Bari Weiss: A Minnesota business was canceled over tweets one family member sent when she was 16

Bari Weiss has launched a new podcast and the first episode tells a story about cancel culture, one that happened last year in Minneapolis. Majdi Wadi is a Palestinian immigrant who opened a business making hummus back in the early 90s. He called it Holy Land and the business grew to the point where he had nearly 200 employees including every member of his family. Over time, Holy Land grew into a big business selling products to national chains like Costco. Back in 2010 the business was featured in the NY Times. To get an idea of what a local institution this had become, watch a bit of this local news report from last March:

But in the wake of the death of George Floyd someone dug up some old tweets that Wadi’s daughter Lianne had written in high school. The tweets themselves are indefensible. In one she wrote, “Top 3 races you wish to eliminate. Ready, go! Jews, blacks and the fats.” She was 16 at the time she wrote this in 2012, but in 2020 those tweets were explosive, especially in Minneapolis.

Majdi Wadi says that even before the tweets had resurfaced, his daughter decided to join the protests motivated by George Floyd’s death. He tells Bari Weiss that he sometimes worried about his daughter being out late with protesters. But of course none of that mattered once the tweets surfaced.  

People on social media began demanding that Wadi fire his own daughter. Not wanting to see his business fail or all the people who worked for him lose their jobs, Wadi publicly announced on Facebook that he’d fired his own daughter. She also gave an exclusive interview to a local station apologizing for the tweets and saying it didn’t represent who she was as an adult.

In any healthy society this would have been the end of it. Sixteen year-olds say stupid and offensive things. An apology, not to mention a firing, should have been more than enough. But of course it wasn’t. Wadi’s home address was spread online and he was forced to move his family out of their house for more than a week. His company lost $5 million worth of contracts as Costco and other stores that had carried his hummus simply dropped him with no explanation. No one would even talk to him. Then the owner of the building where they had their largest location canceled their lease, forcing them to close.

Wadi said his attorney told him he could sue but again he was worried about what could happen if his business became a target for protesters or arsonists who were at that moment burning down businesses in the city. He decided not to fight it. He tells Weiss that as a result he had to fire 69 of his employees: “The 69 employees that were working in my factory, that had been working for 15 plus years had nothing to do with it.” As Weiss described it, “It’s like an ancient idea of collective guilt.”

Wadi tells Weiss that when he lived in Jordan, before immigrating to the US, he and his roommate would talk about politics by whispering in each other’s ears. They did this because there was always the concern that someone could overhear you and report you for something. And if you were reported there could be a price to pay. Now he’s seen something similar happen to him here in America.

As Weiss sees it, this isn’t just a random story, it’s an example of what she calls “America’s cultural revolution.” What started on the campuses of the most liberal college campuses a few years ago is now happening everywhere. The whole podcast is worth a listen.