Our view: A twittering waste of time

August 29, 2013 10:01:31 AM



There are some laws that aren't worth enforcing. 


Many are simply relics of an earlier era, laws that have languished on the books because they were rarely, if ever, enforced to begin with and, as such, easy to forget. According to Section 97-29-1 of the Mississippi code it is illegal for "a man and woman to cohabit, whether in adultery or fornication." You can get six months in the county jail and a $500 fine for that. You could also get up to six months in jail for teaching someone about polygamy (97-29-43). There is also a law that allows for the citizen arrest of anyone who disrupts a church service (97-34-7). 


Other laws are so commonly violated that enforcing them would be considered an extreme case of selective enforcement. Jay-walking is one example. The co-habitation law would certainly fall into this category today. 


There are also laws that are products of little more than grand-standing, a politician's means of expressing an unfavorable opinion of something. Without question, the ordinances against "saggy pants" falls into this category.  


Then there are other "crimes" that rely largely on context. Circumstances dictate whether the offense rises to the level of enforcement. That is why you typically don't get a speeding ticket for driving 67 mph in a 65 mph speed zone. 


Another excellent example is unfolding in Starkville, where a fake Twitter account poking fun at Ward 3 Alderman David Little is being investigated by the Starkville Police Department. Little, along with Ward 1 Alderman Ben Carver, became subjects of fake Twitter accounts after their roles in the highly unpopular decision to fire Lynn Spruill as the city's chief administrative officer.  


While the Twitter account targeting Carver (@BenCarverPrays) was identified as a parody account from the start, there is some uncertainty as to whether the Little account (@DavidLittleBOA) was initially identified as a parody, although the account was updated later to clear up the confusion by renaming the account @DavidLittleFake. 


Under normal circumstances, it is likely that both accounts would have run their course, drawing the attention of a small audience.  


Instead, it has become the talk of the town, thanks largely to Little's reaction to the account. 


Public figures are often held up to public criticism. Most experienced officials understand it goes with the job. Not so with Little.  


Instead of enduring the ridicule that came with his role in the Spruill firing, the first-term alderman filed a complaint over the fake account with the SPD, which is dutifully investigating the matter.  


It is highly doubtful the case could be successfully prosecuted, since the intent of the account's creator would have to be determined. Given the nature of the tweets that came from the account, it is pretty clear that the account's creator was not seriously trying to pass himself off as Little. Rather, it was a means of heaping scorn on the alderman for his role in the Spruill firing. 


In the process of its investigation, the SPD has also been exposed for its methods of trying to flush out the creator of the @BenCarverPrays account. Although the SPD denies it, there is good reason to believe that the SPD used a fake Twitter account to investigate...a fake Twitter account. Essentially, the SPD is committing the same offense it is investigating. 


Someone, most likely a member of the SPD, has used the account @BullyNews to pose as a reporter looking to make contact with the @BenCarverPrays creator. The same account was used earlier this year to contact a person who had made a fake SPD account and a person who was painting graffiti around town. That there is some person out there who is unaffiliated with the SPD who has been using the @BullyNews account to dupe suspects into contacting the SPD is beyond unlikely. 


This Twitter sting operation hardly compares to using the Internet to catch a child predator. It has proven to be not only an embarrassment for the SPD, but a colossal waste of time. 


In the unlikely event that the case is prosecuted, the culprit faces the same sentence reserved for a co-habitator, polygamy teacher or church service disruptor. Same sentence. Same silliness. 


It's time to pull the plug on the whole affair. 


The one person who can do that is David Little. 


If he were to withdraw the complaint, we strongly suspect the SPD would be more than happy to drop the matter. 


Little should never have made the complaint to start with. He should withdraw the complaint immediately. 


All that's really been hurt is his pride. 


It's time for David Little to put on his big-boy pants and spare us the silliness of a continuing investigation.