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This Week In Free Speech Hypocrites: 'Free Speech' Supporter Sheila Gunn Reid Gleefully Sues Someone For Calling Her A Neo-Nazi

from the well,-now-that-you-mention-it... dept

What is it with people who pretend to be free speech “warriors” only to rush to sue someone for stating an opinion about them? And why are so many of them Canadian?!? We’ve already covered folks like Jordan Peterson suing a university because some professors said mean things about him in a private meeting, and Gavin McInnes suing SPLC for calling the group he founded a “hate group.” And now we have Sheila Gunn Reid, who works for The Rebel Media, which is sort of the Canadian equivalent of Breitbart. Sheila pretends to be a free speech supporter in dozens upon dozens of tweets. Here are just a few:












Given all of the above, it seems pretty clear that Sheila Gunn Reid would be one heck of a hypocrite to then sue someone for stating an opinion, such as calling her a “neo-Nazi.” Hell, she even stated publicly in the past (see the last tweet above) that she believes it’s free speech for someone to call her a Nazi. She’s right. Or, well, she was back then.

A scientist named Dave Barrett referred to Sheila as a “neo-Nazi” and rather than “believing in free speech” even for people who call her a Nazi or who disagree with her, she apparently sued him, and he settled by agreeing to pay $1,200, along with his own legal fees, and posted an apology to her, which he’s pinned to the top of his feed for 30 days, which was part of the settlement agreement. And she’s now gloating about it in a pinned tweet of her own:

Now, yes, it’s true that this happened in Canada, and that Canada’s constitutional free speech protection is not nearly as strong as the First Amendment. And, as we all know, defamation lawsuits can be quite expensive, leading to astounding pressure to settle such a case. That said, it does seem quite fair to point out that Sheila Gunn Reid is not a free speech supporter but a huge free speech hypocrite. As some of her earlier tweets suggested, you don’t get to call yourself a free speech supporter and then use the power of the courts to attack someone over their speech, silence them, and force them to make compelled speech about you. That’s not how it works. And, it certainly seems like “situational ethics” for Sheila to do so while still pretending to care one iota about free speech.

And, I’m sure that some folks will come along and make an argument that “defamation is not free speech” or (worse) that suing over defamation has nothing to do with free speech (or, even worse, saying that a civil lawsuit isn’t about an attack on free speech because it’s not the government). All of those statements would be wrong. First off, giving your opinion of someone, even if it’s critical, like saying you believe them to be a neo-Nazi is not defamation. It’s an opinion. Opinions are not defamatory. Suing over someone’s speech always has to do with free speech. And even though it’s a civil suit between two parties, it’s using the power of the state in the form of the courts and the judicial system, to punish someone for their speech, which makes it inherently using government power to attack them on the basis of their speech.

In a video, Rebel Media founder Ezra Levant flat out admits that this is part of his and Sheila’s plan to silence critics:

“It’s about the specific deterrent. I don’t think Dave Barrett is going to take a run at Sheila any time soon. And it’s about the general deterrent. And what I mean by that is I hope other people see that and say “oh, okay, um, maybe I won’t call Sheila a Nazi, maybe I won’t call anyone at Rebel a Nazi…. Maybe I won’t call any conservative a Nazi.”

Okay. We won’t call you a Nazi, Ezra. We’ll call you a censorial bully who admits to abusing the law to stifle criticism, despite pretending to support free speech. Saying you hope others won’t state their opinion because you abused the court system over someone else’s speech shows that. Hilariously, just a few days before this video, Ezra was on a podcast where he said the following:

?I?m unaware of conservatives suing liberals in nuisance suits to shut them them up for political purposes… it?s only the other way.?

He said this at the very moment that he (a self-proclaimed conservative) was suing a liberal in a nuisance suit to shut them up, as he directly admits in that video.

Incredibly, Ezra goes on and on in the video about how this is about “fighting back” and “standing up for principles” and then promises to sue anyone who ever calls anyone at the Rebel a “Nazi.” Hilariously, Ezra goes on to say that you’re still allowed to criticize him, but only if he thinks it’s “legitimate criticism.” That’s not how free speech works. He goes on to also say that The Rebel is suing a bunch of protestors who convinced theaters not to host Rebel Media events — which is again an attack on free speech.

You might not be Nazis, Ezra and Sheila, but you’re huge, censorial hypocrites and now everyone knows that.

