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    Published on: January 27, 2010

    Notes and comment from The Content Guy

    Orlando, Fl. -- Perhaps it was a measure of the seriousness of the 2010 Food Marketing Institute (FMI) Midwinter Executive Conference here that when the traditional politics slot came up yesterday, there was very little discussion of politics.

    Of course, it may also be that because the speaker was David Plouffe, one of the architects of Barack Obama’s winning campaign for the presidency, nobody was in the mood for politics-as-usual; a Democrat sometimes can be seen as the skunk at the garden party at industry events, and the mood of the country seems to be moving away from Obama.

    But if the people in the room could get over his politics, the fact is that Plouffe made some highly salient points about the ways in which marketing a politician resembles the marketing of a product or retail business.

    For example, he said that one of the strengths of the Obama campaign was its commitment to treat volunteers as core to the effort, not additive; the best retailers will tell you that it is critical that employees are treated like an asset, not a liability.

    Plouffe said that the Obama campaign was successful because it was able to create an advocacy movement for its message and candidate; effective marketers will tell you that when you convert a customer into an advocate, it is a major shift that speaks well for long-term success.

    Plouffe noted that it was critical for the Obama campaign to commit to a strategy and stick with it, when certain primary losses created pressure to deviate. “You have to commit,” he said, saying that “if you flit from thing to thing, you never penetrate.” Tactics can change, he said, but strategy has to remain steadfast....and it is crucial that the message remain consistent, no matter whether one is communicating in a one-to-one fashion, to a crowd of 10,000 supporters, or via internet feed. All of which sounds like pretty good advice to marketers trying to decide how to use the internet in conjunction with their brick-and-mortar locations.

    The author and campaign strategist also urged the audience to be both transparent and authentic in their dealings with customers, to ‘lift up the hood” in a way that creates better connections, especially with young voters/consumers. “The BS meter for young people is exceedingly low,” he said, and so marketers have to be careful not to sound a false note or appear to be obfuscating.

    Plouffe had two additional suggestions for the audience. One, he urged attendees to pay very close attention to anecdotal feedback and not become slaves to research. “The feedback we got (from volunteers) was a lot more valuable than the results of a poll,” he said, noting that it usually was accurate and more leading edge than the data provided by pollsters. Which sounds like a pretty good parallel for the idea that businesses need to both empower and listen to employees, who are likely to have a better idea about what is going on in-store than pollsters and consultants.

    Two, Plouffe told the audience that while they needed to pay close attention to the use of technologies such as email, texting, and social media such as Facebook and Twitter, the simple reality is that “what we did in the campaign is going to look like Jurassic Park before too long.” Plouffe said, for example, that people under 25 only use email to talk to their parents and bosses,m and that even texting has given way to communication via social media. “The mobile world is changing at warp speed,” he said.

    Three other parallels gleaned from the Plouffe speech...

    He pointed out that one important lesson from the campaign is that young voters often needed basic information if they were going to be effective - like how to vote, where to vote, etc... This would certainly seem to have some currency in the food retail world, where people often need to be taught how to shop, how to cook, how to make nutritionally responsible choices, etc... Just like the candidate who explained such things was the eventual victor, the marketer that takes such responsibilities seriously also heightens its chances for success.

    Plouffe said that it was important for the Obama campaign to be everywhere with its efforts - on broadcast television, cable, radio, internet, newspapers, as well as in a vast array of “live” venues around the country. Campaigns cannot choose their means of communications, he suggested, implying that retailers and manufacturers also cannot. This ties into a long-held precept here on MNB - that retailer scan only be successful in the 21st century by being where shoppers want them, when shoppers want them, how shoppers want them, with products priced at a level that shoppers believe is appropriate.

    Finally, Plouffe made the point that one of the differences between campaigning and governing is that in a campaign, you choose your narrative and stick to it, while governing allows other narratives to interrupt, take precedence, and interfere with formulated strategies. He urged marketers not to lose touch with their narratives, and to find a consistent message that will resonate with their target audiences.

    In other news from the FMI Midwinter Executive Conference...

