Jezebel.com is a radical feminist website owned by Gawker that’s known as one of the most angry and controversial addresses on the Internet. Their articles are often visceral, intentionally provocative, and occasionally demeaning towards men. Jezebel has an unabashed agenda to promote radical feminism über alles- which is fair, we all have the privilege of free speech (at least, until Jezebel types rule the world).
One of Jezebel’s favourite issues is online harassment and “stalking”, so it’s no surprise to see them chiming in on the Gregory Alan Elliott Twitter trolling trial. Elliott has been charged with criminal harassment for sending unwanted tweets to three Toronto feminists- the type of case that gives wet dreams to your average Jezebel writer.
Lindy West jumped onto the case with so much gusto she forgot to check her facts…
West’s story is titled A Man Is Facing Jail for Harassing Women Online, and It’s a Big Deal. She’s right saying Elliott’s prosecution is a big deal, it’s a test case that could have an enormous impact on Canadian’s freedom to communicate online. Also, Elliott’s been banned from the Internet for over a year- that’s huge! To West, the big deal is that this is a rare case where law enforcement is taking an online harassment case seriously.
Unfortunately, the first sentence of her story begins with a mistruth:
“A Toronto man named Gregory Alan Elliott was arrested and charged two years ago with criminal harassment for threatening messages he allegedly sent to women via Twitter. “
Not a single one of Elliott’s tweets to his accusers was threatening. The police officer who’s been handling the case said this very clearly in court. Your Humble Narrator was in the court, but if that’s not enough evidence, check out the Toronto Star- a newspaper that’s taken an advocacy position for the alleged victim. Also notice the date on this story, it was published three days before West’s was. Many other media outlets reported the same.
Next, West decides to go all Antonia Zerbisias on us and tries to connect Elliott’s case with one that’s much worse. The Caroline Criado-Perez is a woman in the UK who was hit with a barrage of abusive tweets while running a campaign to get Jane Austen’s image on the £10 note.
A few of the tweets to Criado-Perez were threatening including one that said “I’ve only just got out of prison and would happily do more time to see you berried!”, and another saying “I will find you :)”. Though it’s likely people making tweets like this aren’t going to act on them, they definitely come across as harassment. As West points out in her story, two people have plead guilty for harassing Criado-Perez- it’s important to note that one of two convicted is a woman.
Elliott’s case is much less cut and dried. The most serious complaint against him is that he persisted tweeting three women, even after he was blocked by them, and after being asked to stop. The problem is that they asked him by Twitter, he claims to have blocked them, and there’s no way to ascertain if he saw the messages or not. This weakens the case considerably- as does the fact that the all the victims had to do was to block.
One of the tricky myths given to us by radical feminists is that women who speak out online are subjected to threats and harassment. One the one hand it’s absolutely true; women who speak out are often subjected to abuse. But equally, so are men. Your Humble Narrator knows this in a very personal way after having be subjected to death threats, messages like “go kill yourself” and slanderous character attacks- some of the most vicious came from women:
In this case, Your Humble Narrator was approached by a journalist from a Vancouver newspaper who was looking for comment on poverty in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Rachel Goodine of ACORN Canada jumped-in and made a slanderous remark that I’m a mentally ill stalker. Goodine has been stalking me online for over two years- I’ve never initiated a tweet towards her, I asked her to stop but she doesn’t. Her intercepting my communications like this presented (things have changed now) a real danger to my ability to build my career.
The test for Harassment in Canada is that the person being attacked has to fear for their safety. Elliott’s accuser, Stephanie Guthrie says she felt afraid because he ‘felt creepy’ when they met in-person- particularly how he asked her three times if she wanted a ride home. Not a single one of Elliott’s tweets to her was threatening, and she herself admitted that none of them were of a sexual nature.
Your Humble Narrator has now read through all of the tweets entered into evidence, and they’re mild in comparison to the abuse I and others experienced from people like Goodine. If the Crown (translated into American: prosecutor) chose this as a test case for online harassment then we must question the quality of their judgement. It’s an insult to anyone who’s been a victim of real harassment.
Lindy West’s article is even more of an insult. Her overzealous advocacy may help increase Jezebels page counts (and pocketbooks), but it’s a giant step backwards towards the goal of working out a real solution. West’s behaviour makes Gregory Alan Elliott look like a saint (and he’s certainly not in this case, but perhaps not criminal). Her behaviour is embarrassingly irresponsible…
[Note: Still more to come on this case, but first I need to complete Part IV of Idle No More Unmasked!]