Moral damages

I’m not a lawyer… but in my view this represents what is wrong with these sorts of ‘Tribunals’. Sure sometimes people, and certainly comedians, are assholes, but monetary damages for hurt feelings?…ugh.

Quebec’s Human Rights Tribunal has ruled that comedian Mike Ward must pay Jérémy Gabriel $35,000 for making jokes that violated his rights. Ward has been ordered to pay the former child singer with disabilities $25,000 in moral damages and $10,000 in punitive damages. He will also need to pay Sylvie Gabriel, Jérémy’s mother, a total of $7,000 to $5,000 for moral damages and $2,000 for punitive

Should it be criminal (yes I know it’s not a criminal case) to mock someone? To mock a public figure? To mock a young person? A child? Someone with a disability?

Even a civil suit requires time and money on both ends. Is the law then silencing those who can’t afford free speech?

Recently there was some, ok some endless, Twitter drama surrounding the new ghostbusters movie. Richard Roeper said the movie was crap, and got raked over the Internet coals for doing his job as reviewer, and then Leslie Jones, an actor in said crappy movie, got the same treatment for doing her job being in said crappy movie. (Also accusations of racism/sexism galore and a gay conservative got banned from Twitter)

I haven’t seen the movie. Although the trailer I saw made it look like the standard SNL skit-movie that I tend to avoid. I did enjoy the original, but not so much the sequel.

Do I offend? Should I care? Should you sue?

11 thoughts on “Moral damages

  1. The world is full of people with wrong ideas, concepts, and the like who believe they are right. Most have never taken the time to clean their brains; aka review their beliefs, and test them against reality. It is easier to shrug and carry on doing what ever got us to where we are. How bad is this? The world has changed so much in the last 100 to 150 years and religions are all old thinking. Oh well, we all die in the end anyway.

    Being offensive to idiots is to tell them they are idiots. The legal system is not about justice, right and wrong, good v bad, but convincing a judge. He is not about justice, but making a decision. There is always cost of defense, it is just as much to defend true “free speech” as untrue statements. If anyone is going to make public comments, then they are liable for being able to prove those statements. We are responsible for our actions. Oh well, we all die in the end anyway.

  2. As opponents of blasphemy laws, I would hope we would extend that line of thinking to all of free speech (short of inciting violence against individuals or slander and liable for which laws exist). Human Rights Tribunals should be limited in their scope to actual acts of discrimination (employment, access to public institutions etc.) and should leave speech alone.

  3. I am not a lawyer either, but if you’d asked me I would have *STRONGLY* advised you to hold off on forming an opinion about the Ward case at least until the Tribunal decision is released.

    We’re supposed be basing our beliefs on evidence, no? Well, the plain fact is you don’t have that right now. I can’t believe I have to point this out, but you’re basing your understanding of the case on *A CBC NEWS REPORT*. That source is not exactly a paragon of balanced reporting on the best of days (and that article in particular sure leaves a lot to be desired).

    What bothers me most about your writeup is that you assert that it was about Gabriel’s quote-unquote “hurt feelings”. Excuse me? How the *hell* do you know that? Do you have an inside scoop on the Tribunal ruling that I and the rest of the world don’t?

    In any case, I can’t even figure what you think should have been done differently. Do we not agree that while there should be no laws against free expression, that doesn’t mean there should be no consequences when it does actual harm? Well, a judge found there had been actual harm done. Do we not agree that when actual harm has been done to someone, a person should have the right to seek redress for that damage in civil court? Well, that’s exactly what Gabriel did (roughly – the HRT is roughly equivalent to a civil court in human rights cases). So what exactly do you think should have been done differently? Should Gabriel *not* have had the freedom to sue for the harm done by Ward? Do you think *that* would be fair?

    Or what else is it you think should have been done differently? Is it the fact that money was used as redress? Is it that you find it distasteful that Gabriel got money from Ward as redress for Ward hurting him? If so, what would you prefer? Putting Ward in a public pillory? Lashes? What exactly?

    And here’s an example of where I have to speculate because we don’t have all the information yet, but generally speaking, human rights tribunals don’t get called unless all attempts to find a peaceful solution have failed. In other words, in all likelihood, Ward was asked to simply apologize for hurting Gabriel and it would have ended there… but he probably chose to fight, and, if so, well, the outcome is his own damn fault.

    “Should it be criminal (yes I know it’s not a criminal case) to mock someone? To mock a public figure? To mock a young person? A child? Someone with a disability? … Even a civil suit requires time and money on both ends. Is the law then silencing those who can’t afford free speech?” All of these questions are misguided. It is not “criminal” in *any* sense to do any of those things, and never will be. That is not what Ward was sued for. The “law” is “silencing” nobody because none of this had anything to do with speech. It’s a simple question of harm. The correct questions would be of the form: “Should there be consequences for *HURTING* someone? … a public figure? … a young person? … a child? … a person with a disability?” The answer to all of those questions is “yes”. Do you disagree?

