The scariest moment is always just before you start.”
~ Stephen King
This is my first blog post in a long time.
And I’m excited to break the inertia that’s kept me stuck for far too long.
I made a commitment to myself to launch this blog on Jan 1 2017 whether it was ready or not.
While there are still many things to improve on it, and many things I’ll be tweaking, building on, and adding as I go, it’s good enough to go live now.
Imperfect action today is better than perfect action tomorrow.
So here it goes.
Where I’ve Been: Brief Recap of the Last 4 years
For the last few years I took an extended hiatus from public online life in an attempt to keep myself together during a long, emotionally, psychologically, and financially costly legal battle my family and I were dragged into.
On Nov 21, 2012, our life got flipped upside down when my dad, Gregory Alan Elliott, was arrested and charged for criminal harassment based on frivolous accusations made by three Toronto-based, police-backed, politically-connected feminists.
They claimed that his non-threatening, non-sexual tweets (where he debated them and attempted to expose their vicious attacks on a young man online for their own professional and political gain) made them fearful for their safety.
But he wasn’t just arrested.
He was tarred, feathered, publicly shamed and condemned by the “reporter” friends of the accusers who wrote libelous pieces about him the day of his arrest and over the weeks, months, and years that followed.
While we were fighting to get him bail for three days (the prosecutor fought hard for his detention until the end of trial… which would’ve been 3+ years… for tweets!), his employer read the local newspapers and saw his mugshots and the stories and by the time he got bail he was told he was to come in and pick up his stuff as he would no longer be employed there.
All while the chief accuser took full advantage of their manufactured media storm to get speaking gigs and build her professional brand online and in Toronto and Canadian politics. While another accuser appeared to have used it to get gigs with Toronto Police as a social media consultant.
You can see all the articles written and media created about him below from the day of his arrest Nov 21, 2012 until months after his rightful acquittal on Jan 22, 2016.
I’m not going to go into too much detail here about our experience or what we discovered through the process.
We’re writing about it in more detail in a book to be released later this year.
In it we’ll dive deep into our ordeal and explain everything we learned through it, as well as the greater, graver implications this would’ve had on free society, public discourse, and Canadian law forever had he lost in trial or taken a plea deal to save time and money.
Based on all we’ve discovered over the years, it has given us good reason to believe this was not just a random case, but a collective, organized, orchestrated effort by politicians, police, 4th-wave feminism ideologues and zealots, PC-authoritarians, and the left-biased media, to set precedent in Canadian law. Precedent that would allow for people to be arrested, prosecuted, and imprisoned for non-threatening, non-sexual, dissident tweets and comments on social media.
We spent 2013 waiting for the pre-trial and then preparing for the battle to come while trying to keep our heads on straight and not fall apart as a family.
During that year I tried to have a normal life and do things that kept my spirits high.
I kept coaching and building my brand online while trying to keep it quarantined from my dad’s negative press.
I saw how his detractors operated and how they had no problem destroying anyone who dared stand up against them.
And I was worried that if I stepped into the fray to help him prematurely, or even got tied to him somehow, the people I was hoping to work with in the future might find out and be afraid to be associated with me in any way.
Controversy is often horrible for most businesses, and the people running them simply want to avoid it. I can relate as I did too then.
The trial started early January 2014 and was originally scheduled for 5 days in court.
Then it turned into 5 more days over 5 more months.
And then another 5 more days over the next 5 months.
My dad was banned from touching computers or any internet-capable device as per his bail conditions, so I had to gather all the evidence for his case.
I must have spent hundreds if not a thousand hours over the years sifting through tweets manually and compiling them for his lawyer.
By the end of November 2014, 2/3 witnesses’ testimonies were done.
And on December 2, 2014, the day the third accuser was supposed to take the stand, the prosecutor, who was so confident in the strength of her cases during pre-trial, decided in the last minute to withdraw the charges of the last accuser and wave the white flag for her.
With the trial done, in early 2015 I took a much-needed break from the madness that had consumed my life and went to Indonesia to escape winter and write my book that I had been working on, on and off, for years. While I got a lot written, I did not return with a finished book like I had planned.
By the time I returned, it was about a month or so before closing arguments and I was immersed right back into the melee.
On July 14, 2015, after what we thought was the last day in court before the final ruling (it wasn’t), a short video clip by National Post columnist Christie Blachford was re-tweeted by Joe Rogan and went viral.
It was then that we started to see a wave of support come in for my dad.
In the second half of 2015, the tables started to shift for him in the court of public opinion.
A young freedom of speech advocate, Lauren Southern, started a petition that gathered 5000+ signatures and 2000+ comments from countries around the world.
Her and I did an interview in late July to raise awareness about my dad’s battle and the crowdfunding campaign we had recently launched, and then again a few months later when the final ruling got dragged out even longer.
And to add insult to injury, in October 2015, an angry online mob ganged up on his friend’s indie-coffee shop’s Facebook page and harassed them mercilessly on Twitter for daring to hang his art on their walls and not submit to their demands to take it down. In response to her refusal to capitulate, one angry woman felt entitled to vandalize the shop and my dad’s art by ordering a hot coffee and splashing it on his painting and a patron sitting below it. Of course, no arrests were made.
