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There’s No Such Thing as Neutral: My Reply to Mr. Stan Persky

January 28, 2017

Thank you, Mr. Persky, for the detailed recap of my article in, “Narrating Galloway,” published on your blog, (Jan 25, 2016). Since our readers have already digested some 30,000 words between us, I’m going to target four specific points of dispute in our positions.

1. What is UBC accountable for?

We agree that universities have long mis-handled investigations into allegations of sexual misconduct, but I hardly need point out that this mishandling has favoured the accused, not the complainants. Thank you for also agreeing that after their initial legally-required announcement, UBC was legally bound to silence, both by privacy law and Mr. Galloway’s UBCFA contract.

I equally assume that, although many UBCaccountable signatories do so, you also agree that UBC cannot be blamed for any subsequent public interpretation, is not morally or legally responsible for the gossip, rumour, and speculation by others. We agree that it is completely inflammatory to leap from UBC’s stated “serious allegations,” which could have been any number of things from plagiarism to financial mismanagement, to claim that UBC called Mr. Galloway “a rapist.”

But those who made that leap include the signatories. Blaming UBC for labeling Mr. Galloway abusive, or for permitting the public to think he may be abusive, is the beating heart of the UBCaccountable Open Letter and the signatory statements attached. Central to both, is the conviction that an investigation is necessary because UBC’s mishandling libeled and/or harmed Mr. Galloway’s reputation. So, convince me: Prove it. Produce even one statement by UBC which does so. Quote it. Document it. Or admit that it doesn’t exist.

In correspondence after his Walrus article, I asked signatory David Mount to do so and despite his legal training, he couldn’t produce even one libelous statement from UBC. Mr. Persky, in what you agree is my exhaustive review of the reportage, I never found one. At parent-teacher nights, on picket lines, however, I routinely encountered residual anger at schools, at the establishment, at “the man” as personified by big education, and submit this feeling bases the belief that UBC “must be” at fault. While I understand, and appreciate these sentiments, feelings are not evidence.

Believing UBC must be at fault is an act of faith. It permits people to “blame the messenger” rather than face the message. And it’s a classic diversion PR tactic. It draws attention away from Mr. Galloway to point the finger at “the bigger villain.” I ask you, I challenge any signatory, to produce this evidence of libel, or damage, or defamation from UBC. I looked hard for it. It does not exist.

2. Does the second statement by UBCaccountable fix the problems of the Open Letter?

You suggest that UBCaccountable largely fixed their Nov. 14, 2016, Open Letter with their second statement a full month later, Dec. 11, entitled “Procedural Fairness for All.” This is both textually and contextually untrue. Too little too late, the second statement does not replace the Open Letter, which remains the website frontispiece. The “Procedural Fairness” statement is hidden away three clicks later, on a back tab. It is authored anonymously and signed by no one.

It makes supportive statements about “sexual misconduct and sexual harassment,” and belatedly tries to claim UBCaccountable has only ever wanted “procedural fairness for all.” This is both hypocritical and demonstrably a lie.

The statement does not apologize for effacing complainants and survivors. The word “apology” is never used. Instead, the statement begins with a focus on themselves and how the signatories have been victimized by name-calling. The anonymous author/s of the statement never once consulted the complainants they suddenly claimed to be championing. As the MC’s lawyer affirms, they don’t believe another investigation is necessary and support the grievance process.

If UBCaccountable really wanted “fairness for all,” they wouldn’t base both documents on the leaked product of a violated confidentiality agreement. They wouldn’t quote the alleged Boyd Report as exonerating fact. They wouldn’t attempt to try the case in a court of celebrity PR. They wouldn’t lend their names to a blatant attempt to sway union due process and fan the flames of a possible suit for damages and defamation.

And they wouldn’t lie. The “Fairness” document claims the Open Letter included, “Our request for an independent investigation and a public report.” This is a face-saving falsehood, a backpedaling lie. My first Facebook criticisms meticulously outlined how the Open Letter could not possibly achieve any kind of inquiry, neither public nor independent, as all it did was to ask UBC to investigate itself. The Open Letter makes no mention of a report of any kind, to anyone, let alone a report to the public.

By calling for a “public report,” the “Fairness” statement repeats the same self-centered, dangerous and illegal call to release private information currently rightly bound by contract and privacy law. Given that it repeats and compounds the Open Letter’s faults, how is the “Fairness” statement any better? It isn’t.