    Ward was not sued for MOCKING Gabriel. He was sued for HURTING Gabriel. Mockery was just the weapon, but using a weapon is not a “crime” unless and until it hurts someone. It’s the hurting part that matters.

    But, as I said, we don’t know yet exactly what harm was done by Ward’s actions. You just *assume* that it’s merely a case of Gabriel being butthurt at being made fun of. I *SERIOUSLY* doubt that’s actually true; I can’t see *any* sitting judge awarding damages on that scale for such a trivial thing – you assume that would happen because of your uninformed preconception of how “these sorts of ‘Tribunals’” work… but that’s not actually how they work. We can’t possibly speculate on whether the damages awarded are just or not without knowing what the damages are for.

    Frankly, if this “in your view” represents what is wrong with “these sorts of ‘Tribunals’”, then your view is uninformed and ignorant. It seems to me you had a preconceived opinion of human rights tribunals, and you’re just making up the facts in this case to fit that preconception.

    It doesn’t even matter in the least Ward intended any harm or not. The man is a professional comedian, and it’s almost certain (again, I’m speculating, because we don’t actually have the relevant evidence) he knew *damn* well how much it would hurt a disabled 13 year-old to be made fun of for looking different. So – in all likelihood – he knew it would hurt the kid, he did it anyway, the kid got hurt, the kid sued for damages to redress the hurt, and a judge found the claim of harm legit and awarded the damages. What about any of that process is wrong? (And note: none of it is in any way specific to a human rights tribunal – the same process applies to any civil court, and Gabriel could just as easily filed his case with the courts instead of the HRT.) I’m an engineer, and if I do something stupid that I should have known would cause harm – even if I didn’t *intend* any harm – I can and would be sued up the wazoo, and rightfully so. I accept that social responsibility as part of what I do; I accept the risk of being sued for inadvertent harm caused by my carelessness and do my damnedest as a professional to make sure I don’t do stupid things that cause unnecessary harm. You don’t think comedians should have any responsibility for what *they* do professionally? Fuck that. You want to take a paycheck for making fun of people? Then you take some fucking responsibility.

    Let’s be adult about free speech. Insisting that speech be free does not mean insisting that speech should be *consequence* free. Insisting that no speech made for a legitimate purpose should be punished does not mean insisting that no speech *at all* should be punished. There is nothing hypocritical in saying that speech that harms people without a legitimate purpose should be punished. Do you think Ward had a legitimate purpose for harming Gabriel? Making bank or getting more popular is hardly a legitimate purpose. Do you think he had some broader social agenda that justified making fun of a disabled 13 year-old? No, he probably just thought it was funny.

    Ward hurt Gabriel for money, and Gabriel got justice for it by getting money from Ward. There’s nothing off about that, and until we have more information, that’s the most reasonable take on the affair.

    As for the second thing you brought up… are you *SERIOUSLY* equating the harassment Leslie Jones faced with the “harassment” Richard Roeper faced? *SERIOUSLY*? You think the two cases are even *remotely* equivalent? Jones was threatened with death and rape, compared to an ape, pounded with racist and sexist insults, and sent photoshopped images of herself dead, raped, or with cum all over her. And Roeper? This is what Roeper faced: https://heatst.com/entertainment/richard-roeper-accosted-by-male-feminists-over-negative-ghostbusters-review/

    Yeah, that’s right. “Your review was in poor taste”… “you look like that group of old sad men who are mad” (I assume that’s referring to something in the film? or possibly Waldorf and Statler? in any case, hardly a killer insult)… “you were unfairly harsh”…. Wow. How shockingly abusive [/sarcasm].

    These two cases are not the same. Pretending they are equivalent is an insult to readers’ intelligence.

  4. “but you’re basing your understanding of the case on *A CBC NEWS REPORT*. That source is not exactly a paragon of balanced reporting on the best of days”

    Not entirely, I have been following the case. But you got me, I’m not a huge fan of the CBC either…we should defund that shit. What made me laugh however was how you turned around and referenced something called “heatstreet”, which as far as I can tell is nothing more than a slick gossip blog. If I need Kim and Kanye news, that is where I will go from now on.. but I never need that… but you made me laugh. CBC aint that bad, although it’s rep has certainly taken a beating since the whole Ghomeshi thing.. badum tis

    I was simply referencing a ‘recent’ article though.

    Here is another:
    https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2016/02/26/handicapped-singer-and-his-parents-seek-damages-from-quebec-comedian.html

    “Quebec’s human rights tribunal has been asked to rule that comic Mike Ward violated the dignity, honour and reputation of singer Jeremy Gabriel in his comedy show.”

    Ugh.

    And yes, I think the guy is as douchey as he looks in that photo, but being a douche is part of his act. He is a comedian, not the Prime Minister. He offends on purpose and as part of his profession, people don’t… take him seriously. Repeat comedian, not engineer, not Prime Minister.