    • Thom Blischok, president of consulting and innovation at Information Resources Inc. (IRI),gave an impassioned speech about the “lasting and pervasive economic sobriety” that is affecting consumer behavior in this country, noting that 38 percent of CPG purchases in 2009 were “on deal,” which was two percent higher than the previous year, reflecting an overall industrywide loss of $2 billion in revenues. And “we’ve taught them to shop on deal,” he said.

    Since more than nine out of ten shoppers are using multiple banners as a way of finding the best deals, while at the same time saying overwhelmingly that they find the industry’s deal and sale structures to be confusing and even misleading, Blischok argued for a new simplicity that aligns assortments with solutions, and that takes note of the fact that shoppers are smarter, more savvy and better informed than ever before.

    • Erik Peterson, senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and director of the Global Strategy Institute, offered a look at what he called the seven revolutions that he believes are reshaping the globe between now and 2025. This was an intellectually challenging and often intimidatingly depressing presentation - while he noted that science is going to keep people alive for far longer, for example, he also talked about the increasing likelihood of weapons of mass destruction being used on the planet sometime in the near future. in other words, we’d be likely to live longer except that somebody is going to try to kill us.

    • Samuel Randolph “Randy” Roberts, the former director of government relations at Publix, was honored posthumously by FMI with the Glen P. Woodard, Jr., Public Affairs Award.  The award recognized Roberts’ leadership in helping the supermarket industry address important government issues, and was presented to Roberts’ wife, Sara, at the conference.

    Roberts died in early 2009 at age 36.  

    • Donald R. “Don” Knauss, chairman of the board and chief executive officer of The Clorox Company, received FMI’s William H. Albers Industry Relations Award for his excellence in trading partner relations and consumer and community service.

    • Finally, FMI released a statement praising the California Assembly Banking & Finance Committee and its Chairman, Pedro Nava, “for investigating credit card interchange or ‘swipe’ fees – hidden charges added to every plastic transaction that cost Californians nearly $5 billion a year and all Americans more than $48 billion.
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 27, 2010

    There are numerous reports in the media that Ron Marshall, the former CEO of Nash Finch and most recently CEO of Borders, is about to take the CEO job at the troubled Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. (A&P). That job has been taken on an interim basis by Christian Haub, the company’s chairman, since the dismissal several months ago of Eric Claus, who was criticized for not delivering the financial results the board wanted (though recent results have actually declined since Claus’s departure).

    Marshall reportedly has resigned from Borders, where he worked for just a year. In a Business Week story, analysts say that Borders continues to be in a perilous competitive and financial situation, though a spokesperson for the company says that Borders has made progress cutting costs, reducing debt and improving cash flow.”
    KC's View:
    I had a chance to check with a bunch of people I know in the industry, and sort of got a split decision on Marshall. Some say that he may be a good fit for the A&P job, that he will bring a level of fiscal discipline to the business and will be able to attract other executives to the troubled chain (though this may not be seen as good news by the executives there now).

    But there are others who are not fans of Marshall’s, noting that he left Nash Finch at about the same time as there was an SEC investigation of the company’s dealings (though there never any charges against him). And there also were mutterings about inappropriate personal behavior.

    The real question at A&P is whether he will have the time and resources to work the miracles that the chain most assuredly needs. Because things never get easier for the company; every day that it flounders about looking for a strategy, much of the competition is getting smarter and faster.

    Published on: January 27, 2010

    by Kate McMahon

    “Mom, here’s $25. I just texted Haiti to 90999 on my cell phone.”

    Within minutes of the earthquake that devastated Haiti and her people, the power of social networking was felt around the world. Many of the first stunning reports and shocking images were sent via the internet, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Emergency workers, government officials and news organizations relied on cell phones and tweets to communicate when power and phone lines came crashing down. Families combed through Facebook pages for news of loved ones, the missing and the found.

