Late last month, the internet blew up with the news that Ivanka Trump had been heckled by a fellow passenger on a JetBlue flight prior to takeoff. For the “heckler,” Brooklyn resident Daniel Goldstein, the initial reports would cause long standing damage.
Not only was Ivanka traveling with her family – her three children and husband Jared Kushner, himself an influential and active advisor to the President-Elect – but the billionaire’s daughter was flying coach. As if traveling with three children wasn’t hard enough enough without leg room, Ivanka Trump had to cope with sudden and unexpected mouth-turbulence from liberal agitators. With the patience of the Virgin Mary, the First Daughter ignored Goldstein and handed out crayons to her children. For his part, Kushner fought back the thousand masculine urges compelling him to defend his woman and progeny, instead opting to return his chair to its upright position and store the tray-table in the seat in front of him.
As the story unfolded, however, it became clear that Goldstein had not lashed out or “heckled” the family, but instead made a few comments in a shaky but restrained tone in their general direction. JetBlue, hyper attuned to any potential conflicts, swooped in and removed Goldstein and his husband, Matthew Lasner, rather than risk an escalating confrontation.
But the damage had been done, and for exercising his First Amendment right, Goldstein and Lasner now face actual life-impacting repercussions.
Enter the Cerberus of the conservative party, Fox News.
Jesse Waters, a correspondent for Bill O’Reilly, confronted Goldstein walking his dog near his Brooklyn residence (or, at least, someone Waters believed to be Goldstein – the man hides his face under his hood making him impossible to identify on the video).
Waters, a journalist, asks incisive questions such as, “You harassed a woman with her baby on a flight. You proud of that?”, and “Real class act aren’t you? Now you’re afraid to show your face?”
In addition to this actual (as opposed to imagined) harassment, a petition on Change.org calling for Lasner’s firing from Hunter College has raised a whopping 20,000 signatures. The backlash also spilled into Amazon, where Trump supporters – or opponents of talking to strangers on planes – flooded Lasner’s book with negative reviews (although the fake reviews have since been removed).
Whether or not you agree with Goldstein’s tactics, or even if you disagree with what he said, this level of retribution for expressing his beliefs warrants concern. In the beginning stages of Donald Trump’s presidency, these first demonstrations of resistance and the subsequent reactions will set the precedence for the next four years. If something as small as a few choice words in coach leads to such disruptive retaliation, what message does that send to those who would organize and protest in more meaningful ways?