    But here are some tidbits that make me cringe, the inside scoop if you will:

    “Marie Dominique, the lawyer for the human rights commission, said Ward’s jokes “enforced the stereotype that someone with a handicap doesn’t meet the same standard of beauty as someone without a handicap.””

    Enforced? Please.

    “His parents, who are claiming a total of $30,000 in damages for themselves, said they also suffered emotionally and psychologically. Sylvie Gabriel, the boy’s mother, was mocked in one joke as a “showbiz mom” who used his income to purchase a cottage rather than to pay for her son’s medical treatment. She said requests to have her son perform stopped coming in.

    Catholic priests had regularly tapped Gabriel to sing at their events, but even they stopped calling. She suggested church officials were scared away due to one of Ward’s jokes, which linked Gabriel to rumours of pedophilia in Pope Benedict’s past.”

    Are you fucking kidding me? Pedo priest jokes and jokes about mothers who pimp their children out in the entertainment industry are now worth 30 grand… for the parents?

    If his parents pushed the idea that he had an actual singing career they are borderline abusive. The entertainment industry is notorious for its love of disposable novetly acts. And they seem to have treated him as a sideshow sympathy act they could use as a cashcow. Yes, I’m cynical, but parents who push their kids to be child-stars generally disgust me. No disablities required, or made fun of.

    I feel bad for the kid, but if anyone, he should be suing his parents. They are either fools or greedy narcissists.

    You are right though, speech and singing are not consequence free, other people have the same right to speak and criticise you, whether you are funny, whether you can sing, or whether you are ugly, or a jackass.

    But hey… I could be wrong. When the gory details come out, I look forward to being proved wrong. Write a post, reference this one. I always enjoy being proven wrong. Its about the learnin.

    As to Roeper and Jones.

    Twitter has public and private messaging, and there is always email. I don’t realy know what level of harassment Roeper faced, but then again he didn’t have a movie being released the same week, so no real reason to post it all for sympathy clicks. Timing is everything. No bad publicity.

    My intuition however, is that a famous black woman on twitter probably gets worse stuff than Roeper does, but the ghostbusters people have also been baiting the hook for months doing interviews saying that only misogynists won’t like the movie. Not a good sign. I smell desperation.

    Are there people who won’t see it because vaginas, of course, but the blockbusters from last year, Fury Road and The Force Awakens, show pretty clearly that female leads in genre flicks are not something to worry about at the box office. They never were actually… Alien, Aliens, Terminator, Terminator 2… even Buffy and Xena, Lara Croft… 30 years of strong female characters, nothing new to see here, move along.

    A shit trailer followed by a mediocre remake, and lots of fan-hating marketing, on the other hand, can be boxoffice doom. And it tends to upset people who actually like movies and aren’t just in it for a pay cheque and an ego boost.

    Twitter is a video game.

    • > What made me laugh however was how you turned around and referenced something called “heatstreet”, which as far as I can tell is nothing more than a slick gossip blog.

      The difference being that I didn’t ask you to read a single word of “heatstreet”. It simply happened to be a convenient place with multiple relevant tweets embedded – the surrounding text is as irrelevant to the tweets as the ads are irrelevant to the story on the CBC news article – they’re not even *quoted* by “heatstreet”; they’re embedded, so they’re the actual tweets, which means you don’t even need to trust that “heatstreet” quoted them correctly, or in their entirety. I could have posted 5 embedded tweet links here (which I’m not even sure would work in WordPress comments), or the 1 aggregate link. The latter simply seemed more efficient, and more likely to work.

      “heatstreet” could be a slick gossip blog, or it could even be a joke site – doesn’t matter either way, because the tweets I was referencing are not part of the site. That’s entirely different from actually offering a joke site as a source… for example, CBC news.

      > “Quebec’s human rights tribunal has been asked to rule that comic Mike Ward violated the dignity, honour and reputation of singer Jeremy Gabriel in his comedy show.”
      >
      > Ugh.

      Your distaste for the Star’s subheading doesn’t really have any connection to the reality of the case. Without the ruling in hand, we neither know what the Tribunal was *actually* asked to rule on, or what their final decision was based on.

      > And yes, I think the guy is as douchey as he looks in that photo, but being a douche is part of his act. He is a comedian, not the Prime Minister. He offends on purpose and as part of his profession, people don’t… take him seriously. Repeat comedian, not engineer, not Prime Minister.

      Repeat: not in trouble for “offending”, in trouble for *HARMING*.

      If you *HARM* someone… and you knew that what you did was likely to have harmed someone before you did it… and you can’t offer a reasonable excuse as to why you had to do it regardless… then it doesn’t matter if you’re an engineer or the Prime Minister, so I don’t see why you think being a comedian means you get off the hook.

      And regarding the “comedy is a crime” thing you keep repeating: no, comedy was never the problem. That’s like saying “swinging a baseball bat is a crime”; it’s not – the crime would be beating someone with a baseball bat, not merely the use of the bat.

