Las Vegas Sun

July 20, 2019

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Where I Stand:

Don’t let bad ideas take root, R-J

I am supposed to take a little time off in August. While my dear Myra would ask, “From what?” this is the time I am supposed to recharge my batteries, find my grandchildren and finish the chores around the house that have been piling up for almost five decades.

And yet I must break with tradition and enforced silence. I must respond to a column in my friend, Sheldon Adelson’s, newspaper.

Wayne Allyn Root is part of the transformation of the Las Vegas Review-Journal that publisher Craig Moon announced shortly after taking over to run Sheldon’s latest acquisition. He said he was moving the newspaper farther to the right, more conservative if you will, than it was previously. As if that were possible!

Wayne is a reasonably well-known Libertarian — whatever that means these days — who is always looking for a writing home and an audience of like-minded people. He clearly found at least a small audience within the hearts and minds of the R-J’s owners.

That’s all fine as long as Greenspun Media Group is around to keep them honest.

I normally don’t pay that much attention to what Wayne writes. His cranky views are sufficiently well known to safely decide that there isn’t much new to learn from him. There is only so much time in the day for conspiracy theories, after all.

But this past Thursday was different. That day, he went after one of Sheldon’s biggest, most forward-thinking and most responsible competitors in the gaming industry. It is exactly what the gaming industry feared might happen when the news — as secret as the Adelson family tried to keep it — broke that one of the GOP’s wealthiest donors had purchased one of the two largest newspapers in Nevada. The Las Vegas Sun is the other “largest” newspaper in Nevada.

I don’t know if Sheldon knows what Root writes from one day to the next, but he should be very careful about what his minions publish in and under his name. Root and publisher Craig Moon certainly know what would please Sheldon.

Which reminds me of one of the first lessons in newspaper publishing I learned from my father, Hank Greenspun, many decades ago — publishers have profound responsibilities to the public interest and it must always be placed before personal interest.

After the hideous spectacle of Nazi horror that played out in Charlottesville this month, the nation was stunned by the absence of comprehensible leadership from the White House on the basic issue of civility and decency in America. Many of the country’s more sensible CEOs took matters into their own hands and separated themselves and their companies from any taint that could result from being associated with either racism or the abetting of racism that emanated from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Virtually a who’s who of American corporations have stepped up their anti-hate efforts: It’s a wonderful moment in America and these companies and their leaders deserve praise.

Jim Murren, the sane and decent chief executive officer of MGM Resorts International,and the man responsible for some 70,000 employees of the greater Las Vegas-based company, announced that MGM would match, dollar-for-dollar, contributions by MGM employees to several anti-hate based charities and organizations.

Remember, these are contributions ordinary people — our neighbors — are choosing on their own. They are giving their hard-earned money to these groups in an effort to counter the hate spewed across our television sets by the neo-Nazis and white nationalists and whatever other group of haters are assembling around our country.

People are incensed. America is not the country we watched on television in Charlottesville, and people want and need a way to express their outrage. Since elections are still many months away, giving money to those organizations who fight hate and ignorance is a helpful way to speak out.

And that is where the Review-Journal weighed in through Root. He wildly attacked the MGM chairman for possibly upsetting his board of directors, his shareholders and his employees and customers by his efforts to help his 70,000 employees speak their minds about the America they want to live in.

It matters not that organizations to which working men and women add their support have detractors and critics. Welcome to America. There is always something negative that critics can find to counter the good works of others.

No, what matters is that people are standing up to the injustice, the hate and the Nazification of the Republican Party and it’s all-too-silent leadership. We have seen this picture show before.

Attack the media, blame the minority groups for the majority’s problems, blather on about “our heritage” and scare the people sufficiently so that they cede their freedom and common sense to a leader who promises to fix their problems but who, in reality, exemplifies, amplifies and deifies those who would destroy what our Founding Fathers created.

Both Moon and Root — and all R-J readers — know full well that an attack on MGM is good for the R-J’s owners. And there’s the digital impact too: Root’s column was meant to light a few tiki torches online and point them against MGM, all to the benefit of the R-J’s ownership.

There was nothing subtle in Root’s writing. It encouraged customers, shareholders and board members of a public company to take action against the CEO. This is a brilliant CEO, I might add, who managed to sail a very troubled MGM through some incredibly rough waters a few years ago into a calm and, hopefully, prosperous future.

But we’ll grant you this, maybe MGM is giving up on the Nazi customer. Nothing lost there.

Fortunately, I don’t think any sane person in this country will criticize the MGM leader for supporting his employees and his company, customers and communities in their desire to fight back against the rising tide of neo-Nazi thought that has been allowed to move from the dark fringes of society into the mainstream of political thought over these past couple of years.

And for that matter, the view of Moon, Root and the R-J is decidedly in the minority — beyond morality alone, all polls show that MGM is on the right side of history with this move. It’s worth noting that Apple, Chase, Microsoft and others have contributed to the organizations on MGM’s anti-hate list.

But the fact that the Review-Journal gave Root a pulpit from which he could bully a public company and a competitor of the R-J’s owner should give every good citizen of Nevada pause.

I say, good for you, Jim Murren. Good for the working men and women in the MGM family for speaking out against racism in America. And good for all of the CEOs who have acted out against hate and Nazis and equivocation of any kind when it comes to fighting those who believe in a racist America.

Come on, Review-Journal, publish your paper in the community interest. You and your owners should be better than this.

Brian Greenspun is editor, publisher and owner of the Sun.