Jim Ardis, Mayor of Peoria, Uses The Police To Crush A Social Media Critic, But Never Mind, It’s Not Important Because He’s Not Racist

"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

 

30 Comments

Filed under Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Humor and Satire, Incompetent Elected Officials, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Race, Sports, The Internet, U.S. Society

30 responses to “Jim Ardis, Mayor of Peoria, Uses The Police To Crush A Social Media Critic, But Never Mind, It’s Not Important Because He’s Not Racist

  1. I love the smell of letting it burn at midnight!

  2. I did happen upon that story on the internet. It IS pretty chilling. It also illustrates one of the dangers of living in a metropolis, even a small one like Peoria. Unlike rural counties, police chiefs aren’t elected. They usually owe their jobs to the mayor. That usually follows as well for municipal judges. If a mayor has council backing in a “strong mayor” kind of charter, he can act like a little elected king if he wants to. Here in Houston, we have an elected queen who’s just as bad in her own way.

  3. Wasn’t there a saying, “But will it play in Peoria?”

  4. ByTheFarmstead

    I wonder, is the poisonous fruit concept holding as well as when we’ve become a hysteric society and people in any kind of power get delusions of godhood?

  5. So, I live in Peoria, IL.

    Lots of people don’t even know this happened, and of those who have even heard about it, only people under the age of 40 tend to be pissed about it.

    I don’t care how vile the account was, and I don’t care how bad it made Ardis feel – it doesn’t have to be good parody to be parody, and parody is absolutely, 100% protected speech. Especially when directed towards a public official.

    Who wants to guess which of the new parody accounts of the mayor is mine.? 🙂

    • Luke G

      Of course only younger people bother to be upset by it. The real adult grownups know that the Twitters aren’t REALLY speech, like when you write in to the newspaper, it’s just this punk kid bullshit.

    • Beth

      Isn’t it time you put your pitchforks and torches to good use? How far away are you from the Mayor’s house? Or is that pesky TRO still in place?

      • That you think there is a “T” is adorable…

        So, funny story… I was at the April 22nd City Council meeting, and as I say there, I get a DM to my Mayoral Parody account from the local paper’s reporter that covers the crime beat…

        If you’re in the back row, three different captains have been taking shifts looking over your shoulder.”

        My reaction was to thank him, and to then tweet a message to them.

        Oddly enough, they kinda stopped after that.

  6. Ardis seems to be working from the sociopath playbook, because now that he’s getting bad publicity for his abuse of power, he’s not hesitating to blame everyone else, including the prosecutor who got the warrant, the police who conducted the raid, and the media for slanting the story to make him look bad.

  7. Elizabeth I

    Watch out, Jack. Someone’s going to send a SWAT team to your house soon, Your no-holds-barred approach is probably being monitored by a number of people “in power,” as are most of the legal bloggers out there (most are law professors). Alert your lawyer…

    • zoebrain

      Such things have been known to happen,yes.

      2012 – In April-May a dispute among political bloggers resulted in 3-4 SWATing calls being made to dispatchers, sending police to several bloggers’ homes. As a result, U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss (Geo.) sent a letter (pdf) to the U.S. Attorney General asking for an investigation.

      http://www.911dispatch.com/swating-911-calls/

      The real danger is the number of Kooks out there, who give (usually anonymous but not always) tips to employers, police, immigration, the IRS, even psych hospitals.

      Yes, I speak from personal experience, there’s a particular miscreant, a lawyer (!) from upstate New York who combines this with legal threats. She’ always signs her name, her apostles/sockpuppets don’t. Action is being taken (complaint to the NY Bar Assocn), but the law has yet to catch up here, especially when it comes to situations crossing state lines.

      I’d classify the Peoria mayor as a Kook with power.

  8. Luke G

    I’d lay money on the drug charges standing up- the argument will be made that it was a “good faith” search. After all, the very same police who are considered razor-sharp trained observers with near-eidetic memories when they testify, are also to be considered painfully stupid and totally unable to do anything but follow the instruction that a bad man lives behind that door. Besides, drugs are bad, mmkay, so the fact that he had them means he reall IS a bad man, after all, even if the mayor was having a little hissy fit.

    Also, at what point did it become anything but buffoonery to simply assert “I maintain that X is my right” and actually believe that guarantees that right? Because I maintain that my right to protect my ideas via punching people who misuse them is my right… that keeps me in the clear, yes, mayor?

    • However, the basis for the “drug” portion of the warrant was – basically – an image of cocaine being cut into lines on a mirror being tweeted from the account. Virtually no one has seen the image, so we can’t know for certain, my money is on an image gained from a google image search.

      And this isn’t the first feckless round for our local PD. The entire upper ranks should be arrested for “Impersonating a police force.”

    • Beth

      This is one of the reasons why we have such a huge drug population in our prisons right now. Police stop “suspicious” people, have a warrant, are doing a traffic stop, etc. and find drugs. The only charge that sticks is the drug one, and poof!, we’ve just added another inmate. Awful.

  9. Chris Marschner

    Jack
    Yesterday you wrote a MUST READ post regarding the RNC running an ad that condemned a candidate who is a defense attorney for defending people charged with reprehensible crimes. Our Constitution guarantees everyone a defense irrespective of how despicable they are and defense attorneys have a job to do. I would like to invoke that privilege here for a moment.