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Comments on “This Week In Free Speech Hypocrites: 'Free Speech' Supporter Sheila Gunn Reid Gleefully Sues Someone For Calling Her A Neo-Nazi”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Her speech was clearly free.

Interesting theory. Then for the US, I propose a new civil law that allows people to sue others for owning guns. Like, if you are unhappy that someone owns a gun, you can sue them for up to a million dollars. Thankfully this would not infringe on the 2nd Amendment, since they are still free to own guns, just not free from the consequences.

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Adam says:

Re: Her speech was clearly free.

Free speech is supposed to be free of legal consequences, that’s the free part. The only other way to limit free speech is to physically stop someone from speaking, like duct taping their mouth. I don’t think that duct tape was what the first amendment was written for.

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Adam says:

Re: Re: Re: Her speech was clearly free.

FYI, both Techdirt and myself are in America, so I was speaking to what I know. Was Section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms written with duct tape in mind?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Her speech was clearly free.

Not likely, since duct tape didn’t exist at the time.

I think that was part of the joke regarding the First Amendment. However, you’re quite wrong with respect to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms: it was passed in 1982 with the rest of the Canadian Constitution, whereas duct tape (in its current form) dates back to WWII.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Her speech was clearly free.

"Free speech is supposed to be free of legal consequences, that’s the free part."

That statement does not sound entirely correct.
Free speech is a common term used in the lexicon rather indiscriminately.
In legal terms, the first amendment states that government shall pass no laws impeding …
afaik, (ianal) there is no such thing that states one is free of consequences legal or not.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Her speech was clearly free.

idk, what you are saying.
The 1st amendment is clear. The part to which I refer "Congress shall make no law" is rather specific. The term free speech however, is rather nebulous and can mean anything you want it to.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Because they’re often filed by people who proclaim to be “defenders of free speech” but will drop a SLAPP action in a heartbeat if they think they have even the slightest chance of getting it to a point where they can make someone settle the case for money/an apology (i.e., compelled speech).

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Ezra goes on to say that you’re still allowed to criticize him, but only if he thinks it’s "legitimate criticism." That’s now how free speech works.

Even if that were how free speech works, we could still lob “legitimate criticism” at him for being a hypocrite who wants “free speech for me, but not for thee”. I’m thinkin’ maybe he didn’t think of that specific outcome when he said those two words.

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JMT (profile) says:

Re: Godwin's Law

"…this Dave Barrett fellow rightfully lost."

First, he didn’t lose, he settled, which is often the way that costs you the least amount of money no matter how strong your position is.

And second, care to explain how this is "rightful"? Do you really think successful legal bullying by a censorious hypocrite is a good outcome?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Godwin's Law

First, regardless of where your sympathies lie, Dave Bartlett clearly lost. Accepting all of the plaintiff’s settlement conditions to avoid a legal battle may often be the smart move, but it’s still losing. At best you can say he’s minimized the damage they could have done to him.

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

regardless of where your sympathies lie, Dave Bartlett clearly lost

I don’t know which is worse: That you’re saying Dave Bartlett lost so you can win a pissant Internet argument, or that you’re low-key trying to justify the SLAPP action against him by saying he lost (which implies that he deserved to lose).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Nobody is trying to justify the lawsuit. Stop projecting your weird cynicism onto other people all of the time, it’s disgusting.
Trying to downplay the impact to the victim by claiming he won some kind of moral victory for your side is at least dishonest.

David Bartlett lost. That’s what happened. Check the facts.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3

David Bartlett lost. That’s what happened.

He didn’t “lose”, so much as he was forced to settle a bullshit lawsuit or risk financial ruin. That isn’t “losing”. It’s surrendering to a bully so he wouldn’t be bankrupted. And if you refuse to call it what it is again (a man surrendering to legal bullying out of self-preservation), I’ll have to assume you believe he deserved what happened to him — and that you would be willing to similarly justify another situation like this one in the future.

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PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Godwin's Law

"It looks like this is a Godwin’s Law case"

Erm, I’d have a look at what that actually says, because it’s apparently not what you think it does.

" If it’s any consolation, this Dave Barrett fellow rightfully lost."

Because he stated his opinion? I mean, he didn’t lose, he settled, but what about him stating his opinion to a supposed supporter of free speech was wrong to you?

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Wyrm (profile) says:

Funny how the loudest "Free Speech advocates" out there are some of the quickest to file suit when criticized.

Most of this special kind of hypocrite seems to be the type to advocate for "free speech" as in "you owe me a platform to spew my hatred", which is, funny enough, not a free speech issue.

