Ladies and gentlemen, Devin Nunes:
Representative Devin Nunes, who is bringing a $250 million suit against Twitter because he has been the subject of mean tweets, is not an obscure kook. He is a famous and highly influential kook who chaired the House Intelligence Committee until January. From this perch, he largely orchestrated President Trump’s legal defense in the Russia scandal, ejecting a wild flurry of charges that Trump is the subject of a deep state conspiracy, running a sham inquiry that claimed to clear the president of all wrongdoing, and feeding scoops to the conservative media to support Trump’s no-collusion narrative. For these efforts, Trump has praised Nunes as “a very courageous man,” and suggested that he deserves to win the Medal of Freedom.
I have spent innumerable hours excavating the loopy theories emanating from Nunes. And yet none of that prepared me for the full barking-mad preposterousness of his lawsuit. It might be the most staggeringly juvenile and inadvertently hilarious document I have ever read.
Nunes’s legal case hinges on the argument that Twitter is not merely a platform for users, but a media company with a distinct point of view. “Twitter actively censors and shadow-bans conservatives, such as Plaintiff, thereby eliminating his voice while amplifying the voices of his Democratic detractors,” the suit argues. (Nunes is referencing a conspiracy theory; Twitter does not “shadow-ban conservatives,” nor promote Democrats.)
Even if Twitter did exclude conservatives in the way he alleges, it would hardly support his lawsuit. The First Amendment provides broad legal protection for the criticism, including mockery and satire, of public officials. If Twitter wanted to censor conservatives and promote mockery of Devin Nunes, it would have a strong constitutional basis to do so.
Nunes provides almost no arguments to support his demand, which would overturn decades of well-settled legal precedent. In place of the extremely novel constitutional case he needs to make, his lawsuit asserts that the existence of very mean tweets “runs contrary to every tenet of American Democracy, including the guarantees of both the First Amendment and Article I, § 12 of the Virginia Constitution. In the words of the late United States Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., ‘If there is any principle of the Constitution that more imperatively calls for attachment than any other, it is the principle of free thought — not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought that we hate.’”
You don’t have to be a lawyer to understand that this quote — defending the existence of speech from those we hate — supports the exact opposite position from Nunes. It is perhaps worth noting that the attorney representing Nunes in this lawsuit has reportedly had his law license suspended twice, and was reprimanded once.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump is spending his morning getting into a Twitter flame war with the husband of the current Counselor to the President.
A total loser! https://t.co/vm3Vv2f9jf
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 19, 2019
I’m so old I remember when movies like Network and Being There were satires, not documentaries.