In 2009, Jillian Mullowney lost her father in the Cougar Flight 491 helicopter crash.
“To say that the last 11 years have been a struggle would be a massive understatement,” she wrote to the Independent. “The constant media attention and scrutiny, calls to my workplace, school, and home, knocks on my front door, and media/social media reports for years culminated in my being diagnosed with PTSD. Turning off the TV or blocking people on [social media] wasn’t possible—it was everywhere.”
During the Transportation Safety Board inquiry and the Wells inquiry, the black box recording from her father’s fatal accident was made public. (Because it is owned by the government, it is accessible through the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act.)
“One media outlet played it on the radio (thanks!) and ‘@donnydooley’ recorded it and uploaded it to Soundcloud. He tweeted the link whenever he thought it was relevant or funny.”
Since Mullowney went public last week about the recording as part of the Independent’s investigation into the Donny Dooley account, the recording has been taken offline. It remains publicly available upon request through access to information requests—but there is a process to go through to get it. (“It’s not the kind of thing that you should be able to just download because you’re bored on a Wednesday night,” she added.)
“This isn’t about me being a special snowflake,” Mullowney concluded. “This is about the kind of person who would record a broadcast of the last moments of the lives of 17 people, and upload it for people to listen to. To quote it in tweets, making glib comments about life offshore. To mock family members for gathering at Cougar—which, incidentally, is the last place I saw my father and his friends alive.”
“It’s about being the kind of person who jokes that parents who lost their child on Christmas day can return his Christmas presents for a refund.”
Rod Lyver, a businessman and longtime volunteer, had a similar experience with the Dooley account.
“25 years ago, my wife went to the hospital in Corner Brook to give birth to my daughter Doreen,” he told the Independent. “Our baby never came home. We were flown to CHEO [Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario] in Ottawa, where Doreen Elizabeth Lyver died in our arms. Even now, it’s hard to talk about this.”
Before they left the hospital in Newfoundland, Lyver was horrified to discover that some basic equipment was either in disrepair or unavailable altogether—including a baby stethoscope, valued at about $40. Since the experience with his daughter, he has devoted himself whenever possible to raising money through The Neonatal Fundraiser. “All funds go directly to the nurses in neonatal care, as they know what has fallen through the cracks.”
One day after making a public appeal for the charity through media, Lyver saw a tweet from Dooley suggesting the charity was a naked case of fraud and questioning whether his child had ever existed at all. Those tweets were quietly deleted, so Lyver blocked the Dooley account and moved on. But that only encouraged the troll to ramp up his personal attacks on a man clearly attempting to disengage.
Another woman (who asked not to be named) contacted us about her experience with the Dooley account.
“In 2013 my husband had a motorcycle accident. It was bad,” she wrote to the Independent. “We didn’t know if he would make it, and he is paralyzed from the waist down. I got to the Health Sciences shortly after his ambulance and I was put in a small waiting room in the ER as they were working to stabilize [my husband]. It’s the kind of place with nice couches and soft light where the doctors come to tell you bad news. At that point I was kind of frantic and I didn’t know what was happening with my husband, so I alternated between pacing around and aimlessly scrolling through social media. That’s when I saw the tweet.”
“Donny Dooley was mocking the person I love most in the world, who at that same moment was fighting for his life. I saw this and it was heartbreaking—for an awful lot of reasons I can’t effectively articulate. I showed it to the therapist who was helping me to work through some of the post traumatic stress symptoms I was experiencing in the aftermath and she, comfortingly, got mad right along with me.”
These dealings with Newfoundland and Labrador’s most malicious Twitter troll are shocking—and far from an isolated incident. When the Independent put out a call for ‘victim impact statements’ related to the last decade of Donny Dooley’s online activity, we were flooded with similar stories.