      I neither know nor care if Ward is a douche – either in reality or just in his act. But the claim that people don’t take him seriously is obviously bullshit. Jérémy Gabriel took him seriously enough to contemplate suicide, and there *must* have been other effects of his routine or the Tribunal wouldn’t have awarded damages.

      The fact that he’s *paid* to offend – that it’s his profession or that he does it on purpose – is not really a point in his defence. A hitman is paid to murder – that’s his profession and he does it on purpose – but that doesn’t make it right, and it doesn’t mean that one can handwave away his taking responsibility for the results of his job. Quite the opposite, to murder professionally is *worse* than to merely murder, not an excuse for it. Ward is a professional “offender”? Then let him take professional responsibility for when his “offending” does real damage.

      > But here are some tidbits that make me cringe, the inside scoop if you will:
      >
      > “Marie Dominique, the lawyer for the human rights commission, said Ward’s jokes “enforced the stereotype that someone with a handicap doesn’t meet the same standard of beauty as someone without a handicap.””
      >
      > Enforced? Please.

      You think *this* is the inside scoop? A couple of quotes from those involved – obviously spun to get media sympathy – and a brief synopsis of the case by a reporter who wasn’t even there, likely didn’t care a whit about the other than that it was a handy, sensation story, and had no more seen the ruling than you have?

      And are we really going to be taking shots at the lawyer, who is in all likelihood francophone and probably just misspoke? She almost certainly meant “reinforced”.

      > Pedo priest jokes and jokes about mothers who pimp their children out in the entertainment industry are now worth 30 grand… for the parents?

      No, ruining someone’s career for the lulz – to further your own career – is apparently worth 30 grand. Only even *that* is not true because that’s only a fraction of the harm claimed, and I *seriously* doubt the Tribunal considered the loss of work on its own. But neither of us can know what was *really* worth 30 grand until we >>>READ THE RULING<< If his parents pushed the idea that he had an actual singing career they are borderline abusive. The entertainment industry is notorious for its love of disposable novetly acts.

      Neither his parents nor the entertainment industry were on trial. I don’t understand why you think everyone else but Ward has to take responsibility for their actions.

      > When the gory details come out, I look forward to being proved wrong. Write a post, reference this one. I always enjoy being proven wrong. Its about the learnin.

      Why do you need me to write a post about it in order to “learn” you? You obviously care about this issue; you just apparently don’t care enough to actually be informed about it.

      The whole thrust of my original response is that we’re supposed to be all about the evidence, but you didn’t have the evidence, and you still don’t. If you actually care about having your opinions grounded in reality, it is *your* responsibility to seek the evidence out to support them. Not mine.

      I have no dog in this fight. I don’t care enough about Jérémy Gabriel, Leslie Jones, or the Québec Human Rights Tribunal to want to change anyone’s opinions about them. Hell, if you want my opinion, Gabriel is a pious little shit, the Ghostbusters movie is probably going to suck (haven’t seen it yet, but the trailer looked godawful (though I’ve heard others say the trailer is terribly unrepresentative of the movie)), I don’t know anything about Jones (don’t watch SNL), and I’m a huge fan of Canadian comedy and I *think* I recognize Ward’s name, which means he might have a routine or two that I like.

      What I *do* care about is irrationality – I strongly want us all to base our beliefs and opinions in reality; the whole reason I peeked in on the blog is because I’m not long from starting a whole new series on philosophy and critical thinking. I don’t care *what* people’s opinions are, I just try to encourage them to base their opinions on reason and evidence. But if you insist on having uninformed opinions… well, that’s your choice. I’m not going to stop you from doing that. But I *am* going to point it out.

      > As to Roeper and Jones.

      You have a number of conspiracy theories as to why Jones is “playing victim”, but I don’t see that any of them is relevant. Even if it is true that Jones is just taking advantage of the shit being slung at her for the sake of publicity for her movie, or furthering her career, or whatever, the underlying and undeniable fact is: she is getting some *nasty* shit slung at her. That cannot be argued – the trolls’ shots at her have been quite public.

      By contrast, I showed you the kind of “harassment” Roeper has been getting. Is it possible that he’s getting far, far worse *privately* – that the people harassing him are just as nasty, but less confident about doing it as publicly as they are with Jones? I suppose it’s possible. But it sure doesn’t seem likely. And even if that *were* the case, the fact that they are less confident about doing it publicly would be telling. If you think Roeper has been getting harassed as badly as Jones, then I defy you to provide the tweets that show it. But I think we both know that Jones has weathered orders of magnitude more abuse, and nastier abuse, than Roeper has seen in his whole life.

      And the key difference between the two cases: Roeper is being “harassed” for his *opinion*; Jones is being harassed for her *identity*. Roeper is not being harassed for being white or male, he’s being “harassed” for having an unpopular opinion about a highly politicized movie – and technically, not even that; he’s being “harassed” for being an asshat about expressing his opinion about that movie. Jones is being harassed for being black, for being a woman, for being not standard-supermodel-pretty, for being “plus sized”, etc.. These cases are *not* the same. Equivocating the two cases because they have superficial similarities – like that they both happened on Twitter – is patently dishonest.