    We no longer relied on the network news stations or CNN to bring the tragedy into our living rooms – the heartbreak of Haiti was omnipresent, on our laptop, PDA and cell phone. The video clip of a 7-year-old boy named Kiki, pulled from the rubble after almost eight days with his arms outstretched with joy, telegraphed a message of hope in the darkest of times.

    And we responded online, on Facebook and Twitter, and on our cell phones.  My 14-year-old daughter handed over $25 in babysitting earnings after she texted Haiti to 90999 for the American Red Cross effort, and pledged another $75 online after the Hope for Haiti Now telethon. Haitian singer Wyclef Jean urged his 1.3 million Twitter followers to donate by text and performed the final number in the star-studded telethon, which netted $57 million. (The telethon drew 16 million viewers on broadcast stations, and 20 million live streaming on the internet.) The American Red Cross reported that of the $171 million it had raised by Monday, a record $29 million came from texted donations.

    Social networking provided a new sense of immediacy for us to respond to the crisis. Here at MNB, we often write about how retailers, marketers and service providers need to understand the speed and power of social networking, and harness it to create a two-way dialogue with the consumer. It’s changing the way we operate in our business and personal lives.

    And therein lies the challenge. For millions of shoppers, the front line of donating is still at their supermarket checkout. But it is essentially a one-way transaction. You ask the cashier to add $5 or $10 to your bill, and that is the end of the experience. How much money was was raised? Where did the contributions go? Did our community of shoppers or team of employees make a difference?

    In my next column, we will look at the retailers which utilized social networking to take that experience to the next step, generating good will with their shoppers and employees on Facebook, Twitter and their websites. Or as one Walmart cashier wrote on Facebook:  “I collected over $100 today at my register. Thank you to the customers who are willing to donate. God bless!”

    If you have any other examples of how social networking played a role in Haiti fund-raising efforts, please email me at kate@morningnewsbeat.com .
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 27, 2010

    The New York Times has a piece on New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is reshaping the city’s consciousness when it comes to health and swell-being.

    Bloomberg, reporter Jane E. Brody writes, “can rightfully claim to have launched a national effort to help people live more healthfully. He began with a prominent campaign to curtail smoking, the single leading killer of Americans, by banning it in restaurants and bars, and followed that with a campaign to get heart-damaging trans fats out of packaged and restaurant foods.

    “Next Mr. Bloomberg attacked rampant obesity (though New York, being a walking city, is leaner than most other metropolitan areas) by promoting a requirement that chain restaurants prominently display the calorie content of all their offerings.
    And at his urging, the city health department is seeking to curtail consumption of sugary soft drinks, with subway advertisements that ask riders, ‘Are you pouring on the pounds?’

    “Now Mr. Bloomberg has called on restaurant chains and food producers to lower the amount of salt in their products by 25 percent over the next five years. The goal is to reduce the incidence of high blood pressure, a major contributor to heart attacks, strokes and kidney disease.

    “If the mayor has his way, this could well be the year when salt, once a form of legal tender, is finally devalued as a prized condiment in the American diet. As happened with trans fats and calorie listings, other cities and states may follow New York’s example, if for no other reason than to control rapidly rising public health costs.”
    KC's View:
    There will be those who will decry Bloomberg’s actions as reflective to hated “nanny state,” though I would argue that the elimination of smoking from bars and restaurants - which has found itself replicated not around the US but all over the world - has single-handedly made the world a lot more inhabitable for many of us.

    But forget about the nanny state accusations for a minute. I suspect that Bloomberg’s real legacy will be seen decades from now, when we evaluate its impact not just on the livability of New York City, but the impact on health care costs there. Then, I suspect, people will be saying that he was a man ahead of his time, with perhaps as much impact on the city as the legendary Robert Moses.

    Published on: January 27, 2010

    KamCity.com reports that in the UK, Asda is partnering with a company called Eziserv, along with Unilever, to test a program that sells fabric conditioner in reusable pouches from vending machines.

    According to the story, “Eziserv is providing the dispensing technology for the fabric conditioner, which it said could free up space in stores as well as offer savings on transport and storage. Fabric conditioner is piped from a 1,000-litre container at the back of the store to a dispenser in the store and into pouches that can be used 10 times.” Customers also save a bit by using the pouches.

