An Attack on An Attack

Jan. 12, 2021
In the course of human events, it appears it is possible to poli-tick people off when writing about an attack on democracy. 

I wrote a news item last Friday about how some food companies were responding to the goings-on at the U.S. Capitol last Wednesday. I posted the item to Food Processing's social accounts and then included it as the top story in our Monday E-News.  The writing, the placement, and the social protocol were pretty standard fare for me. What wasn't as standard was the reaction we received from some people in our audience once it went in our e-news. 

When people wrote us to say they didn't approve of or like how the content was written, I was admittedly perplexed. I was reporting on the news that other people had made. In fact, if you recall, I mentioned we report the news, we don't make it in my blog post last week. Here I was following the same formula. Companies do things. We write about what the companies did. We share what we wrote so others are aware of the goings-on. 

Is an attack by any other name still as violent?

Working from home like I do all the time now, I was afforded the gift of being able to watch democracy at work all day long on C-SPAN. I don't normally have the television on during working hours, but January 6 was different. I wanted to see the certification process with my own two eyes. I remember watching Vice President Mike Pence begin to call different states forward. I listened as the debate ensued over challenging votes, and then I muted my t.v. so I could edit a podcast episode.

A quick check of Twitter gave me the alert that something was amiss in the Capitol building, so I turned up my television. Like many others, I watched the attack on the U.S. Capitol unfold. I watched people walk through Statuary Hall waving flags in allegiance to President Trump. I stared my t.v. while pulling my work and my personal laptops onto the floor so I could work with a multi-screen view. I then watched the U.S. Secret Service remove the Vice President from the Senate Chamber in a way that I've only ever seen happen on Aaron Sorkin movies and t.v. shows. 

In the hours and days following the events on January 6, many words have been used to describe what happened. It seems as though how you defined it was largely based on which side of the political aisle you were on. When I wrote the news item on Friday about what Ben & Jerry's, Coca-Cola, and the president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers had called for, I checked, re-checked, then triple checked myself to make sure I was using the appropriate and verified terms for what was going on. At the time of the writing, Wednesday's events had been labeled as a coup, an attempted coup, and a coup d'etat. 

It's also worth noting that both sides of the aisle have called the people who attacked the Capitol 'extremists' and that the attack was an insurrection. I've gotten a few e-mails from people who have mentioned my terminology seemed one-sided. While no one is calling for me to label the attack a "peaceful protest," I'm not sure how else to describe when a group of people attack a federal building and that attack involves people dying. 

The Politics in Our Posts

Something that the people who objected to the news item remarked on was about the politics of the news post. Several noted they didn't want to read about politics in their food and beverage news and promptly unsubscribed from our e-mails. That's as close to an 'attack' as we got about the events of January 6. 

But this is also where things get interesting.

We've reported on things in the last 15+ years that talked about presidents and their administrations. In fact, it's hard not to mention president so-and-so's tariff this, or trade that, or how president so-and-so nominated someone to a role. We've put presidents and the output of their administrations in our posts for quite some time. We'd never really gotten any heat from our readers until this past year and only about certain posts and how we portrayed a certain president. It appears we poli-ticked some people off by reporting the news. 

We live in a politically-charged climate right now. Whether people like or not, that can trickle down to business, too. By admitting you don't want politics in your food and beverage news feeds is like saying "I don't want to know what might get my company or brand in hot water with my customers."

Don't believe me? Look at what's happening with corporate fund-raising and election campaigns. As I write this, Coca-Cola is halting its political donations to both political parties. (You can also read more about this in my colleagues's most recently blog post). And it's certainly not the only company to do so. Corporate funding is coming to a screeching halt for numerous politicians because of their support for challenging the election results. Check out the number of companies facing backlash for incrementally being a part of Wednesday's events. Political issues play a part in our business lives whether we like it or not.

We certainly hope you'll continue to read our news and articles and enjoy the work our team puts into them, but rest assured, we have no plans to attack if you don't.