Over the last eight years, this anonymous account has gradually escalated from an aspiring online shock jock into a truly monstrous and malicious persona. The user openly terrorized the most vulnerable people in his community, often weaponizing their own traumas against them at the lowest moments of their lives, for no apparent reason beyond a sadistic personal pleasure.
And now, after a thorough investigation across the Newfoundland and Labrador internet—and through our nation’s heart of darkness—the Independent is able to publish the true identity behind the “Donny Dooley” Twitter account. In the end, he was much less in reality than what he pretended to be online. He was not a monster. He was just a man.
But first: you need the backstory.
‘A Clear Escalation’
“Back in the early days of Twitter, [Donny Dooley] was known to ridicule poor driving skills and seemed to make your stereotypical ‘Newfie jokes’ that had been commonplace since the days books of them could be found on store shelves,” Dwan Street, a longtime feminist activist familiar with the account, told the Independent. “But over the past few years, the account has become nothing but a reflection of hate, bigotry, misogyny, harassment, and ridicule. The account user clearly preyed on vulnerable people and fed off of any sign of grief, hurt or anguish.”
“I have friends who lost parents and had their accident photos smeared across Twitter with some cruel jokes,” she continued. “There have been jokes about dead children. I know someone who lost a brother suddenly, and whose elderly mother came across the commentary spewed by the Dooley account about his death. He had to listen to his heartbroken, elderly mother hurting ten times worse because of it.”
Women in particular received the brunt of Dooley’s ire.
“Women were targeted,” Street explained. “Their every move broadcasted, pictures posted and ridiculed. God forbid a woman speak her heart and be hurting—this would always set off a session of ridiculing mental illness, grief and hurt. Some women had their locations posted.”
“I know so many folks who have shared stories of abuse, death, grief, infertility, the list goes on, only to be ridiculed; others have been slandered and accused of behaviours that are demonstrably false, yet are thrown out there carelessly, attached to their names and faces. Those who were at their lowest were often targeted the worst. A person who feeds off hurt and misfortune that way needs some serious help.”
“While it is easy to say ‘block and ignore,’ there comes a point when we must realize women die at the hands of those who perpetuate these types of behaviours,” Street noted. “When someone is obsessed with your every word and move, including your location, a fear builds. No woman should be stalked on the internet by a stranger. Blocking and ignoring are pointless when the user clearly spends every waking moment following and monitoring accounts that have already blocked him.”
“What is stopping the user from escalating further?” Street finished. “We have already seen a clear escalation from what was once perceived as ‘gallows humour’ to straightforward hate and obsession. A lot of people have been harassed, belittled and tormented by the user behind this account.”
“No matter what happens to the user it will never equal the hurt and anguish they dished out on others.”
The Most Wanted Man in Town
Newfoundland and Labrador is a small province with a big geography. Mass media has always maintained an outsized significance in the history of the community as a means of keeping us connected. Call-in radio for many decades served as a kind of public forum for the province’s far-flung citizens, and VOCM’s ‘Open Line’ weekday morning show still functions as a virtual town hall to this day. The radical simplicity, accessibility, and seeming egalitarianism of Twitter—and its heavy concentration of journalists, politicians, activists, and other public figures—has seen the app become a disproportionately powerful cultural force in local life.
It was this disproportionate cultural power that Donny Dooley was able to weaponize so successfully in digital spaces. It also ensured that as his online influence grew, so did his significance to offline social life. A 372-page ATIPP document released by the City of St. John’s in February 2019 testifies to the growing concern about the Twitter account across the wider community.
The documents reveal the capital city has been fielding complaints about (and from) the Dooley account dating back to 2015. They began with annoyance about obnoxious—if ultimately innocuous—Twitter posts from Dooley blasting the city over smells from the Robin Hood Bay dump or roasting employees for their parking jobs.
