Sexting advocate claims injustice in Rehtaeh Parsons case – despite guilty pleas

A screen capture of a comment Parker Donham made on Facebook about the child pornography charges -- after the first of two guilty pleas.

A screen capture of a comment Parker Donham made on Facebook about the child pornography charges — after the first of two guilty pleas. On Monday, a second boy pleaded guilty to distributing the photo that was used to shame and bully Rehtaeh Parsons.

Sexting advocate Parker Donham says an injustice has been committed against the two boys who pleaded guilty in the Rehtaeh Parsons case and is using the publicity around the case to champion for changes to an “overly broad law.”

Sounds ridiculous doesn’t it? No, I’m not kidding you, it’s true. I might be guilty of putting a little spin on that lede, but it’s exactly what Parker does. If anyone tells you a journalist does not put spin on their copy, don’t believe them. Parker does and he takes spin to Spinal Tap levels.

Don’t take my word for it, go read Parker’s blog titled Moral Panic Makes Bad Law.

In promoting his blog on Facebook, Parker suggests that the court cases in which two boys pleaded guilty involved “a trumped up charge to appease media demands that the boys be punished.”

One might think Parker is just following the advice of the late great George Carlin to “question everything.” If you’re an adherent to that philosophy, you should also question Parker, especially because he is prone to making erroneous assumptions in addition to applying copious amounts of spin to his arguments.

Exhibit 1: He assumes there is no evidence to support sexual assault charges when the agreed statement of facts read in court suggest otherwise. He was not in court either day and seemingly is not aware of these agreed statements of fact. These facts might not convict, but there is other evidence available, and more could have been obtained by police if they simply did their job properly.

Exhibit 2: In his blog, Parker writes that child pornography law is a result of “moral panic” that is leading to “a flurry of child pornography charges against youngsters guilty only of entirely consensual sexting.”

When making that claim, Parker links to this post about a case in British Columbia.

On a more careful examination of the case Parker cites, we realize that while the sexting might have been consensual originally, the criminal charges arose from actions that took place after a relationship ended and could in no way be described as consensual.

For a more accurate description of that case read this. Parker didn’t link to that, or provide more details, because it doesn’t fit his narrative. He is constructing a paper dragon and the only valid argument he is making is that what happened in the Rehtaeh Parsons case does not fit the definition of child pornography that most of us have come to understand.

Of course it is not “child porn” according to that definition, but don’t get sidetracked by our contrarian crusader’s argument. Consider these key points instead:

  1. What the boys did fits the legal definition of child pornography as set down by Parliament. A judge has ruled thus on two occasions. For someone so concerned about the rule of law, Parker should give this more credence. If he doesn’t like these rulings, he should ask Parliament to change the name of the law. Remember, Parker has said what the boys did was “disgraceful and reprehensible.” Presumably, he also thinks it should be prohibited by law as he has said he would have even supported voyeurism charges under Section 162 of the Criminal Code. As best as I can tell, Parker’s only valid objection is the labelling of the crime. This is hardly something that supports an assertion that in “injustice” has been done.
  2. The facts known to police would support laying at least one charge of sexual assault, perhaps two, with a reasonable likelihood of conviction. If you don’t know what this evidence is, open your eyes and keep an open mind. “There are two sides to every story” is something we keep hearing in this case. The truth is somewhere in between the two sides — but not in the middle. That’s because some people simply don’t understand the laws concerning sexual consent in this country. This is the discussion we should be having. It is of monumental importance.
  3. Additionally, this information should have been used by police to elicit more evidence to support those charges, and perhaps others, but the police investigation was woefully inadequate and misdirected, according to Leah Parsons and Glen Canning. Their complaints have sufficient merit that it has prompted the province to hire Murray Segal, the former Deputy Attorney General and Chief Prosecutor of Ontario, to review the way the police and the Public Prosecution Service handled the case. Segal’s review is on hold, but will resume when these criminal proceedings conclude in January.
  4. Whatever legitimate concerns Parker might have about sexting being criminalized pale in comparison to the more pressing concerns this case is about: cyber-bullying, sexual consent, and suicide prevention. Furthermore, to bring them up in connection with this case and suggest that an injustice has been done against the boys is one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever seen an intelligent person write.
  5. The police, prosecutors and judiciary in this province do not do anything to “appease an enraged public and media.” They do their job and when they fail, they can enrage the public and media which prompts them to actually do their job. That is why we have freedom of the press, to hold our public officials accountable. We don’t have freedom of the press to conscript them into lynch mobs and that is certainly not what happened here. If the police and Crown laid a charge to appease an “enraged press and public,” it makes no sense that they would lay a charge that would automatically invoke a publication ban when another law, voyeurism, was available to them. A more likely motive for the “child porn” charge is that there would be a statutory publication ban – not one that would leave a judge with some discretion. This creates a disconnect from the court proceedings to the handling of the case between November 2011 and April 2013 – the handling that will be under review. The media and public would most certainly have preferred a voyeurism charge so that Rehtaeh Parsons’ name could be published without restriction.

