Canadian Feminists Aim to Close Down Free Speech

Feminists aim to close down free speech

In Toronto, a group of Canadian feminists are standing witness against Graphical Artist Gregory Alan Elliott, which has free speech ramifications unprecedented in western democracies.  He faces three charges of criminal harassment, breaching a “peace bond” and repeatedly sending messages over Twitter to the feminists. The women claim they feared for their safety.

Essentially under Canadian law, if a person or persons perceive that they have been harassed and think they are in danger, then a criminal offence carrying a jail sentence of up to six months may be invoked. The harassment in this case comes from exchanges on Twitter between Mr. Elliott, Ms. Stephanie Guthrie, Ms. Heather Reilly and Ms. Paisley Rae. Ms. Guthrie refers to herself as a “feminist” and local activist.”

They first communicated on Twitter in connection of designing a poster and logo for her group Women in TO (Toronto) Politics (WiTOP). That had dinner in April 2012 to discuss the project but Guthrie did not warm to Elliott. He did not get the commission and a few months passed with seemingly cordial emails. Then a video game where an image of Anita Sarkeesian, was published. Sarkeesian, is a feminist commentator who deplores the portrayal of physical abuse of women in video games.  It invites the user to “punch” the image until it is bloodied. It was soon taken down by the author Bendilin Spurr.

Guthrie subsequently organised her 8,000 supporters to protest against Spurr, and naming him in a Tweet to his local newspaper. Elliott took exception to Guthrie’s bullying, saying the twenty-four year old could self-harm and consequently the relationship soured.  It is then that the exchanges on Twitter became more confrontational.

Elliott subsequently created the hashtag #FascistFeminists while another person described him on Twitter as a “perv and a sad little man.” He replied: “You are wrong on all counts. Go listen to (Guthrie) play her sh*t music in crappy bars with your loser faux-feminist friends.”

His Tweets end on November 12th to coincide with his arrest. Elliott lost his job, and his bail conditions demand that he is not allowed to use a computer, and is hence unemployable.

A blog post appeared on the 26th November 2012 claiming to be from one of Elliott’s sons. He claims that in the eleven years with their mother, Elliott was, “tyrannical, severely physically abusive and emotionally abusive..I had to witness his violent rages for years..If my mum’s black and blue face isn’t enough to prove that this guy is a monster…I believe he should be behind bars..” One of his sons Clayton Elliott vehemently denies that he or his brothers wrote the post.

@occbaystreet @GSawision FYI This anonymous comment is NOT from any of @greg_a_elliott‘s sons. I am one of them and we did not write this.

Additionally Elliott accuses his opponents of trying to entrap him with a thirteen year old girl looking for sexual favours.  In his written submission to the court, Guthrie was asked by Elliott’s lawyer “In your view handling Tweets alleging Mr. Elliott’s a pedophile without correcting the officers receiving them, is not trying to harm Mr Elliott, right?” She replies, “Wasn’t trying to harm him, no.”

The court case also has some revealing evidence. Guthrie under cross-examination has admitted that Elliott has not threatened Guthrie, Raes and Reilly in any sexual or physical manner, confirmed by Detective Jeff Banglid, the investigating police officer. She additionally has been asked why she had not blocked Elliott, which means that she does not have to view Tweets sent by Elliott, without a convincing reply.

The trial is still ongoing, but on 20th March 2014 The Ontario Court Judge Brent Knazan received  a letter from someone alleging  that Guthrie, Raes and Reilly got together and plotted Elliott’s downfall, as they had done with Spurr.  The letter states “Conspired, in my presence, to fabricate a criminal harassment complaint,” and the hearing is “fraudulent or worse.” Knasan has passed the letter on for further investigation,  as the writer provided contact details.

Elliott is accused of wrongfully sending thousands of Tweets but over a nine month, period 295 have been recorded over 287 days, which is just over one a day, hardly prolific. Mostly he just defends himself from personal attacks.

Elliott was arrested in 22nd November 2014. What many would consider surprising is that on 26th September 2013 at the TEDxToronto, a one-day debating forum held in Toronto, Guthrie gives a thirteen-minute speech on dealing with internet “trolls.” Rather than ignore them she urges feminists to confront them by forming Twitter mobs. Guthrie openly boasts that Ben Spurr the man who produced the Beat up Anita Sarkeesian video, “I could not allow that to stand.”

In her presentation, she refers to a number of Tweets. For example on the 6th July 2014 to Spurr “Hey @Bendilin do you punch women in the face IRL (in real life), or just on the internet? Others RT (retweet).” She then shows a Tweet trying to get Spurr fired or unemployable. “Sault Ste Marie employers, if you get a resume from @Bendilin Spurr, he made a woman face punching @saultstar.” Saultstar is the local newspaper where Spurr lives.  She expands by saying that “within an hour hundreds of Twitter users were participating …the post spread like wildfire drawing thousands more into the discussion,”  leading to “new lines in the sands for social interaction” and was “shared 30,000 times… thousands of people were in his virtual face.”

I spoke to the subject of Guthrie’s anger Bendilin Spurr as to why he has not reported the incident to the police? His answer was that, “I don’t trust the Canadian legal system to take it seriously.”

May I remind you that Elliott is on trial for criminal harassment. What would you call organising thirty thousand people to be in Spurr’s “virtual face”?

Reading the background and the transcripts of the case, one wonders how it got to court in the first place.  Certainly any guilty verdict would have incalculable implications for free speech. Just merely disagreeing and the receiver feeling threatened for an opposing viewpoint may lose their job and go to jail. Certainly there seems ample evidence of underhand tricks from the feminists. Guthrie’s hypocrisy in the YouTube video by her own omission seems far more premeditated and venal.

It seems extreme feminism once again is on trial and it is quite ugly.

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