Surely by now you know of Aaron Schlossberg, the latest cultural villain.
He was the star and author of a bizarre incident at a restaurant in Manhattan. Schlossberg, who is a midtown Manhattan lawyer, freaked out beyond all reason when a customer began conversing in Spanish with employees at the restaurant. “Your staff is speaking Spanish to customers when they should be speaking English,” he protested. “Every person I listen to — he spoke it, he spoke it, she’s speaking it. This is America! “My guess is they’re not documented, so my next call is to ICE to have each one of them kicked out of my country.If they have the balls to come here and live off of my money — I pay for their welfare, I pay for their ability to be here — the least they can do is speak English…I’m calling ICE.”
Naturally, this was captured on a phone video. Naturally, it was posted to social media. Once upon a time a person could behave like a jackass and only have the immediate witnesses to his conduct know about it. No more. Now, thanks to omnipresent cell phones, everyone is under more or less constant surveillance, and a bad moment, a sudden outburst or an ill-considered word can and will be wielded by steely-eyed social justice enforcers to destroy a miscreant’s life to the maximum extent possible.
Is that the kind of society you want to live in? It would be wise to consider the fate of Aaron Schlossberg.
Somehow his name became known. The news media picked up his tantrum: the Daily News put it on its front page! The New York Post reported that he has been evicted from his office by Corporate Suites, the company that held his law office lease. His firm’s associate quit, with a nice virtue-signaling tweet. A petition demanding that he be disbarred has more than 10,000 signatures, and there is a GoFundMe effort to a hire a mariachi band to follow him around New York.
That’s kind of funny, I have to admit.
Now a couple of other people have come forward claiming that Schlossberg has also been rude in their presence. Meanwhile, local TV stations in New York and the internet are piling on. Here’s the always juvenile and smug legal gossip site Above the Bar: “Aaron Schlossberg Is Having A Delightfully Bad Day: Karmic justice is real. “
No, encouraging vengeful mobs to destroy individuals who have hurt nothing but feelings is real, and the Golden Rule is nowhere to be found
Stipulated: Aaron Schlossberg behaved like an asshole. Also stipulated: He behaved like such an asshole that it approached signature significance, and thus he almost certainly is an asshole. The ethics question is: Now what?
Can a commercial lease company evict someone for mere speech? I suppose it can, the question is should it? I see this as another example of commercial enterprises conditioning business on political views, and segregating customers by their beliefs and affiliations. Schlossberg’s rant was stupid and wildly unfair; it also evinced strong opposition to illegal immigrants, though why speaking Spanish is proof of that in his mind makes me question his reasoning abilities. Why was his lease cancelled? Because he’s a jerk? In New York? Because he was mean to restaurant workers? Or was it because he isn’t in favor of ignoring immigration laws? Let’s play Kant’s game: are you comfortable with any of these being applied by businesses as a universal standard to determine whether a citizen can engage in commerce or not? All of them together?
I’m not, and I don’t see how the conduct of the leasing company doesn’t become a slippery slope.
Have you ever had an outburst of bad moment that you would not want the whole world to see and to judge you based solely on that? If you have, then you should object to what has been done to Aaron. If you haven’t—well, I don’t believe you.
Or you’re not a lawyer.
Disbarment is a non-starter: every one of the 10,000 signatories doesn’t know anything about attorney disciplinary standards. Joe Patrice at Above the Law foolishly says that some bar discipline “is possible.” As usual, Patrice is dead wrong. No disciplinary committee wants to establish a precedent that stands for the proposition that a lawyer can be disciplined for being a big jerk while not practicing law. There is no rule , not just in New York but in any jurisdiction, prohibiting what Schlossberg said in that restaurant. He wasn’t practicing law, and his words don’t suggest anything about his trustworthiness as a lawyer. If being a jerk becomes grounds for disciplining lawyers…well, you can finish that joke yourself.
Schlossberg should apologize in person to the people he insulted. Then he should be left alone. No crime was committed, no one was hurt except him. He has already been punished far, far out of proportion to his outburst, and the efforts to expose, embarrass and harass him have already crossed into bullying and a vendetta. His life should not be ruined because of single rant, and those who seek to harm him for what is ultimately just a political position are more unethical than he is.