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Asst. Attorney General Cyber-Bullies Gay College Student

Asst. Attorney General Cyber-Bullies Gay College Student

An extraordinary online campaign by Michigan assistant attorney general Andrew Shirvell against the University of Michigan’s openly gay student assembly president Christopher Armstrong came to light this week, raising calls for AG Mike Cox to take action and fire Shirvell.

Armstrong was elected earlier in the year to become Michigan’s first openly gay student assembly president. Since then, Shirvell has created a blog called “Chris Armstrong Watch”,  where he has called for Armstrong to be removed from his position in increasingly lurid blog posts, labeling Armstrong a “RADICAL HOMOSEXUAL ACTIVIST, RACIST, ELITIST, & LIAR” in just the opening paragraph of the very first post.  

A Campaign Against M.U.’s Student Assembly President

Pictured above is Shirvell on the left while alongside is a picture of Armstrong on the right that Shirvell has doctored and scrawled on for his introductory blog post.

What has followed that first post is a series of allegations designed to discredit and defame Chris Armstrong.
 
With a penchant for capitalizing words such as “SCANDALOUS” and “RACIST”, Shirvell’s chief charge is that Armstrong has joined an on-campus group called Order of the Angell that Shirvell says is a racist student organization. 

However, as this article from WXYZ.com points out, the past troubles of said group were put to bed long before Armstrong joined:

The group he’s talking about is a university honors society. Years ago, its use of Native American artifacts in its meetings drew criticism from minority students. It gave up the ritual years ago, and today is recognized by U of M as an official student group, with past members that include President Gerald Ford, Supreme Court Justice Frank Murphy and Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop.

“Do you believe they’re racist also,” asked Action News reporter Ross Jones.

“Umm, I don’t believe that they’re, I don’t believe… I haven’t investigated what their subsequent activities were,” responded Shirvell.

While some remain skeptical over the group’s worth and their attempts at diverse membership, using this as a prop for a character assassination seems shaky at best. So what else?

WXYZ.com, who first interviewed Shirvell about the blog, also takes Shirvell to task for his alleging that Armstrong engaged in underage binge drinking at a recent organized event:

In several posts, Shirvell accuses Armstrong of being sexually active with other male students, some of whom don’t identify themselves as gay. He’s also said Armstrong hosted “gay orgies” in his dorm room, which Armstrong denies. And, he says the student body president broke the law by engaging in underage binge-drinking when he attended a party he listed on his Facebook account.

“And you saw him drinking,” asked Jones.

“I did not see him, but I know what, I know what the Facebook event was all about. It’s on the website,” responded Shirvell.

“Do you know if he attended,” Jones asked.

“I know he responded that he was going to attend,” said Shirvell.

“Did I see him there? I didn’t see him there, I don’t live in Ann Arbor.”

Shirvell conceded he had no proof Armstrong was ever drinking, and for good reason. Armstrong wasn’t even in town the night of the party.

In case you were wondering about the aforementioned “gay orgy” accusation, it appears to hinge on the following Facebook status update by a friend of Armstrong’s who, after a party, wrote:

Had a blast last night. Thank you for hosting the night of homosexual shenanigans.”

Shirvell followed this on his blog with:

Merriam-Webster’s on-line dictionary defines “shenanigans” as “questionable practices or conduct” and “high-spirited or mischevious [sic] activity.” Put “homosexual” in front of “shenanigans” and it is quite apparent that [name removed] was indeed referring to a “gay” orgy.

Ironclad, right? Shirvell later concludes that “homosexual shenanigans” add up to the following:

“(read: orgies, underage binge-drinking, and probably illegal drug use, too).”

When partygoers read this and started writing on Chris Armstrong’s Facebook page things like “Oh my god, yes! I had so much sex that night! What a fabulous night of homosexual shenanigans[,]” the sarcasm escapes Shirvell who takes this as an admission of guilt.

