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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


There’s a fine line between free speech and hate speech

I don’t know how to defend the constitutional rights of everyone, including scummy bloggers on the Internet, without feeling a little bit dirty when I feel compelled to defend someone I loathe.

Michigan Assistant Attorney General Andrew Shirvell recently took a leave of absence after drawing national attention to his blog, Chris Armstrong Watch. The blog, which is now only available to “”invited readers,”” monitored University of Michigan student body president Chris Armstrong, who is gay.

In one blog post, Shirvell posted a video of the police breaking up a party hosted by Armstrong. He’d recorded it at 1:30 a.m., while camping in front of Armstrong’s house. Called, “”Ann Arbor Police Raid Chris Armstrong’s ‘Gay Rush’ Welcome Week Party, 9-5-10,”” the YouTube video was just one demonstration of Shirvell’s obsession. In another post, he drew a swastika on a photo of Armstrong and accused him repeatedly of being a “”racist elitist”” promoting a “”radical homosexual agenda.””

There’s been enough childish speculation on the Internet about how Shirvell is secretly a self-hating closeted homosexual with a crush on Armstrong. Let’s focus on what we know and should really care about: Shirvell is a grown man who essentially Facebook-stalked a bunch of college kids, staked out someone’s home late at night, carelessly used words like “”Nazi”” to describe his target and suggested “”homosexual”” is a word that should evoke fear.

Shirvell could use a history lesson about Nazi views on homosexuality. And an explanation for why “”homosexual”” is not a word that should frighten people. In an interview with Anderson Cooper, Shirvell defended his actions by claiming he was a Christian exercising his First Amendment rights against a political campaign. Addressing Cooper as “”Chris”” throughout the interview was probably just another exercise in free speech.

Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox called Shirvell’s behavior immature but said he could not fire him because it was after-hours and protected by the First Amendment.

I’m all for your First Amendment rights, but they’re stomping all over my sense of decency, and I don’t know how to reconcile the two.

Legally speaking, perhaps Shirvell was within his constitutional rights. He did not advocate violence against Armstrong or violate obscenity laws, despite how questionable it was to draw a swastika on top of a gay pride flag in a photo of Armstrong.

But Shirvell is propping up a shield and hiding behind it. He accuses Armstrong of promoting a radical agenda, then resorts to personal attacks and stalking. Shirvell’s tactics are not acceptable from anyone — but especially from a public figure who ought to understand that what he does even on his own time can be legal without being right.

The First Amendment is not an invitation for harassment, and Christianity is not a justification for it.

If Cox cannot fire Shirvell on the grounds of cyberbullying or harassment, then I propose we turn the tables and demand Shirvell’s resignation.

Shirvell must resign, not because of his sexual orientation or juvenile comments on his Facebook, but because he’s completely unsuited for public office. Free from work, Shirvell can spend even more time exercising his First Amendment rights as a private citizen, and the rest of us have one less lunatic in office to worry about. Everyone wins.

— Kristina Bui is a sophomore majoring in journalism and political science. She can be reached at

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