Sometimes it’s difficult for me to accept that things like racism and homophobia still exist in the world today. But living in Ann Arbor has shown me that instances of bias and prejudice can happen anywhere, even in the most liberal of places. If you don’t believe me, simply Google “Chris Armstrong Watch” and you’ll find dozens of examples of hate speech that personally attack our newest Michigan Student Assembly president, Chris Armstrong. Unfortunately for the “concerned Michigan alumnus” operating this blog, I also know how to spot a bigot when I see one.

According to the Attorney General’s office, 2002 University graduate Andrew Shirvell is an Michigan assistant attorney general, as reported by the Daily yesterday. He has a long history of launching personal attacks against members of LGBTQ community, abortion rights supporters and congressional Democrats.

And even though you’d think Shirvell would have learned his lesson by now given his various run-ins with people who have decried his outrageous behavior in the past, he’s back to his old tricks again with “Chris Armstrong Watch.” The site, he claims in his opening post, is “for concerned University of Michigan alumni, students, and others who oppose the recent election of Chris Armstrong — a radical homosexual activist, racist, elitist, and liar — as the new head of student government.” But, per usual, Shirvell has willfully mischaracterized his victim in a feeble attempt to gain legitimacy and credibility.

In the same Apr. 29 entry, Shirvell insists that our new MSA president plans to “promote (a) radical homosexual agenda, including gay ‘marriage’ and adoption ‘rights.’” But that doesn’t seem right. When asked about this issue in an interview with the Daily, Armstrong unequivocally said that he planned to advocate for all students regardless of their sexual orientation.

Just a few paragraphs later, Shirvell suggests that Armstrong’s support of gender-neutral housing will “endanger female students, as it will also force heterosexuals of different genders to share the same room and will undoubtedly lead to a massive increase in rapes.” But that argument doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, because a gender-neutral housing option — which hasn’t even become official University policy yet — will undoubtedly be one that is opt-in only. And while it’s certainly possible that there might be an increase of rapes at the University with the implementation of such a policy, it isn’t “undoubtedly” going to happen. As far as I know, there is no causal link between simply living with a member of the opposite sex and getting raped.

I suppose the one thing that I can’t criticize Shirvell for is his condemnation of Armstrong’s decision to join the Order of Angell. But disagreeing with the president’s decision to join Angell doesn’t justify vilifying him, his family or his friends. Shirvell doesn’t want to “ensure that (Chris Armstrong) does not discriminate against pro-life, pro-family, Christian, and minority student organizations at U of M” as he suggests in his May 11 blog post. He wants to promote his own radical, hate-filled agenda by whatever means necessary.

I am a firm believer in the First Amendment. But this isn’t a First Amendment issue. This is unsubstantiated character assassination. You can’t publicly speculate about a person’s sexual history, stalk his Facebook page for material you think supports your absurd position or harass students who make clearly sarcastic remarks at your expense. These are the actions of a coward — nothing more, nothing less. People who make baseless accusations from behind a computer screen don’t deserve a platform. That, to me, seems to suggest that Shrivell has something to hide, whether that is a lack of evidence or a lack of character.

It is our job as a community of proud Wolverines to ensure that Shirvell does not make a mockery of what it means to have once worn the maize and blue. We must stand up against his attempts to victimize Armstrong. Failing to do so would allow Shirvell to continue moving from victim to victim without pause. We must stand up and fight against all forms of intolerance lest we forget the somber fate of those who regretfully conceded that, “First they came for the Communists, but I did not speak up because I was not a Communist.”

Noel Gordon can be reached at noelaug@umich.edu.

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