      • “I could have posted 5 embedded tweet links here (which I’m not even sure would work in WordPress comments), or the 1 aggregate link. The latter simply seemed more efficient, and more likely to work.”
        Ok, well your twitter-fu is probably superior to mine. I saw your reference, and it amused me because while Roeper noted that he had gotten shit for days, there seemed to be very few examples on ‘heatstreet’. So either he lied, or heatstreet only presented a sample. Accurate data, does not equal a representative sample. And given I’ve never heard of heatstreet, and heatstreet looks like a clickbait gossip rag, I have no reason to assume they weren’t cherry picking for clicks.

        “Without the ruling in hand, we neither know what the Tribunal was *actually* asked to rule on, or what their final decision was based on.”
        There is nothing irrational or unempirical about commenting on something with limited evidence, as long as one is willing to accept further evidence to the contrary. This was not about one CBC article, or one Toronto Star headline. There has been plenty of ink spilled on this subject. I picked the CBC largely because it, like the star it tends to lean left wing politically, and I inferred that quite a lot of the criticism would come from the libertarian right. So a little balance seemed in order.

        “Repeat: not in trouble for “offending”, in trouble for *HARMING*.”
        “That’s like saying “swinging a baseball bat is a crime”; it’s not – the crime would be beating someone with a baseball bat, not merely the use of the bat.”
        If it was the baseball bat scenario we would no doubt agree, and it would be in a criminal court. A comedian making jokes, on the other hand falls firmly into what my mom would call ‘sticks and stones’ territory. Again, I have sympathy for the kid, he seems to have been the victim of idiot parents and a heartless comic.

        However, I think your definition of harm, correct me if I am wrong, would bankrupt any and all satirists. Satire is often cruel. But it is a blasphemy that I think we need to support, even when we find it personally distasteful. The pen may be mightier than the sword, but I would rather get hit with a pen, thanks.

        “But the claim that people don’t take him seriously is obviously bullshit. Jérémy Gabriel took him seriously enough to contemplate suicide, and there *must* have been other effects of his routine or the Tribunal wouldn’t have awarded damages.”
        You have more faith in tribunals than I do, obviously, but I don’t think we agree on what constitutes ‘harm’.
        If Ward had stalked the kid on facebook telling him he was ugly and should kill himself… well then… that is the sort of case we would probably be on the same side with regards to. Making jokes in a comedy club, cruel as they may be, is simply not the same in my book.

        We need satirists making fun of public figures. Some are better, some are vile, but that is part of the conversation society has.

        “Ward is a professional “offender”? Then let him take professional responsibility for when his “offending” does real damage.”
        Ok, Ward also made jokes about pedophile priests… does that not damage those priests who were involved in this situation? Should innocent priests file human rights claims against atheists who regularly make pedo jokes at their expense? Can you be a professional atheist? Do I need a card or something? I know lots who are quite happy to cause as much of that sort of ‘harm’ to the church, that they consider evil, as they can.

        “You think *this* is the inside scoop?”
        Hah. I admit to having some fun at your expense.

        “And are we really going to be taking shots at the lawyer, who is in all likelihood francophone and probably just misspoke? She almost certainly meant “reinforced”.”
        Entirely possible. But so what if he did reinforce an idea…. in some hypothetical people. He’s not responsible for other people being stupid, any more than he should be held responsible for other people being suicidal. He does a comedy show. He’s kinda a douchebag. I mean seriously, if there is more to this than that, I am happy to reconsider my position.

        “Neither his parents nor the entertainment industry were on trial. I don’t understand why you think everyone else but Ward has to take responsibility for their actions.”
        I don’t really think anyone in this situation should be on trial or paying anyone anything. I think it is completely frivolous. I think legally punishing satire, comedy, and criticism is a huge bad for our society. I just think there was more than one bad actor in this scenario.

        “The whole thrust of my original response is that we’re supposed to be all about the evidence, but you didn’t have the evidence, and you still don’t. If you actually care about having your opinions grounded in reality, it is *your* responsibility to seek the evidence out to support them. Not mine.”
        And when further evidence is available I will look at it. I just don’t think we’re going to agree what it means. Your view of ‘harm’ is simply different from mine, and I don’t think yours is logically tenable. But I would love to see you defend it. And I might change my mind, but if the Tribunal made its decision based on a similar view to the one you seem to be expressing, I don’t see my mind changing, in fact, that is exactly what I was objecting to.

        Harm when it is physical is generally something most people can agree on, but unless someone is proven to be maliciously lying, I don’t see the need for a pay day based on words.

        “What I *do* care about is irrationality”
        I do too. My impression is you are one of those people who has more natural empathy than I do. But I consider that emotional, not rational. I don’t actually have a problem with people being emotional, there ARE times when it is entirely appropriate, but a court of law is not that.
        Boycott Ward’s comedy shows, criticize him, and call him a cruel piece of shit.
        All of these are legally acceptable.
        My standard for what constitutes legal harm seems more stringent than yours.