Shirvell has even taken to Facebook to trawl for material to attack Chris Armstrong’s “elitist” friends and family, writing in his most recent post that one of Armstrong’s friends is racist because he wrote a Facebook status update saying:

“native american indian cultures may be the most painful class of all time[.]“

Shirvell goes on to point to similarly benign statements as though these are proof of endemic racism that, of course, culminates at the top with Armstrong being the most racist of all.

In a separate post, Shirvell bemoans the fact that someone had a Facebook group he presumably had a hand in creating called “Michigan Alumni and Others Against Chris Armstrong’s Radical MSA Agenda” shut down.

Shirvell feels the closing of the group must be down to Armstrong trying to censor his opposition, writing in “Armstrong’s NAZI-LIKE Hatred of the First Amendment”:

By getting FB to shut-down his opposition, Armstrong has demonstrated yet another disturbing characteristic of his self-absorbed personality: a severe contempt for the First Amendment right to freedom of expression. Much like Nazi Germany’s leaders, many of whom were also homosexuals, Armstrong believes that any and all opposition must be suppressed by whatever means necessary.

There are a total of 27 posts on the blog, all of which continue like this, including “Chris Armstrong: The PRIVILEGED Pervert” in which Shirvell systematically attacks Chris Armstrong’s family.

But Shirvell’s harassment has not been confined to the Internet. Pridesource previously identified Shirvell as an “anti-gay heckler” who held up a sign at a May 8 on-campus counter-demonstration to a visit by the Westboro Baptists (who, in the end, didn’t attend) which read “Chris Armstrong = Racist LIAR *Order of Angell = KKK”. Click here to see a picture.

Armstrong’s Work as Student Assembly President

So what is it that Armstrong has done, or rather aims to do, as M.U. Student Assembly President that has provoked Shirvell so?

Armstrong reportedly campaigned for gender-neutral housing, not solely for trans students but firmly with them in mind, as well as campaigning against tuition hikes and for extending opening times of the college cafeteria to save students money. He also promised to lobby for a Good Samaritan law so that underage drinkers can call an ambulance for friends experiencing difficulties without the threat of legal penalty.

One may wonder what Michigan’s attorney general, Mike Cox has to say about his assistant attorney general’s pervasive, false and overtly anti-LGBT attacks on a 21-year-old university student.

AG Issues Limp Criticism that Fails to Satisfy
Mike Fox started by issuing the following earlier this week:

“I don’t agree with Mr. Shirvell’s tactics, his judgment, or his word choice but nonetheless I recognize his non-work related blog is protected by our Constitution.”

Given the rising tide of criticism, Cox added on Wednesday:

“All state employees have a right to free speech outside working hours, but Mr. Shirvell’s immaturity and lack of judgment outside the office are clear.”

With many feeling that Shirvell’s activities are clear examples of cyber-bullying and harassment, not just of Armstrong but of his friends and family, this response has failed to satisfy.

An opinion piece in the Michigan Daily, which originally reported Shirvell’s hate campaign, Calls on Mike Cox to act immediately. An extract reads:

Attorney General Mike Cox has not reacted appropriately to this reality. As reported on Tuesday, the attorney general’s office confirmed to the Daily that the office was aware of Shirvell’s blog. Yesterday, the Detroit Free Press reported that Cox had “chastised” Shirvell for the statements made on the blog. According to a statement from Cox, Shirvell is entitled to “a right to free speech outside working hours … But Mr. Shirvell’s immaturity and lack of judgment outside the office are clear.”

Shirvell’s increasingly extreme actions of discrimination aren’t the result of a lapse in judgment. His behavior does not stem from immaturity. It stems from hatred. And this type of hatred makes Shirvell unsuitable to remain a government official. It will affect his ability to objectively interpret laws — which is the job of the attorney general’s office. It’s unacceptable that Cox hasn’t dismissed a member of his staff who is so blatantly bigoted. A finger-wagging won’t change the fact that Cox has a responsibility to employ a thoughtful staff that will fairly carry out their jobs on behalf of the citizens of this state. Shirvell doesn’t fit this mold.

I am of the same mind, and based on the AG’s stance on issues of bullying and Internet safety, subjects he clearly cares about, he needs to examine his own staff with the same kind of mindset.

