It's Fun To Laugh About Congressional Reps Suing A Satirical Internet Cow, But It's A Real Attack On Free Speech

from the we-need-an-anti-slapp-law-now dept

I originally wrote a draft of this post over the weekend, before Nunes, filed a second bullshit lawsuit against Liz Mair, but now that that has happened, it has become even more relevant. I’ve lightly updated the original text to include this new lawsuit.

Lots of folks laughed about Rep. Devin Nunes’ crazy lawsuit against a satirical cow on Twitter that mocked him, but much of the case is no laughing matter for those on the receiving end. While it is unlikely (but not impossible) that a court will let the case get far enough to unmask who is behind the satirical Twitter accounts, those individuals will still need to lawyer up. Also, while it gets ignored in much of the reporting on the case, there was one named defendant: political strategist/communications expert Liz Mair, who seemed to get sued for tweeting criticisms of Nunes.

While the fake cow account got hundreds of thousands of new followers, Mair didn’t get quite the same bump. But she’s got even more crap to deal with in this case — as well as the second case that Nunes just filed. She’s now written a thoughtful post on just how totally fucked up it is that a sitting member of Congress would sue a critic for being mean to him on Twitter:

… it?s vitally important that the entire nation understands what this lawsuit is really about: A sitting member of the U.S. government, specifically, a congressman, is trying to stifle free speech ? mine, yours and every other American?s ? by using litigation as a cudgel to bully and intimidate.

The fact is, free speech is recognized and protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The Framers correctly considered it a God-given right, an inherent freedom so important to the system of government they were establishing that they explicitly stated its existence straight at the outset of the Bill of Rights.

James Madison, fourth president of the United States, father of the Constitution and co-author of the Federalist Papers, famously commented that ?the censorial power is in the people over the government, and not in the government over the people.? Nunes? lawsuit flips that notion entirely on its head.

There’s a good history lesson in the article that is worth clicking through to read, but a key point:

The plain fact is, Rep. Nunes? lawsuit constitutes a grave threat to the long recognized and respected civil liberties belonging to each of us, and indeed our system of governance writ large. Madison also said, ?All men having power ought to be distrusted to a certain degree.? He was right, as was British historian Lord Acton when he said, ?Power tends to corrupt.?

This is why Americans should scrutinize our public officials? political committee expenditures ? including those of leadership PACs ? voting records, public statements, financial interests, behavior and conduct. It?s what the Framers wanted, it is what the First Amendment guarantees a right to do, and it is sound policy to boot. True freedom and good, constitutional government are impossible to maintain unless each of us is able to question, research and review what our public officials do, based on publicly available information and interactions with them and their staff, and then engage in unimpeded, public debate about what we find. They work for us, not the other way round.

Mair will almost certainly win these cases, but as someone who has some experience on this front, the process she’s about to go through is painful. It is resource intensive, not just in legal fees, but in the utter distraction it creates for every other thing you do, not to mention the insane amount of time it takes to defend against such attacks on your free expression.

Mair doesn’t mention it in her piece, but the situation she’s facing is yet another reason why we need better anti-SLAPP laws, both individually within every state, as well as at the federal level. Of course, for it to happen at the federal level, we’d need Congress to get on board with a federal anti-SLAPP law, and I’m guessing that Devin Nunes is an automatic “no” vote.

Update: If you’re so inclined, Mair has set up a donation page which will go towards legal fees and (if more than that is covered) towards holding government officials accountable.

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Comments on “It's Fun To Laugh About Congressional Reps Suing A Satirical Internet Cow, But It's A Real Attack On Free Speech”

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72 Comments
That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re:

No chance at all.

Congress still won’t admit who they paid our tax dollars to to cover up members facing sexual harassment charges.

He’s got the right politics, so anything else he does, doesn’t matter.
These people wanted Roy Moore to win, because his views aligned with theirs and the suggestion that maybe he was a child toucher wasn’t a non starter.

Thad (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

These people wanted Roy Moore to win, because his views aligned with theirs and the suggestion that maybe he was a child toucher wasn’t a non starter.

Nunes is a Congressman. The party currently in control of the House very much did not want Roy Moore to win.

