Freedom of speech, which has been under attack lately, was ultimately reaffirmed today when a Toronto man was found not guilty of criminal harassment on Twitter. Caveat: the ruling applies only in Canada, which has given us nothing but trouble, trash and maple syrup.
Gregory Alan Elliot had engaged in a Twitter fight with two feminists, Stephanie Guthrie and Heather Reilly. Elliot had previously met Guthrie IRL; however, they didn’t really begin to butt heads until they argued over a game called “Beat Up Anita Sarkeesian,” an infamous Canadian feminist who critiques patriarchal themes in video games and has been one of the primary targets of #GamerGate. While things got pretty heated, Elliot had not actually threatened the women physically or sexually.
The judge’s opinion included this message, which runs counter to the feminist notion of an online safe space: People must “tolerate the annoyance” of oppositional views in an open platform like Twitter. The judge further noted that the feminists’ position was unreasonable, insofar as they expected to be able to criticize Elliot’s views without his being able to respond. The judge furthermore rejected the contention that including contrary viewpoints in feminist hashtags constituted harassment: “Once someone creates a hashtag, anyone can use it. Everyone has to be able to use it freely; anything less will limit the operation of Twitter in a way that is not consistent with freedom of expression,” he wrote.
Christie Blatchford, a reporter for Canada’s National Post, was present in the courtroom and described an eye-opening exchange between Elliot’s attorney and Ms. Guthrie on the witness stand:
There was Chris Murphy, the lawyer for accused stalker Gregory Elliott, asking Stephanie Guthrie, the alleged victim of Mr. Elliott’s alleged harassment, reading aloud a Tweet of his client’s.
“Blaming the majority of normal men for rape…is wrong,” Mr. Elliott, a 53-year-old Toronto man, wrote back in September of 2012. “Rapists are not normal men; they’re crazy. Why not blame the mentally ill?”
It hardly rang in my ears as the ravings of a perverse woman-hater, nor apparently in Mr. Murphy’s, because after reading it for Ontario Court Justice Brent Knazan, Mr. Murphy asked, in his reasonable way, “That’s a pretty good point?”
In the witness stand, Ms. Guthrie snorted, yelled, “Are you kidding me?”, pounded her fist and then announced, “I know lots of normal men who have raped; I have been raped by normal men.”
If he was as gobsmacked as I was by that, Mr. Murphy didn’t show it; he simply asked if that meant Mr. Elliott’s was an offensive point of view.
“Offensive?” Ms. Guthrie replied. “I would say dangerously misguided.”
While the ruling sets an important precedent, it was a Pyrrhic victory for Elliot, who was arrested in 2012 and terminated from his job immediately thereafter. For the last 3 years, he has been forbidden to use the Internet during his trial, which made it difficult for him to find work in his field of graphic design.
In the United States, the definition of harassment mainly concerns a person’s objective conduct: repeated unwanted contact. In Canada, the definition places more emphasis on the target’s subjective perception of that conduct: “conduct… that causes that other person reasonably, in all the circumstances, to fear for their safety or the safety of anyone known to them.” Unsurprisingly, the feminists claimed that Elliot’s tweets made them feel “unsafe”—a claim that personifies the term crybully.
Thankfully, the Canadian court looked to objective evidence that vitiated the supposed victims’ claim of feeling unsafe. For example, Guthrie and Reilly’s conduct did not demonstrate fear or intimidation: They conspired in feminist groups as to how to shame Elliot publicly and whipped their Twitter followers into a frenzy by demonizing the man with insinuations of pedophilia.
As StickyDrama has repeatedly stated on this website, safe spaces are intellectually and physically dangerous. Normally, an individual user’s efforts to block and silence dissenting opinions on their social media profiles do not implicate free speech. But in this case, the Third Wave feminist campaign to carve out safe spaces online directly threatened free speech, because Guthrie attempted to usurp the power of the Crown in her fascist mission.
Most of the media hailed the not guilty verdict as a victory for free speech, but the usual culprits had a more somber outlook. The ridonculously SJW Buzzfeed, of course, claimed that the verdict “opened the floodgates” for “a new wave of vitriol against women”; the staunchly feminist Huffington Post wrote that Elliot was really guilty but got off on a technicality; and the British Guardian painted a one-sided picture of the row.