Why Jenna Ryan Is a Test for NAR

Over on Inman, Andrea Brambila wrote a story in which NAR clarifies that what Jenna Ryan and other protestors at the Capitol did is not a violation of its new speech code rules:

Participating in last week’s insurrection at the Capitol was not a violation of the National Association of Realtors’ new ethics policies unless a Realtor directed hate speech toward a protected class while doing so, according to the third of six monthly training webinars the 1.4 million-member trade group will be hosting in the wake of the changes.

That’s good clarification by NAR, but in that story, we find this:

Difanis added that, contrary to what an industry commenter has said, the assault on the Capitol is not the first real “test” of the ethics changes.

“No, for the most part it won’t be,” Difanis said. “Those are separate. Don’t let emotion cloud the objective analysis of the code of ethics, which is what pro standards volunteers already know how to do.”

Fellow committee member Bruce Aydt, who is also an attorney, said that if the issue does not involve harassing speech, hate speech, epithets or slurs about a protected class, it doesn’t fall under the new policy.

“[Being present] in Washington D.C. last week, that’s no violation of Standard of Practice 10-5,” Aydt said. “It can, as Matt said, escalate to that. It can morph or change to it. But political statements one way or the other, attendance at an event, one way or the other, if you go further into criminal activity, as some of the evidence may show, that’s not within the code of ethics as well, though it’s a violation of outside laws.

Obviously, yours truly is the said industry commenter, and Inman’s link goes to the first post I wrote on this topic where I said Jenna Ryan is the first big test of the new speech code.

While I completely appreciate what Difanis and Aydt said, and I agree with them within the bounds of what the ethics changes actually say… I still disagree that this is not the first big test. Time will tell, but right now, I’m not inclined to be so optimistic.

And it does not matter that Ms. Ryan has now been arrested and charged. That’s the government, not NAR. I didn’t think this was a test for the government; I thought it was a test for NAR. I still believe that, so let me explain.

Language vs. Purpose

Let’s start with the fact that Difanis and Aydt are obviously correct as it comes to the actual language of 10-5 and the ethics changes. Sam Debord, as well as others, have pointed this out on Facebook: nothing Jenna Ryan did during her storming of the Capitol violates 10-5. There was no “harassing speech, hate speech, epithets or slurs about a protected class” and therefore does not fall under the new policy, as Aydt clarified.

I said as much in my first post:

[I]t is difficult to see how any of the new Code of Ethics provisions apply to Jenna Ryan. She said a bunch of things that most people would agree is inflammatory and provocative, and quite possibly unwise, but she didn’t refer to a single protected class on the evidence I’ve looked at: race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity. She talked about communists, but political affiliation is most definitely not protected nor actionable under the Speech Code.

What I said, however, is that NAR doing nothing to discipline Ms. Ryan might not go over too well with the Left, REALTORS and otherwise:

If they do nothing, or give her a slap on the wrist, the Left will be screaming bloody murder – silence and inaction will be seen as condoning her actions. They see her as a traitorous criminal who was involved in a conspiracy to overthrow the government, that resulted in the death of five people, including a police officer.

NAR could, and looks like would, stand behind the plain language of 10-5 and not take action against Ms. Ryan. That’s fine; that is a decision that NAR, TAR, and CCAR may take with full justification. It would be the correct decision under the language of 10-5.

But if I’m a REALTOR on the Left, that is quite unlikely to be satisfactory. I say this because I have over 30 deleted comments from the first post where REALTORS — and more importantly, non-REALTOR consumers — have expressed outrage and fury. I deleted those from the first post because I wanted the commentary to be about what the REALTOR Associations ought to or ought not to do, not about what Ms. Ryan did and is alleged to have done. I won’t do that on this post, so you all can see what the leadership might be facing.

To give some idea of what NAR and the local/state Associations will be facing, however, here’s just a sampling of the comments:

 I find it hard to believe anybody thought events at the Capital that day would remain ‘peaceful’, and if a real estate professional showed up and saw otherwise, they would be wise to leave the scene. Not post pics in front of broken windows nor inside the building. Not stating the insurrection was ‘the greatest day of their life’. Are.you.kidding.me?! People were killed! Many more were hurt! Our elected official’s lives at risk! No professional group would be proud to call Jenna Ryan a member at this point, and although NAR leaves the legal or criminal matters in the hands of the courts, their leadership will surely uphold our reputation as a non-discriminatory profession to serve all peoples. – A REALTOR

This brainwashed woman decides to post her destructive escapades at the Capitol insurrection incited by trump and his followers. By doing so, she and her businesses and livelihood for that matter is fair game for censure. If she can participate in an an attack on our republic, then she has opened herself up for attack. – A REALTOR

As a Trump supporter, you’re going to lose your job/realty. – A REALTOR

No individual anywhere has the RIGHT to be a member of any group anywhere. And again: lots of words to say “I’m a Trump supporter’. I don’t believe these folks understand that they have lost their place in our republic for good. Jesus wept, people. This is really no way for adults to act. Worshipping a fascist because you believe you’ll get rich doing so. – A REALTOR

