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“OK, we know you have tweets in there! We’re coming in…”

“OK, we know you have tweets in there! We’re coming in…”

This story is obviously trivial, because the news media doesn’t think it’s worth getting upset about. After all, it doesn’t involve race:

“PEORIA — Police searched a West Bluff house Tuesday and seized phones and computers in an effort to unmask the author of a parody Twitter account that purported to be Mayor Jim Ardis. The account — known as @Peoriamayor on the popular social media service that limits entries to 140 characters — already had been suspended for several weeks when up to seven plainclothes police officers executed a search warrant about 5:20 p.m. at 1220 N. University St. Three people at the home were taken to the Peoria Police Department for questioning. Two other residents were picked up at their places of employment and taken to the station, as well. One resident — 36-year-old Jacob L. Elliott — was booked into the Peoria County Jail on charges of possessing 30 to 500 grams of marijuana and possessing drug paraphernalia, but no arrests were made in connection with the Twitter account.”

The Twitter account was obviously a parody, if not an especially deft or clever one. After all, one would have to be a hopeless doofus, and an unusually dim one at that, to believe that the mayor of any city, even Toronto’s ridiculous Rob Ford, would happily tweet about his own drug use, crimes and corruption like the Twitter avatar of the Peoria mayor did.

Yet here was Mayor Ardis’s justification to reporters for his jaw-dropping abuse of power:

“I still maintain my right to protect my identity is my right. Are there no boundaries on what you can say, when you can say it, who you can say it to? You can’t say (those tweets) on behalf of me. That’s my problem. This guy took away my freedom of speech.”

Uh-huh. Show me a how “this guy” broke any law that justifies a police raid, you unbelievably arrogant, incompetent fascist.

Some observations:

1. I will be stunned if the marijuana charge stands up in court. Where was the crime that justified the police being there at all? The search warrant was improperly obtained and issued. If this isn’t the Fruit of the Poisonous Tree, I don’t know what is. Fruit of the Stupid Tree, maybe.

2. This is an egregious abuse of power by a mayor using his city’s police department to harass and punish a jester and a critic, chilling dissent and free speech in the process. Ardis should, indeed must, be impeached. He is using the police department as a personal Praetorian Guard. If the people of Peoria put up with this, they don’t deserve to live in a democracy. Ardis’s party (I think he’s a Republican) and everyone connected with his administration should push him to step down.

3. Peoria Police Chief Steve Settingsgaard should also be removed. A competent and honest police chief, say, Tom Selleck, would have laughed in the mayor’s face when ordered to make such a search. This one is “investigating” whether the Twitter account was a serious effort to falsely  impersonate a public official, which is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $2,500 and up to a year in jail. This theory makes as much sense as charging a teen with terrorism threats for making an obvious joke on Facebook, or arresting a teenage girl because she posted a cruel comment about another teen’s suicide. Maybe less. A mayor would have to be a clinical moron to publicly tweet about…oh, right. Ardis just proved that he is a moron, didn’t he? But his mental incapacity isn’t the primary problem. His abuse of power is. That is unconscionable.

4. All the accounts I’ve read on this episode seem to think it’s funny. The Streisand Effect, you know: now Ardis is the target of lots of fake Twitter sites. Ha ha. I guess that will teach him! A city mayor just used the police to punish and intimidate a citizen that at worst incurred a civil offense (though I doubt it) and was probably just exercising his rights of free speech. That’s not funny, that’s scary, and the fact that Ardis may well be brain-damaged isn’t funny either—it is like having a city run by a chimp. It shouldn’t happen. The man needs to be removed, not mocked.

5. I’ll go further:

In a saner, more clear-eyed nation…not race-obsessed and crippled with political correctness, where Wise Latina Supreme Court Justices don’t lecture us about how it it is racist to allow the public to declare its disapproval of racial bias, a nation that doesn’t make critical decisions that influence the culture based on fear, over-heated rhetoric and hysteria, it would be crystal clear that a city mayor siccing his blue shirts on an innocent citizen whose “crime” was to tweet messages the mayor objects to is a far greater offense, with far more ominous implications for our society, than an old billionaire making racially objectionable statements in a private argument with his half-black mistress that she then leaks to the world to get even with his wife for suing her for embezzlement. 

There really is no comparison. L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling said something offensive; what he had done was provide lucrative employment for the very same people he derided in private, and behaved sufficiently well that the local NAACP was prepared to make him its Man of the Year. Never mind: he has been banned from his sport, declared a cultural criminal coast to coast, and fined 2.5 million dollars. Jim Ardis, in contrast, used the powers of his high elective office like a dictator, and sent police to disrupt the life of social media critic, in violation of core Constitutional and American principles. Which of the two did the President of the United States deem sufficiently important to condemn—the citizen who uttered offensive words, or the public official who abused the power of government to punish a citizen for offending him? Which is the headline story, and which is shrugged off as just the wacky antics of an eccentric?

The foolish old man who spoke ugly thoughts has lost his position. The petty tyrant who crushed a citizen’s right to speak still is in his, and not only that, nobody seems to care.

The priority of values in the United States has never been more distorted, absurd, self-destructive or frightening.

Pointer: Windy City Pundit

Facts: Journal Star

Sources: Washington Post, Vice, Reason