This may come as a bit of surprise for some of you who know me as a legal analyst, columnist, or law professor. Indeed, I have not played football since grade school as a linebacker. However, I learned today that football legend Dick Butkus was finally able to receive a “blue check” from Twitter verifying that he was indeed Dick Butkus. I have been turned down five times by Twitter. To the humiliation of my family and friends, I remain thoroughly and shamefully unverified. While Twitter has refused to respond to inquiries on why I cannot be verified, it now appears that you only have to make it into the Hall of Fame, which is clearly an easier path to verification. Hence, I am asking for a nomination as an offensive line counsel (OLC) in the 2022 Hall of Fame selections.
As a Chicagoan, Dick Butkus has long been an inspiration. He was my idol growing up. I had his 51 jersey and, like all kids, I insisted on playing him in neighborhood pickup games (Indeed, our games would be populated entirely by Butkus and Walter Payton wannabes).
There was nothing nuanced or namby-pamby about Butkus. He was a Chicago-born, 6’3” 250 pound locomotion of destruction. Fellow Hall of Famer Rams defensive end Deacon Jones once described him as “a well-conditioned animal, and every time he hit you, he tried to put you in the cemetery, not the hospital.”
My favorite memory was when a refined journalist asked Butkus what dreamed about when he went to bed at night. Butkus left the interviewer speechless when he eagerly recounted a common dream “where I hit a man so hard his head pops off and rolls downfield.”
Now he is not just a Hall of Famer but Twitter verified. True to his Chicago roots, Butkus welcomed the news by immediately tweeting “Now that I have the blue mark I can kick people off of the platform right. You hear me @AaronRodgers12.”
I have long given up my dream of being the next Dick Butkus linebacker for the Bears (well, it was last year but I am moving on). However, I would like to be recognized (for whatever it is worth) as Jonathan Turley. You see, I am one of those many millions who languish in Twitter purgatory somewhere between the vagabound and the verified. I am only “purportedly” Jonathan Turley, an asterisk author who who writes under an unverified identity. (Of course, some critics may view Twitter as doing me a favor since it still better than being verified as me. Yet, my unverified status does not seem to help with attacks or threats).
To be honest, I was not that keen on getting a blue check until it was refused by Twitter. I was blissfully unaware of the distinction until last year when my kids pushed me to apply. I have a modest Twitter account (around 250k) but they thought it was weird that I did not verify my account to assure readers that these were authentic tweets.
As a longtime critic of Twitter’s censorship program, I joked that they would sooner verify ebola. I have been a critic of Twitter’s abusive censorship policies for roughly a decade and I have worked with members of Congress on possible legislative measures to strip Twitter of its statutory immunity from lawsuits under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
Nevertheless, verification seemed like a mere formality. Twitter verifies people who work in the media or influential in public discourse. I soon learned that every legal analyst and columnist that I know is verified. Even some of my former students are verified. I felt like I was back on the field in Chicago as the last linebacker to be chosen for a team.
Despite my dismal record with competitive sports, I thought I could make this team. After all, I have worked as an on-air legal analyst for decades for NBC, CBS, BBC, and currently Fox News. I have been a columnist for decades and write regularly for USA Today, the Hill, and other newspapers. I have also been counsel or a witness in high-profile cases from espionage cases to terrorism cases to the Clinton and Trump impeachments.
So I applied. That is when Twitter came back and told me that I was one of hopelessly unverified.
I assumed that I got something wrong, so I tried again after waiting a month. I carefully linked to the requested Wikipedia page and other sites. I then received the same message: “This account will not be verified at this time because the evidence provided did not meet our criteria for notability.”
Now it was getting odd so I decided to reach out to the company. However, Wikipedia makes it difficult to actually speak to anyone and refuses to explain such decisions. After trying for weeks, I was able to reach a Twitter representative who indicated that it was a mistake or glitch and that I qualified under either category. He asked that I reapply in a month and, if it happened again, to contact him. It did and that is when all further contacts ended. Neither he nor Twitter would respond or explain. I tried repeatedly to no avail for weeks until I realized that I was calling into the void known as Twitter public relations.