    The single store test reportedly is being expanded to four UK Asda stores.
    KC's View:
    Some will scoff, but this strikes me as a significant kind of test that is the next step beyond reusable shopping bags. The less garbage that is out there, the better it is for our planet. We just have to encourage people to behave in an environmentally responsible fashion.

    Published on: January 27, 2010

    Advertising Age reports that Clorox is looking to hire “full-time in-house legal counsel to focus on social media -- a rather surprising sign of how entrenched social-media marketing is becoming even for relatively established household products.” This lawyer’s primary duties will be to “clear and procure intellectual property rights regarding production and distribution of advertising, including Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Recording Artists issues, consumer privacy and video licensing.”

    But the bigger problem is described this way:

    “Search Twitter for ‘Clorox’ and the brand turns up with surprising frequency, but it's often in conversation about decidedly off-label uses for bleach. (One entry notes that seeing another naked picture of newly elected Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown will force said tweeter to wash his/her eyes out with Clorox.)

    “Of course, Clorox Co. can't be held responsible for that usage suggestion. But it can be held responsible for what its employees tweet and, if the aforementioned eye bleacher were a Clorox employee, it might be as perilous for the marketer as it would be for the Twitterer's eyes.”

    In other words, Clorox is looking to cover its assets as best it can...even in the social networking world where there is a minimum of censorship, a maximum of self-expression, and sometimes dubious levels of responsibility.
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 27, 2010

    Safeway announced yesterday that it will join forces with FishWise – a non-profit organization focused on improving the sustainability and financial performance of seafood retailers, distributors, and producers – to develop and implement a more comprehensive sustainable seafood policy. The partnership, the company said, is designed to strengthen Safeway’s earlier commitments to environmentally responsible seafood by requiring suppliers to participate in sustainability assessments and sourcing improvement plans, training staff on the company’s sustainability policy, and providing science-based information on sustainable seafood to Safeway customers.

    Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times also reports that “Target Corp. said Tuesday that it had eliminated all farmed salmon from its fresh, frozen and smoked seafood sections at stores nationwide ... All salmon sold under Target-owned brands will now be wild-caught Alaskan salmon; the company also said sushi made with farm-raised salmon would be made with wild-caught salmon by the end of the year.
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 27, 2010

    The Boston Globe reports this morning that RE/MAX of New England “has entered into an exclusive, five-year agreement with the Stop & Shop Supermarket Co. to develop ‘micro real estate offices’ in supermarkets located in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire.

    “According to Natick-based RE/MAX of New England, this marks the first time that a major real estate brand has teamed up with a large consumer retailer to house real estate offices in their retail spaces.”
    KC's View:
    This may be good timing, since the Globe also reports this morning that “sales of single-family homes in Massachusetts rose 3 percent in 2009, marking the first year-over-year increase since 2004 and offering more evidence that the state’s housing market may be climbing back from its steep fall.”

    Published on: January 27, 2010

    • The Los Angeles Times this morning reports that the 33-store Superior Grocers supermarket chain has been hit with almost $80,000 in fines “for allowing 16- and 17-year-old employees to operate heavy machinery in violation of child labor laws.” In this case, heavy machinery is defined as “scrap-paper balers, paper box compactors, power-driven hoists and forklifts.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 27, 2010

    • Johnson & Johnson reports that its fourth quarter sales were up nine percent to $16.55 billion. However, because of charges related to a corporate restructuring, Q4 profit was down 19 percent to $2.21 billion.
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 27, 2010

    Earlier this week, MNB took note of a Los Angeles Times story about the backlash that can occur when a retailer markets to the US Muslim community. Case in point: Best Buy, which recently included the greeting "Happy Eid al-Adha” in a recent flyer, recognizing an important religious holiday celebrated by Muslims. While members of that community felt that the reference was inclusive and respectful, it was not a unanimous reaction.

