Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed. You’ve got a week and a bit to get your shit together otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high!!
With those words, Paul Chambers ruined his life. He was arrested, threatened with jail and lost his job. He was convicted and fined in May for sending a “menacing” electronic communication.
On Thursday he lost his appeal against the conviction, with Judge Jacqueline Davies saying that the Tweet was, “menacing in its content and obviously so. It could not be more clear. Any ordinary person reading this would see it in that way and be alarmed.”
I like to think I’m an ordinary person (quiet at the back) and I found nothing menacing in the message. What Chambers posted was nothing more than an outlet for his frustration, the kind of offhand comment that might be uttered by any of us in the heat of the moment. Who hasn’t facetiously wished the worst for the person responsible for their train being late or a cheque going missing in the post?
The “mistake” Chambers made was posting his message in a public forum. However, it’s absolutely ridiculous that anyone could have taken it seriously. Does Al Qaeda routinely announce its bombing plans in advance on Twitter?
The Police have taken Chambers’s laptop as “evidence” — they have no legal right to do so as there was no incriminating evidence on it, so it should have been returned to him. He’s asked, but they ignore his requests. So my trust in the Police diminishes still further. They’re supposed to protect us, but it seems that they are basically above the law.
Also making me angry: some of the media reaction. The Guardian has been excellent as usual, but elsewhere the reporting has been terrible. It’s perhaps not surprising that Metro would use a sensational “Bomb hoax” headline, but I’m annoyed that the BBC web site reported it as if Chambers had made a serious threat.
So, in summary: the terrorists have won. If a daft joke like this can be taken seriously (as if Al Qaeda would pre-announce their plans on Twitter!) then security and paranoia has trampled all over our freedoms. An outpouring of Twitter fun won’t change the fact that we are living in a police state.