Sometimes, being a contrarian is a good thing. We need contrarians because they challenge us to think and question the zeitgeist. However, this is a cautionary tale about how being a knee-jerk contrarian can put you far out on a ledge — in an untenable position maintained only by stubbornness, not reason.

In a parting cheap shot at journalists who are doing their job and ensuring that public officials are held accountable, Parker writes in his Facebook teaser for the blog post: “This is not the Nova Scotia news media’s finest hour” and refers to some as “journocutors.”

Not our finest hour? Parker, none of us claims to be as perfect as you, but at least we are not creating a distraction from the more important discussions that actually pertain to this case.

If there is fault here, it is with you for creating this attention-seeking distraction. Most importantly, though, the fault lies with the public institutions that failed Rehtaeh Parsons, and not with the media and the public that is seeking justice.

Now, let’s get back to our more important discussions.

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The Story of Rosalie Trombley

Rosalie Trombley was the influential music director of CKLW from 1968 to 1984.

Rosalie Trombley was the influential music director of CKLW from 1968 to 1984.

Rosalie Trombley’s life is a quintessentially Canadian story.

Why? Because her modesty and desire for privacy have largely kept her story out of the limelight. Some people know about her because it’s tough to keep a story like hers in a can forever. It’s disappointing how some people get fame for doing little or nothing yet someone like Rosalie Trombley, who deserves fame, accolades, and respect, remain largely unknown.

She was a single mom of three who started working at CKLW in Windsor, Ont. Nicknamed The Girl With the Golden Ear, she demonstrated an ability to pick songs that would become hits. She started using that talent at CKLW and soon, the fourth-most listened to station in North America (yes, it trailed only radio stations in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago) became a trend-setter.

Record company executives and musicians would visit her office on Thursdays and try to convince her to play their record. If she liked it, and played it, it became a hit. She was bold, bucked conventional wisdom, worked hard researching what her listeners wanted, and never compromised her principles.

In the male-dominated world of commercial radio, Rosalie Trombley of Leamington, Ont., became one of the most influential people on the North American music scene during her tenure as CKLW’s music director from 1968 to 1984.

With a 50,000 watt transmission tower, CKLW reached into as many as 30 states in the U.S. and wielded more influence than the CBC could ever dream of. Her unique view of music, and a willingness to play all kinds of music — including R&B and soul — recognized that music has a unifying force on people and provides people with something to share. Not only did CKLW do this without a dime of taxpayers’ money, it faced the constant badgering and red tape from the CRTC, which failed to recognize what CKLW had accomplished and could only think of rules and regulations for it to follow.

Rosalie Trombley’s story is an inspiration for women, for people who start from humble beginnings, and for people who dare to do things differently. Tony Orlando once said there should be a movie about her life. The first draft of the script has been written and it will be read tonight.

