Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Hypocrisy: A Human Trait or an Acquired Accessory?

Wow, now this could start a loud discussion leading off to all kinds of tangents relating to humanity and our endeavours. Most of us know what hypocrisy is, Webster's describes it as “pretending to be what one is not or to feel what one does not feel, a pretense of virtue or piety etc.” Is this something many of us have come face to face with at one time or another? Of course the answer is yes. Can we say it was a pleasant experience, usually no, as we are left angry and disappointed.

As a publisher and journalist, meeting and interacting with a wide variety of people is a necessity. Each article has a life of its own, a purpose. For a journalist the right to freedom of speech is as important as breathing. At the same time this right has to be exercised with the acceptance of the consequences if taken too far.

There well be some who claim that such acceptance is hypocritical in itself. How can freedom be fenced in with conditions? In response one can ask then if hate speech is to be accepted as free expression without consequence? At times this debate tethers on a tight rope attempting to find an acceptable middle ground.

Social media and the world of the Internet provides a different angle to the debate of free speech. Today anyone can open a Twitter account and post any comment on any subject at any time. Knowledge or experience no longer are prerequisites; an armchair quarterback is able to dissect the latest Bills game from his lounger, bed or the washroom's comfy chair for all to see. At the same time social media can provide an open world to exchange thoughts and opinions with others who would not be reachable in normal daily travels.

So is it a pretense of virtue or piety to expect, even demand, restraint or consequence for one's words while still believing in freedom of speech? No one said this was an easy debate, even if the question of the nature of hypocrisy will bring many to opposite sides.

To answer at least one question, hypocrisy is within all of us and usually it is not intended. How easy is it to say one thing and for whatever reason do the opposite? True there are professions which require the skill almost as a prerequisite, such as politics. Children are open and honest, it is rare in natural circumstances to find a child pretending other than in a game. Hypocrisy is definitely a honed skill we pick up through the ascension from childhood to responsible and mature adulthood.

Now that being said the tie into the hand ringing question of free speech and consequence comes in the form of a living example. It is a situation unfolding at this very time revolving around Twitter. Social media in its various forms can be entertaining, it can be informative, and it can be a tool used to attack and damage the character and reputation of others. More alarming is when this attack is aimed at a total stranger.

On Twitter, acting Captain Andrew Gill, a member of the Niagara Falls Fire Department, posts a great deal about the Buffalo Bills football team, information and news relating to the fire department and personal tidbits. Gill also at times sees himself as a socio-political commentator and will throw out posts relating to local political events. Prior to his uniform days at the Niagara Falls Fire Department, Andrew Gill had traveled through varying career paths. One of these adventures brought Gill to the City of St. Catharines City Council as an elected City Councillor. This lasted only for one term, and although he tried to stay in the political arena, any attempts made had failed.

In 2011 Andrew Gill appeared on the pages of the local newspaper The Standard, as he had sued Preston Haskell for defamation. At the time Haskell published the newsletter Niagara Winners Circle and had made comments relating to Gill whilst he was still a City Councillor. Gill took offense to the comments by Haskell claiming they were not true, sued and won. The Standard's article by Marlene Bergsma, who no longer works for the paper, wrote that Deputy Judge Brian Marotta had said that Haskell displayed “reckless disregard for the truth.” On the witness stand Andrew Gill spoke emotionally about how this article affected his father and the pain it caused his family.

Gill had a lot to say after the trial. He claimed that he filed the legal action against Haskell to protect other civic minded people who may want to run for public office but would be afraid to make themselves vulnerable somehow. Bergsma quoted Andrew Gill saying: “This was never about money. This was about someone taking a shot at my integrity and my credibility and you can't put a price on that”, and that “The judge sent a strong message you can't say whatever you want where you want, and when you do say something, it has to be based on facts.” These are wonderful strong sentiments expressed by the winner Andrew Gill in 2011.

That was 2011. Now in 2017 Andrew Gill had done a complete turnaround. Gill made two tweets on July 27th, 2017, the first at 8:37am and then again at 8:51am, attacking an individual he had no personal business dealings with at any time. First he said, “Just heard Niagara Truth Warrior Davidoff hit another home run today!” with a “What a Loser” GIF.

First of all Gill posted this at 8:37am; no courts begin before 10:00 am. More importantly the Davidoff Gill refers to is Alexander Davidoff, who was not scheduled for court on the 27th of July. Andrew Gill lied! There was another Davidoff scheduled for court on that day, not Alexander Davidoff. Court lists are available on the web, did Gill have trouble reading English? Or was this information passed on to him by another individual?

Not all issues brought before a judge end in one party winning or losing; there are many times when a judge will simply hear motions as an impartial adjudicator. So how could Gill predict any outcome, especially at 8:37am before court even begins? Did he hold onto crystal balls to consult or was it someone else who had them? Mixed in with the lie and other glaring questions that test anyone's sanity, there is the label of “Niagara Truth Warrior.” Where did this come from? Clearly it is done in an insulting manner, but who came up with it?

This was not enough for Acting Niagara Falls Fire Captain Andrew Gill. Fourteen minutes later, at 8:51am, he tweeted again, “Always entertaining when Niagara Truth Warriors Petrowski, Bracken, Haskell and Davidoff go to court! #Losers.”

Andrew Gill had proven that to lie publicly is not a problem for him, and he did so again in the second post, literally minutes later. The second post also has a GIF with an individual sitting at the side of some machinery and being repeatedly hit on the head. Here Gill expands his tag of 'Niagara Truth Warriors' to include three other people. One question begs for an answer, why include [Alexander] Davidoff with the other three and that tag?

A written notice was sent to Andrew Gill informing him that legal action was being prepared. On August 24th 2017 Gill responded with an email. He first confirms receipt of the notice and then proceeds with this, “As a gesture of good will and without prejudice or acceptance of wrongdoing. I will remove the two tweets in question and offer my apologies to you for all the hard feelings my tweets may have caused you.”

An astounding “gesture of goodwill,” but mind you “without prejudice or acceptance of wrongdoing,” and he removed the two tweets. These posts were public and intended for one purpose; this 'apology' by Gill was in a private email. Not only was the apology laughable, he accepted no wrongdoing. He lied with the intent to damage the reputation of a stranger but he did no wrong.

Being the individual that Andrew Gill had apparently shown to be he did not disappoint. On September 1st 2017 he could not resist and posted again: “This is what the Niagara Truth Warriors do to me” with a GIF of a Minion vomiting.

As he had provided the names of the other so called Truth Warriors it was easy to check the web if any of these individuals had made any comment regarding Gill or on any community matter. No, the web was silent and the target of this post was quite clear.

Now one can come to some conclusion on the issues raised. Should Andrew Gill's actions be considered to be simply the exercise of free speech or should there be consequences and restraints? Gill himself went to court against Preston Haskell in 2011 for what he claimed was commentary published which was not based in truth. In addition to the issue of free speech Gill has displayed a perfect example of hypocrisy in action. Simply refer to the words attributed to Gill by the reporter after the trial in 2011, and compare them to his actions and words in 2017.

Andrew Gill now sits in the same chair as he put Preston Haskell in back in 2011. His defense will be extremely interesting to hear.