But you’re right: they’re not going to censure Nunes over this. You basically have to pull a Steve King and publicly defend white supremacy to be threatened with censure at this point.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Only if they do so in an "official" capacity. Opinions are just that, opinions. Anyone can give their opinion on anything and not get in trouble for it. Hell, I can even "advise" someone to pursue X, Y, or Z legal thing as long as I’m not saying "I am a legally qualified to give this advice" when in reality I’m not.

ANY attorney can file a UPL lawsuit, btw.

Yes, but that doesn’t mean they will win it or that it was merited. If someone is just commenting on some lawsuit, that doesn’t rise to the level of UPL.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

The Bar needs to crack down both on practicing attorneys commenting on cases not their own

Why? I wasn’t aware this illegal or against any kind of legal ethics lawyers are sworn to. Can you provide citations for why they should not be doing this?

nonlawyers giving what amounts to a legal opinion

What is your definition of "legal opinion"? Nonlawyers commenting on cases or giving their opinions on it is perfectly acceptable and a protected First Amendment right.

The former is a breach of ethics, and the latter is clearly UPL.

Well, I am not a lawyer but I’m not aware of any legal ethics that precludes lawyers from the former. It seems to be a fairly frequent and common practice for lawyers to comment on cases if it’s in fact not "ethical".

The latter is only a UPL if they deceive the person giving advise to or operate in some "official" capacity while doing so. Stating your opinion on something doesn’t even come close.

Gary (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The Bar needs to crack down both on practicing attorneys commenting on cases not their own, and nonlawyers giving what amounts to a legal opinion. The former is a breach of ethics, and the latter is clearly UPL.

By your own words you have just given bad legal advice and deserve censure. Wow.

Fortunately for you the bar has no authority over non-lawyers. So you may continue giving out your bad legal advice.

Gary (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Don’t you love it when non-lawyers give legal advise on how the Constution works?

Jason Van Dyke and his Proud-Boys buddies seem to have a rabbid dislike of the Bar. Almost is if they knew that threatening people would get then dis-barred and hate that the bar has this power over them.

Talking shit about the bar seems to be a fascination with the alt-right.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Like worrying about getting hit by a meteor

Almost is if they knew that threatening people would get then dis-barred and hate that the bar has this power over them.

I mean, theoretically at least they have that power, but given the likes of Prenda were allowed to run unchecked for years were I a lawyer(even a total scumbag of a lawyer) I likely wouldn’t waste too much effort worrying about what the Bar could do, knowing that they almost certainly wouldn’t.

Anonymous Coward says:

Who will Pay when Nunes loses?

Mair doesn’t mention it in her piece, but the situation she’s facing is yet another reason why we need better anti-SLAPP laws, both individually within every state, as well as at the federal level. Of course, for it to happen at the federal level, we’d need Congress to get on board with a federal anti-SLAPP law, and I’m guessing that Devin Nunes is an automatic "no" vote.

Let’s say there were strong federal Anti-SLAPP laws already on the books for years and they cover this case. Then he loses badly and is on the hook for all of the legal fees for both Mair and Twitter’s expensive lawyers.

What are the chances he won’t even pay the legal bills? That he will make the state or federal government pay them since he is a "working" congressman and this case relates to his time in office (even if he is the one making that tie to the office).

If that was the case, why not continue suing critics? He silences his critics and he pays nothing out of pocket. He doesn’t have to do any work since his lawyers will do it for him. But he devastates the lives of those he hates. He knows reelection is in the bag because of partisan politics. So where is his downside?

Rog S. says:

Re: Re: Troll shit

Dear Godwin:

So, if I call a spade a spade, I am also -in your binary world – a racist klansman or something, right?

I think you have me mistaken for someone else that you can easily Hitlerize, which, unlike Israelification, and others in the “in the business of hate club ” of ADL inspired rhetoriticians, Hitler was, at least, clearly, and rightfully villified.

Its not always so clear, is it, Mr. Godwin?

Where I grew up (as the biproduct of Jewish /leftist radicalism no less, often on the laps of tattooed holocaust survivors ), near Skokie IL, the only Nazis I ever heard about were part of Frank Collin~nee ~Cohens tribe of Zionist /fascist misanthropes, most of which seem to derive massive grants, and donations these days from holohoaxing, and race baiting, while smearing everyone else.

