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.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
A Facebook group has been set up calling for Shirvell to be fired. Click here to find out more.
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