Warning: This post contains NSFW words that shouldn’t be read by sensitive folks and/or small town mayors. You have been warned.
The following is presented in dramatic and operatic form in three acts.
We are overarching in Peoria, Peoria, Peoria
We are overarching in Peoria, Peoria, Wazzup?
With great power comes great hostility.
–From the Official Parody of Spider Man
I have a keen eye for bullshit and when I invariably sniff it out, I dance a little jig of happiness. What can I say? It’s my way.
So there I was minding my own business when suddenly I spied a great injustice being perpetrated against a fine upstanding member of our great online community.
I’m talking about, of course, the smart ass who owned the Twitter account @peoriamayor (currently in “suspended” status) which was, of course, a parody of the real life smart ass, Jim Ardis, the Honorable Mayor of the “great” city of Peoria, Illinois.
What’s so great about Peoria? Frankly, I don’t really know, except for the awesome presence of the mayor, of course. I mean, the mayor would lie about the city’s status as being “great” in an official statement if it wasn’t true, right?
Apparently the city was founded as a settlement in 1691 by the French explorer Henri de Tonti. And, as we all know, his right hand was blown off by a grenade thus earning him the nickname “Iron Hand.” (The relevance of this fact will become self-evident quite soon.)
These days the City of Peoria is notable mainly as a truck stop on I-74 for Komatsu, a Japanese multinational corporation that manufactures construction, mining and military equipment.
Meanwhile, in another part of the galaxy…
Industrious Americans, convinced that our most decadent days were still ahead of us, were hard at work pushing the envelope of what modern civilization could accomplish when it was really determined and disturbed.
They invented swatting. I’ll allow Wikipedia to explain:
Swatting is the tricking of any emergency service (via such as a 9-1-1 dispatcher) into dispatching an emergency response based on the false report of an on-going critical incident. Episodes range from large to small, from the deployment of bomb squads, SWAT units and other police units and the concurrent evacuations of schools and businesses to a single fabricated police report meant to discredit an individual as a prank or personal vendetta. While it is a misdemeanor or a felony in every state (of the USA) in and of itself to report any untruth to law enforcement, swatting can cause massive disruption to the civil order and the public peace by the hoaxed deployment of police and other civic resources such as ambulances and fire departments. The term derives from SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics), a highly specialized type of police unit.
Source: Wikipedia – Swatting
We now return to Peoria to find our beloved mayor under dire threat…
Mayor will get you if you don’t watch out
Mayor sees and mayor knows
Mayor keeps us on our toes
Mayor assures you that the law’s the law
No exception to the rule, mayor ain’t no fool
Twitter has a parody account in it!
Lord have mercy on our souls
Twitter has a parody account in it!
Police chief gonna bust those trolls
It was raining in the Twitter by the bay. A hard rain. The kind of rain that could wash the slime from your computer screen. In a dark room, in March 2014, lit only by the florescent glow of a computer screen, a man – a dangerous man – was creating a new Twitter account. With malevolent purpose he used only two fingers to peck out a username:
@ P e o r i a M a y o r
He clicked the open account button and the deed was done. Jonathan Daniel, 29, was about to parody himself some Honorable Mayor Jim Ardis. But little did he know that in only 10 days his parody Jim Ardis would be dead, assassinated by the government.
Why did he feel the need to parody the mayor? Perhaps we’ll never know. What we do know is that he choose for himself a damn tasty target. Damn tasty.
By all accounts, Jim Ardis is a fine, decent, upstanding, God-fearing family man. Just ask him. And the one thing he could not allow was a parody of that. Laws, no.
Reportedly, for the first three days, the account failed to identify itself as “parody.” And therein lies the rub. What’s a mayor to do? What any power-hungry medium-sized fish in a small pond would do. He called in some chips from his friend, the police chief.
The parody account only had about 50 tweets and 50 followers, but that couldn’t prevent the ever-watchful eye of the inexorable force known as Mayor Jim Ardis from taking notice. And he was about to unwittingly give it more notoriety than it could have ever possibly achieved on its own.
