The hanging of free speech: The case of Greg Elliott

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“There are three things in the world that deserve no mercy: Hypocrisy, Fraud, and Tyranny.” — Frederick Robertson

Too few are aware of the current legal fiasco involving one Twitter warrior by the name of Greg Elliott, who now faces a maximum sentence of six months in jail for having the temerity to criticize feminist activist Stephanie Guthrie on Twitter — a woman whose sole claim to fame is that she led a crusade to destroy the life and career of the author of a tasteless face-punching computer game featuring activist Anita Sarkeesian of #gamergate infamy. Guthrie organized other Twitter users to send tweets to prospective employers, ensuring that the man could never find work again.

Elliott, to his credit, refused to take part in the smear campaign, and instead took to Twitter to criticize Guthrie, using her username in his tweets so that she would be notified of them in spite of her having blocked him. For this, the father of four has lost his job, been banned from using the internet, and is now before a judge on three charges of criminal harassment.

I took some time to read some of Greg Elliott’s tweets. Elliot is a vulgar man, and I find his commentary generally tasteless and crude, but nothing he has tweeted amounts to anything more offensive than cussing — and aren’t even our own local social justice advocacy groups guilty of the same? Moreover, the accusations against Elliot are of online harassment, but since when did criticizing political figures on a public forum amount to harassment? To this mountain of debauchery we can add hypocrisy, for Guthrie had continued all the while to criticize Elliot on her own Twitter profile. When asked in court whether Elliot had the right to defend himself in public, Guthrie replied “not to me.”

I have no doubt that most of you will see this for the brazen abuse of our justice system that it is — as well as a terribly dangerous attack on our freedom to express ourselves politically. Public figures who attempt to destroy the lives and careers of people who criticize them, and then go to the courts to accuse these critics of bullying, deserve to have their tyrannical behavior called out for what it is. I say that bullies should be stood up to, and that something should be done to take feminism back from those cruel individuals who have used it to shield their hatred from public scrutiny.

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  • Susan Peterson

    See Martlet Archives, 3/31/1966 Page 8 Article from 49 years ago about U. of Victoria /U.C. Berkeley 1965 Free Speech Movement protester from Germany, Rolf Hasso Lutz, who died August 10th, 1965, on a highway, west of Eden, Texas, That was 20 years after being a 2 year old war refugee, fleeing the Russian troops before the Battle of Berlin in 1945, with his mother & her twin sister & his toddler cousin, in a horse drawn carriage, from Pomerania. They survived the trek & made it to West Germany. In 1964 when he was a student at Berkeley, after studying in Victoria, Hasso stood up for his belief in free speech and academic freedom, was arrested with 800 others in the big FSM protest at Berkeley, but was killed a few months later in a motorcycle accident. I am writing his story as a tribute to his memory. Thanks, Martlet, for bringing it all back to me when I Googled his name and and found your article. This new discussion is a modern manifestation of the struggle for free speech. This twitter stuff is important but seems…so…P.C. petty w. ugly results

  • Juliet Bowey

    Excellent. I really enjoyed reading this and agree fully.

  • withfloyd

    ” I say that bullies should be stood up to”.

    Fully agree, Noah – only you have misidentified the bully. Once the women had blocked him, it should have ended there. That he continued to @ them, contact their friends, shadow hashtags and show up at their events is harassment. Did they fear for their safety? Was he threatening? That is for the court to decide. People are allowed to say “I don’t want to talk to you anymore.” That’s not censorship. That’s not a threat to free speech. He was asked to leave them alone and he didn’t. That’s harassment.

    • Noah

      With respect (Floyd?), did you read the the article?

      These individuals swam in the same circles, likely sharing many friends. Even if they didn’t, contacting one’s associates does not constitute harassment. Attending a public event is not harassment either; Elliot is not under a restraining order because someone blocked him on twitter. Naming a political figure in your article is also not harassment, particularly when that figure is smearing you publicly all the while. The issue is whether or not someone can be charged with criminal harassment for disagreeing with someone online.

      You might do yourself the service of reading up on the case in more detail. I should direct you to look up the letter received by the judge of the case of a self described associate of Guthrie’s, which details a meeting that took place in the writer’s presence to criminally harass Elliot online.

      • withfloyd

        Hey Noah! I think it’s great that you’re interested in these topics, and I agree that it’s a landmark case. But despite what Blatchford and anonymous letter writers may say, this isn’t a free speech issue. It’s not what he said – the charge of criminal harassment revolves around frequency and recurrence of communication attempts (directly to the person and/or their acquaintances). This has been well-established in jurisprudence to include in-person, telephone, letter and email. The question being decided in this case is whether this also includes twitter. He certainly could have written articles and mentioned them all by name, blogged about it, etc. Also, it’s irrelevant whether someone is a public figure (which I believe is what you mean by ‘political figure’ – maybe you are thinking of libel/defamation laws? See here for criminal harassment. http://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/rp-pr/cj-jp/fv-vf/har/part1)

        TL;DR: Relax, the outcome of this case will not affect your legal right to say mean things about teh evil feminists on Twitter.

        • Noah

          You drastically misunderstand the nature of the case. Telephone and email are personal and between sender and sendee. Twitter is a public forum, not a private mailbox.

          I don’t know what you’re on about with libel and defamation law; the prosecutor is making a claim of harassment. Nor do I understand why you think I have any interest in saying “mean things about the evil feminists on Twitter.” I think perhaps you are showing your hand here.