If you’re not Canadian, you might have missed something extremely important that happened this weekend. Canada narrowly avoided turning into a police state where you could be arrested and imprisoned for up to a decade for having the wrong views.
This affects me personally, being Canadian. The last few months, I was one legal judgment away from in essence becoming a political exile. A kind of refugee, though not the gropey kind. I quite happily live in another country right now, but I always knew that if I wanted to (or really needed to) I could always go back home. If push came to shove, or I just got bored of being here, I could go back to Canada and its crappy winters and excessive rules.
But for this last while, I wasn’t so sure. That’s because of the Twitter Trial case.
Let’s see if I can explain it very briefly: a very well-known non-Canadian feminist had advocated for the censorship of video games claiming they are harmful to women. A Canadian programmer guy (I believe “programmer guy” is the right technical term here?) made a video game about this feminist where the players can punch her in the face.
So that’s the guy that got arrested? No! Wait, there’s more.
A couple of other, not as well-known (Canadian) feminists (Stephanie Guthrie and Heather Reilly) were so outraged by this guy’s video game that they started openly tweeting about a plan to dox him, by repeatedly writing to his prospective employers and to his home town’s newspaper to try to shame this programmer guy.
This is where Gregory Alan Elliott comes in. He’s the guy who was arrested and might have spent as much as ten years in jail if things had gone the other way.
Elliott was not a conservative writer, or an anti-feminism activist. Nor was he a Gamergater, or even a computer guy. He was a street artist best known up till that point for making large-scale poetry/art in Toronto’s snow.
He was the type of eccentric Toronto bohemian who probably would have defined himself as a male feminist. His previous interaction with the women who were planning to ruin this programmer-guy’s career amounted to having offered to make free promotional art for the “Women in Toronto Politics” feminist group they were members of!
But he didn’t agree with Guthrie’s doxxing plan, and said so. And of course the outraged feminists decided to be outraged with his daring to disagree with them. They argued with him until they started to look bad and then blocked him, which is standard operating procedure for Twitter regressive-leftists. But he kept on commenting about them in other places, and this annoyed Guthrie and Reilly enough that they forgot all about programmer-guy and conspired to destroy Elliott’s life instead.
With the help of high-placed connections they had with the local police and crown prosecutor, they charged him with online harassment and had him arrested. The prosecutor (Marnie Goldenberg) tried to have him kept imprisoned for the length of the trial (which, thanks to the prosecution’s intentional delaying tactics, ended up lasting three years!). Fortunately, the judge allowed bail, but the prosecutor demanded an injunction prohibiting Elliott from using the internet. Since his job depended on this, he suddenly found himself unable to make an income. He had to cash in his retirement, and by the end of the case would be $90,000 in debt.
If Elliott had been found guilty, he would have been sentenced between six months and ten years in prison. Now, it’s important to note that no one at all was claiming that Elliott at any time threatened these women’s lives or made any other kind of violent threats. Nor did he send them anything that would amount to sexual harassment, nor were these women making any claim that he did.
The only thing they were accusing him of was repeatedly disagreeing with them on the internet. They wanted to set a precedent in Canadian law that would make arguing into a potentially criminal offense.
Along the way they did some other pretty terrible things. They used their media connections to demonize him all over the news and online – where he could no longer defend himself. They defaced his art display in a coffee shop. They falsely accused him of soliciting an underage girl, and knowingly made this false accusation to the police.
This is from the court transcript:
Q. But by the time you met Detective Bangild, you already testified to this, you were aware that she was either 18 or 19, agree?
Q. Right. Good. So not really trying to help out Mr. Elliott when you’re not mentioning the fact it’s actually an adult, right?
A. My position wasn’t really that I wanted … I was not trying to help Mr. Elliott.
A. He was stalking me. So no, I wasn’t trying to help me. I wasn’t trying to harm him unduly, but I was not trying to help him and I was not trying to … yeah.
Q. Right. In your view handing tweets alleging Mr. Elliott’s a pedophile without correcting the officers receiving them, is not trying to harm Mr. Elliott, right?
