I am, at least as far as I know, still chairman of the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct, having been elected unanimously by its members who are appointed by the heads of various divisions of state government. I have written seven books, three with Jackie Mason. Together, we have written more than 100 op-ed and other articles, so the members who chose me as chairman certainly knew whom they were electing. Two people we are not: Don Imus and Martin Richard.
We co-wrote a humor book, “Schmucks,” with a cartoon on the cover. Jackie, not known for his efforts as an archeologist, is drawn wearing a Captain Marvel suit, and I, a Superman outfit. Jackie is rumored to have a sense of humor – at least the over 2 million people who have seen him think so. It is a pretty safe bet that no Commission member ever earned subway fare as a result of their humor.
Each member of the Commission I spoke to up until last Friday morning had only complimentary things to say to me, the general gist of it being how great I was, what an asset to the Commission I was, the best writer they ever had on the Commission – but why don’t I just stay on as a member and not be chairman anymore?
Some of the conversations approached the absurd, one member suggesting, “… if you had only shown them the book beforehand, this could all have been avoided.” What was suggested to Jackie and me was even worse than what was actually done, namely, the import of pre-censorship in writing a book.
Another member likened the situation to a man who was awaiting an appointment to a judgeship when at an affair made a public joke about a current case in which a girl was gang-raped on a pool table. My head was spinning. Jackie suggested that I look out of my window at Saint Patrick’s and make sure there was still an American flag in front of the entrance. It is still there – and so are we – I believe stronger, and making more money due to book sales as a result of the Commission’s assault. The Commission issued a public statement Friday afternoon, April 13, basically a vote of no confidence and, in effect, asking me to resign – all because of our book.
Left unsaid in the Commission’s statement is that nothing I have done, either as a member or chairman of the Commission, has ever been questioned as inappropriate, improper, wrong, biased, etc.
Turning to the three points raised in the Commission’s press release, they were that the book repeatedly invokes racial, ethnic and religious invective. One must suppose by flogging about the word “racial,” I am irretrievably wounded. The charge is a lie. In point of fact, they obviously didn’t read the book. There is no racial invective in our book. Indeed, Fredric Dicker, who obviously did read the book, confirmed in his April 16 New York Post article: “… there were no explicit examples of racial insults and several statements in favor of racial equality.” Notwithstanding this, the Post wrote a vicious editorial supporting the Commission. There were, indeed, “ethnic” pieces in our book, but they neglect to mention in their release that these involve five pieces about people in countries that are the enemies of the United States in greater or lesser degrees. There are pieces entitled “Suicide Bombers” and “Yasser Arafat” under “Dead Schmucks,” and a piece on Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The piece that professedly seems to upset people is the one about Saudi Arabia, which reads as follows:
“Other than the togas worn in the days of the Holy Roman Empire (which was hardly holy or Roman, and which, eventually, no longer even qualified as an empire) we never cared much for men who wear bedsheets as clothing. Like the Ku Klux Klan. And the Saudis.” And: “The Saudis control 25 percent of the world’s oil reserves, and this has allowed them to blackmail us. For decades, successive American presidents have acted as if Saudi oil was more important than Israeli blood.” They may not like this – but they cannot change history.
We would respectfully suggest that while there are those who sit here seeking to abridge two Americans’ freedom of speech – which Justice Douglas called “the most dangerous of all subversions” – there are others out there wanting to destroy this country while we waste our energy.
We have been the recipient of hundreds of e-mails, and I can honestly say none are unsupportive (except for four – two berating us for our comments about France, and two anti-Semitic – one addressed to me as “Rabbi Felder”). They didn’t even get this right (Jackie is the rabbi, not me). What we must in good conscience acknowledge is that many have come from liberals who basically indicate they disagree with everything we say, but are appalled at the attempt to muzzle us. We are unable to answer this volume of messages – it is generational – we are looking for a 15-year-old kid who can teach us how to use the computer.
The Commission, in its press release, assures us at the end that this is not a question of free speech. “The point here is not to inhibit anyone’s right to publish under the First Amendment. …” Unfortunately, one can call a baboon a swan until the swan flies away, but the baboon is still a baboon and a swan is still a swan.
They make two more points. They criticize us for use of the word “allegedly” in the piece about Benon Sevan, who is now avoiding extradition in Cypress. They neglect to say that the penultimate sentence in the short piece reads: “If bribery can be proved, then Mr. Sevan certainly should be in the Guinness Book of World Records. He achieved the outstanding trifecta, because he was able to screw the people of Iraq, the folks at the U.N. and the well-intentioned citizens of America all at the same time.”
Lastly, they seek to suck out one sentence from the piece against affirmative action, and neglect to mention that the piece begins by indicating the need for affirmative action when there was discrimination against blacks, Hispanics, homosexuals and women, but goes on to state that it would not be welcome to a man on the operating table if the doctor said to him, “I graduated last in my class at college after nine years; however, because I’m an Albino, bisexual, transvestite, Penobscot Indian with Tourette’s syndrome, I was able to gain a place in med school. But don’t worry, I must have left my scalpel somewhere in the OR, and, as soon as it’s found, I’ll start cutting.” Many Americans are in favor of affirmative action today, and many are not, but that does not mean that we stand in place of Alberto Gonzales who apparently is sought to be fired because of his political beliefs, or Don Imus for his hateful comments.
We are resisting this assault on our freedom of speech. We do it for the next guys who do not have as big a mouth as we, nor perhaps the energy or means to oppose. The First Amendment is close to the Holy Writ and is the first trench against tyranny. The mightiest force in creation is an idea, and the mightiest implements of power are a pen and a microphone, or TV camera. One doesn’t have to be a Christian to understand that Christ’s teachings had more power than all the armies, navies, tyrants and dictators that have ruled the world for the 2,000 years since he lived. The same is true of the Judaic principles, and even the teachings of Muhammad. The same is true for democracies that exist in a world where we can no longer have islands of democracy, of dictatorship, of fanaticism and despots. We are living in a time where there is a clash of civilizations, but the worst threat to our civilization – our democracy – is that which comes from within. And, oh yes, the flag is still standing outside of St. Patrick’s – and so, pen in hand, are two old Jews.