The Price of Speech Is Their Committee

Speaker of the New York City Council, Corey Johnson, got to have his say:

“You have a right to free speech,” Mr. Johnson said in an interview. “But you don’t have a right to a committee on the City Council.”

Nobody has a right to a committee on one of the most woke legislative clubs around, one that will let no right stand in the way of subjugating a constitutional right to the benefit of the oppressed. But that’s not the question raised by Johnson’s actions. He didn’t stand accused of refusing to give a committee to anyone, but of stripping two elected City Council members of the committees they were already given.

After a New York City councilman said that the Council was “controlled by the homosexual community,” his influential committee — created at his request — was dissolved.

Another council member was bounced from the immigration committee when he said on Twitter that “Palestine does not exist,” and referred to “so-called ‘Palestinians’” in another tweet.

The remarks, by Rubén Díaz Sr. of the Bronx and Kalman Yeger of Brooklyn, brought immediate condemnation from their colleagues and led to what the City Council speaker, Corey Johnson, said was a “loss of confidence” in both men.

It’s one thing, and entirely unsurprising, that the views of two elected councilmen brought immediate condemnation from others. In the scheme of social justice, it’s unacceptable to express any criticism of identity groups on the list of the marginalized, particularly when they are higher on the victim hierarchy than your group.

As more and more public officials face scrutiny for expressing views that some perceive as racist, homophobic, sexist or hateful, the effort to deal with them in a way that satisfies the public’s desire for justice while upholding the free-speech rights of the offenders has become increasingly complex.

It’s untenable now, as it has always been, to play one group off against another under the rubric of “racist, homophobic, sexist or hateful,” as these axes conflict and mean nothing more than what’s ideologically popular at any given point in time.

Mr. Johnson acknowledged the tricky balancing act, but said it was his duty “to make sure all people and all communities feel seen, heard and respected.”

Tricky? Is that the new test for who gets silenced in the world o’ woke? Diaz, a Puerto Rican minister, wasn’t entitled to be “seen, heard and respected,” because his problem came from the inherent conflicts involved in another group, on a separate axis in the victim hierarchy, whose cries conflicted with his views of propriety. And Yeger, an orthodox Jew, wasn’t a huge fan of the social justice view that Palestinians were the victims.

Is it hateful of them? If one adheres to the irrational and conflicted ideology that permeates the New York City Council, you bet. But then, that same ideology is hateful of Diaz’s and Yeger’s constituencies, and aren’t they entitled to “feel seen, heard and respected” as well?

There is nothing “tricky” about it. There are merely choices to be made, one of which is to not strip a council person of his committee as punishment for his exercise of free speech. The actions of the Council speaker have nothing to do with balancing, as there is nothing to balance. There are the favored victims, and they are untouchable, not because of any principled distinction but because on the hierarchy of an irrational ideology, they are higher than the less-favored victims, and far, far above the extremely disfavored constituency of straight white men.

It may be that Diaz, as a Puerto Rican, was confident that his skin color or ancestry could protect him from the backlash of challenging the victims on the gender axis, just as skin color protected the sycophants of Nation of Islam founder Louis Farrakhan for their anti-Semitism. But as he learned, sexual orientation beats ethnicity, at least in New York City.

Yeger may have felt emboldened by the recent cries of anti-Semitism against the bold representative from Minnesota’s 5th, but just as the House of Representatives lacked the will to admonish Ilhan Omar, Palestinians are the victims despite their core tenet of driving the Jews into the sea.

Norman Siegel, former head of the New York Civil Liberties Union, condemned Corey Johnson’s efforts to punish Diaz and Yeger for their views.

It is disappointing that the New York City Council speaker, Corey Johnson, and many City Council members take the position that the council members Rubén Díaz Sr. and Kalman Yeger’s statements about gays and Palestinians, respectively, created a “loss of confidence” in both men in order to justify punitive actions regarding their committee assignments.

What actual and objective evidence supports the Council’s actions? What evidence exists to demonstrate that Mr. Díaz and Mr. Yeger’s views interfere with their job performance as elected officials?

It’s a tepid defense, but the fact that Siegel was willing to step up in support of speech is itself laudable. It isn’t a stretch to believe that the deeply sensitive members of the City Council were so outraged by Diaz and Yeger as to want nothing to do with them. After all, their words were heresy, a violation of the victim hierarchy from which no future cooperation, no leadership, could survive. In the scheme of irrational ideology, they almost certainly lost the confidence of their passionate colleagues.

So what? They get to say what they want. Others get to say what they want. But what they cannot do is punish the elected heretics for not adhering to their orthodoxy. These are elected officials, for better or worse, and if there is anyone to decide that they are unworthy of the confidence needed to keep them in their council seats, and their committees, it’s their voters.

