Rantz: Seattle restaurant caves to pressure, cancels conservative event
Seattle City Council candidate Ari Hoffman was set to host a campaign event at Jack’s BBQ in SoDo. But then a small group of professional activists got wind. They put on pressure, boycotts were threatened, and the event was canceled by the venue.
This is a mistake and, as sympathetic as I am to the owner, he’s enabled this kind of dangerous behavior, ensuring that it continues.
The small group of professional, perpetually angry Twitter activists were outraged that a restaurant host a candidate they disagree with. Hoffman has two characteristics a lot of Seattle progressives hate: He’s conservative and he’s a Jew. So these activists immediately pressured the BBQ joint to ditch the event. And then it was canceled.
Jack Timmons is the owner of the restaurant and told me over the phone that he’s a BBQ guy, not a politics guy. His business has been negatively impacted by the homeless, but he doesn’t know what to do. But, right now, he just wants to lay low until the controversy subsides.
After businesses cave, as Jack’s BBQ did, there’s usually disingenuous claims by the children terrorizing these establishments. Now, they’ll enjoy dinner at Jack’s! It just so happens they have seven long lost brothers who he just made contact with. Guess what: They’re in town and they haven’t figured out where to eat dinner! They’ll reward you for seeking to silence political opposition by going to your joint!
And maybe Jack’s BBQ sees a small bump tonight or tomorrow as a result of kowtowing to these economic bullies; maybe these Twitter trolls will end up buying a slab of ribs or a pulled pork sandwich. But that bump, as tiny as it is, quickly goes away. And then you’re left with what you just helped do to this city.
What will happen at Jack’s?
The people who actually went to Jack’s BBQ before will still go; the ones who never visited but threatened a boycott will still stay away. And, Jack continues running his business, as if nothing happened.
But he’ll have contributed to a disturbing trend in this city that ensures this dangerous echo chamber isn’t broken. And even though he could have inspired a bunch of other businesses to step up and say they won’t be intimidated by simply hosting a mainstream candidate. He may not even agree with the politician, but free speech matters, and instead of inspiring, he chose to curl up in a ball, weather out the storm, and lay low until it goes away.
I’m not going to give the Twitter trolls the attention they so desperately crave. I’m not going to reprint their passive aggressive tweets. Honestly, there aren’t that many of them. I’m certainly not going to call for a boycott — I don’t think anyone should boycott this restaurant. The opposite, actually.
But I am going to talk directly to the owner, Jack, and his future customers, you, on this blog.
First, for Jack: I get that it’s tough being a restaurateur in any city, especially one as expensive as Seattle. I get the tough position you’re in knowing that even a small boycott could close your restaurant. I get that you don’t have to host any events at all. But, I also get that when you enable this kind of threatening behavior, you ensure it happens again. And again. And again some more.
Are you honestly OK with that? Is that how you want your restaurant to run? Giving in to every lunatic because their political beliefs are challenged? Is that the environment you want in a city, I presume, you care deeply for? Where, exactly, does it end?
You told me you wanted to do something about the homeless because, I presume, you’re both compassionate and a smart-enough business owner to know it can hurt your livelihood. Why are you OK giving in?
Second, to you, the future customers: I think you all should go to Jack’s BBQ; I eat at the South Lake Union restaurant frequently. You should enjoy their ribs, maybe the billionaire beef bacon or their chicken (skip the coleslaw, which I honestly don’t like, sorry), and, on the way out, explain that you came for good food.
You should also tell Jack you’ve got his back if he takes heat for choosing to stand up for speech and break the echo chamber. That if any loser on Twitter threatens a boycott, you’ll back the restaurant and you’ll bring friends because, no matter our political identity, we stand for more speech, not less.
Loud Progressive trolls have are on a mission to silence speech they don’t like, and we’re willing to protect businesses that do something simple like … not kick someone out on the basis of their political beliefs.
But you should also tell Jack that by succumbing to the pressures of a small group of elitist Twitter trolls who don’t give a damn about that business, he contributed to keeping Seattle as close-minded as it is. And it’s leading to the problems he, as a business owner, is dealing with on a regular basis.
He had the chance to help change that and he chose to lay low. So let’s give him the confidence that we’ll back him so the next time he’s in a position like this, he will feel more empowered to do what’s right.
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