        “I’m not long from starting a whole new series on philosophy and critical thinking.”
        I look forward to more of your verbose style.

        “As to Roeper and Jones.”
        “You have a number of conspiracy theories as to why Jones is “playing victim”,”
        Clearly I need to focus more of my paranoia on Roeper. He’s just a boring film critic though. Jones has a much more off-colour twitter feed.
        Comedians tend to be that way though. Jones is simply more interesting.

        “she is getting some *nasty* shit slung at her. That cannot be argued – the trolls’ shots at her have been quite public.”
        Sure. I lost count of the insults, death threats and creepy internet trolls I have been harrassed by…. in the late 90s. And I’m not black or a woman. But Internet Rule Number One has always been: don’t feed the trolls. It’s true, that there are times when I have decided to stand my ground, even against trolls, but I have no illusions about those encounters. You can’t win against stupid. They smell blood in the water and they go into a frenzy. I’ve been called a ‘retarded chink cunt’ before. As a white guy, admittedly, that just seemed odd, rather than offensive.

        “But I think we both know that Jones has weathered orders of magnitude more abuse, and nastier abuse, than Roeper has seen in his whole life.”
        Twitter is a cesspool. That Jimmie Kimmel guy, has an ongoing segment where he gets celebs to read ‘mean tweets’ about themselves. And those are the tame insults and nasty comments, you can repeat on television. Both Roeper and Jones fed the trolls… but the Ghostbusters people have been doing it for months as part of their marketing/interviews and stuff. So the way I see it… Jones may have gotten the worst of it, but she also promoted her movie with it. Roeper just did a review and got bystandered by the controvery that was already in full swing.

        Did either of them deserve to get flayed dick picks from angry fans?…. no. But when you declare war on the internet, like the Ghostbuster people did… well you get what you pay for. People are jerks.

        “Equivocating the two cases because they have superficial similarities – like that they both happened on Twitter – is patently dishonest.”
        I don’t think they are equal.
        I think Roeper did very little, and didn’t deserve what he got.
        I think Jones got way more than she deserved, for the moderate trollbaiting she did.

        The internet however, like life, is rarely fair. And equality is a nice idea to aspire to…

        • [[ Note: this response was written before the Tribunal ruling was released, but I was unable to post it. It’s still relevant, of course, except for the bits that say the ruling isn’t available yet. ]]

          > And given I’ve never heard of heatstreet, and heatstreet looks like a clickbait gossip rag, I have no reason to assume they weren’t cherry picking for clicks.

          But by that logic, given that the article is *pro*-Roeper, it would seem that if they did any cherry-picking, it would be with a bias toward showing tweets that were actually abusive toward Roeper, rather than the mild “tut-tuts” they actually did.

          > There is nothing irrational or unempirical about commenting on something with limited evidence, as long as one is willing to accept further evidence to the contrary.

          That is not correct. It is not irrational or non-empirical to comment on something with limited evidence, *only if there is no further evidence available*.

          The *only* time it is acceptable to come to a conclusion without evidence is when the following two criteria are true: 1) the evidence is not available; and 2) there is a pressing need to have a conclusion immediately. If the evidence is available, then you are obligated to check it before coming to a conclusion. If the evidence is not available, then you are obligated not to come to a conclusion until it is, unless there is a good reason why you need to come to a conclusion prematurely.

          Imagine you are standing at a crosswalk, trying to decide whether it is safe to cross, but you can’t see oncoming traffic yet because there’s someone carrying a large sign in the way. What you’re saying is that there’s nothing irrational or non-empirical about just assuming there’s no oncoming traffic, and walking right out into the road, rather than waiting for the sign guy to get out of the way so you can see for sure. But that’s obviously ridiculous. The rational thing to do is to wait for the sign guy to move unless: 1) he isn’t going to move (so you’ll never be able to see oncoming traffic); or 2) there is some pressing reason why you can’t wait for him to move, like someone dying on the other side that you have to get there within seconds to save or something.

          If you don’t have all the information on a topic, but it is either available or soon will be, then you shouldn’t be forming an opinion on that topic – and *CERTAINLY* not commenting on it – until you have the evidence.

          What you’re doing – coming to conclusions and commenting without waiting for the evidence – is *not* rational, by any measure.

          Even worse, you brought up the case to begin with as evidence that the whole human rights tribunal system is flawed. You took something you did not have evidence to justify… and used that to justify something else. You’ve built a whole edifice on a foundation of vapour.

          > However, I think your definition of harm, correct me if I am wrong, would bankrupt any and all satirists.

          The obvious evidence that you’re wrong is that “my” definition harm is the one that the Canadian legal system has used more or less since its inception. Yet satirists have managed to make decent livings.

