Devin Nunes Demands Satirical Internet Cow Stop Making Fun Of Him... Or Else

from the mooooooooooooooooooooo dept

Rep. Devin Nunes remains super angry about a satirical internet cow. Earlier this year, we wrote about his lawsuit against the satirical cow on Twitter (and against Twitter itself) as well as a bunch of other lawsuits Nunes has been filing against critics in the intervening months. The cases appear to be fairly obvious SLAPP lawsuits; that is lawsuits that are designed solely to silence critics, rather than based on any legitimate legal basis. As we've noted, the venues in which Nunes has focused his lawsuits (mostly Virginia, and now Iowa) have either weak or non-existent anti-SLAPP laws. Tragically, the original case, against two satirical Twitter accounts, including one called "Devin Nunes' Cow" (a satirical reference to Nunes' oft-repeated claim of being a California dairy farmer, even as his family farm has uprooted itself to Iowa) was not thrown out by the judge on jurisdictional grounds, allowing the case to move forward.

According to the Fresno Bee, however, even as that lawsuit is ongoing, Nunes' lawyer in the case has sent a threatening demand letter to Andrew Janz, a lawyer and state prosecutor who ran against Nunes in the last election and lost (much more narrowly than many people seemed to expect). The full letter is truly a piece of work, demanding Janz make the @DevinCow account stop making fun of Devin Nunes and issue an apology.

I only wish I was joking. The letter is amazing in so many ways, starting from the opening lines:

I represent Devin G. Nunes.

I write again – this time to address a matter of grave import and enormous consequence.

A matter of grave import and enormous consequence?!? Do tell! Oh, it's the fact that a thin-skinned public official can't take pretty modest mockery:

As you well know, for over two years, Mr. Nunes has been maliciously harassed, stalked, bullied online, threatened and egregiously defamed on Twitter by the user or users who post day and night, through the anonymous Twitter account, @DevinCow. [].

I mean, how could anyone think this letter was a good idea?

The letter then notes that a PAC connected to Janz appeared to be helping to raise legal defense funds for whoever is behind the @DevinCow account. If true, that wouldn't violate any laws, but Nunes and his lawyer imply that something terrible is happening here.

Based upon the evidence I have reviewed, it appears that you or an agent or agents acting at your direction is coordinating, instigating, aiding and abetting the user or users of the @DevinCow Twitter account in the malicious harassment, cyberbullying, stalking and defamation of Mr. Nunes.

Malicious harassment, cyberbullying, stalking and defamation? Get over yourself Nunes. What happened to supporting free speech and the 1st Amendment? A satirical cow mocking you is none of the above. It is not harassment. It is not cyberbullying. It is not stalking. And it is most definitely not defamation. It's satire. It's the mocking of public officials, which is something we've celebrated in this country basically since the very beginning. It's also all entirely protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution. You know? The document that Devin Nunes has sworn to protect?

Now come the demands to Janz. Because he's apparently helping to organize the legal funding to protect whoever is behind the @DevinCow account from this obvious SLAPP suit, Nunes' lawyer is now making patently ridiculous demands:

Demand is hereby made upon you as follows:

1. Immediately cause the user or users of @DevinCow to cease and desist from publishing any further false or defamatory statements of and concerning Mr. Nunes;

2. Immediately cause the @DevinCow Twitter account to retract all harassing, disparaging, false and defamatory tweets and retweets of and concerning Mr. Nunes, and apologize for the harm done to Mr. Nunes and his family;

3. Within one (1) business day of retraction and public apology, cause the termination of the @DevinCow Twitter account.

It also notes to Janz that he should reveal who is behind the account:

As a Deputy District Attorney, it would be egregious and irresponsible for you to continue to keep secret from the public the identity of @DevinCow.

You are legally, ethically and morally responsible to act now.

This is all, of course, utter nonsense. And this is all strategically bizarre. Who could possibly think that getting this freaked out by a satirical account could ever possibly lead to anything good? It appears to show Devin Nunes is scared of fairly mild criticism and mockery. And the idea that such a ridiculous letter would have any good results, other than leading to even more mockery of Nunes for his thin-skinned freak out, and raising serious questions about Nunes' own fitness for office. If you can't take a bit of criticism from satirical constituents, maybe you don't belong in public office.

Also, even if this is all performative, all it's really served to do is get a lot more people paying attention to the satirical cow. Before the lawsuit, the account had about 1,200 followers. It now has over 630k -- which is pretty close to Nunes himself (there was a point in which the cow surpassed Nunes himself, but both have increased their follower counts quite a bit since then. Either way, encouraging over 600,000 users to follow an account designed solely to make fun of you, and then continuing to throw a legal temper tantrum over the account is not a good look for a sitting Congress member.

In the meantime, it certainly doesn't look like the DevinCow account has any interest in backing down or apologizing:

In the meantime, Nunes continues to be wrong about Twitter as well. In a recent interview he spouted a bunch of nonsense about the case:

He claims he had no choice but to sue. That's wrong. He could have not sued, for instance. He could have ignored the mockery. Or he could have responded to it. He could have shown why they were wrong if they were. There are many options short of suing -- especially for a Congressman who once introduced a bill to stop frivolous lawsuits. He says he's "been slandered and defamed" which is also just wrong. Slander is spoken defamation. If there was defamation (and there wasn't) it would be libel, not slander. But even more to the point, he's arguing that Twitter is negligent and that's why he's suing Twitter as well. Why negligent? Because something something bots. No, really.

"Twitter's case, it's even worse because they're negligent to the fact. I mean, they're allowing these bot farms, both large and small bot farms, and they allowed it to go on, knowing that the people behind it are operatives."

First off, even if that's true, so what? How is that "negligence"? How is that against the law? The interviewer even seems a bit surprised by this and asks if there "evidence to that effect" and Nunes doesn't actually say that there's evidence, but seems to suggest that Twitter protecting the anonymity (a 1st Amendment right, by the way) of its users is proof of negligence.

"We know they're operatives. Twitter knows they're operatives. And they refuse to give us the people behind it.... And they've had six months to come clean and shut all this down and tell us who are these political actors that they're hiding from the public? And from their investors? I think people will want to know why did you knowingly hide what, one we believe is a smaller political operation and one we believe is a much larger political operation. And Twitter knows the names of them and they oughta come clean and give them to us. And that's why we're in court. And so, they're proving our case for us. [Chuckles] I mean, this is like the definition of negligence, what Twitter and their high priced lawyers have been doing over the last six months."

Spoiler alert: what Twitter and their high-priced lawyers have been doing over the last six months is certainly not negligence. Protecting the 1st Amendment protected anonymity of your users, who include some satirical accounts mocking a thin-skinned Congressman, seems like good practice in protecting free speech and the all-American tradition of being able to speak up and criticize our elected officials.

Filed Under: 1st amendment, andrew janz, devin nunes, devin's cow, free speech, satire

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  1. identicon
    bobob, 6 Nov 2019 @ 2:35pm

    It might be worth violating my princple of not using social media to start a Twitter account: @DevinNunes'Cow'sTeets

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