Politicians can be a thin-skinned bunch. You'd think they'd let insults roll off their backs given how much power they have over the lives and livelihoods of others. But if you have all that power, why bother letting insults roll of your back when you can use that power to disproportionately punish people?
Jim Ardis, mayor of Peoria, Illinois, ordered police to track down whoever was responsible for a parody Twitter account mocking him.
As a result, police raided a West Bluff home, seized property, and detained three people for questioning. The Twitter account, @PeoriaMayor, has been suspended. According to the Journal Star, the account had all of 50 posts and an equal number of followers. The Twitter profile apparently did not initially indicate that it was a parody account, but added that label in early March.
The label was hardly necessary, though, to prevent reader confusion. The Journal Star explains that "police were informed of the account by Ardis on March 12. The tweets implied 'Mayor Ardis utilizes illegal drugs, associates with prostitutes and utilized offensive inappropriate language,' according to an affidavit filed for the warrant." Who would actually believe such tweets were coming from the mayor? Well, maybe residents of Toronto.
Nevertheless, police raided this home and intend to charge whoever was responsible for the account for false impersonation of a public official. The police chief also doesn't think it was obvious the account was a parody and thinks the impersonator "went to great lengths to make it appear it was actually from the mayor."
In the end, they didn't arrest anybody for running the Twitter account, but they did charge a guy with possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia, so that should allow them to justify the whole thing. They seized all things digital, including iPhones and two Xboxes. Hope nothing goes missing from the evidence locker! (To the Peoria police chief: That was a joke.)
And of course, in the comments under one of the Journal Star stories, somebody has registered as "Not Jim Ardis" to engage in more mockery, including posting a picture of the mayor with a tiny Hitler mustache. There's also a new Twitter account. There is even less chance of victory in the war against parody than there is in the war on drugs.
UPDATE: Over at Vice, Justin Glawe knows the people involved in the parody account and reports on their fears. He also highlights some of the problems with the police department there. It's worth a read.