An armed police response descended on the home of Daniel. The local paper described it as “seven armed officers in bulletproof vests with guns strapped to their chest.” They executed a search warrant signed by a local judge. All devices capable of internet access were seized. Due to a search of the home, the man’s roommate faces a felony charge for possession of 30 – 500 grams of marijuana and is indefinitely suspended from the job he’s held for 14 years. Daniel himself was later arrested at his place of employment.
You just got swatted by the mayor. How you like them apples? The Iron Hand of the Mayor just clenched around your throat. Bad form.
Other local judges made the raid possible by previously signing warrants compelling Twitter and Comcast to determine the physical address of the parody account mastermind.
The charge? “False impersonation of a public official,” technically a violation of chapter 5, section 17, subsection 2(b)(2) of the Illinois Compiled Statutes. That violation qualifies as a Class A misdemeanor.
Yes, Peoria is a city that has its priorities in order. FOX News may report stories about counties where law enforcement won’t even respond when a rape is in progress, but not in Peoria. Some police departments, due to budgetary concerns, routinely take no action on burglary crimes. But not on Jim Ardis’ watch. Not by a long shot. Not when evil is afoot.
After the incident social media exploded. Experts seemed to agree: Parody is a cherished and protected form of free speech. If not, various presidents in the TV-era would have shut down late night talk shows a long, long time ago. Some even posited that the mayor’s response might have been overkill.
Now Daniel, with the assistance of the ACLU, is fighting back in a lawsuit against Mayor Jim Ardis, Police Chief Steve Settingsgaard (who coincidentally retired yesterday) and the City of Peoria itself. Rather than concerning itself with the operation of the city and the welfare of its residents, the City of Peoria will now devote time, money and resources to vigorously defending a lawsuit. The lawsuit claims that officials obtained warrants under “false pretenses” and violated Daniel’s constitutional rights.
The Mayor is unimpressed, feeling fine and frisky. He is standing his ground and defending his actions. In a statement released Friday, in response to the lawsuit, he had this to say:
There is no way for someone to know that what was being said under my name, picture and contact information was not coming from me.
–Honorable Mayor Jim Ardis
In his statement, the mayor included examples of the tweets he found offensive. They are repeated here in verbatim.
- “I’m up all night woke up with pussy on my breath and blood shot eyes and we got people talking about live tweeting”
- “I’m thinking it’s a tequila and stripper night”
- “Gonna be up at “a local bar” wolfing down some wings. Come check me out I’ll be signing titty’s?”
- “2 fucking things to get off my chest. 1. If you don’t like Peoria and U wanna sit here and bitch den leave. 2. Who stole my crackpipe?”
Yep. You read that correctly. According to an official statement from the Official Mayor, these are examples of tweets that are absolutely indistinguishable as coming directly from the mayor himself. There’s simply no way for the average Joe to know these tweets weren’t from the real Jim Ardis. Inconceivable!
You know. Because that, apparently, is how he rolls. I have to admit, those tweets sure sound like quintessential Jim Ardis to me. I can understand why he’s justifiably concerned about possible confusion.
And, point of law and order here, but if the words sound just like the mayor anyway, then what harm was done? You could argue that this nice young man did the mayor a favor by doing the hard work of writing so he wouldn’t have to write them himself. Maybe instead of being arrested he could have been presented with an official proclamation.
It’s hard to argue that this wouldn’t have been a preferable outcome to the lawsuit reality the good people of Peoria are facing now.
On the plus side, I now know how to spell Peoria without outside help. To think I lived my whole life without knowing that town even existed. Whew! If anyone needs me I’ll be eating some chicken wings. If you want to join me you know what to bring.
Bonus: Predictably the internet responded with 42,000 more Jim Ardis parody accounts. Hilarious! See if you can determine which Jim Ardis parody account is mine. There might be a chicken wing in it for you. The scavenger hunt is on. Saucy!
After being arrested, Jonathan Daniel was never charged with a crime. “A man accused of creating a fake Twitter account in the name of Peoria’s mayor and posting lewd comments about sex and drugs will not face charges, the county’s top prosecutor said Wednesday.”