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Women in Toronto Politics is a “non-partisan” political group started by Stephanie Guthrie, the primary complainant against Gregory Alan Elliott in the “Twitter troll” trial. The group has attracted the support of several far-left leaning city councillors including Shelley Carroll and Kristyn Wong-Tam. The group’s blog promotes a litany of left leaning causes including Black Lives Matter- a group Guthrie recently marched with, led in-part by a man who promotes killing cops.
On May 30th, 2012 WiTOPoli (rhymes with “monopoly”!) hosted a public event at the Centre for Social Innovation called “The Front Page”- including a panel to “explore how female players in the political sphere are discussed on Twitter, in the media, and elsewhere”. Carroll and Wong-Tam were on the panel- Elliott was in the audience, Guthrie tweeted him saying “Yay. Welcome!” on hearing he’d arrived.
The meeting was discussed in Ellott’s defence lawyers final submission as an example how Guthrie’s claim to be “afraid” of Elliott were less than genuine. But there’s one part of the night’s events that wasn’t discussed in the court and perhaps should have been. Shelley Carroll called on people to cyber-bully political opponents, and Wong-Tam defined insults as threats “threats” while cheering the virtues of taking vigilante action against such “trolls”.
Shelley Carroll is the city councillor for Ward 33- Don Valley East. Carroll has been covered in-depth on this website beginning in March 2013 when she helped publicise my story on a hazing incident at Ryerson university- the story went international, premier Wynne commented, and my interview was on TV sets across the country.
But as I learned more about Carroll I began to get disillusioned. This site later disclosed Carroll’s wasteful spending on her city funded website, and how she put a convicted G20 riot organizer on the city payroll as her personal assistant (who thumbed her nose at the judge during sentencing and has yet to have publicly apologized).
Carroll’s discussion at WiTOPoli’s May 2012 meeting began by explaining a strategy for the organization to achieve its goal of bringing more women into public office. After other speakers took their turns, Carroll came back on sharing her experiences using Twitter. In the middle of her speech she suddenly shifted to an attack on an offline statement made by a fellow member of the city council.
“I’m always surprised at how short lived calling some of our colleagues on sexist or misogynist remarks- it happens quickly, in short bursts, and it’s over. We are still hearing from the current budget chief any time that we venture or we should take care of society- that that’s for widows and orphans. And Twitter doesn’t go ape every time he says that, and I’m disappointed every time. What a horrible thing to say- “oh we can’t take care of widows and orphans”.
It’s unknown if Carroll was being snarky and manipulative or if this is a genuine display of her lack of knowledge, but it doesn’t appear she understood what the “budget chief” was saying. “Widows and orphans” is a political term for when politicians go after the “sympathy vote” helping the less fortunate. The phrase is also used to describe a vicious style of political attack where one will suggest their rivals are hurting innocents- calling them “sexist” or “misogynist” is a great example.
Immediately after dropping that bomb, Carroll went nuclear calling on young women in Toronto politics to “cyber-bully” people who dare question her movement’s ideology:
“I don’t think we use it nearly as much as we should to call people out on things like that. We get called out, heaven knows, by the cyberbullies that I’ve mentioned. Where’s our cyberbullies, why aren’t we bullying the people that say things like that.”
If you’re not shocked I suggest you read this again. Shelley Carroll, a supposed role model, actually called on a conference of young women to start “bullying” people who disagree with her ideology. When shown the video this morning Paul Bell, Carroll’s former opponent in the last election, called on her to make an apology:
“Bill C-13 came into effect in March 2015. This legislation specifically targets cyberbullying which has been connected to numerous suicides. Under this new legislation the crime of cyberbullying is punishable by up to five years imprisonment. To hear a City Councillor who sits on the police services board counselling people to commit a crime is deeply disturbing. I would hope to hear a public apology for and denouncement of these irresponsible remarks from Councillor Carroll.”
City councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam followed-up immediately after Carroll’s alarming statements- starting off showing a misunderstanding between “threats” and insults:
“So when the threats came at me, I would call the police and say this took place and someone would take a report. But now if I’m being threatened, and this morning I was actually called a c**t if I can use that word I try not to. But someone on Twitter basically labelled me that…”
It’s in no way okay for someone to use such language to an esteemed city councillor (or anyone else for that matter), but her description doesn’t appear to give the impression any threat was made. This brings bring us to the question being asked in Elliott’s trial- is Guthrie’s claim she felt threatened reasonable, or are “threats” part of the currency used to justify her political attacks?
Wong-Tam’s follow up to her statement might give more clues:
“So that is the power of Twitter as well. Is that you also get to expose the nasty bits of people who are out there – and you know that they are all trolls – so the threats, although public, are public for everyone and you get to track it down. So that’s the good side, and the bad side.”
So, basically, what Wong-Tam is saying that there’s political capital to be earned by exposing “the nasty bits of people who are out there”- in the world of WiTOPoli, there’s a good side to someone calling you a “c**t”.
Less than a month after Carroll and Wong-Tam made their statements Stephanie Guthrie “sicced the Internet” (her words stated on the stand) on Bendalin Spurr- a seriously misguided young man who made a video game about punching a feminist in the face. Elliott claims that is the moment he caught onto the fact that something was wrong with WiTOPoli.
Could it be that Shelley Carroll and Kristyn Wong-Tam’s encouragement was the spark that lit the fire? Will they do the right thing and apologize for their poor leadership that day?