A. Wasn’t trying to harm him, no.
And when it was starting to be apparent that the trial might not go their way, they managed to delay the case over and over again. At first, the case was supposed to get resolved in July, but they managed to push it to October. Then in October, the prosecutor actually managed to get it delayed again by bursting into tears in open court. Yeah, this prosecutor is a real champion of strong women. Way to teach young girls that if you’re wrong, you can still get your way by breaking out the tears and acting hysterical.
In the end, the judge cleared Mr. Elliott. This means that, at least for now, Canada will not start to lock up people who disagree with feminists online. But there was no guarantee that this was going to be the result. We were very lucky that the judge was apparently competent enough to actually examine all the facts; that he had some idea of what Twitter was about. These feminists and their supporters kept trying to pretend that arguing with someone on Twitter is just like breaking into someone’s house to scream at them. But it’s nothing like that at all. Twitter isn’t your “house”. Twitter (and all internet media) is like the open forum. It’s the new version of the city square. It’s not a private place where you have some guarantee of emotional security from feeling bad. It’s the public marketplace of ideas.
Canada doesn’t have a First Amendment guaranteeing Free Speech over other rights, the way that the United States does. It actually has a pretty awful record of protecting speech, which it treats as a right that can theoretically be put in a lower priority than other rights and freedoms. That’s why Canadian political writer Ezra Levant was brought up against an Orwellian “human rights commission” in 2006 for having dared to publish the Mohammed cartoons. And why in a really surreal twist, they’ve gone after him AGAIN; this time for the human rights crime of having criticized the Commission itself!
So my headline here is no joke. There are enough regressive leftists who hate me and would abuse the law to get revenge for my moderate success, be it in the field of online journalism or RPG game design, that had the Twitter trial ended in a conviction I would have needed to become a political refugee down here. I would not have been safe ever going back home because stepping on Canadian soil would have put me at risk of being sent to prison for having disagreed with the leftist narrative.
I’ve never harassed anyone, never sent threats or any kind of repugnant sexual insults. I’m not even all that conservative in many ways. I’m a Libertarian, which means that a lot of Republicans would probably think I’m a stinking commie on most social issues. I’ve supported LGBT rights for pretty much my whole adult life, and was in favor of gay marriage for years and years that Hillary Clinton was strongly against it. I’m strongly free-market, but on social issues here on EveryJoe I think only Ed the Sock is more liberal than I am.
But because like most Libertarians I’m a strong defender of free speech, and a strong opponent of collectivist thought-police, there’s a big part of the modern left (that doesn’t believe in free speech anymore who would like to put me in jail. And Canada almost let them.
But this isn’t really the end of the problem. Alinsky Rules means that the Regressive Left is just going to keep trying. Maybe next time they’ll get lucky with a biased judge and then that’ll be the end of political freedom of expression in Canada. And you can bet they’ll be pushing for the same all over the world. They already went in front of the U.N. to demand the internet be censored.
Even if you live in the U.S. you shouldn’t feel safe. You have the First Amendment, which is part of what makes your Constitution the greatest in the history of the world. But Regressive Leftists think the First Amendment should be abolished. And you can bet that sooner or later, a Twitter Trial case will be coming to the USA too.
As for Gregory Elliott, he’s a free man – and back on Twitter. But he’s also got a crippling legal debt, while his false accusers (the only people who were REALLY engaged in online harassment in this case) got off free. A fundraiser has been set up by the Elliott family to help him with his legal debts; please consider contributing to help this guy rebuild his life that was so unfairly destroyed.
Photo via Wikiversity
Kasimir Urbanski doesn’t write on a specific subject; he’s EveryJoe’s resident maniac-at-large. A recovering Humanities academic and world-traveler, he now lives in South America and is a researcher of fringe religion, eastern philosophy, and esoteric consciousness-expansion. In his spare time he writes tabletop RPGs, and blogs about them at therpgpundit.blogspot.com. Follow Kasimir on Twitter @KasimirUrbanski.
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