    It is bad enough that we are fast becoming a nation of vigilantes bent on mob justice. Find something that offends us and we use our political power to destroy that person. We do not ask what the person meant nor do we care; our only concern is for fomenting more outrage or being sanctimonious at being aggrieved. When we allow officials, using the color of law, to silence opinions of the opposition we have done to ourselves that which no fascist or Islamic terrorist bent on enforcing Sharia law upon the infidels has been able to do – so far.

    There are many that justify the destruction of an individual based on the idea that speech is not truly free as some vile speech will come with severe consequences. They often point out that yelling fire in a crowded movie theater is unlawful as it can cause harm. But what if someone else has a tape recording of me yelling fire elsewhere but then plays it at full volume in a crowded theater. Am I guilty of yelling fire? Yes. Did I do it in a crowded theater? No. Had a third party not played my utterance in that venue would it have caused harm? No. Should I be guilty of a crime?

    The same is true for Sterling. Did Sterling make the vile comments? Seems so. Did he do it publically? No. The proximate cause for the harm from the comments he made that may be felt by the NBA came not from him but an ex-lawyer turned showman. He played the tape for the world to hear. He did so for financial gain. He brought the harm to the NBA and the other aggrieved parties. So too did the recorder of the conversation. Why the hell do we hold these people up as heroes to the cause?

    The reason we have free speech is to communicate an idea for the purpose of changing minds. The receiver of the communication is free to reject the idea outright. The receiver can also choose whether or not the idea is so vile that he/she wants to declare a complete economic embargo against the utterer of the contemptible idea. However, if we feel that we are compelled to go along with one side because failure to do so will tar us with the original sin and similar consequences, then we are not truly free to choose whether we accept or reject the idea.

    With all that that has emerged about Mr. Sterling’s beliefs, I find the outrage by the league, the NAACP, the players and the sports writers and everyone else who has profited handsomely from their association with Sterling absolutely hypocritical. Why did they not boycott him when he quietly settled several discrimination cases? In my opinion, it was felt what the public does not know will not hurt them. Now, with all this out in the open they can no longer hide from the fact that they each gave him a pass in exchange for large sums of money. As of yesterday, the NAACP still states that is in negotiations with him for greater amounts of funding for African American youth activities. Give me a break about the harm you all suffered. Your outrage is as transparent as glass. You use these situations to gain financially. If you are truly outraged you would walk away from his money.

    The tape recording is merely a technological means to record the thoughts of others. If the communication is not for public consumption, the public has no right to know what I or anyone else is thinking or saying. There is a reason that bi-lateral consent is required in many states prior to recording private statements. What if technology emerges that allows us to capture a person’s thoughts but does not require the actual utterance of the thought? If that happens there will be no escape from the intellectual bondage imposed upon us by the masses.

    If we are not permitted to formulate and communicate our thoughts privately out of fear of economic destruction and personal harm then the select few will determine what say and think. As a result, we will truly be disenfranchised as citizens.

    • I agree completely, Chris, and will post this shortly as a Comment of the Day, as it continues to enter the unpopular realm I began to explore in this post about the Mayor of Peoria.

    • We (collectively, figuratively) have crossed the Rubicon, Chris.
      It’s too late, in this part of the world. It was a good, long run.

      “The Way” (to get whatever you want) is now via tit-for-tat (more precisely, “Massive Retaliation” or “Massively Disproportionate Response,” i.e., “Chicago Rules,” as in, “If they bring a knife, we bring a gun”), and ends-justified-by-means – from now on and forever. There is no such thing as hypocrisy, no “double” standard – and there is no thought by any person which is immune from being considered as to how to punish it, inhibit it, and ultimately control it. Whoever rules, rules.

  10. Wayne

    I am getting more cynical by the day if that’s possible. Although apparently the charges against the guy the created the false Twitter parody account have been dropped by Peoria County State’s Attorney’s Office, the Mayor sicking his “brown shirts” on the people in the home is thuggish to an extreme. Isn’t this a possible “probable cause” abuse?

  11. blazophoto

    Regarding the statement:
    “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.”

    Huhhhh???

    So, this guy gets to use his armed “Peorian” Guard and use taxpayer money to silence his mockers. Lucky him.

    After all, what’s the average citizen to do in the same situation….go over there with a bunch of friends and kick the doors down and just break or take some computers, or maybe just beat a few people up? No. it doesn’t work that way. We’d all get arrested for even making a threatening phone call!!

    The same tactics that are afforded The Mayor are not available to the “rest of us.”

    And, his “Freedom of Speech” was never, ever even remotely “taken away.”
    What an idiotic statement!
    How did this stop his Freedom of Speech??
    By his logic, Saturday Night Live–masters of brilliant parody–would have never made it to their second episode!

    So, it’s the apparent end of the world for him over a perceived violation of his 1st Amendment Right, yet he’s probably one of these guys that has NO PROBLEM trying to take away EVERYBODY’S 2ND AMENDMENT right!! That, however, would be O.K.!!
    That Amendment and Constitutional RIGHT, well,it’s just not as “important.”

    Speaking of….imagine how much more of this type of armed over-reach response will be happening if and when they are the only ones with guns!!
    Coming soon, to a Main Street near you!!

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