    The Times wrote “On Best Buy's website, people around the country posted contrasting views. ‘You insult all of the heros and innocent who died 911 by celebrating a holiday of the religion that said to destroy them!’ wrote one. Many others said they would no longer shop at Best Buy.

    “The controversy underscores the continuing obstacles that retailers and other companies face in marketing to a U.S. Muslim population estimated at more than 2.3 million by the Pew Research Center.”

    My comment:

    This story is particularly interesting in view of the recent controversy when Publix handed out a free calendar to its shoppers that noted that December 7, 2010, is the beginning of the Islamic New Year...and did not note that it also is Pearl Harbor Day. A Florida radio talk show host decided to make a big deal of this, essentially accusing Publix of being un-American and consorting with our enemies...and managed to stoke enough hatred and bile among her listeners that they forced Publix to withdraw the calendar from circulation.

    What is un-American, in my view, is this kind of intolerance.

    It is both sensible and inclusive for companies to reach out to ethnic and religious demographics, especially those, like the Muslim community, that is growing in numbers. They’re customers, too.

    More to the point, it was not the Muslim community that perpetrated the attacks of 9-11. It was terrorists who happened to be Muslim. It was terrorists who, best I can tell, have a perverted view of Islam.

    There’s a big difference.

    Best Buy and Publix ought to be lauded for being aggressive in their recognition of the Muslim community, not targeted by hate-mongers.


    Lots of email on this one...

    From one member of the MNB community:

    Thank goodness your political correctness does not impact the rest of your insightful analysis!

    Don’t fall into the trap of moral or religious equivalency. Where are the outraged Muslim leaders in America fighting the intellectual war against terrorism? These are not “bad apples” or rogues, but the logical outcome of a religion that is struggling to adjust to the modern world.
    There are real ways to market to Muslims and other religious Americans that are not calendar or greeting card/calendar slogan based. TV’s that allow stronger parental controls would be a better marketing pitch than a happy new year notice.  Best Buy would find many religious Americans attracted to that offer.

    And lastly let’s not forget that this is a Christian nation in which there is freedom of (not from) religion.  That is the foundation of America’s chosen and special place in history. America proves we can, with some pain along the way, get along in peace.  When a Jew and Christian see a public calendar in Saudi Arabia with their holidays listed and their practices publicly allowed, we’ll know that real progress has occurred.


    MNB user Gerry Buckles wrote:

    Your comments reek of PC, PC, PC, PC. Political correctness is no longer vogue in case you have not heard.

    Another MNB user wrote:

    I think you miss a point that you make quite often here on MNB - Transparency.  Every decision has it's own repercussions.

    Should retailers market to a muslim community? Sure. But to one that refuses to condemn terrorism?  That's another thing.

    I don't blame all muslims for 911, but I DO BLAME the muslim leaders, both here and abroad, for not doing more to point out the fact that most muslims do not condone violence.  Maybe it's just fear, or just maybe, they secretly sanction the attacks. I don't know.

    Just ask yourself, "Why do they remain silent?".  What you see, in the American distrust of ALL muslims, is your answer.


    Another MNB user wrote:

    True, not all Muslims are terrorists but why does it seem so obvious that the vast majority of Muslims celebrate acts of violence in the name of Islam instead of condemning them? Was it just by chance that the 9-11 terrorists “happened to be Muslim?”  What were the odds, given all of the other world religions that dictate intolerance, promote hatred and support terrorism?

    MNB user Cheri Quast wrote:

    One particular thought came to my mind when I read this article. When it comes to a Christian/Jewish holiday, big corporations do not want to offend non-Christians/Jews so they have gotten into the business of using general terms or not acknowledging the holiday at all.  In some cases, corporations go out of their way to not offend non-Christians/Jews. What I find interesting about this story is that they seem to have thrown out the rule of not wanting to offend anyone in order to support a religious/demographic group that is growing. If that was the case, why are they not doing the same for Christian/Jewish groups who are still the majority of their customers? What makes the Muslim religion so different that they are the exception to the rule and therefore should have their holiday(s) recognized? I had stopped shopping at Best Buy years ago because their customer service was so bad every time I went in there. If this was not the case and I was still shopping there, I would stop because of the fact that they feel that Muslim holidays should be recognized whereas as my Christian holidays should not. If a corporation wants to not “offend anyone” then they should apply the rules to all groups and not just a few here and there.