3. Can an Innocence Project use people without their knowledge or consent?

In short, yes. Mr. Persky, I agree with you: signatories did not knowingly conspire to support an Innocence Project. But because the innocence narrative has so effectively controlled the discussion, I’ll paraphrase Chomsky to say that it has manufactured consent. It explains, for example, why you might not realize you are spouting defense PR when you label the relationship with the MC as “love” or just “an affair.” The successful innocence narrative needs us to forget that MC’s lawyer has specifically stated it was not a consensual affair; it was sexual harassment and abuse. How do you know what you know? With respect, you don’t. None of us do.

While I speculate a back-room PR/defense team hand at work, I don’t see you, or most of the signatories as conscious conspirators. I specifically stated that an Innocence Project likely works best when people sign on believing they do so for personal, commendable convictions. I believe most signatories had no idea to what long-term ends their names might be used. They weren’t told that the website would be built, and grow, and remain standing, as a permanent PR defense publicity hub. They weren’t told that they’d be expected to compromise their personal and professional reputations as on-going ambassadors for Mr. Galloway’s innocence. I absolutely believe, what several signatories have said publicly: they were told they were simply signing a letter.

While every adult citizen, especially writers and public figures, should fully understand anything they sign, I believe the signatories have been used and manipulated, and are just too proud to admit it. I have some sympathy for the various reasons why they may have signed the Open Letter last November.

But today, given that as written by the fact-challenged Joseph Boyden, it rejects authentic union democracy and privacy law in favour of an inauthentic, ineffectual and illegal call for “due process,” given its entrenchment as an MRA-embracing artifact of rape culture, given the on-going harm and chill it continues to cause, given that it can be seen as the opening salvo a long-game PR battle staged by Mr. Galloway and his legal/PR team, the signatories have no excuse. They have had every opportunity to do their own research and if they haven’t, they are chosing to be soldier ants. It appears they don’t care. It appears they would rather save face.

Is there even any proof the Open Letter was ever sent to UBC? UBCaccountable has never provided it. I have speculated that its real function all along was not as a letter, but as publicity, as defense PR. Given that the letter is now over two months old, we can be certain that, even if it was sent, UBC does not intend to reply. At least not until the grievance is over.

Could UBCaccountable and its signatories face future law suit for stealing the UBC logo, for statements that jointly and individually libel, defame, and damage UBC? I don’t know. I do imagine that kind of countersuit might tactically follow any post-grievance legal suit Mr. Galloway brings against UBC. And I am certain the signatories didn’t sign up to be sued, or to be dragged into court where they would have to prove they weren’t part of a PR campaign to defend Mr. Galloway by damaging and defaming UBC.

To me, it is not a question of if the Innocence Project happened. It is only a question of who planned it, who knew what all along, who got used, who are still being used, and who will be used next.

4. How can any of this possibly be defensible to anyone, for any reason?

As my dad used to say, “You can’t be a little bit pregnant.”

Anyone staying silent in this debate isn’t fooling anyone. We hear you. Silence is affirmation. Regardless of previous work or experiences, as long as anyone remains silent, as long as the signatories stay on the Open Letter, it sullies their names.
They have have refused to listen. They have chosen to continue to efface the complainants, to side with the disbelieving of women that drives rape culture, to accept the embrace of MRA, and to disregard the 1,000 signatures on two letters that oppose them. Day after day, for two long months, they have refused all calls to remove their names and take down their site.

According to spokesperson Carmen Aguirre, “the signatories stand as one.” In other words, they stand as one to support the PR tactics of a powerful man who already has full union and legal protection, who may be using them to win a grievance and possibly to further line his pockets in a suit for the damages and defamation that his team will say was caused by response to an Open Letter that they may very well have asked for, or authored, in the first place. When UBCaccountable “stands as one,” they do so on the backs of the complainants.

This isn’t going to blow over. Even if the grievance is resolved and not appealed this spring, Mr. Galloway’s team has a full year to decide to pursue a suit for damages or defamation. That could drag on for another year, or more. Are the signatories content to endorse Mr. Galloway after the grievance, possibly for another three years?

Are they prepared to face the consequences for that long? I repeat, this isn’t going to blow over. Those who continue to support UBCaccountable can expect to be challenged. All those who host, employ, or endorse any signatory, can expect to be asked why they have chosen to support the wrong side of history.

So, Mr. Persky, I call on you and all signatories, to remove your names from the Open Letter, and to ask UBCaccountable to take down its site. Asking for the site to come down, responding to harm and asking those who cause harm to stop, is neither silencing nor censorship. To label it either is a red herring. I urge all signatories to switch tactics, to continue to use their voices and clout for good.

But you can’t be a little bit neutral. There’s no such thing.

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