(“There is that pic again. Yes very aware of this one,” wrote an exasperated Roger Motty, Regional Newfoundland Manager of Safety First-SFC Ltd., in one March 2017 email to Traffic Analysis Supervisor Stephen Fagan. “It came to our attention Friday, sent to our Facebook. It was addressed and thought put to bed. [On] further inspection, there does not appear to be a handicap area where the truck is parked, and the load is secured [by tie-down ratchet straps] tight to the box-side walls. The angle parking is incorrect… [and] the driver has been counselled accordingly. However I guess the originator of the photo wanted more attention and sent it to this Donny Dooley guy, NL Traffic’s local yokel, a type of commentary that reminds me of the high school peanut gallery. Sure enough he made his own take on it.”)
But as the ugliness voiced by the Dooley account grew, so did the level of concern at City Hall.
“Good morning all,” begins a November 2017 email from Deputy Mayor Sheilagh O’Leary to the rest of the city council. “For those of you unaware, the Donny Dooley [Twitter account], which has some quite astounding degree of popularity has been an ongoing source of hate speech for some time.”
“[Redacted] has asked that I consult with city staff and council members to see if they follow his account, as one former councillor, one MP and several MHAs have been following him. [Redacted] is reaching out to these public officials and is asking the public to block and report the account.”
“If he has not already come at some of you, he likely will,” responded Ward 3 Councillor Jamie Korab. “He’s tweeted at me a few times in the past. Just ignore and block!”
“I have had him blocked and unfollowed since 2014,” added Mayor Danny Breen. This chain of emails was then circulated to other municipal staffers.
Much of the ATIPP file simply lists media (and social media) headlines forwarded to city staff. Most often these just happen to pick up someone tagging the “@donnydooley” username on the NLTraffic hashtag. But a March 2018 email from NTV reporter Heather Gillis contained in the document revealed that the investigation into the user’s true identity had extended far beyond Twitter.
“Apparently Donny Dooley—the Twitter troll—has been outed as [redacted] and allegedly works at [redacted] fire department,” Gillis wrote to Kelly Maguire, City of St. John’s Communications Officer. “Someone tagged Sheilagh O’Leary in the tweet—she said she’d follow up with city staff. Can you confirm?”
“Hi Heather,” Maguire wrote back about two hours later. “The city cannot confirm who owns that social media account.”
Where There’s Smoke, It’s Not Always Fire
The redacted name in Gillis’ email is almost certainly “Peter Noseworthy,” a name which has floated for years on Twitter as the rumoured ‘real’ identity of Donny Dooley. The primary evidence to support this was tenuous at best. In 2013, an account named “Peter Noseworthy” replied in a Dooley thread using Dooley’s distinct online “voice” before quickly deleting and deactivating.
This digital equivalent of a Freudian slip wasn’t much. But in the absence of other answers and few other hints to follow, the rumour’s ubiquity became its own kind of legitimacy. The Dooley account itself would also react strangely sensitively when confronted with the accusation, though in retrospect this now appears as a particularly clever part of the ruse.
The name and associated photo on the “Peter Noseworthy” account lead back to a Facebook profile of the same name which alluded to work as a firefighter. This played to another popular rumour about the Donny Dooley account: that its owner worked in or around emergency services, either as a dispatcher or first responder. Dooley often posted unique photos of accident scenes well before public officials or media outlets, and on occasion tweeted things that only people especially familiar with emergency services could reasonably be expected to know.
Other times, he would just outright claim to be a first responder.
(Having cleared his name from association with the Donny Dooley account, the Independent reached out to Peter Noseworthy on Facebook to share news of his vindication and ask for comment on this story. As of publication, we have not received a response.)
As public irritation with the account grew—and rumours about its association with emergency services spread—the question of the user’s identity eventually wound its way up the chain of command at the St. John’s Regional Fire Department.
“Does anybody have any information on any history of ‘Donny Dooley’ and any social media involvement of this person? I vaguely remember something about this but not enough to comment,” wrote Fire Chief Sherry Colford in a February 2019 email to her colleagues.