Is it really still about politics and free speech. To those of us looking in – it’s really about knowing right from wrong at this point. What I see here in these photos is just wrong. I wouldn’t buy anything from someone who was proud of destroying property and showed such poor judgment and frankly , criminal behavior. – A Consumer

As a homeowner with a house on the market in this woman’s territory how can I ensure she is not allowed to show my home? She is a proud Anti-Semite with a Pinterest board filled with Nazi love. I will not allow her or any of her cronies into my home, she is disgrace and a danger to society. – A Consumer

Now, if you look at the purpose of 10-5, the reasoning that NAR provided when it passed those changes, it was to protect the REALTOR brand:

So why would the Committee, and by extension NAR, do this?

It has to do with the appearance of bias, and ultimately, with the public perception of REALTORS… or if you will, the REALTOR brand. The Committee itself noted that this was the primary motivation for the recommendation in the FAQ:

I should be able to say whatever I want on my personal social media profile. It doesn’t impact my ability to do my job. Why is what I say there now subject to the Code? This is going too far.

The Committee felt strongly that a REALTOR®’s speech and conduct reflect on the REALTOR® organization whether said publicly on a business social media profile, or privately on a personal one. According to the Preamble of the Code of Ethics, REALTORS® should be guided by the spirit of the Golden Rule of treating others as one would like to be treated. When a REALTOR® pledges to abide by the Code of Ethics, the highest principles and ethics of REALTORS® must followed in all their activities, and cannot be abandoned in a profession dedicated to protecting the best interests of consumers.

Put simply, when one REALTOR® engages in discriminatory speech and conduct, those actions demonstrate to consumers that they represent the actions of REALTORS® collectively. [Emphasis added]

I truly believe that the Committee was motivated by supremely good intentions: trying to do our part to rid the country and society of the evils of racism, sexism, and hate. I genuinely think the Committee was trying to do more than virtue signal, so that NAR and REALTORS could make a real difference.

If the rationale for 10-5 was to protect the REALTOR brand, then no, NAR cannot refuse to do anything about Ms. Ryan because her actions were “outside of 10-5.”

At a minimum, NAR will have to condemn her actions in the strongest language possible, then immediately move for a new SoP 10-6 or some new thing that would let them punish Ms. Ryan and others like her.

You cannot claim with a straight face that you put 10-5 into place to protect the REALTOR brand, then ignore what Ms. Ryan and others are doing to the REALTOR brand in half of the population and kick the responsibility over to the government.

Of course, doing anything — even condemning Ms. Ryan’s actions — would inflame the Right and get them to start thinking really hard about revolt.

So again, I don’t see a good option here. No easy way out.

It’s Still a Test

As a result, I still believe the Jenna Ryan situation is still a big test for NAR and for local and state REALTOR Associations. Trying to dodge it as NAR appears to be doing by saying her action are outside of 10-5 might work… and it might not work.

It depends on how the Left reacts. If they react with understanding, recognizing that NAR’s Code of Ethics and 10-5 do not apply, and that this is a situation for actual government… then yeah, there are no further problems. From what I’ve seen of the Left and its promotion of cancel culture over the past few years, hoping for mild and understanding reactions seems… ah… overly optimistic. A reminder:

You think these people are going to accept NAR’s reasoning that 10-5 doesn’t apply to Jenna Ryan, so they’re not going to do anything about it? Okay.

But in 2021, there is also the chance that the Right will react negatively, not to NAR’s clarification that 10-5 does not apply to Jenna Ryan, but to the Left’s insistence that “something be done.” They will point to that insistence, and protest that 10-5 is the doorway that allows cancel culture to be part of the Code of Ethics. It won’t matter much to them how much NAR leaders insist that 10-5 only applies to narrow situations; they’ll think about some of the people in their local marketplaces, many of whom are in local leadership positions, and worry about overreach and bias.

NAR cannot heal this divide by kicking responsibility to the government. And that is why this situation remains a big test.

I wish it were otherwise. But wishing doesn’t make it so.

-rsh

 

 

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Rob Hahn

Rob Hahn

Managing Partner of 7DS Associates, and the grand poobah of this here blog. Once called "a revolutionary in a really nice suit", people often wonder what I do for a living because I have the temerity to not talk about my clients and my work for clients. Suffice to say that I do strategy work for some of the largest organizations and companies in real estate, as well as some of the smallest startups and agent teams, but usually only on projects that interest me with big implications for reforming this wonderful, crazy, lovable yet frustrating real estate industry of ours.

30 thoughts on “Why Jenna Ryan Is a Test for NAR”

  1. Well, you can go to political rallies. Don’t break the law and you should be fine, maybe. That said, until you can retire from real estate or cancel culture goes away, I guess just keep your mouth shut. Riffing on the Soup Nazi, “No speech for you! Next!”