    MNB user Rich M. Collette wrote:

    KC, while you are correct that a Muslim may not be violent, the religion of Islam does incite hatred and violence by its very nature. Read the Quran and see for yourself. Tolerance is not the issue here. A company needs to decide who they cater to in a nation that began based on moral and ethical principles that come from Christianity. Where do we draw the line? Why doesn’t a Retailer hand out the Native American calendars or celebrate their holidays, what about the Asians, the Blacks, the Hispanics? Somewhere we need to understand that we focus on what we do best and not try to appeal to every group because it means being “tolerant”. I support the people and organizations that do not embrace Islam, its teachings and its holidays. If an individual wants to take it off and celebrate, that is fine. But don’t force your “tolerant” views on me as an organization or I will not vote with my dollars at your establishment. That is the level of my tolerance.

    Another MNB user chimed in:

    I recommend you investigate what the Muslim religion really propagates Kev before you say things like “best I can tell” when referring to what the Muslims believe.  What this religion fundamentally stands for should terrify anyone who is of a different faith.

    Part of this is a very fair observation. The truth is, I know very little about Islam. And to the best of my knowledge, I don’t know any Muslims.

    While it hardly is the same as in-depth research, I did a little reading online about the basic tenets of the Islamic religion, and you’re right that much of what Muslims believe seems a little excessive.

    I also think that it is a fair observation that too many Islamic leaders have not condemned the actions of terrorists, at least not to the extent that Americans would like them to.

    Finally, it also is fair to say that retailers who are queasy about saying “Merry Christmas” and choose instead to use the more generic ‘Happy Holidays” are being inconsistent when they say things like "Happy Eid al-Adha” in their ads. (I do not remember what Best Buy’s ads said during Christmas.)

    That said...

    One thing that really ticks me off about this discussion is the notion that I am being “PC” in my argument. For the record, I don’t give a rat’s hindquarters about political correctness.

    For me, there are two arguments here - the social and the business.

    First, let’s consider the social. What I really object to here is the reactionary tone of the discussion. Publix takes not of the Islamic New Year on a calendar, and they’re accused by a loud-mouth talk show host of being anti-American. Best Buy mentions an Islamic holiday on its ad, and suddenly the company’s patriotism is called into question. I support these two companies, and my opinion gets delegitimized as being “politically correct.”

    I repeat, I know little about Islam. I don’t know any Muslims. But I’m willing to bet that the same thing could be said about most Americans.

    What I am not going to do is classify all Muslims as one thing because of the acts of terrorism committed by some members of their religion. Just as I am not going to classify all Catholics as one thing because of the despicable acts of some priests. Or classify any group because of the acts and statements of fringe ideologues within their organizations that tend to make all the noise and get all the attention, but may not reflect the broader world view of people who share some of their beliefs.

    That’s all.

    Don’t fall into the trap of moral or religious equivalency. I know what this means, but I’m not sure I understand the point.

    My definition of morality is that you try to do the right thing as best you can. You try to behave the right way, treat people as you’d like to be treated, and both speak and act up when you think injustices have been committed. I don’t believe religion has any sort of monopoly on ethical behavior, and in fact am pretty sure that it can get in the way of tolerance and justice...and that goes for pretty much every religion out there.

    There is an old English proverb: “They are not all saints who use holy water.”

    But that goes for all religions.

    That’s my social argument - it is best to try not to paint with a broad brush.

    Here’s the business argument: Muslims are customers, too. So it makes sense to try to understand them rather than demonize them...or demonize the companies that are marketing to them (or even just acknowledging them).

    Political correctness? In the current environment, this is anything but politically correct.

    Now, to be fair, not everyone disagreed with my position...