“Asked [Fire Prevention Officer] Mike Maher if they knew anything from [a] Fire Prevention perspective,” replied then-Deputy Chief Robert Fowler. “Nothing here!!!”
“[Donny Dooley] has been problematic… commenting on issues, causing issues,” current Deputy Chief Ray Mackey told the Independent. “This is an individual who gets his kicks from creating havoc and causing problems.”
“He is on our radar, and we’ve checked around,” Mackey continued. “We have devoted some resources with him, and he’s on the city’s radar as well. It’s fair to say he is under investigation through different agents that we are in contact with as well.”
“He is not affiliated with us. But right now, free speech rules and he is allowed to make whatever comments he makes. Our premise is to ignore.”
‘Free Expression’ is a Shield, Not a Sword
“Freedom of speech, as it’s known colloquially—more accurately, freedom of expression—is commonly mistaken as a sword you can use to spew reprehensible commentary,” Danielle Somerton, a lawyer with Benson Buffett, told the Independent. “But actually, the freedom protected in the Charter of Rights of Freedoms is a shield meant to protect people from persecution by the government for searching for truth through open communication. It doesn’t apply to communications between private entities, and it’s not necessarily required to be upheld by social media programmers and enforcers.”
“Freedom of expression is not unlimited,” she continued. “There are limits on freedom of expression, including obscenity, harassment, hate speech, and defamatory statements. Engaging in speech that extends beyond those reasonable limits has a combination of criminal and civil law ramifications.”
“It is also worth mentioning that freedom of expression is not a protection to anonymous speech—in fact, it is quite the opposite. Our freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression is meant to provide people the shelter to communicate as themselves freely without fear of persecution—within boundaries.”
Asked whether Dooley is entitled to continue his activities under the guise of freedom of expression, or whether individual tweets exceeded the limitations of that freedom, Somerton suggests this is not the crux of the live conversation—unless one is seeking criminal repercussions for Dooley’s activity.
“More interesting is the intersection of what people think might be protected as their absolute freedom with civil liability for what they have said,” she noted. “Defamatory statements are not protected through ‘freedom of expression,’ and are indeed the subject of many civil lawsuits.”
“If I were Dooley,” Somerton concluded, “I would be less concerned about pushing the boundaries of my freedom and more concerned with how I’ve pushed the limits of my victims’ tolerance and what civil remedies they might have.”
The legal role and responsibility of social media platform operators in protecting users from harassment is a rapidly evolving area of law. Platforms such as Twitter and Facebook have policies dedicated to regulating harmful posts, but these can be difficult to enforce and the line between fair and offensive expression is rarely clear. How this develops is something to watch in the years to come.
It Takes a Village
Telegram reporter Tara Bradbury is intimately familiar with the difference between ‘free expression’ and online harassment.
When she tried to write a straightforward story in 2016 about FemFest NL—a festival/conference hosted by women, for women, to discuss women’s issues—she was inundated with a flood of abusive and sexist commentary.
“If you go back to my tweets from August 2016, a lot of the [vitriol] I received for that column would still be there,” Bradbury told the Independent. “Most of them came from outside the province, particularly from the United States—an alt-right website had gotten a hold of the article and posted about it. A lot of it wasn’t from here. But most of it was under fake names, which says a lot.”
“It can be brutal,” she added. “It can be absolutely horrible. You might not think that an anonymous person could make you feel so shit, but it was not cool.”
One of the anonymous trolls in her mentions was Donny Dooley. In response to the FemFest article, he asked Bradbury: “do I need to know witchcraft to attend?”
“I first came across [Donny Dooley] on Twitter years ago first when it started,” Bradbury explained. “I even followed him, because at that point he was actually pretty clever. He said a few kind of shocking things, but it was almost satirical. He made a lot of good points. I did have some private conversations with the person—without knowing his real name—and he was alright in the beginning. But then it just… devolved into something totally focused on women.”
