Armchair Quarterbacking the Banality of Evil

Dec 22, 2016
By: Jerry A. Goodson
In: Society

It didn’t take both operatives on both sides of the Domestic Cold War long to mobilize in retaliation or support of an exchange this morning between Ivanka Trump and a couple who were kicked off a JetBlue flight from Washington D.C. and San Francisco.  

Word spread quickly that two men "attacked" or "accosted" or even "assaulted" Ivanka Trump in front of her family.  Reports of events varied in the degree of the exchange, but none of them provided any detail of the exchange itself.  

JetBlue released a statement after the couple and their child was removed from the flight.

"The decision to remove a customer from a flight is not taken lightly. If the crew determines that a customer is causing conflict on the aircraft, the customer will be asked to deplane, especially if the crew feels the situation runs the risk of escalation during flight. Our team worked to re-accommodate the party on the next available flight."

The story has exploded on social media, but it may have never gained any steam except for the self-induced backlash from the social media (Twitter) postings of one of the offenders.


Matthew Lasner (@mattlasner)  Ivanka and Jared at JFK T5, flying comericial. My husband chasing them down to harass them. #banalityofevil

He followed up with a tweet that included a picture of Trump:

Matthew Lasner (@mattlasner) Ivanka just before @JetBlue kicked us off our flight when a flt attendant overheard my husband expressing displeasure about flying w/ Trumps.

Lasner has since deleted not only the tweets he posted, but his entire Twitter account.

I scraped several news sources (civilian intelligence agencies) to try to learn what occurred during the exchange, itself.  The only description of what ACTUALLY happened came in the first-hand account in a facebook post by Marc Scheff.

Scheff is the man sitting in the seat directly in front of Trump.  He took advantage of his spotlight moment of telling his story about the incident by injecting his personal political opinions.  He did a very nice job of separating fact from his opinion, so out of fairness, I'll quote his entire post.  The description of the incident is in bold face.

UPDATE: Yes, that's me sitting in front of Ivanka. And as she flies coach DT announces he wants to "greatly increase" our nuclear arsenal.

I'm less concerned about verbal attacks on Ivanka Trump than I am about the attacks on our civil liberties and institutions by the incoming administration. Who in their right mind tweets about expanding our nuclear arsenal? The same man who brags about sexually assaulting women. Let's stay focused people.

Below is what I saw first hand.

That's us in the photo you see on the internet. I am sitting in the next row up from Ivanka and surrounded by her family. The whole incident happened literally 15 inches from me. The article is sensationalizing this a little. Here is what happened.

He didn't accost her directly.

When he got on and saw her, sitting behind me, he said "oh my god. This is a nightmare" and was visibly shaking. He said "they ruin the country now they ruin our flight!" (Context: Boarding and therefore the flight was delayed because they needed to get on first through some other way)

He did not yell. He was also not what I would describe as calm. Agitated maybe. His husband behind him was very calm. His son is adorable and sharply dressed.

When the JetBlue staff went back to speak to the man I overheard Ivanka say to them "I don't want to make this a thing." My assessment is that she was happy to let the man take his seat. She handled the situation calmly and with class. Security made the call to remove the man.

And for good reason. The man's calm husband had tweeted earlier that his husband was "chasing them down to harass them."

I did not witness his actual removal some rows back. If he screamed, I didn't hear it.

My politics aside...

Honestly, if I was her security I would have made the same call. I don't _think_ the man was capable of violence, sure. But I would worry that he would leave his seat or cause a scene in some way. And his husband had tweeted that he planned on doing that. So, again you know my politics, but I would have made the same call here.

Those are the facts. Below is my opinion.

As I father I'm upset too. When Donald Trump won the election my son asked me if our friend who is black would be taken away. It's heartbreaking. No child should worry about this kind of thing.

Donald Trump has stoked fear, anger, hate, and violence. Seeing Ivanka and Jared evokes all of that. They look to play major roles in our new administration and so they have to be prepared to answer for the actions of Donald even if their views differ.

But no, you don't get to stay on the plane if you choose to take a stand and harass them for it. Fwiw she was a class act today. That should be expected. Doesn't mean she isn't a major face in an administration that has already inspired so much hatred and violence upon our fellow Americans by our fellow Americans.

The gist of what actually happened wasn't some over-the-top belligerent lunatic firing off on a loud obnoxious tirade, but rather some slightly agitated sentiments expressed, not directly to Trump, but certainly within earshot of her and her family.  No laws were broken, and while JetBlue removed the couple from the flight (which they were well within their right to do so), they were still accommodating by scheduling them on the next available flight.  Kuddos to JetBlue.

ABC News did an interesting story on the incident.

Backlash From All Directions

The interesting aspect of this incident is the public reaction to Matt Lassner, who tweeted about the incident, as opposed to Dan Goldstein who actually committed the offense.  There are some who address both, but Matt Lasner is catching the brunt of most of it.

The backlash isn't coming just from supporters or the Trump family or the conservative right.  A surprising turnout has come from not just the liberal left, but the LBGT community, as well. 

Conservative right posts generally reflect confirmation in their assertions the rallies of the liberal left are aggressive, not progressive.  They are using the incident to solidify their stance that the left is not about tolerance when the agenda does not fit their own.

Liberals, for the most part, are railing against their actions as counter-productive and were particularly indecent because children were present.

To see the latest, look at the tweets with #mattlasner

It doesn't take long to realize many of the responses have come with the assumption there was physical violence involved.  According to the first-hand account above from Marc Scheff, Dan Goldstein didn't even address Trump directly.  

The implication here is the overly used word, "attack."  Goldstein didn't attack Trump, he was merely griping and complaining about her and her father.  He wasn't as irate as media reports would lead the masses to believe, but was simply agitated and "visibly shaking."  To add to the absurdity is the fact that these aren't your typical average ordinary everyday citizens, these were educated professionals... Goldstein a lawyer and Lasner a professor with a Ph.D.  

Several posts listed Lasner's personal contact information to include his employer, phone number(s), email addresses, website address, and workplace and home addresses.  Several twitter posts address the college's twitter account where Lasner works.

Personally, what I found to be surprising, was the relatively low number of tweets that attacked their homosexuality.  

The LBGT community has been quick to condemn the couple's actions.  Using the #LoveTrumpsHate hashtag, the community expresses standards of tolerance.

The general consensus is while the couple didn't violate the law, they violated societal rules of common decency.  

Marginal Support for the Couple

To not mention there has been some support for the couple's actions would deny there was any.  However, there have been a relatively small number of tweets that showed condemnation for judging against the couple citing a double standard for past actions of conservatives.  (i.e. "It's okay for [Donald] Trump to grab women by the p*ssy but it's not okay for these men to say something to Ivanka?")  Other supportive posts were from self-proclaimed homosexuals who took criticism against the couple as an attack on homosexuality and not for their actions.

Hashtag #SnakesOnAPlane

The negative actions of these men seemed to oddly inspire people from the left and the right to agree they have violated rules of common decency.  I believe it started with Marc Scheff's dissenting, yet eloquent post on facebook.  

As for Lasner and Goldstein, there may be immediate consequences, but I'm sure their notoriety will fade as quickly as it flamed up.  In the mean time, I popped me some popcorn, and I'm going to enjoy the tweets about it.

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