I am glad the 6th District election is finally over. There has been much banter as to whether this election was a referendum on our president, the major political parties or future elections. I do not think it was a referendum on anything, except maybe how to spend an obscene amount of money in a short period to sway an election.
I will offer one small benefit of the gross amount spent on this election: The vast majority of the $50 million-plus supported American jobs, and our economy can always use a boost. (The AJT shared in the windfall.)
The legacy of this election, however, was the continuation of pro- vs. anti-Trump rhetoric, and I for one hope that the Atlanta Jewish community will begin to stop. Now that the election is over (and we have only the Atlanta mayoral race to keep our political prowess attuned), I hope that the extreme animosity and polarization will abate and that we as a community can return to normal debate, disagreement and further discussion.
Let me offer a glimpse of the venom that needs to dissipate.
In May, we ran a column submitted by a well-respected citizen of our community (and avid reader of the Times). It was a pro-Jon Ossoff opinion, and, to the best of my knowledge, we did not receive a single letter to the editor (LTTE) for or against the substance of the column. As you would expect from a guest column, it was one-sided, did not rely on data to substantiate its claims, and, in hindsight, represented about half our constituents.
One week later, another well-respected community member wrote a pro-Karen Handel column. The reaction was not quite the same.
Within 12 hours of the article’s posting online, we received almost three dozen scathing emails/LTTEs. Personally, I find it hard to believe that so many people were inclined to write us so quickly. We had an article last summer that was viewed in excess of 200,000 times, and we received 20 percent of the response (and it trickled in over two weeks).
Within 24 hours, we had over 50 vitriolic responses to the pro-Handel piece. I personally believe that this was a coordinated initiative by a Democratic Party process that seeks to stifle freedom of speech and debate “if it does not conform to my views.” But this opinion is not shared by everyone at our offices.
More troubling than the speed, however, was the tone of anger, disgust and hate in these responses. This op-ed was clearly labeled an opinion, but most writers did not want to be bothered by that fact. It was more important to angrily reprimanded.
There were also common threads in virtually all the LTTEs: There is no point in having a debate because Handel has no redeeming qualities. Everything a pro-Handel person says about Ossoff is a lie and needs no further explanation. The AJT should not publicize an op-ed for a candidate (when it is for Handel; on the other hand, it is OK for Ossoff). The AJT should not foster debate. The AJT should not take a position on a candidate (we didn’t, but we were chastised as if we did).
These themes were too common to suggest random coincidence. They had too much venom toward the AJT to suggest a lack of coordination. Finally, with so many LTTEs missing the mark, I must conclude that many of the writers did not read the column.
I think our editor, Michael Jacobs, said it well as he responded to several dozen letters: “The article you reference is an opinion piece written by a guest columnist and is labeled as such. The previous week, we ran a guest column supporting Jon Ossoff. That’s the free exchange of ideas we support. Neither piece is presented as a news article; in fact, we ran reported profiles on both candidates before the April 18 election.”
We at the AJT strive to be fair and balanced. We attempt to foster intelligent and meaningful debate. This one-sided outpouring of contempt was distasteful, lacked authenticity and furthered the narrowing of the freedom of speech to “only those I agree with.”
It did not represent Jewish values, and it eroded the spirit of American freedoms under which we thrive.