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.
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.