Lowes has been at the center of the All-American Muslim controversy for having caved to anti-Muslim bigotry and pulling its advertisements from the show. But there is another company that is also just as guilty: Kayak.
So far, Kayak has been flying under the radar, with Lowes absorbing much of the heat. That may change after Kayak’s Chief Marketing Officer Robert Birge issued what can only be called the world’s worst “apology” ever. It was not only dishonest and rude, but it was also simply a “non-apology,” shifting most of the blame to TLC and the show itself!
The “apology” begins with this gem:
Our team includes people who are descended from early Europeans who came here escaping religious intolerance, and newer Americans who include many religions. We get what America is about.
So basically, his team consists mostly of white people. Oh, it also has some non-white people, who Robert Birge considers “newer Americans.” Does his “150-person team” not have a single black, American Indian, or Hispanic person? Apparently, Mr. Birge does not realize that black people are as old as this country (they were brought here in chains and the country was built on their backs), that American Indians were here long before Birge’s ancestors were, or that Mexicans lived on the land long before Europeans invaded their country. Does his company not have any Japanese-Americans, who have been in this country for generations? Even many Arab-Americans in Dearborn itself have been in the U.S. for three generations. To Robert Birge, I suppose these are all “newer Americans.”
Then, Mr. Birge issues his non-apology:
When we decided to give our money to TLC for this program, we deemed the show a worthy topic. When we received angry emails regarding our decision to advertise, I looked into the show more thoroughly.
The first thing I discovered was that TLC was not upfront with us about the nature of this show. As I said, it’s a worthy topic, but any reasonable person would know that this topic is a particular lightning rod. We believe TLC went out of their way to pick a fight on this, and they didn’t let us know their intentions. That’s not a business practice that generally gets repeat business from us. I also believe that it did this subject a grave disservice. Sadly, TLC is now enjoying the attention from this controversy.
What exactly didn’t TLC disclose “about the nature of this show”? A New York Times article counters this lame excuse:
A reporter who received an e-mail from Kayak with Mr. Birge’s blog post was puzzled because there was considerable publicity about “All-American Muslim” before its debut. Articles outlined the contents of the show and its focus on the Muslim-American community of Dearborn, Mich., a Detroit suburb.
Exactly. Contrary to what Mr. Birge insinuates, there was nothing mysterious about the show or its intent: it was clear to everyone, even the Islamophobic bigots themselves, that it was about showing how American Muslims are regular people just like you and me: they have jobs, mortgages, children, dreams, etc. What was unclear about this?
Read between the lines and it is clear what Robert Birge is saying: he is arguing, just like the anti-Muslim bigots, that this show about American Muslims had an ulterior motive and a secret agenda. You know those swarthy and stealthy Muslims always have some secret Islamic agenda and can’t be trusted!
The NYT article goes on (bold is mine):
The reporter e-mailed Kayak to ask why Mr. Birge believed TLC kept information from the company. In an e-mail response, Mr. Birge replied: “When TLC pitched ‘All-American Muslim’ to advertisers, it was characterized as a fair-and-balanced look at the life of an American Muslim.”
“However,” he continued, “what was not disclosed was the pre-existing controversy surrounding race, religion and specifically the divide between the Muslim and Christian communities in Dearborn, Mich.”
Dearborn “has been a center of controversy for right or wrong,” he added. “However, that was omitted by TLC when it pitched the show.”
Here, the Kayak executive regurgitates the arguments raised by the Islamophobes. For example, Florida Family Association argued that the show did not depict “a fair-and-balanced look at the life of an American Muslim” since it didn’t deal with certain issues, such as how Muslims (supposedly) want to impose Sharia on non-Muslims. Mr. Birge says almost the exact same thing, arguing that the show fails to depict “a fair-and-balanced look at the life of an American Muslim” because “what was not discussed was the pre-existing controversy surrounding race, religion and specifically the divide between the Muslim and Christian communities in Dearborn, Mich.” He stops just short of saying that the Muslims of Dearborn are subjecting the Christians of the city to Islamic values. (Only Christians are allowed to impose their views on others in this country.)
Instead of denouncing the FFA, Robert Birge focuses his wrath on FFA’s target, TLC and the show.
Can you imagine if Kayak had pulled ads for a black reality show because of a controversy (created by Neo-Nazis) that it failed to depict “a fair-and-balanced look at the life of” black people–you know, all those “pre-existing controvers[ie]s surrounding” crime, drugs, and violence.
Just imagine if Kayak had treated Jewish-Americans this way. What kind of apology do you think Kayak would be issuing then?
Furthermore, as the NYT article points out:
There seems to be nothing from TLC in the way of news releases or other material from the channel that would suggest it wanted to be inflammatory on the issue of Muslims in America or take advantage of the ensuing controversy over the advertising on the show.
Might I ask Mr. Birge: if Kayak had known that anti-Muslim bigots would protest the show for showing American Muslims as normal people, would they simply have not advertised on the show, using “controversy” as an out? Isn’t that the very definition of “cav[ing] to hatred”?
Robert Birge concludes with this infuriating line:
Lastly, I watched the first two episodes. Mostly, I just thought the show sucked.
Mr. Birge, you are the Chief Marketing Officer of a major company and this is how you issue a formal apology when your company royally screws up? Is this what you consider professional behavior? Your company’s choices, which we see as the endorsement of anti-Muslim and anti-Arab bigotry, have seriously offended and hurt American Muslims and Arab-Americans. And this is how you end your “apology”? If I were in charge of you, sir, I would fire you, because you lack common sense.
Do you think it is wise for you to end your non-apology with your personal opinion that the show–the first reality show about American Muslims (the same group your company sided against along with anti-Muslim bigots)–sucks? The truth is that you are only so flippant about this matter because the demographic you have insulted is currently the lowest on the social totem pole. I doubt you’d be so callous about this topic if you had been accused of siding with anti-black racists or Anti-Semites. You’d be grovelling to keep your job in that case.
More importantly, since when has your company pursued a policy of only advertising on shows that you, Robert Birge, specifically enjoy?
Kayak will hide behind the claim that they pulled their ads because of the “controversy” surrounding All-American Muslim, even though this “controversy” was all manufactured by anti-Muslim bigots. There is absolutely no evidence that TLC or the show seeks to be controversial. In fact, they depict the very mundane lives of regular American Muslims to show that they are not all that different from you and I.
The only “controversy” is that created by anti-Muslim bigots. So by citing this as their reason to pull out, Kayak has sided with them.
As for me, I’m not going to give one cent to Kayak ever in the future and I encourage you all to do the same. Not until they issue a real apology. If they wanted to show sincere contrition (instead of an insincere non-apology), Kayak would back it up with action and renew their ad contract with the show.
Admit this much, Mr. Birge: if this controversy had been about a show called Black America or All-American Jews, can you honestly say that you wouldn’t be falling all over yourselves renewing your ad contract with the show? But because it’s Muslims–the most discriminated segment of society right now–you could care less.
I doubt Kayak will do the right thing, but I can guarantee you this much: in one generation or two, American students will study about this time–just as today’s students study bigotry towards Japanese-Americans during World War II or racism against blacks in the 1950’s–and look back at amazement and utter disgust at those who sided with the forces of hatred.
Shame on you, Robert Birge. And shame on you, Kayak.
Note to readers: I would recommend sending a strong but courteous email of disapproval to Kayak, which can be done here. If anyone can find Robert Birge’s email address, please post it and I will update the article with that information. Also, make sure to hyperlink to this article in your email. I would also appreciate your help in spreading this article by linking it on your Facebook walls, so that we can let it be known to the world: Kayak, you suck.