Southern Pines Pilot owner lectures North Carolina voters from the comfort of his Tennessee home

Frank Daniels III– cousin of Southern Pines Pilot publisher David Woronoff and one of four partners who own  Moore County’s Pulitzer Prize winning thrice weekly paper — is mighty disappointed with the voters of his home state.

It wasn’t long ago — 1995 —  that the Daniels family was WAY OVERPAID for their stake  in The Raleigh News & Observer (which was founded by their family).  Frank #3, his dad Frank #2, cousin David, and a family friend soon bought The Pilot newspaper — surely relishing the irony of hardcore Democrat activists buying the only newspaper in yellow-dog Republican Moore County.

Frank #3 soon moved to Tennessee to get into the publishing business and contribute his lefty perspective to the already-burgeoning liberal bias at The Nashville Tennessean newspaper.  

On August 18, Frank #3 took to the pages of The Tennessean to lecture us knuckle-dragging, unshod rubes in North Carolina about — ahem — tolerance:

Bob Coleman, a reader from Franklin and a fellow expatriate North Carolinian, referred me to a recent column by Hal Crowther, “Cave Dwellers of the Carolinas Rise Again,” which he wrote in despair after North Carolina overwhelmingly passed the marriage amendment to its constitution defining marriage as confined to one man-one woman.

I’ve admired Hal’s writing for more than 30 years; he is a proud, unrepentant liberal. The way he writes and his views always spark a response whether I agree with him or not, which is generally not.

But when voters in my old home state passed the marriage amendment, 61-39 percent, I, too, was shocked. North Carolina had always seemed to me to be a place where progressive people and thinking fostered tolerance, and dampened the urges of the majority to impose its sometime narrow views upon those who think or act differently.

I am sorry to see North Carolina embrace intolerance, but it is hard to be surprised. Tolerance is a courtesy that seems to have evaporated in the face of fear, justified by threats of economic collapse and to national security. And yet while I think we all witness the shrill lack of tolerance and decorum in our public discourse, I know we experience every day the very real tolerant concern individuals express toward one another.

A recent example for me: When Dan Cathy, president and chief operating officer of Chick-fil-A, expressed his opinion about gays, it struck me as egregious opportunism to vilify him, or to glorify him. Both the supportive eat-in and oppositional boycott were ways for us to collectively express our intolerance. So when local employees reached out to boycotters with drinks and sandwiches, it illustrated for me that individuals preserve their humanity when groups lose theirs.

It reminds me of my favorite aphorism about meetings from a Demotivators poster, “Meetings: None of us is as dumb as all of us.” I hold to that observation.

We read about it every day, and it will get worse as we approach November. A stupid remark from either side begets outrage and fuels rounds of escalating anger, real and feigned, as the comments are increasingly taken out of context until no one can remember who said what, when. And they don’t care; no one is going to be held accountable.

Another recent example of that helps me get through the political reading I have to do: We read a lot about the intolerance of policemen; they are generally portrayed in unflattering ways. Tuesday, at a car wreck on I-40, I was reminded, again, of how my experience with the public safety officers in our community has been uniformly positive, with every sense of courtesy afforded to everyone. I have yet to talk with a cop here and not walk away with genuine regard for him or her.

I firmly believe that our sense of anonymity — in our cars, at our keyboards, on our phones, in the voting booth — absolves us of restraint, and without self-restraint our worst instincts surface. Add that to our social tolerance for angry hyperbole in public discourse, and we have a recipe for making a bed that eventually none of us will choose to lie in.

Crowther concluded his column with this thought: “We’re having a bigot’s revival and a bully’s carnival in North Carolina, and the infection may be spreading. A lot of us are terribly ashamed, and a whole lot more should be.”

It’ s kind of ironic to get a lecture on tolerance from a member of the Daniels family.   Long-time N&O columnist Rob Christensen’s book The Paradox of Tar Heel Politics paints a chilling, highly-disturbing picture of some members of the Daniels clan’s support for racial segregation in North Carolina from Reconstruction through the 1930s.    

During Reconstruction, the KKK literally took over the North Carolina Democrat Party and state government.  The Democrats began to ruthlessly and violently overturn all of the civil rights efforts put in place by the federal government.  The N&O — owned and controlled by the Daniels family — was an enthusiastic cheerleader for the KKK-controlled Democrat Party’s agenda during that time.

Christensen’s book tells us about one member of the Daniels family who ran around making pro-segregation speeches while accompanied by a band of armed thugs called “Redshirts.”  According to Christensen, the Redshirts gained notoriety for vandalizing black-owned property and harassing black residents.

Shortly after buying The N&O, McClatchy Newspapers issued a public apology for The N&O’s role in inciting violence against blacks during the 1898 Wilmington Race Riots.  (In 1898, the paper was owned by Josephus Daniels.)

I don’t recall any of the Daniels clan — still in the publishing industry — making an effort to publicly apologize for their ancestors’ — umintolerance. Maybe that can be Frank #3’s NEXT column.