In this case, it looks more like a case of "you can’t sue me for what I say, but I can sue you for what you say… because reasons." Still a big hypocrisy, but nothing really new.

Koby (profile) says:

Re: Re:

So there was an old internet forum rule called Godwin’s Law. Some threads got to be very long, and would devolve into petty arguments. It was also noticed that as a thread became longer and longer, the chances of someone reducing their argument to "Nazis" or "Hitler" approached 100%. The law states that when this occurs, the forum thread has become too long, the moderators are obligated to close down the thread, and the first person to mention Nazis/Hitler is declared the forum thread loser.

In the Barrett case, he mentioned Nazis, was shut down, and declared the loser. It’s as if an internet forum came to life!

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re:

It’s as if an internet forum came to life!

Except in this case, the guy who invoked Nazis was forced to pay money for his "transgression" by a court of law. Whatever you think of Godwin’s Law as an Internet "rule", it has no business being an actual goddamn principle of actual goddamn law.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

Doesn’t matter.

Just because you say so? Please, justify that. Courts generally have little choice but to enforce laws. Is there evidence that Canadian courts are disregarding the intent of the relevant laws, or that they should be striking this down as unconstitutional but aren’t? Why do the courts deserve blame?

I could see blaming the politicians of the past for not writing a better constitution, or for passing terrible defamation laws; and the politicians of the present for not improving the situation e.g. with anti-SLAPP laws. What do you want the courts to do that’s within their power to do?

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6

The “free speech” hypocrite gets the blame. They sued someone who used their speech to call them a Nazi. That means the asshole used the power of the courts to silence someone by forcing a settlement out of them. The courts don’t get the blame, but the legal system (represented by the courts) didn’t dispense justice in this case. You do yourself no favors if you pretend otherwise.

As for what courts can do: They can throw out obvious SLAPP actions, end of story. Whether they can apply sanctions for people filing that bullshit is a different matter. Personally, I’d like to see that happen far more often than it does.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Re:

The “free speech” hypocrite gets the blame.

Yes.

the legal system (represented by the courts) didn’t dispense justice in this case. … As for what courts can do: They can throw out obvious SLAPP actions, end of story.

Can they? After the parties have proposed a settlement? Without any anti-SLAPP law on the books?

I guess in theory a court has the power to reject a settlement, but that could screw the defendent over if the judge isn’t sure it will be an easy victory. If they’ve agreed to pay the plaintiff and the court accepted the settlement, on what grounds could sanctions be pursued?

TFG says:

Re: Re: Re:8 Re:

I’m pretty sure Stephen’s suggestions are intended for the general case, rather than this specific case, and are also intended for the courts to have taken those actions prior to the case being settled, effectively preventing the need to settle.

Without an anti-SLAPP law on the books, the ability for judges to do so may be limited, but it would be nice if they were harsher on these types of actions in general.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:9 Re:

intended for the courts to have taken those actions prior to the case being settled, effectively preventing the need to settle.

It would be nice… but if a defendent gets a time-limited offer after the case has been filed and before a judge has seen it, they’re in a tough position. They could reject the offer, even try to countersue for barratry, but that could leave them in a much worse position depending on the judge they get.

One fix would be to pass a law saying that any eventual judgement would be limited to the amount of the initial settlement offer, plus legal fees accrued since then.

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:10

if a defendent gets a time-limited offer after the case has been filed and before a judge has seen it, they’re in a tough position. They could reject the offer, even try to countersue for barratry, but that could leave them in a much worse position depending on the judge they get

And that, dear anonymous coward, is exactly what the defendant in this case settled an obvious bullshit lawsuit: Fighting it would possibly have cost them more than the settlement being offered to make the whole thing go away.

Which, if you’re not familiar with how copyright trolls work, is exactly what the free speech hypocrite who filed the lawsuit wanted. Or do you think they expected to win the case if they actually got it in front of a judge?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:11 Re:

Or do you think they expected to win the case if they actually got it in front of a judge?

Maybe, maybe not. Even if they expected to "win" with 90% confidence, if there’s a 10% chance of liability greater than $12,000, a $1200 settlement would make financial sense. That ignores the impact of legal costs and lost time–and those apply even if they "win".