“At that point I unfollowed and muted him. And then when I wrote that column about the blowback I faced, I put that comment in the column, and he wasn’t happy,” she laughed. “He didn’t like the fact that I called him a troll, which was interesting.”
Bradbury emphasized that the problem is not online anonymity, but what people do with it.
“I am all for anonymous accounts,” she explained. “I see why somebody would want an anonymous account, and it’s great that people can do that and express opinions without fear. Not everybody works in a place where they can do that or feels they have that freedom. But when you’re going to make a fake account and then use it to belittle people just for entertainment and not make a valid point, then I don’t think you deserve the right to say those things and be protected. It doesn’t give you the right to spread hate or hurt people.”
“Use your real name. Stand by it if that’s what you’re going to say.”
When asked if there was still a hostile online environment for women in public, Bradbury conceded that the problem has not improved since she first wrote about it several years ago.
“Absolutely there is,” she replied. “Absolutely there is. It’s really unfortunate. But you certainly need to be a little more careful about what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it.” But she added that many things on the internet are not what they appear to be at face value.
“Now—does the Donny Dooley account really believe every horrible thing he says? Maybe not! Maybe it’s just an attention thing. He did get a lot of attention.”
“But even if that’s the case,” she concluded, “people are liking his stuff and agreeing with him. And some of them do use their real names.”
Even for those who don’t want to reveal their identity, preserving anonymity online in a painfully small province is no easy task.
Which brings us to the events of January 2020, and the final unmasking of Donny Dooley.
Donny Dooley Faces the Music
Some time ago, we received an anonymous tip linking the “Donny Dooley” name to a series of old posts at groups.google.com.
To make a long story about internet history short: in the 1980s and 1990s, much public discussion on the early internet took place across different Usenet groups (alt.whatever, rec.whatever, comp.whatever, news.whatever, and so on). So for example, you might have alt.personals.latex or comp.linux.slackware or whatever other niche interest you wanted to talk about online. Google currently presides over these archives of early internet history, with questionable results for anyone interested in preserving them.
This archive exists because Internet Service Providers would download and store copies of the posts from these Usenet groups and provide them to their clients to use, as well as uploading their clients’ posts to the wider network.
Eventually, an ISP in this province decided to create and maintain a bunch of nf.* groups. One of these includes nf.general, a sort of proto-Twitter where people snooped on each other and shared gossip. (The archive where we tracked down “Donny Dooley” was nf.wanted, a popular board for classified ads.) This is not the kind of archive that would interest many people outside the province, but there were always servers out there thirsty enough to subscribe to all the groups they could find. After a while, Deja News came across it, and eventually Google rescued the Deja News archive.
All this is to say: the posts of the early Newf internet are preserved forever (-ish) in searchable digital amber.
We searched the nf.wanted group for “Donny Dooley” and in the search results, found a 2007 thread listing a one bedroom apartment for rent in the East End. Seller “Spook” identified himself as Donny and provided a phone number in the first post, and then as “Donny Dooley” further down the thread. Quoted replies to the posts showed Spook’s email address as a truncated “donnydoo…@hotmail.com.”
Next, we searched nf.wanted for the phone number from the above Donny Dooley post.
Among many other search results, we found a 2006 thread titled “Shonen Jump Magazines (NLClassifieds.com),” where seller Donny listed his email address as “donnydooleyN…@hotmail.com [remove NLCLASSIFIEDS before replying]” alongside a new phone number.
Googling this phone number showed it belonging to a man named Chris Pretty.
Googling <“Chris Pretty” Newfoundland> returned a result from spacew.com displaying a number of night sky photos and two email addresses using the nickname “Mr. Music.” Between this photo gallery, a series of tweets the Donny Dooley account made between 2009-2014, and a now-deleted (but archived) Flickr account associated with the Dooley name, we linked two Canon camera models (a Canon A40 and a Canon EOS) to both Chris Pretty and Donny Dooley. As you can see, both were taking pictures of the same niche astronomical interests (captioned in the same style), with the same cameras, around the same points in time. (Both also seem to have a strong preference for the same very distinct font.)
