Brian Cooper: Snuffing out conservative voices

  • Columnist Jay Fleitman.

Published: 1/11/2019 9:11:29 AM

It has been expressed on these pages in the past several months that the Gazette is lacking — and seeking — a greater diversity of opinion. The new editor put down words to this effect at the outset of her role, and more recently, columnist Jay Fleitman set off his usual firestorm of responses by criticizing the paper for its perceived failure in this regard thus far.

It’s no secret that the general editorial tone of the Gazette and much of its readership is well to the left of center. But it only seems appropriate that in a community where diversity and inclusivity are so tremendously valued that we also seek diversity in thoughts and ideas. But do we?

Go check out some of the doctor ratings websites to see how that’s been working out for Dr. Fleitman and his medical practice. He has dozens of votes between several of those forums where he’s been given the lowest possible rating, some with comments specifically denouncing his newspaper column, votes which skew downward the overall score of his business in the eyes of prospective patients. Having accompanied a family member in need of assistance to Dr. Fleitman’s office and sat through several appointments with him, I can attest that he is both a thorough doctor and a kind, compassionate man. I draw the conclusion that most of the negative reviews came from the disgruntled readers of his column and not from actual patients.

In other words, local people in our community are deliberately and maliciously trying to have a negative effect on his ability to earn a living because they disagree with the opinions he expresses outside of his business.

Dave Ratner of Soda and Pet City fame must know this narrative all too well. As reported here and elsewhere, he was threatened with a massive boycott of his pet food stores by people enraged that he would dare accept an invitation to a White House ceremony to represent a trade association of small business owners he’s active with. Proof of his dance with the devil was forever enshrined in a photograph that was published, depicting Dave appearing in the Roosevelt Room with the Bad Orange Man himself. That kicked up a hornet’s nest of hundreds of negative reviews of his business on Facebook, Yelp and elsewhere. Yelp caught onto the vandalism and pulled the plug on his page altogether until the swarm had moved onto something else to be offended by. Again, local people right here in our community were trying to snuff out someone’s life’s work and livelihood because of a perceived political position they didn’t like.

Also last year, when people participating in a protest in Northampton parked in a local auto repair shop owner’s business lot and their cars were towed, it was automatically assumed to be in direct retaliation for the protest itself. Dozens of online reviews of his business were left over the next several days making false claims of being cheated out of money, receiving shoddy auto repair work, and numerous personal attacks. All because local people in our community wished to punish a man and his ability to earn a living for assumptions they made about his politics.

Similar searches of online reviews of some of the academics and authors who contribute left-leaning work to the Gazette yield no such online mobbing whatsoever.

So I ask: What person in their right mind would voluntarily expose their livelihood and thereby their families to certain and malicious, mean-spirited attacks by contributing a regular, conservative opinion piece to this newspaper and the community it serves?

Brian Cooper
Sunderland




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