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John Baglow is a former VP of PSAC, currently a writer and researcher, public policy consultant, occasional academic and poet. He blogs at drdawgsblawg.ca and no longer tweets.

Twitter harassment verdict comes down to women's refusal to play perfect victims

| January 23, 2016
Twitter harassment verdict comes down to women's refusal to play perfect victims

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The creepy Gregory Alan Elliott, above, has been acquitted of criminal harassment after a three year legal proceeding. (Main deets here, including the judgement in full.) This sort of thing is what was immediately vomited up by the gender fascists. Read, and try to grasp what feminists Steph Guthrie and Heather Reilly, no strangers to vicious stalking and threats, were thinking when they went to the police after a massive onslaught of hostile Tweets from Elliott.

Context is everything. But the full context, in my opinion, was not taken into account by Judge Brent Knazan. One does get the impression that he was trying to be fair. He found that Guthrie and Reilly were both honest witnesses. He agreed that harassment had indeed occurred. He made a valiant (but not always successful) attempt to grasp the mechanics of Twitter. He reflected to some degree on the fact that he himself was male. He took due note of Elliott's crude misogynist Tweets. But he ruled that the element of "reasonable fear" of harm -- key to a successful conviction for criminal harassment—was not present.

One has to dig a little deeper, I think, than His Honour was willing to do. Fear is, after all, never reasonable per se. It's an emotion, generated by perceived threats. Knazan was not of the view that those perceived threats were founded in anything that the defendant did or said. Yet they were real enough for the two honest witnesses, living in a world that contains the deranged individuals referenced here. Elliott's obsessive fascination with the two women, combined with his obvious hostility to them, would reasonably set off alarm bells, at least in my view.

Key to the judgement was the refusal of Guthrie and Reilly to play the classic victim role. They didn't faint on the spot, overcome with dread, but fought back, as one might expect from two feminist activists. They published their own acerbic Tweets, vilifying Elliott and encouraging others to do the same. He picked the wrong women to harass, for certain, but he appears to have risen to that challenge, his Tweets becoming more numerous and more insulting as time passed.

His acquittal sets a dangerous precedent. In the current rape-culture climate in which women are forced to live and breathe, being followed around by a hostile, apparently single-minded man who even noted their physical location at one point should be sufficient grounds to create fear in any woman’s mind. There is obviously a line to be drawn somewhere -- lewd shouts from a passing car of drunken dudebros wouldn't, for example, meet the bar for criminal harassment, but direct threats to commit sexual assault would. In the grey area in between, however, the cultural milieu adds weight to hostile male behaviour that is less explicitly threatening. Yet the judge took no note of that.

Imagine a woman strolling in a public park, being followed at a little distance by a man. He keeps hailing her, making disrespectful remarks about her to other people, and will not go away. She tells him in no uncertain terms to f*ck off, to no avail. After a while, would the woman's rising fear not be reasonably grounded? Would the man be justified in saying that he made no explicit threats of harm to her? And that it was a public space anyway, where he had the right to walk wherever he wanted and say whatever he wished, so long as no such threat was made? Would we tell the woman to avoid the park in future, that she knew what she was doing by choosing to go there?

By failing to take the larger context into account, the judge effectively licensed this kind of thing on the Internet. And, as we have seen, the gender fascists lost no time stampeding through the door he flung wide.

Without re-opening the "safe space" debate, which has wandered well off the rails at this point, is it too much to propose that unsafe spaces for women not be legitimized and expanded? The Elliott judgement, behind the cloak of reasonable deliberation, accomplishes precisely that.

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