Googling one of the Mr. Music email addresses returned a Facebook page called Mr. Music DJ & Karaoke Services. This Facebook account regularly published a work schedule, and there is a clear correlation between Dooley’s tweeting schedule and when Mr. Music appeared to be working events—Dooley would tweet often up to the minute Mr. Music would start working, fall silent, and then resume around the time the DJ sets would end. (The Mr. Music DJ & Karaoke Services page on Facebook was removed altogether as our investigation advanced. This will be discussed below.)
The Mr. Music timeline photos contained a selfie of two men in a car, dated to 2001. The caption identifies the men as the “Davis Brothers.” We confirmed through one of Mr. Music’s associates in the wedding industry that “Chris Pretty” and “Chris Davis” are indeed the same person.
This led us to more photos, hosted by a Facebook page associated with the Stanley Steamer Pub.
From the Stanley Steamer photos, Chris Pretty (a.k.a. Chris Davis, a.k.a. Mr. Music, a.k.a. Pretty Pictures, a.k.a. Donny Dooley) was identified by another associate familiar with both Chris Pretty the man and his “work” as the Dooley account. (In the process of documenting all this, we learned that in 2007 Mr. Music worked music at the wedding of a friend, who was able to find photos of him in their wedding album.)
Searching Facebook for Chris Davis returned a profile “Chris Davis (Mr Music)” with the same profile picture as the Mr Music DJ page. We found this account in early January and documented it thoroughly.
Once we had collected everything we needed, I signaled to the Dooley account on Twitter that I knew his real identity.
The signal appeared to work: it allowed us to collect screenshots showing the Mr. Music business profile had been locked down and purged the following day.
Following the “pretty … music” tweet on 5 January 2020, the @donnydooley account fell silent for several days. The reason for this is unclear. But when it resumed posting on 10 January 2020, the user was seething. He compared himself to the resurrected Christ and promised to reveal the hidden sins of his persecutors. (In my case, this apparently meant a malicious disclosure of my bisexuality coupled with calling me a fag.)
He also claimed I had confronted him with an attempt at blackmail which he had refused. In reality, my only contact with the user up to that point were my public tweets at the account. It wasn’t until after his homophobic outburst on 11 January that I sent a formal email (approximately 11:30 PM local time) to both the Donny Dooley and Mr. Music email addresses laying out the evidence we had for his identity as Chris Pretty.
The email also contained the following request:
“I want to suggest a strategy of de-escalation that I hope will satisfy all parties. To be clear: we are not interested in financial compensation or anything of that nature. We are simply looking to stop what many people consider the abusive behaviour associated with the Donny Dooley account and the hostile public environment it creates. … [A]s I have stated very clearly and publicly, we would be more than happy to come to an arrangement where your personal privacy is maintained as long as the abusive behaviour stops. To this end, I would like to request a face-to-face meeting in a discreet but public location where we can discuss this situation like adults and come to a mutually beneficial agreement for all parties. As indicated publicly, we would be happy with a resolution that upholds the anonymity that you have worked very hard to establish.”
We never received a response to this letter. When I woke up near dawn the following day, the @donnydooley account had been deleted overnight. It was clear that a message had been delivered. Newfoundland and Labrador’s most abusive social media account was gone, and everyone online breathed a sigh of relief.
But simply deleting the account was not the arrangement I was proposing. I wanted an apology: not personally but for everyone the man had hurt. I wanted it pinned to his Twitter profile long enough for people to see it, and I wanted some sort of guarantee that he wouldn’t just lay low for awhile and go back to his old ways when the heat died down. I wanted to read him the victim impact statements I was sent, so I could tell the people who shared their stories with me that if nothing else this man would at least hear directly about how much he hurt other human beings.
