Marek Warszawski

By suing Twitter and parody account @DevinCow, Nunes makes himself a laughingstock

Did you hear the one about Devin Nunes being so angry at a make-believe cow that he’s suing Twitter for $250 million?

Now that’s a lot of mooooo-la.

Ba dum tss

Tempting as it is to fill our allotted time together with punchlines about our congressman’s latest publicity stunt, those jokes have been milked dry.

Instead, I’d rather take stock of Nunes’ udder (apologies) hypocrisy.

The lawsuit claims that Twitter is “shadow banning conservatives” such as himself by “knowingly hosting and monetizing content that is clearly abusive, hateful and defamatory.”

The complaint goes on to allege the social media site, by allowing parody accounts such as @DevinMom (now deactivated) and @DevinCow, perpetuates “false accusations of criminal conduct, imputed wrongdoing, dishonesty and lack of integrity into a publicly available commodity used by unscrupulous political operatives and their donor/clients as a weapon.”

The last part made me chuckle. If anyone knows how to use unscrupulous political operatives as a weapon, it’s Nunes.

nunes
In this 2017 photo, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., pauses while meeting with reporters outside the White House in Washington following a meeting with President Donald Trump. Pablo Martinez Monsivais AP file

Even if Nunes had evidence to support his claim that Twitter discriminates against conservatives, the First Amendment provides broad legal cover for satire of public officials.

That includes being mocked by social-media accounts pretending to be Nunes’ mom, his cow, his mom’s cow, his lawyer, his skin, his proctologist or anything else inventive Internet minds have drummed up over the last couple days.

So unless the Tulare Republican plans to undo the Constitution, his lawsuit will never get out of the barn.

It’s also highly ironic that in 2017 a bill named the “Discouraging Frivolous Lawsuits Act” was introduced on the House floor. Guess who’s listed as a co-sponsor?

But what tans my hide is how blatantly Nunes engages in the same bullish behavior that has him so enraged.

Has he forgotten the 40-page propaganda piece targeting The Fresno Bee paid for by campaign donors and mailed to every registered voter in CA-22 last September?

I haven’t.

Remember the mailer’s cover? It depicts a ship dashing against rocks with cartoon bees aboard drinking Kool-Aid while “Resist” and “Socialism” placards bob in the ocean surf. On the back, the ship’s broken hull now contains The Bee’s masthead. All the little bees have drowned.

You might call that mean-spirited. You might call it satire. Regardless, it’s no different than the “abusive, hateful and defamatory” content Nunes’ attorney whines about in his claim.

In Nunes’ universe, it’s OK to label The Bee as “fake news” and spread falsehoods that we send reporters to “participate” in demonstrations and “creep around” his 98-year-old grandmother’s house. But not for a parody Twitter account to call him “a treasonous cowpoke” or say he’s “whey over his head in crime.”

Which not only makes our congressman a hypocrite, but also a thin-skinned humorless lout.

Nunes’ antics would be tolerable, at least somewhat, if he were good at his job. Which is to serve the people of his district, not act as President Trump’s mole. Unfortunately, after eight terms on Capitol Hill, his list of legislative accomplishments looks up to an earthworm.

Little wonder Nunes hasn’t held a public forum around these parts since 2010. (And, no, those chummy radio appearances and speeches at Republican fundraisers don’t count.) He doesn’t care to engage anyone, besides those in lockstep with him, on air quality, water, immigration, nothing.

Despite the doltishness of the conspiracy theories he propagates, Nunes is no dummy. He knows what he’s doing is legally bogus. The only reason to file it is for attention it gets him.

Since Democrats took control of the House, Nunes’ national status has shrunk. This lawsuit, and those he threatens to file, is nothing but a politician grasping at paper straws to stay relevant.

Nunes will use the headlines and Fox News appearances to raise even more money among like-minded Republicans. Thanks to his staunch defense of Trump, our congressman raised $12.6 million (and spent $11.5) on his re-election campaign.

Now the coffers need replenishing, so why not pull a stunt that will only ingratiate him with right-wing hearts and minds? Especially those with deep pockets to go with their persecution complexes.

Of course there are unintended consequences, such as the attention Nunes has given to parody accounts like @DevinCow. Which soared from 1,000 followers to more than 400,000 in less than two days.

Which means more people (and bots) on Twitter are following the parody than Nunes’ verified account.

To all but his staunchest allies, our Congressman is even more of a laughingstock.

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Marek Warszawski writes opinion columns on news, politics, sports and quality of life issues for The Fresno Bee, where he has worked since 1998. He is a Bay Area native, a UC Davis graduate and lifelong Sierra frolicker. He welcomes discourse with readers but does not suffer fools nor trolls.
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