W.P. Kinsella’s guide to writing fiction

My favourite author reads from his novel Box Socials.

My favourite author reads from his novel, Box Socials.

I was thumbing through my old copy of Thrill of the Grass, a collection of short stories by W.P. Kinsella, and was struck by a sentiment that echoes something I said to a friend over coffee: fiction should entertain the reader. A corollary to this credo is that non-fiction should inform the reader and any writing that can accomplish both at the same time deserves a doff of the cap.

In the introduction to Thrill of the Grass, Kinsella writes:

“The storyteller’s craft evolves from the time when the tribe sat around the campfire in the evening and someone decided he wanted to brag about his hunting exploits. “Listen to me!” he said. “I want to tell you a story.

If that story was not colourful and entertaining, the audience very soon disappeared. As it should be. A writer’s first duty is to entertain. If something profound, symbolic, or philosophical can be slipped in, along with the entertainment, so much the better. But if the element of entertainment is not there, the writing becomes treatise, essay or autobiography, and the writer has no right to call it fiction. Ultimately, a fiction writer can be anything except boring.”

This is a great touchstone for a writer. Kinsella wrote this way and that’s perhaps why I enjoy his writing — although the subject matter helped as he often wrote about baseball.

Much fiction fails, Kinsella said, because it is too autobiographical and the lives of 90 per cent of the population are so dull, nobody could stand to read about them. The other 10 per cent live such absurd lives that they are unbelievable. The challenge is to create a perfect mix of the believable and the absurd as well as a perfect mix of reality and imagination.

Barbara Amiel column an embarrassment to journalism

In modern parlance, Barbara Amiel is a troll. Fear not, I am not making an ad hominem — she does not look like one of Tolkien’s trolls — but her latest column in Maclean’s is the latest in a litany of off-the-cuff scribbles penned merely to elicit shock from those who can stomach her prose.

Titled Landmines in Our Sexual Landscape, the column is a vain attempt to prove that you can shine shit, but she fails in that regard. If she continues to write columns for Maclean’s — and I predict she will — it’s proof that the well-connected Amiel can write whatever the hell she wants just to get a reaction. Not only are her comments insensitive to the victims of sexual assault, child pornography and sexual harassment, they reek of a juvenile attempt to poke a stick at what she perceives to be a hypocritical zeitgeist. If she thinks that we need to have a “Come to Jesus” debate and reconcile state-funded abortions with modern society’s so-called heavy hand on rape, child porn and groping, she would be better served if she didn’t belittle the victims of those three crimes.

Freedom of speech and freedom of the press are protected in the Constitution, but in availing oneself of these rights, one must endeavour to use them responsibly. Barbara Amiel has been given a tremendous privilege to write for a national magazine and by writing as she does, she is squandering that privilege by trying to spark reactions, rather than encourage debate or enlighten a discussion.

Sage advice from Henry Ford

One of things I’ve never enjoyed doing as an employee was promoting myself; and because I didn’t enjoy doing it, I was never very good at it.

Now that I am in business for myself, I have no choice. Some say nothing concentrates the mind like a deadline, but making the mortgage payment and feeding six kids sure does. Trust me, I’ve faced both challenges.

As much as I enjoy the freedom of being my own boss, I have had to learn to continuously promote myself to generate cash flow. This blog is part of that and I’m always looking for opportunities to get my name out there, sometimes for free, and sometimes for a fee; it’s just something that I have to do now.

As Henry Ford once told his dealers, the secret to success is thus:

Early to bed, early to rise, work like hell and advertise.

That quote has since been attributed to Ted Turner and Peter J. Laurence, and some internet sites will tell you they coined the phrase. However, as a wise man named Abraham Lincoln once said:

The trouble with quotes on the internet is you never know if they are genuine.

How can we be sure, then, that Ford coined the phrase in the first place? Well, a reference to a printed source always helps. See here.

Regardless of who said it, though, it’s good advice.