Tuesday night I attended a Barnes and Noble author event: Andrea Batista Schlesinger on her new book, The Death of “Why”? I attended for two reasons: one, because Christine Quinn was introducing the author at the event and, two, to hear more about this new author’s work (I actually was very intrigued by the book’s description, I was even thinking about buying a copy.)
In Quinn’s introductory remarks, I was surprised to hear that Quinn said that she is a strong supporter of encouraging everyone to ask critical questions (even questions posed to her). I was especially surprised about Quinn’s revelation because I have been trying to ask for Quinn’s help for more than three years (more on that in my next post).
After Ms. B.S. finished talking about the importance of asking questions and the dearth of intellectual curiosity in our country. Ms. B.S. selected me to ask the first question. I had a question that pertained to Ms. B.S.’s talk, my experience with Quinn as well as Ms. B.S.’s book.
I carefully framed my question to make it relevant to the evening. The publicity for the event noted — in big, bold letters — that the event was “with Christine Quinn, Speaker of the New York City Council.” So, a question opening with a remark about Quinn certainly was germain (and Michael and Tito, for that matter!).
I began my question with, “I am so sad that Christine left because one of the reasons I came was to ask her why she refuses to help the disabled…” Here’s a video of me asking the question (and you may be able to watch it on CSPAN Books if they don’t edit it out):
After Ms. B.S. dismissed the question that she would not allow me to ask, several others in attendance spoke up to my defense and asked Ms. B.S. that why, if she is a proponent of asking questions, would she dismiss my question before I could even ask the question. Her response “His question was irrelevant.”
The Drum Major Institute for Public Policy is a non-partisan, non-profit think tank generating the ideas that fuel the progressive movement. From releasing nationally recognized studies of our increasingly fragile middle class to showcasing progressive policies that have worked to advance social and economic justice, DMI has been on the leading edge of the public policy debate.
Kinda makes you go, “hmm,” doesn’t it?
After Ms. B.S. spoke, she barreled her way towards me and asked me, ”Do you really think it was appropriate to ask a question about Christine Quinn and not about my book?”
My response: “Absolutely. You didn’t even let me ask my question. But right now my question is ‘How can anyone ask someone like you a question when you refuse to listen to the question itself?’”
Ms. B.S. walked away in a huff.
While she was signing one copy of her book, I rudely interrupted her to give her my flier (stay tuned for details in my next posting) and asked if she could get the flier to Quinn. She snarled at me, pushed the flier onto the floor and barked “Why don’t you get it to her yourself!?”
The police asked me to leave as I thought to myself, “And you work to advance social and economic justice? No, no, no, silly Bob, Ms. B.S. is interested in one thing: her book.*”
For someone who had just finished talking about the importance of asking questions and the importance of intellectual curiousity, I would have expected something more than petulance. Perhaps what she meant by “intellectual curiousity” was “intellectual curiosity of a turnip.” [Turnips: please do not be offended. Mea culpa.]
Hypocrites come in many colors: red, blue, white, black. The Drum Major Institute has a wonderful mission. Perhaps Ms. B.S. should reacquaint herself with it. Her book is about the importance of questions. Perhaps she should read it.
As my friend Josh said, “For someone who wrote a book about addressing a symptom to a larger problem — not listening — she’s only perpetuating the problem by not listening herself. Here’s a clue: people don’t ask questions for fear of being shut down. Batista is my case in point.”
And, by the way, be sure to tune in to the broadcast of the evening’s event on CSPAN’s BookTV to find out how a hypocrite answers a question. I’ll give you a hint: ”I don’t know” was one of her favorite responses.
P.S. I learned early Wednesday morning that Ms. B.S. is working for the Bloomberg re-election campaign. If you do not know, Mayor Michael Bloomberg (and Christine Quinn) both ignored the voice of the people of New York City regarding term limits. Ms. B.S. is for the people? Give me a break! At least now I know why she is so rude: she works for Bloomberg. I can finally get some sleep…
*Ms. B.S. is not just interested in selling her book, she’s interested in a political career with the people who do not give a hoot about democracy! You live up to your name, Ms. B.S.! If I had known on Tuesday night that Ms. B.S. was in bed with Quinn (to whom Ms. B.S. gave a big embrace and kiss) and Bloomberg, I would have addressed the relevance of my question when she confronted me with its appropriateness. I’m so glad that I didn’t contribute money to my new hypocrite friend’s coffer. I think I’ll buy a copy of “The Company of Wolves” instead.