  2. A successful felony conviction for her role in the event would afford NAR an easy justification for termination of membership, and action in its absence would prove divisive and unpopular to many members regardless of its just consideration. There will no doubt be others in coming days making the topic even more unavoidable. There is, however, another important related matter deserving of discussion. So many of us have historically been RPAC supporters, and this year I will enter the RPAC Hall of Fame. It can longer be business as usual. I have called upon NAR leadership to reject the future endorsement or financial support from RPAC of any member of the House or Senate who voted not to certify the outcome of a free and fair election, many of whom continue to declare the big lie for the purpose of personal gain in stature or fund raising. These are the enablers who have contributed to our situation where DC must become a Green Zone and state capitals have to be surrounded by national guard. They will not be rewarded with my dollars nor of any other member of NAR. I will be watching, and the outcome will determine whether my recent major sponsor donation will prove my last.

  3. Jenna Ryan was not only photographed engaging in illegal activities, she openly bragged about participating in criminal conduct. As a NAR member, I do not want to associate with nor be a part of an organization that allows admitted criminals as members. It’s as simple as that, conviction or not.

    • Exactly.. I’m all about talking the talk, but can these people then walk the walk in an orange jumpsuit? I strive to ensure that my actions are above board and beyond repute. I don’t want to be associated with bad apples…. I’m of the mindset that you can’t attend a lynching and sell me a house at the same time unless I’m also attending lynchings with you. I’ll pass. There are consequences to our actions, good, bad or indifferent. When she is convicted, the state needs to pull her license.

  4. With all the crap going on in the US these past 12 months, I really have a hard time believing that these 4-5 Realtors, at this one event, are the ONLY Realtors in America who have EVER participated in a protest that broke the law. Yet that is a recurring undertone of almost every article on the subject Seems to me these were just the ones who weren’t smart enough to cover their faces, and were dumb enough to go brag about it on social media. Seriously, are we to contemplate that of all the destruction going on in our major cities, that not a single Instance was committed by anyone belonging to NAR? Seems a bit unrealistic to me.

    Yet no one is foaming at the mouth to ferret out the rest of them with nearly this degree of exuberance. Guess we have to catch them on TV before we passionately decry ALL of the violence, destruction, and physical assault going on in “peaceful” protests. My point is that if we are collectively going to tar & feather these folks, how about we also do it to all those who acted stupid by breaking the law while being a member of NAR?

    As a veteran with 8 years service, this lynch-mob mentality is killing me a little more with each anguished comment I read. This divisiveness is not why I willing wore the uniform of this country. It’s just not…WE are better than this…

    • Don’t forget that Trump was also inciting people with misinformation during the civil unrest too because it benefited him politically to demonize the left. So you’re disappointed that the NAR didn’t go out of their way to support Trump’s version of events and conduct a preemptive witch hunt against members for wrongdoing…without any evidence?

      But it’s a lynch-mob mentality to hold people responsible for storming our capital with clear evidence? The capital hasn’t been breached like this since the war of 1812…it is a big deal and exceptional. If it had been the democrats doing this, would you turn the other cheek or call it close to treason? It shouldn’t be a political issue. You shouldn’t be defending people against “lynch mob mentality” when they actually built a wooden gallows onsite complete with noose.

    • Call me crazy, but I personally don’t treat busting the windows of 7-11 in Portland and stealing Doritos in the same light as supporting a murderous insurrection that desecrated a monument of Democracy. “That kills me a little bit each time. “. Gimme a break….

  5. Never in my life have I seen more non-stop double standards and complete hypocrisy perpetuated by the Radical, Tyrannical, Corrupt, Mostly “White Privileged” SJW children of the mentally Ill Left. More Insane yet, If a sane Human dare call these criminals out, they’re the ones ridiculed and attacked. For 9 moths most of us watched with out own eyes a real violent mob rioting, “Peaceful Protesters” Burnt down many cities, Destroyed small business nationwide, in the name of justice looted from CVS and target stores, and worst of all actually Murdered Many innocent people. Just a fact that can not denied, period. What happened to all these “Peaceful Protesters” 99% were detained and let go having served no justice for any of actions. What Jenna Ryan and other Real Patriot’s decided to trespass, they were absolutely wrong to do so, but somehow, someway that violation will be pursued and prosecuted to highest extent of the law and yet not 1% of the BLM thugs, Tifa Soy Boys will pay any real justice for their serious crimes. THIS IS INSANITY and IT’S ABOUT TO GET WAY WORSE IF SANITY + LAW and ORDER + FAIRNESS DOESNT RETURN FOR ALL SOON.

    • Way to repeat all inane false narratives that Trump perpetuated. Guess what, Trump couldn’t care less for supporters like Jenna Ryan and certainly didn’t bother to pardon them. He left all your “patriots” to die for nothing while he ran off to his fancy retirement home.

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