So, no thank you Mr. Godwin, I reject your binary.

Rog S. says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Troll shit

Dude, I am an atheist.

Do you autoflag everyone who thinks religion is batshit crazy?

And, in case you missed the memo, yeah, media is, um, kind Jeff Bezos, ADL, Splc-ified "moderators " et al infected.

And, yeah, Israelified /actual Jew -christian conspiracies are very real (ask any muslim who is harrassed via Fusion. Centers )

It was you ACs / Techdirt moderator/deplatforming cowards /Israeli squad 3200/CIA /NSA troll armies /shitbags unspecified that brought Hitler into it, not me.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Troll shit

Dude, I am an atheist.

This is irrelevant, we’re not talking about religion here. At least we weren’t until you brought it up. Since you brought it up, you have no one to blame but yourself.

Do you autoflag everyone who thinks religion is batshit crazy?

No, but please show me how anything in this article has anything to do with religion. Your comment is at best off-topic, and at worst bigoted.

And, in case you missed the memo, yeah, media is, um, kind Jeff Bezos, ADL, Splc-ified "moderators " et al infected.

Do you have evidence and citations to support those baseless assertions?

And, yeah, Israelified /actual Jew -christian conspiracies are very real (ask any muslim who is harrassed via Fusion. Centers )

I’m sorry, what? This still has nothing to do with the topic at hand. Even if they exist (and I’m not saying they don’t), they have nothing to do with this article and I’m going to say [CITATION NEEDED].

It was you ACs / Techdirt moderator/deplatforming cowards /Israeli squad 3200/CIA /NSA troll armies /shitbags unspecified that brought Hitler into it, not me.

And you do nothing to prove yourself NOT a hateful, spiteful bigot with that sentence. You did not mention Hitler or Nazi’s specifically, but that doesn’t change the fact that you referenced them first. That’s undeniable.

Rog S. says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Troll shit

Dear Moron /moderator /ADLified “anonymous ”speech censor/ FBI Infragard -type/hiding in UAE as -ex -NSA hacker -type shitbag:

Arguing with ACs is like arguing about “the golden calf ” of Hinduism, to whit:

you asked for proof that religion/cultural mass transformation/Israelified trance formation is at the root of this discussion, so: enjoy your metaphor, cowardly AC:

the fake cow….

aka, golden calf. …

You yourself, cannot see it, of course, because you, yourself hide behind another false front: deplatforming /flagging /vampiristic time sucking, via circular biblical /Torah/Talmudic pre -ordained censorship /lashon Haaretz /gatekeeping, via the guardian at the theoretical gate of actual free speech on the publicly subsidized internet. (your types often forget your sponsors ).

And, I am pretty certain that Nunez is just another circumcised Catholic boy, fed to the fires, here at TD.

Abraham, Isaac, and all that lunacy.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Troll shit

That is some epic levels of bullshit. Not even Baghdad Bob and his ilk have managed to spew such epic amounts of made up crap. I mean, at least they base their stuff at least nominally on reality. You, you’ve gone complete moron.

you asked for proof that religion/cultural mass transformation/Israelified trance formation is at the root of this discussion, so: enjoy your metaphor, cowardly AC:

I asked for evidence, not proof. You have given neither. As such, I have no reason to believe you.

If you can’t post ANY evidence or proof of your claims, then your claims are shite and/or outright lies. I mean, what evidence do you have that this is all a Jewish conspiracy against Nunes? Jews weren’t even involved!

Rog S. says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Troll shit

Wow, you sure do knee jerk around this issue (that you have created AND extrapolated ) that Jews are involved in the blackmail /smear /mockery of y (Catholic )Devin Nunez, here at techdirt.

I suggest you contact Masnick, directly.

[facepalm ]

I mean, I dont like the guy per se, but maybe, ask his opposition, Sen. Dianne Feinstein and her spawn.

