Thursday, August 30, 2012

Sexual Harassment is Serious-But So Are Property Rights

We will now undergo a typical NY Times experience with the treatment afforded to the controversy surrounding Vito Lopez and his alleged sexual harassment of his staff. The experience will be a tsunami of articles and commentary surrounding the horror that numerous women experienced-and today's coverage is the perfect example:

"Five women who worked for Vito J. Lopez, the assemblyman at the center of a broadening sexual harassment scandal, described in interviews an atmosphere of sexual pressure and crude language in his office, with frequent unwanted advances by him and others, requests for provocative dress, personal questions about their boyfriends and fears of reprisals if they complained."

Don't get us wrong, the behavior described, if true-and we have no reason to believe that it isn't-is disgraceful and Lopez should resign from office. That being said, this is what the NY Times does with subjects that are at the core of its worldview-and men behaving badly resonates with the feminist sensibilities of the paper. As outgoing Times ombudsman puts it:

"In Sunday's paper, he accused The Times of having a liberal bias saying across its departments "so many share a kind of political and cultural progressivism — for lack of a better term — that this worldview virtually bleeds through the fabric of The Times."

When an issue like the Lopez matter surfaces the Times mobilizes its resources and covers all aspects of the controversy. This all can be better understood by the political science concept of, "decisions and non-decisions." Put simply,we get a better understanding of a leader's or institution's mindset by examining not only the decisions they make but the ones they don't. In the case of the Times it's what they cover-and how intensely-and what they don't really find very compelling.

Sexual harassment-very compelling. Property rights, not so much. Think about it. Property rights form the foundation of American Constitutional principles-and arguably property is the necessary condition for all democracy: without property rights, there would be no liberty. This is not something, however, that gets the blood flowing fast at the Times-whose writers and editors were weaned on the class, race and gender grievance subjects that animate the elite Ivy league educational institutions.

So while the Times interviews Lopez's former chief of staff and four other anonymous women it has little interest in Irene Prestigiacomo and her daughter whose property the city has put into its eminent domain cross hairs. Nor is there concern for the scores of others whose land will be taken if the city has its way with condemnation. The only time we can remember the Times worrying about property rights was when the mosque was being planned for ground zero-and the narrative fit nicely into a grievance category that the paper is comfortable with.

We have no real beef with the sensationalized Lopez coverage-and the aging lawmaker is apparently reaping what he has sowed. At the same time, we mourn the disregard that the elite media shows to an issue that should have an equal billing: the threatened taking of property from families who have in some cases owned it for forty and fifty years.