If you would like to voice your concerns, you can email AG Mike Cox at miag@michigan.gov

A Facebook group has been set up calling for Shirvell to be fired. Click here to find out more.

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WXYZ7.com, no infringement intended
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120 comments

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8:46AM PST on Jan 6, 2011

The comments I've read here about Michigan's Assistant Attorney General Andrew Shirvell echo experiences I've had in dealing with bullies. Engaging in any kind of dialogue with someone of his ilk would only make matters worse; bullies don't want dialogue, they want to impose themselves on others. I'm surprised no one from the Michigan Bar Association or the ABA haven't asked questions about Shirvell's fitness for his position or to talk about disciplining him for his bad behavior.

9:00PM PDT on Oct 26, 2010

Did you hear how he talks? Not to get into steriotypes but I think he's gay and scared of a guy that is out and open. Nothing he says deals with issues. He is using terrorist tactics and needs to be stopped! With all the gay youth suicides we are just lucky Armstrong can handle it.

6:43AM PDT on Sep 30, 2010

Shirvell is just as bad as the students who drove Tyler, the New Jersey student to commit suicide. Bullies are no good rotten people with no morals, horrid upbringing and are only damaging to all who cross their paths. There is a program from the Southern Poverty Law Center to end bullying called "Teaching Tolerance." If these students had experienced this fine program, Tyler and others like him would still be alive to reach their potentials. All bullying, tormenting and taunting needs to end and people who witness any acts of bullying need to intervene to end it immediately. Shirvell should be immediately fired and face the reprimands of our legal system. He, of all people should have known better!

10:24PM PDT on Sep 29, 2010

Doesn't this man have more important things to do than cyber bully students? Shouldn't he be prosecuting people for this crime?

11:32AM PDT on Sep 25, 2010

In the words of the great Bugs Bunny:"What a maroon!"

4:36AM PDT on Sep 25, 2010

Asst. Attorney General Andrew Shirvell does have the freedom of speech, however the American Constitution also gives the University of Michigan's openly gay student assembly president Christopher Armstrong, the right to not be harassed, persecuted, verbally attacked, defamed, have his character slandered, etc. By doing so, Asst. Attorney General Andrew Shirvell is violating Christopher Armstrong's rights. We must remember, where one person's rights end, the other person's begin. You can't just say what you want about another person, without worry of any consequences.

7:20AM PDT on Sep 22, 2010

FUNDAMENTALIST CONSERVATIVE CHRISTIAN EXTREMIST TERRORISTS AT THEIR BEST!!!!

6:26PM PDT on Sep 21, 2010

um, lessee. Who usually are the loudest, most obnoxious, politically active haters, especially in matters homosexual? That's right, the self-hating closeted homosexual. Time and again we see this; The count-down clock is ticking down, how long WILL it be, America? Yes, he is allowed to spout this garbage without criminal penalty. But as a condition of employment, many types of speech are limited in many types of circumstances. For example, I have the right to talk about my day at work. But I don't have the right as the employee of a school district to run my mouth about every little thing that happened in my day, at least not without consequences like formal reprimands or losing my position. That's because I agreed to adhere to a policy of confidentiality. I also work in a district that has a policy of non-discrimination for many traits or characteristics. If I display a discriminatory attitude in public outside of my job, in such a way that could be regarded as likely to impinge on the execution of that job within the district, my employer is going to counsel me that I need to adjust my activities in a way that demonstrates I can be relied on to perform my duties impartially. Fox should tell Shirwell to get help for his issues, to stop using his title in his rants, and that he may engage in free speech with the attendant consequences, including being asked to step down from a position that is to insure justice for all is in done within the State of Michigan.

8:43AM PDT on Sep 21, 2010

People do not realize that the entitlement called 'free speech' also comes with consequences. In other word, 'once you spew it, you can't take it back, and it is open for judgment and scrutiny'

2:01AM PDT on Sep 21, 2010

I agree with Harry Clayton-- fire him and then prosicute him to the fullest extent of the law.
Shirvell is an ignorant ass. I can't believe they let him open his mouth in public.

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