Side Area

Cancel Culture in Bayonne, New Jersey

From the organized campaign vilifying Harry Potter author JK Rowling for standing up for women’s actual biological experience to decades of Democrat attempts to paint Republicans as every type of bigot; cancel culture, the totalitarian leftist movement to destroy those with whom they disagree, isn’t just international or national. In Bayonne, NJ, it’s local. Making matters worse in the following chain of deplorable events is the fact that the online mob driving it, safe behind blocked phone numbers, closed social media groups (magnifying the worst impulses of already bad agents), and anonymous emails, has targeted local businesses already on life support due to COVID-19 and the resultant economic restrictions. The decomposing cherry on this putrid pie is both the silence from the only people with anything to gain from fueling the hate and the rotten stink of a possible coverup. 

Our story begins with Michael Shatravka, a Bayonne resident with a checkered teenage and young adult past who, after a literally bone-shattering motorcycle accident, made the decision to do better. Shatravka, stuck in physical therapy for over a year, chose not to hate the world for his past bad decisions. After relearning how to walk and talk, Shatravka entered the world of acting for three years and then created his own videography and photography company as well as obtaining his real-estate license. Along the way, he met and married the love of his life and decided he didn’t like the direction in which Bayonne’s public schools were heading because they were, according to his observation, leaving too many kids behind who might fall into the same bad decisions he himself almost succumbed to.

Shatravka’s business life, his entrepreneurial and community minded can-do attitude, and the business life of Buon Appetito, the charming old-world style Italian restaurant on Bayonne’s main drag, came under fire late this September. Shatravka, through his videography and editing business, was contracted by the community eatery to make a commercial. Little did Buon Appetito (beloved by so much of Bayonne for their tasty and large portions) or Shatravka know that the mere existence of his 2020 virgin Board of Education run would set the brave soldiers of the couch-potato keyboard brigade on their cancel culture crusade. Locked in their sights were two targets — Shatravka’s videography business and Buon Appetito, whose ownership may not have even know of Shatravka’s BoE run and who may not even share his perspective. For Shatravka and other businesses like Buon Appetito, the only thing that matters is having a vibrant home town where people can agree or disagree over good food and enjoy each other’s company.

Not so for Bayonne’s cancel culture crusaders who began calling, emailing, and posting on social media to boycott Buon Appetito unless the eatery disavowed all connections for Shatravka and withdrew the commercial his business made them. The message was sent – associate with anyone on the Make Bayonne Great Again ticket, the slate of three BoE candidates including Shatravka and one of the two main municipal Board of Education slates, even in ways that has nothing to do with the BoE election, or people, possibly from Bayonne Mayor Jimmy Davis’s political camp would come after your businesses.

While there are technically three slates of three candidates running for Bayonne Board of Education, the race has become a two-way battle between Shatravka’s slate, including himself, incumbent BoE member Michael Alonso and Charles Shepard, and that of the political establishment supported “Together We Can” ticket. “Together We Can” is the grouping of BoE candidates backed by status quo powers including Bayonne Mayor Davis, head of a well-oiled Democrat political machine and a vocal supporter who recently mass texted thousands of Bayonne voters in support of the BoE candidates in his political camp.

Perhaps Mayor Davis didn’t know that some of his supporters were threatening to boycott Buon Appetito, or that they were creating nasty memes using old scenes from Shatravka’s acting gigs in which he had prop guns and drugs, that they dredged up his mistakes as a youth which led him to the accident that had him in physical rehabilitation for a year, or the spam emails to his business. This is all convenient but very possible. Yet the question then arises — what happened to the October 6th article in the online Hudson Reporter, Hudson County’s community newspaper, that was only live for roughly six hours before disappearing and which covered the events of the cancel culture attack on Buon Appetito and Shatravka?

The article was titled “Bayonne restaurant embroiled in social media controversy about Board of Education candidate. Buon Appetito took down a commercial they shot with Mike Shatravka after pressure on social media.” It contained the desperate plea from the business owners “we don’t support any political views. We are not, in any way, politically aligned with any parties. We try not to have or show any political views on our page.” As well as the fact that those behind the unfortunately partially successful cancel culture crusade refused to comment and that Shatravka, understanding how immature hounding others for having differences of opinion is, as well as knowing how important local businesses are to the life of a community, stated that “any business who reaches out to him will get a one-minute commercial for free in order to “come together as a community.”

Was the fact that the article, 100% neutral on the BoE race, revealed the true story of hate and intolerance targeting businesses in Mayor Davis’s Bayonne the reason it was taken down? Was it that it shows that Shatravka is a good-hearted man under attack but still putting Bayonne first and before any political considerations? Does it have anything to do with the notion, held by some, that the City of Bayonne, through its business relationship (more significant than other Hudson County municipalities, many believe), has influence with the Hudson Reporter? We may never know, but we do know that the article is off the pages of the Hudson Reporter website.

Cancel culture is a stain on the American public that we must say no to. All people of good will and commonsense can help those who have been its most recent victim by donating to Shatravka’s BoE slate here. Only when the keyboard crusading totalitarians understand that every time they try to cancel someone (because for example they believe BoE taxes should be lowered) that it will lead to even more support for their intended victim, will they learn to end their wicked ways.