UMich recently inaugurated its first openly gay student body president, Chris Armstrong. For the past month, Mich. Assistant Attorney General Andrew Shirvell—with no previous relation to Armstrong—has been running a highly offensive smear campaign against the student body president. The front page of Shirvell’s blogger.com has “RESIGN” written across Armstrong’s face, accompanied by a rainbow Nazi swastika. Additional comments refer to Armstrong as a “radical homosexual activist” and “Satan’s representative on the student council.”
Shirvell claims he has a problem with the “radical” gender-neutral housing policies that Armstrong is pushing for, while ignoring Armstrong’s other platforms to extend dining hall hours and financial aid. He also attempts to justify his words by calling himself a rightful Christian citizen and a concerned alumnus of UMich. Yet he does not know Armstrong personally and seems to be taking the agenda of the Michigan student government far too seriously. He is a state official, and the policies of Armstrong have no relation to him, as he is no longer a student at UMich. This obnoxious example of cyberbullying shows that more needs to be done to punish perpetrators like Shirvell, who overstep their boundaries to free speech online.
Other than public humiliation, little has been done to punish Shirvell. Attorney General Mike Cox has not fired his assistant. When asked why, Cox says that he unfortunately cannot do anything because Shirvell “writes his blog during after-hours and is protected by the First Amendment.” If what Shirvell says is true—that he only publishes some of the information from other postings online such as from his Christian community—Shirvell is unfortunately provided some immunity by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. However, Section 230 also states that it is the policy of the United States to “punish trafficking in obscenity, stalking, and harassment by means of computer.” Shirvell is guilty of all three. He has been seen obnoxiously screaming, “Nazi!” at Armstrong’s political campaigns and has stood outside Armstrong’s house to videotape. Even Armstrong’s family and friends have received abusive emails and Facebook messages.
Common law also shows a precedent in McEvoy v. Spencer. McEvoy was demoted from Deputy Chief to Captain because of speech activities that were harmful to the public workplace. In order to mitigate the negative effects to the workplace, his employers, Mayor Spencer and Deputy Chief Christopher, were justified in demoting McEvoy to Captain. Andrew Shirvell has one of the most public positions in the state of Michigan. If he can’t be fired, he should at least be removed from his position.
Please watch the following video to get an idea for what Andrew Shirvell is like. An entertaining, but frustrating video interview on AC360˚:
Shirvell is acting like an immature teenage blogger with an advanced vocabulary. Thankfully his blog is now private. He has taken personal leave from office, and only faces a disciplinary hearing upon return. But he should be fired completely. Otherwise, maybe the government should give him some more work to do; clearly the Assistant Attorney General has too much free time on his hands.