On Nov 21, 2015, three years from the day of his arrest, Lauren Southern and Milo Yiannopolous organized an 8-hour, livestream, telethon-style event with 20+ other free-speech-advocate YouTubers and contrarian content creators called #FreedomofTweets.
During the year we had the campaign live, it raised close to $70,000 USD for his legal defense fund which allowed him to cover his living and legal expenses and make it through to the end.
I wasn’t working at the time either and it helped me cover my few living expenses as well.
We’re so grateful to Lauren and Milo, all the guests, all who helped spread the word and rally support, and especially to the 2,100+ contributors. We were in ruins on multiple fronts and could not have put something like that together ourselves. It was a lifesaver.
Originally scheduled to be done early 2014, when it got dragged into early 2016, it really drew on and drained our reserves.
And on Jan 22, 2016, after 3 years and 2 months from the day of his arrest, he was rightfully acquitted of all charges.
In his comprehensive 86-page final verdict, Justice Brent Knazan stated clearly the purpose and importance of freedom of expression in Canada:
Freedom of expression
Freedom of expression as a long-enshrined part of Canadian life and law preceded it being enshrined in s. 2(b) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Sharpe and Roach succinctly summarize the scope of freedom of expression in their book The Charter of Rights and Freedoms:
Artists and writers often push the limits of conventional values. Scholars question “sacred cows” and accepted wisdom. Freedom of expression represents society’s commitment to tolerate the annoyance of being confronted by unacceptable views. As stated by the Ontario Court of Appeal in an early Charter case “[T]he constitutional guarantee extends not only to that which is pleasing but also to that which to many may be aesthetically distasteful or morally offensive: it is indeed often true that “one man’s vulgarity is another man’s lyric”. More recently, the Supreme Court of Canada emphasized that freedom of expression must include the “right to express outrageous and ridiculous opinions” and that as “[p]ublic controversy can be a rough trade…the law needs to accommodate its requirements.”
It was beyond relieving once we knew this was finally the end of our battle and not the beginning of years of appeals court, which absolutely would’ve been the next step had we lost.
Now we are able to begin to heal and rebuild.
Unfortunately, yet unsurprisingly, life did not just magically come back together for him and us after the verdict.
The recovery and rebuilding months following the verdict and throughout 2016 were rough.
These baseless accusations cost my dad his 17-year career and his entire retirement savings.
His legal expenses were roughly $100,000. But to even get access to the funds, he had to cash in his $500,000 pension under claims of financial hardship and was hit with a tax bill for $250,000 for doing so.
And then in the end, once he was acquitted, when we reached out to civil lawyers to see if he had a strong case for a civil suit, many of them said in a round-about way “Unfortunately, your dad is the wrong gender, sexual-orientation, skin colour and political leaning, and it would be bad PR for us to sue, on his behalf, young, liberal, progressive, politically-connected feminists. We will not take your case, on contingency or otherwise. Our unofficial advice is he should try to cut his losses and move on with his life.”
The only law firm that even considered it said “It’ll be minimum $250,000 – $500,000, will take 5+ years, and will be more emotionally destructive and devastating to your family than criminal court ever was. And if we pursue it, there is a very high chance you will lose and not only be out the money, but have to pay the other side’s legal costs too. But, we’ll do it if you can pay us in full.”
That’s been a tough pill for him to swallow this year. For all of us. But it’s one we have no choice but to swallow. So onward we go.
The Honest Truth
As much as I’d like to be able to say at this point that we, and I, handled this tragic, travesty of justice like champs and came out unscathed, I can’t do so sincerely.
The honest truth is these last few years have been utter chaos and hell for my family and I and there were many points where I had no idea how we would make it through to the end. Especially when they kept moving the goals posts.
We did the best we could with the private and public support, technical skills, cultural understanding, emotional strength and mental resilience we had at the time, is really all I can say.
It’s easy to see more clearly looking backwards, and if I could go back in time I would’ve done many things much differently. I have many regrets that I’ve had to process and let go.
My dad and I have also been battling drug and/or alcohol addictions, mental health challenges, and a list of associated problems for decades.
I’ve been sober from hard drugs and alcohol for a few years now with only a few relapses.
But I still leaned on pot a lot during these years, while my dad drank heavily to numb the pain, anger and fear.
It has pros and cons, but self-medicating was the only thing we knew how to do to not crumble under the pressure.
For better or worse, it temporarily eased and alleviated the pain and anger that we were possessed by that we would often take out on each other.
And although we tried to hold ourselves together and present ourselves as having it together in public, we were often hanging on for dear life behind the scenes.
We had good moments too, and times that brought us together, but they were the exception.
Some Recent Wins
This year we’ve been working to patch things back together as a family and figure out what is next for him and I.
I built him an online portfolio website showcasing his talent to help him find creative work again. This is only a fraction of what he’s created throughout his life.
As I mentioned above, we’re currently writing a book to tell the story in full.