So, that’s why I’m saying settlement offers ought to set a cap on damages, or be irrevocable. If a plaintiff already said $1200 was acceptable compensation, a judgement far above that amount wouldn’t make sense. Judges might have leeway to do this but AFAIK it’s not a rule. A 10% chance of paying, say, $1500, is better than a 100% chance of paying $1200. Another option might be for the court to put the case on hold until actual damages, of the amount requested, can be demonstrated.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

I wouldn’t blame the Constitution. Unlike the US version, where the SCOTUS has to tie itself into knots trying to read implied exceptions into the plainly-stated words "Congress shall make no law," the Canadian version actually sets out a standard for when the rights it guarantees can be infringed upon:

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.

…Which, I’ll admit, might allow a lot more leeway than Americans would feel comfortable with, but, again, at least allows courts to actually follow the Constitution as written when formulating their rulings, rather than falling back on, "Well, obviously when they said ‘Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech’ they didn’t mean that kind of speech."

As for the terrible defamation laws… that’s a fair cop, guv.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

he law states that when this occurs, the forum thread has become too long, the moderators are obligated to close down the thread, and the first person to mention Nazis/Hitler is declared the forum thread loser.

Counter-point: "By all means, compare these shitheads to Nazis. Again and again. I’m with you." – Mike Godwin.

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TFG says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Additional counterpoint:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godwin%27s_law

Godwin’s Law was an observation of a trend, not a recommendation of what to do about it.

Mike Godwin himself has also criticized the overapplication of Godwin’s law, claiming it does not articulate a fallacy; it is instead framed as a memetic tool to reduce the incidence of inappropriate, hyperbolic comparisons. "Although deliberately framed as if it were a law of nature or of mathematics," Godwin wrote, "its purpose has always been rhetorical and pedagogical: I wanted folks who glibly compared someone else to Hitler to think a bit harder about the Holocaust."[12]

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nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

The law states that when this occurs, the forum thread has become too long, the moderators are obligated to close down the thread, and the first person to mention Nazis/Hitler is declared the forum thread loser.

No, this is what the law states, according to its author: "I developed Godwin’s Law of Nazi Analogies: As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one."

That’s it. Nothing about shutting the thread down, or anyone "losing".

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Personanongrata says:

Trolling for Dollars - Starring Sheila Gun Reid and Ezra Levant

"It’s about the specific deterrent. I don’t think Dave Barrett is going to take a run at Sheila any time soon. And it’s about the general deterrent. And what I mean by that is I hope other people see that and say "oh, okay, um, maybe I won’t call Sheila a Nazi, maybe I won’t call anyone at Rebel a Nazi…. Maybe I won’t call any conservative a Nazi."

Sheila Gun Reid and Ezra Levant may not be neo-nazi’s but they sure are censorial trolls.

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That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Its free speech when we call you an invading horde of unwashed terrorists… but if you call us an unkind word, that is the sin.

I am saddened that a court awarded her a single thing, submitting her own tweets about what free speech really means should of destroyed her case.

But then DoubleThink is a thing, holding 2 completely opposite views as truth.
See also: Republicans calling out the mean things said about them & Trump vs. Their silence about calling the last POTUS a kenyan terrorist or saying it wasn’t ‘that bad’.

Samuel Abram (profile) says:

Re: your error

I am saddened that a court awarded her a single thing, submitting her own tweets about what free speech really means should of destroyed her case.

A court did no such thing; they settled. Your point still stands, because the defendant is still punished for his speech, but it was through a settlement rather than a judicial verdict.

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Probably not something to be bragging about...

Gotta love the self-delusion wherein they are proudly showing off their gross hypocrisy in shutting someone up and using the legal system to cow someone who said mean things about them.

‘I am a raging hypocrite and only support speech I agree with’ is usually not something to be boasting about and making visible for all to see.

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Anonymous Coward says:

ButButBut....

"But free speech only applies to MEEEEEE!!!! When it’s used by the international Jewish Media Cabal ruled by George Soros to spread Cultural Marxist propaganda about me being some kind of "Nazi" in order to further the sinister Zionist Agenda to turn white men into Soy Boy Cucks, that’s LIBEL!"

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Tanner Andrews (profile) says:

in Florida, Sheila Gunn Reid is a Nazi

Okay. We won’t call you a Nazi, Ezra.

Well, then, I will.

A right-winger who seeks to use the power of the state to suppress speech certainly seems like a Nazi, at least as commonly understood here in Florida. So, Sheila, take it from a speaker whose office is right downtown in the City:

You’re a Nazi.

If you find this objectionable, you are in luck. There is a lot of sand in Florida.

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