But Corey Johnson, speaker of the City Council, and born the year I graduated law school, sees a bright future ahead for a budding progressive. There is no doubt that his claim of a loss of confidence is true, but the loss would be about him if he didn’t burn the heretics at the stake for violating the victim hierarchy. Then he couldn’t be confident in his political future as a warrior for  social justice.

18 thoughts on “The Price of Speech Is Their Committee

  1. Richard Kopf

    Because I hate hate speech I respectfully dissent. Furthermore, I am appalled at the Compact Clause of the Constitution, Article I, Section 10, Clause 3, prohibiting New York from entering into an agreement with California to recognize “woke” as a predicate for serving as a City official in their respective states to further the goal of diversity on each coast.* We don’t need no damn Constitution. Just be woke and everything will be fine, particularly if your ethnicity is PR.

    All the best.

    RGK

    *No State shall, without the Consent of Congress, lay any Duty of Tonnage, keep Troops, or Ships of War in time of Peace, enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State, or with a foreign Power, or engage in War, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent Danger as will not admit of delay.:

    1. SHG Post author

      There’s a lot of airtime to fill on networks these days, so the Oppression Olympics isn’t going to suffice. They need “Battle of the Wokeist States,” with New York and California competing to see who can self-immolate first.

  2. Skink

    You got some weird doins there in The City. You got a council with 51 members. 51! That’s way too many to avoid mischief. In the Swamp, we got like 6 for a whole county. Since they’re mostly composed with people like Joe Shit the Ragman, we don’t let them do important stuff. Instead, they get to say when the garbage gets picked up.

    Because you got so many, you get a “Speaker” and “committees.” Of course you do–how else would citizens know about the council people? But 51 isn’t enough to cover everything. So some of the Council people get two jobs, like Johnson:

    “City Council Speaker Corey Johnson assumed the role and office of Acting Public Advocate when the prior Public Advocate, Letitia James, became State Attorney General, on January 1, 2019.
    The Public Advocate acts as an ombudsperson for all New Yorkers – a government official who champions the public and ensures government is responsive to their needs.”

    That’s right, his other job is to make sure the government works for the people. I know what you’re thinking: isn’t that also the job of the other 50? Silly you, not everyone gets to be the ombudsperson! They’s have to put that title on all 51 office doors. Besides, the other 50 said something to piss someone off, so they have been stripped of their roles as ombudsperson. Words have repercussions.

    Two jobs ain’t enough for Johnson:

    “Johnson tweeted last month that he is considering running for mayor in 2021, saying ‘It’s a big decision, but I am thinking about a potential people-powered mayoral run.’ ”

    Does “people powered” mean he’s an environmentalist, or is he just into alternative energy? I feel you thinking again: who powers an election if not people? Aren’t people the ones that vote? Nope. It’s powered by committees, and Johnson just announced the formation of the People Powered Committee. It’s a big one, so they’re gonna need another 20 council people. None of them gets to be the ombudsperson, neither.

    1. SHG Post author

      In fairness, we have more people in an ordinary office building than you’ve got in the whole swamp. Then again, with that many people in such a small place, there isn’t a lot of air to breathe, so it causes people to get light-headed and their brains to fart.

      1. Skink

        Nope– as of last year, there are more people in the Swamp. We don’t like it, so we’re organizing a committee to get smaller.

  3. Jay

    Here’s the deal with Greenfield. He tries really hard to act like he’s principled, like he’s the woke one. But if you had a white supremacist on the counsel advocating for segregation on basis of race, he’d say well that’s illegal and unconstitutional so it’s ok to punish. That’s his only principle. Which makes him a man of no principles at all.

    1. Skink

      Jay–your comment moved me. I mean it really struck home. It got me thinking about recent events. You see, a cat has been hanging around my crib. It tries to catch other stuff, but it mostly eats lizards. It’s probably a stray, but maybe not. Anyway, I feel bad because I ate it. It’s not that I feel bad about eating cat–if you do it right, it tastes like cabbage. It’s also not that it might have been someone’s pet. I just don’t care about that. No, I feel bad because it was eating lizards, so that kinda makes it like I ate lizards.

      See how we think alike? We could have a beer. It’d be cool if you brought a cat.

  4. Kathryn Kase

    Darlin’, the infringement of speech ain’t just the province of the woke.

    ‘Round these parts, the very conservative Texas Lege and Guv approved a law in 2017 that requires state employees and contractors not to boycott of Israel if they want to keep getting state money. Yesterday US District Judge Bob Pitman ruled that law violates the 1st Amendment. I expect the inevitable appeal to the 5th Circuit and am looking forward to the oral argument in SCOTUS.

    Meanwhile, people are crying about lost committee assignments? I suspect our Lege would say y’all are a bunch of pikers in Noo Yawk City. Texas, at least, backs up its speech infringement by threatenin ’ yer wallet.

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