal tried explaining afterwards in a social media post that her tweet was a "dashed-off over-generalization" when pictures of the shooter, as he was being arrested, surfaced online.

"It was a careless error of judgment, sent at a heated time, that doesn't represent my commitment to racial equality," Hemal said. "I regret sending it. I apologized and deleted the tweet."

Can't say as I blame you. I'd like to think I'd never post such a divisive and false comment when I hadn't confirmed the facts.

This former editor of acceptance and compassion and a purported commitment to "racial equality" leaves much to be desired in her obvious disdain. Her former employer obviously felt likewise.

Rational adults who are genuinely empathetic and compassionate (especially when such traits are considered their professional responsibility) don't resort to smears.

I can only imagine how that members of that paper's top brass must have choked on their morning coffee and cinnamon rolls when they read such accusations from the person they'd hired to combat bias. What had Hemal demonstrated in her resume and job interview to assure USA Today's publishers that she was the kind of empathetic and intelligent editor required to hold their editing position?

USA Today, to its credit, wasted little time in relieving Hemal of her position. She actually suggested her dismissal came because she'd issued tweets "publicly naming whiteness as a defining problem."

That kind of bias baloney is what I would have expected from one toting a ton of personal bigotry baggage: Try to fog up the issue by attempting to argue apples (race and gender) when the issue at hand is an orange (mental illness and criminal behavior).

Unfortunately, Hemal's over-generalization about a supposed "careless error of judgment" reeks of trying to salvage some semblance of credibility destroyed after displaying authentic feelings about the millions of Anglo-American males who share the nation alongside her.

Alienating customers

In light of recent decisions by the Coca-Cola Company, Major League Baseball and Delta Airlines to take political sides and rebuke the state of Georgia for daring to reform its voting regulations and ensure integrity, I repeat the essence of my column from a couple of years ago.

How could I possibly know just how relevant the radical, self-destructive politicization of once-objective businesses would become in such a short time?

I wrote:

"In a nation acclaimed for its freedoms of expression and speech once lived two neighboring kumquat store owners, each serving customers from all races, political bents and religions.

"Both businesses flourished, even though they offered the same quality and size of kumquats.

"Because local residents had such a hankering for the juicy little fruit, there were enough sales to keep both stores successful. Every week the local paper ran advertisements from each as they tried outdoing each other for customers.

"In this country, they called that approach the competitive free enterprise system.

"Though it was always nip-and-tuck in the kumquat market, things rocked along smoothly for the first few years, until one owner suddenly decided to needlessly alienate at least half of his customers by voicing personal political views in advertisements and in his behavior toward patrons who dared believed differently than he did.

"He placed an enormous banner above his storefront that read: 'Kumquat customers who don't hate the same elected leaders we do obviously consume far too many of our nuts.'

"Having successfully run his competitive business for years in the face of stiff competition hadn't been enough to satisfy him. He believed everyone needed to know his feelings on politics. Any customer, even long-term loyalists who'd helped keep him afloat but whose thoughts differed from his own, understandably began feeling uncomfortable in his store.

"Meanwhile, his competitor two blocks down the street erected an even larger flashing sign that read: 'Customers: Feel free to believe as you will. Kumquats 20 percent off.'

"As weeks passed, the hardened political owner watched sales steadily plummet while his competitor's kumquat sales flourished. And the worse this contrived situation became, the more defensive he became toward more than half of his former customers who, after all, had only been interested in purchasing ripe kumquats minus recriminations.

"After three months the activist's store, unable to hold its own financially, held a going-out-of-business sale. Yet even with kumquats marked 12 for a dollar, that last gasp only attracted the most ardent of those who endorsed the owner's harsh views.

"The man finally shuttered his business, but reopened weeks later as a store that offered political paraphernalia, which again appealed only to those who supported his opinions. Alas, that effort soon failed due to the woeful lack of customers. His application to teach marketing skills at the Wharton School was rejected.

"The last anyone saw of the activist businessman, he was down the street wearing a white hockey mask, trying his best to shop incognito for, you guessed it, kumquats on sale."

Now go out into the world and treat everyone you meet exactly how you want them to treat you (regardless of their skin color).

Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist, was editor of three Arkansas dailies and headed the master's journalism program at Ohio State University. Email him at mmasterson@arkansasonline.com.

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