          The problem is that you are oversimplifying. To win a case in the justice system and be awarded damages, it not merely enough to cause harm. There are other criteria, such as whether the one causing harm should have reasonably known that the harm would happen and – the bit important to satirists – whether there are legitimate reasons for causing the harm. Among the legitimate reasons is whether there are socially beneficial reasons for allowing the harm. Making fun of Justin Trudeau’s hair or calling out paedophile priests have legitimate social justification: in the former case, it is calling attention to the celebrity status Trudeau is enjoying in lieu of serious criticism of his governing; in the latter, well, I should think the social justification for calling attention to priestly abuse is self evident. Do you think there is any socially beneficial justification for calling a 12 year-old disabled kid ugly, and wishing he were dead? Do you think such rhetoric improves or informs Canadian society in *any* way?

          And because I just *know* you’re going to respond to the above with something like “but that doesn’t mean it should be illegal”, let me repeat: it’s *not* illegal and never will be. You, Ward, and everyone are free to make those kinds or statements without any legal repercussions. You won’t get a criminal record, you won’t go to jail, you won’t even have to pay a fine. But just because there are no *LEGAL* consequences, that doesn’t mean there are no consequences at all. There is no rational justification for making speech like that consequence-free, so it shouldn’t be consequence free. If there’s no socially legitimate purpose for doing it, you’re free to do it, but you’re not free from any consequences of doing it. Liberty is bullshit without responsibility.

          > If Ward had stalked the kid on facebook telling him he was ugly and should kill himself… well then… that is the sort of case we would probably be on the same side with regards to. Making jokes in a comedy club, cruel as they may be, is simply not the same in my book.

          Your position makes no sense to me, as making the “joke” as part of a public comedy routine intended to get people cheering along with it seems *far* worse than making it on one’s private Facebook page. In the former case, you’re turning the kid into a *public* target, and using the sanction of being a lauded professional to add weight to the attacks and insults. For someone who thinks Twitter is a “video game”, I can’t imagine you can think a *Facebook* post carries more weight than that. What, Twitter is a video game, but Facebook is not? Seems incoherent.

          > We need satirists making fun of public figures.

          Yes, but stop and *THINK* about what you’re saying, rather than just saying it and ending the conversation there.

          *WHY* do we need satirists? What purpose do they serve? *Why* does society benefit from satirists taking the piss out of “public figures”? Think of the reasons. Then see if those reasons actually apply to the Mike Ward case.

          Society does not benefit from simply mocking or insulting public figures. Society does not benefit from, for example, calling Mike Duffy “fatso” or calling *ANY* black celebrity the N-word. What society benefits from is mocking or insults that draw attention to hypocrisies or other socially relevant flaws in public figures. What is the hypocrisy in Jérémy Gabriel being disfigured by disease? What is the socially relevant flaw in his being not conventionally attractive? Or *alive*, for that matter?

          There is none, thus there is no reason calling him ugly should be protected from consequences, should it cause harm.

          Rather than just mindlessly sloganizing, consider the deeper implications and the consequences of statements like “society needs satirists/comedy/etc.”, and the limits and boundaries of what satire/comedy/etc. we should allow a free pass to.

          > But so what if he did reinforce an idea…. in some hypothetical people.

          “Hypothetical” people? From the bits and pieces of the ruling we have available, it seems the people Ward influenced were anything but hypothetical.

          > He’s not responsible for other people being stupid, any more than he should be held responsible for other people being suicidal.

          Oh, come on now. That is *flagrant* bullshit.

          Under that kind of idiotic logic, you can coax a vulnerable person to harm themselves, and if they do you just make the argument: “hey, I’m not responsible; *they* were suicidal”.

          This is basically the crux of your position: You don’t believe anyone should be responsible for the effects of their speech. You believe that if your speech causes anyone to harm themselves or others, that it was *their* responsibility, and that you have none regardless of the fact that your speech motivated them to take action that they would not have otherwise.

          You’ve been trying to paint my positions as illogical, untenable, minority, but the above highlights just how far *your* position is out of touch with modern thought. We recognize today that speech is *powerful*. Speech *can* harm. Speech *can* kill. You’d like to pretend with your jokes about fearing the sword more than the pen that only physical attacks “matter”, but the reality – universally accepted these days – is that without laying a finger on someone, without even being on the same continent, you can absolutely and utterly destroy a person, just by the things you say. Emotional and psychological manipulation are *deadly* weapons.

          But the thing that blows my mind is the astonishing hypocrisy of your position. You revile priests because they use sermons to influence people to act in stupid and dangerous ways… but if a “comedian” does the… *EXACT*… *SAME*… *FUCKING*… *THING*… well, that comedian should be enshrined as a hero of free expression, and protected from consequences? Aside from the terminology, how *exactly* is a comedian’s bit different from a priest’s sermon? Just because one uses humour to influence people’s thought while the other uses fear*, you think that one should be a social pariah while the other should be protected against all consequences of their actions? (*And of course, some religious types *do* try to use humour, rather than fear. That was the whole point of Ray Comfort’s “crocoduck”, for example. They’re just usually not very good at it.)

