Friday, June 13, 2014

Free speech is a terrible thing to waste

I suppose I’m supposed to be up in arms and united behind a lawsuit filed by a Peoria man whose attempt at political parody managed to tick off the local mayor to the point where he sicc’ed his police department on the guy.

Yet there’s just something about this whole affair about a man who created an account on Twitter that purported to be the personal thoughts and expression thereof of Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis that would make me feel absurd to be in support of it.

FOR IT SEEMS that rather than offering any serious criticism of the policies of Ardis, or any attempt at humor related to those, this account usually portrayed the mayor as a drug-using buffoon who said things that were not so much outrageous, but stupid.

To my mindset, the account @peoriamayor was solely about defamation of character, and could have been the subject of a lawsuit by Hizzoner against Jon Daniel.

Instead, Ardis seems to think he is King Louis XVI (or at least Mel Brooks’ interpretation of him in “History of the World, Part I). “It’s good to be the mayor,” it would seem went through Ardis’ mind.

Because the end result was that municipal officials investigated and used subpoena power to force officials to disclose who was the source behind @peoriamayor.

THEN, THE POLICE went in. A raid, that wound up getting national attention a few months ago for its comical nature. The house was trashed. Police really didn’t find anything related to the Twitter account.

Daniel wasn’t even home at the time. He told the Chicago Tribune that he eventually went to the Police Department in Peoria, admitted the Twitter account was his, but wound up being charged with nothing.

After all, it’s not a crime to write nonsense and gibberish. I’m sure some clowns out there would argue I do it here every day.

The only person who wound up getting arrested from this police effort to be the mayor’s thugs was a Daniel friend who happened to be at the house at the time. And he only got arrested because police found marijuana in his possession.

PEORIA POLICE GO through all this trouble to investigate dissent and all they get out of it is a cheap drug bust!

Yes, Peoria city officials in this case are worthy of some embarrassment. And the lawsuit they’re now facing from Daniel may well be justified.

Yet that doesn’t mean I’m all that enthused about having to take up his cause and claim he’s some great defender of free speech – even though it seems that he regards himself as such.

When the gag that keeps getting repeated over-and-over in news accounts is the line from the Twitter account that had the Ardis character saying he was going to snort lines of cocaine while atop the Peoria Civic Center, it makes me wonder about the overall level of the site.

FART JOKES AND doody (or do you call it poo?) get old after one surpasses the age of six. Was this a site for people who mentally and emotionally can’t get over that hump? Freedom of speech really is just like the United Negro College Fund and the mind. It’s a terrible thing to waste!

For all the rhetoric we’re getting about how Daniel and his efforts were part of a great effort toward freedom of expression, I wonder about a site that tried to deceive people to think they were hearing from the actual mayor. I’d hope anyone with intelligence realized it wasn’t. But you never know with some individuals.

One final point – the ACLU attorneys who are representing Daniel in this case are comparing him to Thomas Nast and Jon Stewart and claiming that @peoriamayor was just another step in the great history of political parody.

Nast is long gone, and you can’t libel the dead. But if I were in Stewart’s position and had someone like this comparing this trivial work to that of The Daily Show, I’d give serious thought to filing a lawsuit claiming defamation of character!


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