Often, it’s best to turn the other cheek in the face of hateful ignorance. But when hate speech is extreme and public, it must be confronted. Andrew Shirvell, a University alum and a current assistant attorney general for the state of Michigan, has taken aim at the Michigan Student Assembly President Chris Armstrong almost exclusively because Armstrong is MSA’s first openly gay president. Shirvell’s undisguised hatred for members of the LGBT community has compromised his ability to serve as a public official. Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox shouldn’t be comfortable employing someone who’s bigotry so clearly has the potential to influence the work he does on behalf of Michigan taxpayers. Cox must take decisive action to respond to Shirvell’s hate speech — and his pro forma slap on the wrist this week isn’t going to cut it.
Shortly after the MSA election in March, Shirvell launched a campaign against Armstrong. Shirvell started his blog, “Chris Armstrong Watch,” in late April. The blog has railed against what Shirvell calls Armstrong’s “radical homosexual agenda,” as he put it in his initial Aug. 29 post. The first blog post also contained a photo of Armstrong with “Resign” written over his face and a rainbow flag with a swastika in the middle of it next to him. Subsequent posts have labeled Armstrong a liar, an elitist, a racist, a pervert and a “viciously militant homosexual activist.” Over time, the attacks have expanded to include several MSA members who work closely with Armstrong. Recently, Shirvell has taken to showing up at events at which Armstrong is present.
Though much of Shirvell’s tirades are one step from utter nonsense, his disdain for the LGBT community is obvious. Shirvell criticizes the LGBT community’s push for social equality in blanket statements that are plainly offensive to everyone. Though offensive, however, Shirvell’s hateful remarks aren’t a threat to campus. The University community recognizes Shirvell’s attacks as what they really are: the rants of a bigot.
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.
Cox shouldn’t tolerate such offensive behavior from someone who is required to fairly defend the law. A scolding isn’t an acceptable response to the hatred that continues to be published on Shirvell’s blog. Cox must take serious action. He should remove Shirvell from his position in the attorney general’s office.