Of course, I could be wrong to suggest such (more than fucking blatantly obvious, documented links ) tenuous associations, but, after all, birds of fanatical press controlling religions flock together, and, occassionall, shit on each other too.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Troll shit

Wow, you sure do knee jerk around this issue (that you have created AND extrapolated ) that Jews are involved in the blackmail /smear /mockery of y (Catholic )Devin Nunez, here at techdirt.

Apparently you also have severe memory loss. To quote you:

christian rebuttal to Jewish supremacy…the poor Nunez inspired slobs grapple with Jewish narrative control.

And:

And, in case you missed the memo, yeah, media is, um, kind Jeff Bezos, ADL, Splc-ified "moderators " et al infected. And, yeah, Israelified /actual Jew -christian conspiracies are very real (ask any muslim who is harrassed via Fusion. Centers )

I created and extrapolated nothing. You created the whole thing.

after all, birds of fanatical press controlling religions flock together, and, occassionall, shit on each other too.

Wait, didn’t you just say I made it all up? Now you say it’s a legit conspiracy?

Get. Your. Lies. Straight.

Rog S. says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Troll shit

look: you do realize what a knee -jerky moron you sound like, right?

Sure, let me cite endless shit to an anonymous cowardly vampire, that proves I am right, just so you, an ADLified cowardly “moderator ” can deplatform me.

Or, you bitches can pay me for the novel.

Your call, Mr. Bernays.

Rog S. says:

Re: Re: Re:9 Troll shit

lets hope that you meant (in characteristic, vague, un -sourced and inflammatory fashion ) that you are cheering the end of days of racist, zionist, religion charged nut jobs, like ADL /SPLC shitbags controlling our discourse, rather than (vaguely and anonymously ) inferring that these facts are delusional, in any respect.

Cheers!

(now go take your meds )

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Troll shit

look: you do realize what a knee -jerky moron you sound like, right?

Nope.

let me cite endless shit

So you admit it’s all shit, false, and doesn’t prove your point? Sounds about right. Hence why I keep asking you to cite something that isn’t shit.

an anonymous cowardly vampire

I am quite pale but I don’t die in sunlight and I don’t sparkle, so I guess I’m not a vampire. I also like garlic.

just so you, an ADLified cowardly “moderator ” can deplatform me.

Dude, if I had the power to "deplatform" you, I wouldn’t wait for your rebuttals. Your ass would have been grass after the first post and I wouldn’t have bothered replying.

Or, you bitches can pay me for the novel.

You really don’t get the concept of how to make an argument and win people over, do you?

Rog S. says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Troll shit

Sorry, but my kith and kin make a living from keeping American Preidents out of jail.

Pardon me if your intellectualized version.of Socratic dialogue, vis -a -vi "internet shit talking " doesnt qualify as,CIA troll farm worthy "argument. "

But, each to their own.

After all, you still have not refuted or redeemed your position about Godwin, religion, or your own AC cowardly suppositions.

As expected, OF COURSE.

Maybe your sources, make my sources look like Muelleresques globalist Homo Floresians, compared to mere australopithecenes.

The world will never without you, closely monitoring my every post,AC.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Troll shit

Sorry, but my kith and kin make a living from keeping American Preidents out of jail.

Regardless of guilt? Wow. Did they take lessons in China or North Korea? Maybe Russia?

Pardon me if your intellectualized version.of Socratic dialogue, vis -a -vi "internet shit talking " doesnt qualify as,CIA troll farm worthy "argument. "

Well, if you posted any actual evidence we could have a discussion about it. You haven’t therefore we really don’t have anything to do other than "shit talk". So, got some evidence we can discuss?

After all, you still have not refuted or redeemed your position about Godwin

I’m sorry you’re delusional, because I did. Multiple times. As evidenced by your first comment where you brought Jews and conspiracies.

religion

Which is irrelevant to the discussion about freedom of speech.

your own AC cowardly suppositions

And those would be??????

Maybe your sources, make my sources look like Muelleresques globalist Homo Floresians, compared to mere australopithecenes.

At least I have sources compared to your big fat zero.

The world will never without you, closely monitoring my every post,AC.

Will never what? Can you maybe write proper English so we can understand exactly what it is you’re trying to say?

