Reporters, apparently having insufficient news to cover, have found that staged news is more easily controlled, requires little shoe leather, and reaches appropriate conclusions; I suspect it also reinforces the reporters’ sense of superiority. It does betray, however, a misunderstanding of the implied contract between a retail merchant and his customer – a more nuanced respect than merely (or even always) that the customer is right. Wretchard posts about ABC’s visit to the Czech Stop I’ve mentioned before. An actor behind the counter refuses to serve an actress in hijab. He is rude and disrespectful. Customers react – sometimes protective of the actress, sometimes critical, but always, of course, naively. (Update: Wretchard’s commentors are also, as usual, insightful until somehow they become completely off-topic- I don’t understand how that can happen.)
A bustling bakery/delicatessen off I35 in West, the Czech Stop is famous for its lemon poppy seed cakes, kolaches, hard-boiled eggs, and thick sandwiches on fresh baked bread. Polka music is often on and sometimes Denton’s rousing Brave Combo can be heard. West is the home of Westfest and an accordion band (think about that for a minute); the Czech counsel is building a home there. And it’s a regular stop for country musicians traveling between Dallas and Austin. ABC describes it as near Waco; well, yes, but it is in West. It is a bit Czechy for me – but I can’t drive by without getting a kolache or bringing a poppy seed roll home. West is a small, ethnic town. I doubt it is the most liberal town in the world, but the people are efficient and polite, even in the middle of the night. On a major highway, it has seen (and put up with) a fairly large cross-section of America.
The responses to the staged outrage varied. ABC did, of course, manage to find a guy who gave “thumbs up” to the actor playing a bigoted salesman, then managed to argue that this was the kind of treatment Muslims often received. Well, maybe. I have my doubts. I’ve been in grocery lines, running errands at Walmart, looking over oddities at TJMaxx. Women in hijabs are not uncommon in any of those places. I’m sure bigotry happens – it would be strange if it didn’t. So do Bohunk jokes. And dumb blonde ones. Man is not always sensitive.
So, ABC found their Nascar equivalent and somehow convinced the owners to let them set up this charming little scene. All I can say is that I hope the Czech Stop was well compensated. Some customers were put off and didn’t buy their kolaches; some were caught acting inappropriately; some in the larger audience may feel uncomfortable with the Czech Stop itself. I can’t imagine any justification for subjecting customers to boorish behavior. I’m not saying I ran the best of small businesses, but I thought my job was to protect my customers’ dignity, to make the business a pleasant oasis rather than a stage set for guerrilla theater. It certainly wasn’t my right to “test” their tolerance – much as they might test mine.