I’m still helping him get back on his feet and will continue to support him as he heals and rebuilds.
And today, I’m launching my blog so I can continue to pursue my goals and build my career which I put on hold for the last while.
How This Experience Changed Me
This is not the comeback glory-story my ego would’ve liked to tell at this point.
But it’s the truth. And it’s the truth I’ve been evading, and avoiding stating for too long.
I tell it now, not because I want pity or praise, but because I want people to know what social justice ideology can look like in real life practice and what politically-motivated censure, censorship and PC-authoritarianism does to real people with real lives and families in the present year.
I tell it so that this doesn’t happen to others so easily. Because there are still many who would gladly rake dissidents across the hot coals of a cold jail cell and court room for stating politically incorrect beliefs online.
When you touch something hot and burn yourself, or when you step on something sharp in your carpet, your attention immediately seeks the cause of your pain. It’s impossible not too. Comfort doesn’t command attention. Intense, sharp pain does.
Over the last couple years, the intense pain we’ve experienced has forced me to pay close attention to what was going on, who was involved, and try to figure out why and how it could even happen in the first place.
I’ve spent a lot of time trying to understand how freedom-loving western culture has gotten to a point where a large chunk of left-leaning society – from media to police to prosecutors to politicians to the broader public – actually believed, and still believe, arresting, jailing, prosecuting for 3+ years, and completely ruining a man’s life for tweets was totally reasonable and a good cause/case for the justice system to pursue and the tax-payers to fund.
The fact this even happened is a gross injustice in my, and many others’ opinion. And winning the case was nowhere near “justice” for us.
The only thing he got from winning was he didn’t get to go to jail. No reimbursement for losses. No charges for his accusers who abused the legal process for their gain. The process was the punishment. 6-months in jail simply would’ve been the rotten cherry on top of this putrid cake.
And while the precedent was set, so hopefully this won’t happen again to some poor sucker without a huge uproar and push-back, it’s hard to take that as a consolation prize when your 56-years old, flat on your back, lost your career and life savings, in debt up to your ears, and simply told to man up and move on.
We’re still working hard to turn these lemons dumped on us into lemonade and are making progress. And we’re glad we were able to fight this battle and win for everyone in Canada who believes in and enjoys their freedom of expression that so many before us fought and died for. But this win can still feel like a “Pyrrhic victory” at times.
I can say now that what I discovered through this battle changed me.
It changed my political beliefs.
It changed my beliefs about the state of the world and how it got this way.
It changed my belief about society and justice.
And it changed my hopes for the future.
I’m far from hopeless, just much more aware of the work that needs to be done.
After seeing so clearly how the mainstream media and all the supporters of the accusers, from the very beginning to the bitter end, twisted and distorted the truth, omitted critical facts, and outright lied to push their victim narratives on a public too busy to dive into the details themselves, I started to see clearly with my own eyes what “regressive SJWs” and “PC-authoritarians” are, how they operate, what their M.O. is, what they are capable of, and why this ideology is so dangerous.
And I while I’m still working to forgive and move on for my own well-being, I will never forget.
Why I Refuse to Be Silent Anymore
Because I’m sick and tired of feeling like a hypocrite.
I took time off for a while to heal and put myself back together. But it was also because of deep, lifelong fears that came up through this process that I lacked the courage to face.
Not speaking up about things that I believe are important, all while espousing courage makes me a hypocrite.
Talking about courage while not being courageous and taking brave action in defense of my core, sincerely held principles and beliefs makes me a hypocrite.
I’m writing a book on courage and fear and the irony does not escape me that I’ve lacked courage and allowed fear to rock me in the areas that matter most, and at times when it mattered most.
From now on, I’ll be speaking my truth in spite of my fears so that I can become and remain congruent with my beliefs, words, and actions.
Because so much more is at stake than my little life and ego.
The prophet George Orwell wisely said many wise things about the future. One being “In a time of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”
Silence during these chaotic times of cultural and ideological warfare is what allows tyrants and tip-toe totalitarians to come to power.
There are powerful narratives and stories that have possessed many minds in Western culture that can have disastrous consequences for society.
While I will often write about positive things and try to leave you feeling good and strong, I will also write about controversial things that leave you feeling disturbed and bothered.
And don’t care anymore about being called a “buzzkill” or by being labeled with weaponized PC-buzzwords. Because what is at stake is so much more important what people who like, or don’t like me, think of me.
At the end of my life, whether that be sooner or later, I want to be able to not be plagued by regrets of inaction and due to fear.
If I can sincerely say that I spoke my truth the best I could and stood firmly in my beliefs in service of others and humanity, even if I fail miserably or am persecuted painfully, than I’ll be able to die happy.
Because it’s bad for my health.
Internalizing what I know, what I see, what I believe, what I believe can help people, what I have to say about the state of society and ideas for how we can improve it is bad for my day-to-day health.
Not articulating and expressing as clearly as I can what I believe in my heart and soul to be true is causing me unnecessary and avoidable mental anguish.
Pain that I can begin healing today simply through self-expression.
So. No more silence.
And here’s where I start.
How about you?