          So if a comedian is not responsible for other people being stupid or suicidal, even while he’s flat out telling someone they should kill themselves… why *exactly* should a priest be? If a priest encourages his congregation to harm others or harm themselves, do you think the priest should be free from consequences too? Aren’t you basically taking the position that priests are just performance artists, completely innocent of any blood shed by their urging, and that all blame falls on the congregation… and not only that, society should *protect* the priest from facing any consequences for influencing them?

          I mean, your position just makes no sense. You’re saying that if I put on a robe and a silly hat and call the room I’m performing in a “church”, then spewing vile shit and getting the crowd to gleefully cheer and laugh along with it makes me an evil sot, and responsible for all the harm I inspire. But if do the exact same thing while calling the room I’m performing in a “comedy club”… then I’m utterly free of responsibility for the harm my “jokes” inspire. All I have to do to totally absolve myself of responsibility is call myself a comedian and get a crowd to laugh at the horrible shit I say. It really isn’t that hard to get people to laugh at horrible, stupid shit.

          As far as I can tell, the only difference between priests’ sermons and comedians’ routines in your position is that *YOU* don’t take the latter seriously. Which, of course, has absolutely nothing at all to do with whether *others* take them seriously. But I fail to see why *your* opinions of either are relevant. As far as I’m concerned, if *any* public speaker unjustly stirs up animosity toward a vulnerable party, I don’t really give a fuck whether that speaker is a priest at a pulpit or a comic at a festival.

          > So the way I see it… Jones may have gotten the worst of it, but she also promoted her movie with it.

          Are you… *really*… *seriously*… going on record… with the argument that Jones… “asked for it”? That maybe if she hadn’t dared to be so… “uppity”… as to aggressively promote her movie, that she might not have faced the hate she had? That perhaps she should have “known her place” better?

          That’s *really* where you want to plant your flag?

  5. Under a completely permissive “Free Speech” scenario, many awful things can happen.

    Many people hide their abuses by claiming “it was just humor.”

  6. The tribunal ruling is now available, but only in French so far: https://www.canlii.org/fr/qc/qctdp/doc/2016/2016qctdp18/2016qctdp18.html

    I think it’s pretty inevitable that this one’s going to be translated, and translated quickly, but I’ll have a go at it with my somewhat spotty French.

    From what I glean, it seems Judge Scott Hughes considered 4 questions:
    1) Did Ward discriminate against Gabriel?
    2) Does freedom of artistic expression get Ward off the hook?
    3) Do the complainants have a right to damages?
    4) Is the request to have Ward ordered to stop making jokes about Gabriel’s disfigurement justified?

    The relevant questions to us are really just 1 & 2.

    To the first question, the answer was yes, because the jokes targeted Jérémy Gabriel under a protected class: disability. Note that this applies *only* to the jokes about Gabriel’s disability… the ones about him hanging out with paedophile priests are not discriminatory, which seems logical. Hughes even recognizes that Gabriel was targeted not because of his disability specifically, but rather because he was a public figure that attracted sympathy. Hughes explains that it is not the decision to make jokes about Gabriel that was problematic, it is the content of those jokes.

    So ultimately it was all *only* about the jokes that made fun of Gabriel’s disfigurement, which were problematic because disability is a protected class. Everything else Ward did – commenting on hanging out with paedophile priests, commenting on his mother’s manipulation and profiteering from it, the dirty song – all of it was not at issue.

    Hughes doesn’t buy the argument that Gabriel’s career was ruined by Ward. The damages he recognized were mostly about Jérémy’s schoolmates and his mother’s work colleagues repeating Ward’s idiotic “jokes”, and the effect it had on Jérémy’s attitude toward school – basically he went from being a good student before Ward’s jokes became popular (despite already being teased for his disability even then) to wanting to drop out of school to avoid the constant teasing, and I think he might even have failed a grade.

    As for the second question… Hughes’s take on it is *exactly* what I’ve been presenting here: If something is unacceptable without humour, adding humour does not magically make it protected. In particular, Ward’s “jokes” “ne soulèvent pas une question d’intérêt public et ne s’inscrivent pas dans le cadre d’un débat public sur des questions d’intérêt général”… “do not raise a question of public interest and do not take part in a public debate on matters of general interest”.

    I note that Ward’s defence is that he wants to make “taboos” into jokes – he wants people to laugh at things that are normally considered “untouchable” in order to remove the stigma. But that’s complete bullshit. There are some things that are not appropriate to be laughed at for damn good reasons. And if anyone should get to decide whether Gabriel’s disability should be laughed at or not, it should be Gabriel, not Mike Ward. Interestingly, while Ward claimed to not give a fuck about the feelings of his victims, the Tribunal found out that he had made jokes about a disabled comedian… but in *that* case he had asked the comedian’s permission. And the Tribunal had several of Ward’s statements admitting that he realized he was going too far. So even Ward’s own behaviour betrays that he knew he was doing something wrong.

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