Rog S. says:

Re: Re: Re:8 Troll shit

To the future reader:

I barely hit “send ” before this AC shitbag responds, with time sucking trite "send proof! ” oriented “rebuttals. (literally less than five seconds )

Artificial Intelligence (and Techdirt content moderation ) is THAT advanced.

Viv la revolucion!

Rog S. says:

Re: Re: Re:8 Troll shit

Memo to shitbag: why do you selectively privilege Jewish arrative?

My first comment clearly indicts racist, sectarian, media -involved Jews, and their subservient christian mercenaries.

But you are, for some unexplained reason, all hung up on ADL (Jewish Mafia ) derived rhetoric. (for some reason, lol )

Kike that into my dossiere, too. ooops.

I meant kick it….

Rog S. says:

Re: Re: Re:8 Troll shit

You have sources?

Idiot. Please quote, and paranthetically cherry pick just one more time, pwease,pwease?

I just talked with a lieutenant in Russian IR, and guess,what?

It AINT THE RUSSIANS. AGAIN.

(now, I am fully expecting you to ask.me to repeat that, just for YOU, AAC, cuz This Is Your (ligic defying, truth trampling, time sucking, cockblocking) Life.

But your types are definitely time sucking vampires (and anyone who doubts it, justvread upbthread).

This moron asks for citations, and evidence that the sky is blue.

Which, of course, its not, because color is all a grand illusion, designed by conspiratorial "nature”….whatever “that” is…..

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Troll shit

It is extremely sad that you view deplatforming as an act of power, rather than an abuse of power.

Nowhere did I say or imply this. But it’s not an abuse in all cases. Any online platform has the RIGHT to do business with and allow access to whomever they choose. It is not the public town square. As such, no abuse occurs if they ban someone for violating their rules.

This is why, and how "THEY " win, whoever "they" are

Since you don’t even know, how do you even know there is a they?

Rog S. says:

Re: Re: Re:8 Troll shit

Good comedy (Quoting you, there, in.your clown mask):

“no abuse occurs if they ban someone”

…who are they?

We know with empirical evidence, documented here at TD and elsewhere, that ADL/SPLC/Israeli types, working closely with your types in the Insane Clown AC posse, work together.

What more proof do you need?

And, yeah, I do know,who “they” are. They are you, cowardly AC, they are you.

And like cancerous herpes in Tasmanian Devils, they are legion.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

He was making an obtuse reference to a series of timeouts given to some people, but not others, who told reporters to learn to code on teh Twitters.

They point out it doesn’t get applied to everyone evenly, which seems to be true. The irony of there being a code teaching event on fridays on teh Twitters is not lost on me.

They also point out that the phrase was born out of the media’s ‘warm concern’ for people in coal country worried about how they would survive if the mines were closed… and the answer given boiled down to learn to code.

Slander – Noun – the action or crime of making a false spoken statement damaging to a person’s reputation.

Libel is in print.

He is not defending himself, he is lashing out (much like a toddler having a temper tantrum) because people dared to mock him. A quick look at teh Twitters will show tons of parody accounts of people on both sides of the aisle but only Nunes decided to sue, not to clear the air but to punish people he feels wronged him.

The simple fact he misrepresented evidence in his filing is going to go over the like a moel with shaky hands.

Nothing any of these accounts or reporters have done meet the standards required by law, this is a sad attempt but a thin skinned asshat to silence people talking about him. I mean he refused to have a town meeting for 8 years with the peopel he allegedly represents, they went to his office to ask questions and he called the cops to make them go away.

The fact he had pushed for a law that would have punished the actions he has now undertaken is just the icing on the cake.

We should take up a collection to get him a t-shirt…
‘I sued a fictional cow and I didn’t get re-elected’.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Is this...

Well, yes, but the thing is that Nunes isn’t cool enough to be actually invited onto the yacht with the cocain and prostitutes, so #YachtCocaineProstitutes is kind of misleading, even though Nunes has done a bang-up job of linking his name with #YachtCocaineProstitutes.

The real news is that Nunes is a thin-skinned, excessively litigious #Frugisexual who has repeatedly shown himself to be both an idiot in general, nad totally incompetent at his actual job.

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