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Happenings in Washington are sometimes astounding and confusing. Other times what happens in our nation’s capitol is bordering on the hilarious.
This week something so ridiculous occurred it made me at once laugh and shake my head in befuddlement.
California Republican and former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Devin Nunes, filed a $250 million lawsuit against Twitter and three of its users, alleging that he was defamed. He also stated that Twitter engages in the “shadow-banning” of conservative opinions and selectively enforces its terms of service to benefit opponents of the Republican Party.
The 40-page lawsuit filed on Tuesday in the Virginia Circuit Court in Henrico County states Twitter sought to influence his 2018 reelection race and interfere with his investigation into Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and Russian involvement in the 2016 elections. Nunes, an ally of President Donald Trump and former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, filed the complaint Tuesday in Virginia state court, seeking $250 million in damages and $350,000 in punitive damages.
The California congressman accuses Twitter of allowing the users to spread “false and defamatory statements” about him, alleging that the company harbors a political agenda against conservatives.
The lawsuit states: “As part of its agenda to squelch Nunes’ voice, cause him extreme pain and suffering, influence the 2018 Congressional election, and distract, intimidate and interfere with Nunes’ investigation into corruption and Russian involvement in the 2016 Presidential Election, Twitter did absolutely nothing.”
Watching this news on Tuesday, brought a headshaking reaction of disbelief as the hypocrisy of this lawsuit is off the charts.
First because Nunes is one of the most staunch allies of the president, who daily uses Twitter to make false and inflammatory statements about anyone who opposes his will; uses the social media giant to insult, call names, degrade and defame anyone he doesn’t like; and tweets falsehoods that perpetuate hate and intolerance in this country and beyond.
Yet Nunes feels that he has been harmed by Twitter which has allowed two parody accounts, Devin Nunes’ Mom (@DevinNunesMom) and Devin Nunes’ Cow (@DevinCow), as a “concerted defamation campaign” to “cause immense pain.”
This writer certainly doesn’t know much about Twitter. Never used it, never read much except what comes out daily from the president, but this lawsuit sent me searching for these accounts. Reading some of what was posted brought guffaws and giggles. The tweets were humorous to say the least.
Of course, after the lawsuit was filed, followers of both accounts have increased dramatically.
One thing became abundantly clear in this scenario, like the president, Nunes is a thin-skinned individual.
For as long as this country has been in existence, criticism of politicians and other public figures has been a part of our history. Nasty wars of words have been part of the political game.
For example, in the 1796 contest, pitting President John Adams, a Federalist, against Thomas Jefferson a pamphlet “The Prospect Before Us,” written by a Jefferson backer described Adams as a “hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.”
The campaign of 1828 was very nasty, a campaign in which supporters of Andrew Jackson called John Quincy Adams a ‘pimp’ and supporters of Adams called Jackson and his wife ‘polygamists’ because they had married before her divorce was final.
These days one only has to watch political ads during tightly contested races to see truth doesn’t play a big role in the public arena of politics and name-calling is the norm.
Yet Nunes, who in February 2017, co-sponsored a bill called the, “Discouraging Frivolous Lawsuits Act,” has filed this lawsuit that according to legal experts, falls into that exact category.
Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, told the San Francisco Chronicle that it is allowed in this country to say nasty things about people.
“Nunes is not just a public figure, he’s a voluntary political public figure,” Levinson said.
She went on to say one of the country’s highest free speech values “is the right to criticize the government, and that includes government officials.”
Others in the legal realm have said the lawsuit has little chance of going anywhere, but Nunes said this is just the beginning and promises much more to come.
How much of what is written on Twitter is protected by the First Amendment? All of the above if the legal experts are right.
This far-fetched lawsuit not only shows that some politicians believe rules only apply to others, it also shows Nunes has sent out an invitation for others to continue expressing their “freedom of tweet.”
– Katie Zerr –