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My Turn: Here’s why I didn’t stop the Obama movie

Thanks for the chance to address the controversy that arose due to the showing of the film Obama 2016 at the Flying Monkey in Plymouth last week. I would like to explain the course of events that led to up to the showing and hope that we can all move on as a community.

In mid-September, a representative from the local Republican Party asked to rent the Flying Monkey to show a political film on Oct. 28. I gave them the contact information for our booking agent and promptly forgot about it. Last week, I began receiving phone calls and emails about the movie, indicating that many people felt it was an anti-Obama film, with inaccurate, hateful and very negative content.

I explained that the Flying Monkey was not sponsoring the film but renting out the theater – with no support or endorsement, no advertising, or ticket sales on our part at all. Nevertheless, many friends and community members continued to urge, even demand, that I cancel the showing. So I set out to learn more about the movie.

I bought and watched the movie myself – twice. I talked to those who had rented the theater, talked to friends, talked to many who wrote or called, and listened to their reasoning.

Ultimately, I had to listen to my gut, which told me that canceling the show would be against something I, New Hampshire and America stands for – not just freedom of speech, but the importance of allowing unfettered access to information. Why should I be the one to judge who can or cannot hear a particular film, or can or cannot rent a meeting room at our facilities?

I was given a lot of reasons to go against my intuition. “You’re an Obama supporter! This could change the election! It could incite violence!” (In Plymouth?!) In the final analysis, I decided that showing the film was the right thing. I am not the government, but even as a private business owner, I do not want to get in the way of free speech. I hoped people would take in what they saw and heard in the movie with an objective eye, some critical thinking, some good old-fashioned New Hampshire independent thought.

The people renting the theater are members of the community just as much as the many people who emailed and called me in opposition. We are all in this together, and it’s not the time to get more negative than the ads and discourse have already become.

I let the show go on, as, they say. I even made a batch of beef stew to be a good neighbor. However, I also told everyone who attended that I was a proud supporter of President Obama. But, it’s not just about the candidate or the election. It is about a willingness to stand alone for democracy.

And how can we all do that right now? Vote on Tuesday. Get informed, think independently, stand up and vote.

Thanks to everyone who called and emailed, even those who said they would never come to the Monkey or a Com

mon Man Restaurant again. That’s what we get to do – make our own choices, not make them for others.

I will always be grateful for living in such a great community, state and country.

(Alex Ray lives in Ashland. He is the owner of the Flying Monkey and the Common Man restaurant chain.)

Legacy Comments8

The fact that any business owner has defend their political choices makes no sense. Any business person who decides to air their political alliances knows by doing that, they might offend some folks in the other party. Basically it boils down to smart business choices. These things work themselves out. The business that offers the best products or services succeeds. I go to the best Doctor because I want the best health care. where that Doc stands politically has no impact on my choice. It actually can lead to some informative discussions if we disagree. But it is best to avoid politics and religion if you are in business. Your there to provide a service or product. Ya talk about the weather, your family, etc. The Common Man does a lot of community Service. They offer a great product with terrific service. The only reason this is an issue is beacuse the Left cannot tolerate any negativity about their American Idol President. If this owner had ran a film trashing Bush, the Left would be praising him to the hilt.

Progressives only support free speech if it is issues they agree on. Same with hate rhetoric. They are fine if a Dem uses hate rhetoric but if they sense a Rep is using hate rhetoric they are not fine with that, Silence that Rep! Basically they are hypocrites. I have talked with family members at family functions, and they are so uninformed that they have no clue about this President's record. They actually believe that what the media tells them is true. When you pose a question to them to back up what they said, they have no answer so they change the subject. They talk about women's rights, class warfare and fantasy scenerios. When you ask them when Clinton reformed welfare how did that turn out. They have no answer. The left decided that soundbytes, fantasies, rewriting history and running a campaign on emotion would get folks to forget about the economy and jobs. It has worked to an extent. But like most fantasies, at some point reality kicks in. Lets hope they do not need two terms of this President to realize how misslead they have been.

Good decision, Mr. Ray, and for all the right reasons.

I have to commend Mr. Ray on standing on principle and not censoring the film in Plymouth. I am not sure what film it is, however, no identification of the film has been given. Having worked in the restaurant, retail and retail food industry for over 35 years and presently in senior management, I understand the industry. Many in the industry do support Obamacare as they believe it will lower their liability and expenditure on health insurance; others see it the opposite....most are taking a wait and see view. This week in Nation's Restaurant News, there was an eyeopening piece about how restauranteurs and restaurant chains are remaining mum on support of politicians in this election. Basically, it is pretty much common knowledge that taking a political stand, can affect your business. Earlier this year Chick-Fil-A took that gamble and won in the short term but the long term impact remains to be seen. Mr. Ray is a maverick in the local restaurant business. He has taken risks and has had phenomenal organic growth. In addition to that, his restaurants have a better than average reputations. He promotes from within and there are many positive aspects of the restaurant chain which he has built. That said, it is dangerous to wear your political views on your sleeve when you operate a small business. I know that I generally do not support businesses operated by activists. I have avoided the Common Man restaurants as I do not want to give my hard earned money to businesses who then donate and support candidates who are diametrically opposed to what I feel is best for this state and this country. After reading this thoughtful column by Alex Ray, I might consider spending some dollars there. Still however, a wise man / woman who runs a business reliant on the general public, keeps his political beliefs to himself / herself. Mr. Ray might take heed and perhaps tone down his unabashed support of political candidates. Perhaps, however, he feels as if it really does not matter or he is well healed enough to forgo any negative impact. In any event, his sense of fairness is admirable and his defense of free speech is appreciated.

The movie that Mr. Ray is talking about is called "Obama 2016," as he says in his opening. We had a news story about this controversy last week. You can read more here:

Thanks Felice, I was out of state and did not read that online or anything online for a few days. I think that is Dinesh Desouza's 2016: Obama's America which threw me off as the title did not match in Mr. Ray's letter so I was wondering if this was some far right fringe film. 2016: Obama's America has been on Dish Network for a month now and has extremely high ratings. To those progressives who are complaining, is this not the kind of independent film which should appear at the Red River Theater? I thought that is the purpose of Red River; show independent films which are not widely distributed through mainstream markets and films with diverse ideas and philosophies? I have seen the film, give it a B to B- for supposition but it does make many pertinent points about Obama. Like other comments from a letter yesterday and here on this forum today I wonder if progressives really support free speech. At least Mr. Ray sees the big picture and seems to get it.

I think it is funny that left wing extremists who hate freedom of speech if it comes from a conservative are boycotting this guy who supports Obama. Boycott away extremists. The Common Man is a great place to eat. I would go there more often if the Obama economy wasn't so bad.

Good job!

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