Thursday, July 03, 2003

A harbinger of things to come

I got the following in the email this morning:
Chris, Last night the manager of the Barnes & Noble asked our Howard Dean MeetUp to leave its coffee shop. This was at least the third MeetUp in that venue. I was at the last two. I believe the hosts of the event cleared it with the manager because that’s part of the MeetUp protocol and the hosts are sticklers for being nice compliant guys. We were told by the hosts that the manager had received complaints about us. The hosts were very clear that the manager was very nice about communicating his concern and they even said that they understood his point of view. I don’t. He (the manager) committed to our using that space last night. I think he should have let us at least use it last night. I found being asked to leave humiliating and it made me angry. I felt as if my right to free assembly was being denied. I realize that by the letter of the law that’s probably not true, but the spirit of the law was, in my opinion, violated. I tried to talk to the manager but he really wasn’t interested in listening. He wanted to tell me his story, offer his excuses and make his explanations. I reminded him (repeatedly before he let me speak) that I was the customer, I didn’t care what his rationale was, I wanted him to listen to me, and that my message was this: I think his behavior by not insisting that we have our scheduled MeetUp as planned was inappropriate. I felt resentful. I intended to tell my story to anyone who would listen. I was trying to rejoin my party so I really didn’t have time to listen to him. I’m sure he had some rationale for his behavior, but for me the rules of hospitality trump all outside objections. I wanted him to explain why the last two MeetUps were OK. What the complaints about us were. But as I said, I didn’t have time and his strong defensive behavior suggested to me that he was incapable of listening to me let alone answering specific questions—not that he was obliged to answer any of my questions. I just wanted to make my brief statement and get out, which is what I did. I’m telling you this because I suspect that the manager’s motive was political. Otherwise it made no sense. There were only eighteen of us. We were using about a third of the space. We all bought beverages. We probably all shop there. It seemed like bad business in a big way so I’m thinking his motive had to be political. Whether it was his idea or the owners’ idea, I don’t know. In either case that fact that an organization like B&N feels comfortable pushing out a reasonable gathering of people really disturbs me. Have any other Dean MeetUp’s had this experience? I’m not telling MeetUp about this because I wasn’t the host and they naturally would defend the owner of the venue and that makes sense to me. Just needed to share this. JD
I think, as time goes by and Dean becomes more successful, we will begin to hear more stories like this. As long as Dean was a "joke" candidate even right-wing venue owners could sit back and enjoy the prospect of making money off a bunch of loony-lefties. But, now that they are starting to take him seriously, some of them may start re-considering this option. (In a subsequent email JD told me this occured in Camp Hill, PA).

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