More than anything, I simply wanted to look him in the face and ask: why?
Why did you do this to people? What did you get out of it? How did a man who joined Twitter in 2009 to share his earnest amateur astronomy photos become such an unrepentant, hate-filled bastard? Why are you like this? What happened to you?
The Mask We Wear Becomes Our Face
I have reconciled myself to the reality that I am unlikely to ever ask these questions—and even if I could, he is unlikely ever to answer. Perhaps he does not know himself why things have turned out this way. As Thomas Hobbes once bitterly observed, “Hell is truth seen too late.” Our egos spin us stories—fantasies, fables, lies—about ourselves as a byproduct of living in our bodies and surviving in the world. But when disconnected from that body or the flesh and blood human beings surrounding us, reduced to the torrent of dopamine unleashed by smashing that “send tweet” button, the ego can hyperinflate and explode like a spectacular supernova. Or it collapses inwards under its own impenetrable gravity like an irresistible black hole. I truly do not know what made Chris Pretty into Donny Dooley, and I have accepted that I never will.
After several days had passed without a response to my first email, I sent Pretty a final request for comment on 15 January. I reiterated that my request for a meeting still stands, and I told him what this story would contain should he again refuse my offer. Should he fail to respond by 5:00 PM the following day, I would interpret that as a refusal to lend his voice and perspective to this report and never bother him again.
“I am looking forward to putting all of this behind us,” I wrote him. He never wrote back—instead he deleted his business’ Facebook page; hence this story now before you—but on that final point at least, I am sure both Donny and I agree.
I am under no illusion that this in any way “solves” the problem of online abuse and harassment. I have faced enough of it over the course of my life to know human hatred is like the Hydra; you can cut off as many heads as you like but more will always grow back—and its razor teeth and bloody hunger never once lose their edge.
But Newfoundland and Labrador is a small and very close-knit community. There may be no way to directly push back the tide of ignorance, but our bonds are strong enough that we can stand together at the very least against anonymous abuse. For better and for worse, Twitter functions as a valuable media utility here: while profoundly imperfect, it is one of the closest things we have to a truly open and equal public forum. This space is worth defending.
As a culture we value bloodsports: we love the Fighting Newfoundlander; we crave the clash of words and wit. But there is a vast difference between being a brash and provocative truthspeaker and being an asshole who deliberately hurts people while skulking in the dark like a snake. Donny Dooley and his extensive network of enablers pretended he was the former even as he obviously degenerated into the latter. This place is too small and too loving for anyone to think they can get away with that forever.
One final word about free speech. The term has been misappropriated by bad faith actors for bad faith reasons looking to push a social and political vision aimed at destroying truly radical thought, discussion, and action. This is a shame. As a (now openly) bisexual socialist managing a countercultural digital media outlet in the shame-based society of Newfoundland and Labrador, I am acutely aware that I live and die by my inalienable freedom of speech. It is one of the absolute foundations of everything that I believe is important.
But I am also acutely aware that free speech has consequences, and that running your mouth about hateful nonsense is neither a guarantee nor a virtue of that freedom. Others are equally free to speak and react to me as my words and actions may warrant. Chris Pretty is more than free to log into Twitter tomorrow and continue posting whatever he wants. But he has abused the privilege of anonymity, and so should learn how to carry the full weight of his words.
“The limits of my language,” wrote Ludwig Wittgenstein, “are the limits of my world.” This above all is why we should reach for kind and truthful words: so that we might perhaps come to live together in a more kind and truthful world.
EDIT—17 January 2020, 9:23 PM: An earlier version of this article suggested that a HAM radio was necessary to access emergency radio frequencies. This was incorrect; in reality, anyone with a basic scanner can access Fire Department, Ambulance, and RCMP East radio frequencies. The Independent regrets this error.
Art by Gord Little.
With files from: Sarah Brown, Alex Spracklin, and Jon Keefe.