    MNB user Jackie Lembke wrote:

    Our country was founded on the belief that each individual should be able to decide for themselves their religious viewpoint. Granted, I am not sure the founding fathers even knew or acknowledged the existence of religions outside the Christian faith, but nonetheless, the constitution does not specify the religion must be Christian in origin. At least 21 different religions have a version of the “Golden Rule” including Islam. "None of you [truly] believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself." Number 13 of Imam "Al-Nawawi's Forty Hadiths."

    I have a hard time equating this statement with terrorism. Although I had some in the class where this was up for discussion point out that maybe to an extremist blowing me up qualifies.

    I don’t have the answers for those who are intolerant of others or use the same brush to paint everyone of any particular group, but I believe if we all followed whatever “golden rule” applied to our belief system it would be a start to solving many of our issues.


    Another MNB user wrote:

    I really appreciate your view on this matter.  I'm currently in the middle of, "Stones into Schools" a new book by Greg Mortenson (author of “Three Cups of Tea”).  It's a fascinating read about building schools and promoting peace in Southwest Asia so it was timely to read an article with this perspective.

    We tend to be shocked and outraged when our entire U.S. population is targeted as "enemies" by terrorist organizations, and yet we quickly turn around and do the same thing with the Muslim world.  A vast number of Islamic people have also suffered terribly at the hands of extremist terrorists who are not following the true nature of their religion.  It is ignorant and cruel to pass judgment on this population as a whole.

    Even the U.S. military has engaged in efforts to rebuild and give hope to Muslim communities devastated by war.  If these people, who are on the front lines and making the real sacrifices, are engaged in this behavior, shouldn't the rest of us be a little more open-minded?  Particularly about something as mundane as a store ad?


    MNB user Nori Haverstock wrote:

    It sounds like 35 to 45% of Americans need to educate themselves on this subject.  I strongly recommend reading Greg Mortenson’s book “Stones into Schools”.  This book taught me more about what is really happening in Afghanistan than any news report ever could (or would). With two sons now serving in the military, I need to know what we are fighting for. And I would recommend his first book, “Three Cups of Tea” as well!

    MNB user Lou Scudere wrote:

    All I can say is: Amen Brother!

    Blaming all Muslims for 911 is similar to blaming all Catholics, or all Protestants, for the former (I hope) problems in Northern Ireland. It is unfair and untrue. Also, just for the record, (and to try and forestall the rampant obfuscation inherent in present discourse such as this) I fully support our troops and believe that many heroic acts were done by the American people of all religious persuasions on 911.

    IMHO the best way that one can respect our troops and our heroes, fallen or not, is to UNDERSTAND and support the freedoms given to us in the Constitution, not the least of which are the freedoms of speech and religion. This means that although someone may say something that makes your blood boil, as vehemently as you may disagree with them, you acknowledge that they have the right to say it (of course with such limitations as you can’t say falsely say “fire” in a crowded theater or advocate the violent overthrow of our government).

    Freedom to worship means the right to worship in whatever manner we choose, (again provided that such worship does not infringe on the right of others i.e. no human sacrifices) including the right not to worship at all. Freedom is not easy, it creates friction, it is supposed to, that is how we become a stronger country. Conformity in all things, which seems to be a popular notion in this day and time among well meaning people as well as some of the louder voices in our society who know better, while more comfortable, is not IMHO freedom as was contemplated by the founding fathers.


    MNB user Harry Hamil wrote:

    Well said, Kevin!  To do as these people are doing is not patriotic; rather, it is jingoistic and, quite possibly, shows religious bigotry and/or racism.  And, of course, it is absolutely not, in any way, Christian.

    MNB user Chris O’Brien wrote:

    I think your view on this matter is right on.  The “backlash” against businesses who market themselves to Muslims is simply ethnic discrimination disguised as patriotism.  Unless we as a country recognize and denounce this sort of discrimination, then we are playing right into the hands of extremists who profess hatred instead of acceptance.

    This is all complicated stuff. We can try to get through it with sensitivity and common sense, or we can be ideologues.

    But I’ve always believed that ideology is a lousy substitute for thought.
    KC's View: