The Twitter joke trial, or: How I learned to stop worrying and hate my country

Where to start? Well, today has been a weird one for events in the world. Or, more aptly, an event in Britain. In short: a bloke made a flippant comment on Twitter after learning his flight from Doncaster airport (I’m not calling it Robin Hood) had been delayed, in which he said he was going to blow the airport up. It was clearly a joke. He was arrested for it and charged with some bullshit. He appealed on the grounds that don’t be fucking stupid, it was clearly a joke, but today that appeal was completely rejected (read it in better words here).

Brilliant. Fantastic. I don’t know the guy in question, and for all I know he could be a complete knob. But that’s irrelevant. A man has been fined (heavily, when £2,600 costs are taken into account) and had his life pretty much ruined because he made a throwaway comment. He did what we all do in airports, where we make jokes about having bombs or drugs when we’re going through security. Except his joke was a bit different and published semi-publically on his Twitter feed.

Great. Wonderful. Joking is now outlawed. The ability for justice to discern between all-out seriousness and a frustrated, untruthful joke apparently does not exist. If you speak your mind, it had better be pure thoughts that spew forth. In fact, don’t think anything naughty either – at least, nothing that could threaten our Very Way Of Life.

It’s one thing to keep us constantly checking behind us for The Terrorists; to make us question the actions of our neighbours, run scared from the foreign/brown people or to strip us of our dignity when all we want to do is get on a fucking aeroplane. But Jesus H tapdancing Christ who the fuck are you people to set this precedent? Frivolity, jokes, sarcarsm, lies we pass off as ‘humour’ – what now for them? Are we allowed to take the piss? Can I call anyone in any official capacity a name and remain un-arrested? We already know if I run for the Tube I’ll be Menezes’d – does this mean if I make a quip while waiting for a train I’ll be immediately sent to an internment camp? What next? ‘Smiling is suspicious – pay a fine’? ‘You made someone you don’t know laugh – you are exiled’? ‘You had the temerity to make a joke about something we’re all supposed to be DEFINITELY TERRIFIED OF ALL THE TIME that definitely isn’t just a way to keep people fearful and docile – pay a fine while we fuck your life up’?

Nah, the last one couldn’t possibly happen. OH WAIT.

One thing I genuinely want to know the answer to though. Seeing as this Tweet could have been taken as a genuine threat, at least according to the judges in the original case and the appeal case, what does this mean for the exclamation marks in it? See:

“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!!”

I would take the double exclamation marks at the end to indicate impotent frustration at a situation. I would take them to highlight the acknowledged silliness of the statement – to show it wasn’t, in fact, serious. But seeing as that doesn’t seem to be the case – the judges told us so – does that mean the IRA would write bomb threats thusly:

“There’s a bomb in a car in London! Better evacuate!!”

When Al-Qaeda own up to some atrocity, do they send this standard, templated announcement?

“It was we who blew up your Twin Towers! And we’d do it again, except now you don’t have any to blow up!!”


“We’re well Basque, la! We’re going to blow up some trains!!”

And so on. I genuinely cannot see a terrorist group using exclamation marks. It undermines a message. It makes it seem less serious. Surely a warning or admission of carrying out an attack/bombing etc should be something approached seriously by the group sending the message? They want credibility in what they are saying – the threat can’t be dismissed as a hoax, and they want to seem professional and like their cause has grounding in reality, not like they’re a bunch of lunatics on a pointless crusade. As such, they wouldn’t use exclamation marks. It may seem like a small thing, but it’s really irked me. Surely anyone with any modicum of sense can see that a genuine terrorist threat would a) not be done via Twitter and directed at an individual, or b) have fucking exclamation marks in it.

I could go on, but I’m going to stop. I’m very, very angry at this shit.



Filed under Prattle

9 responses to “The Twitter joke trial, or: How I learned to stop worrying and hate my country

  1. Jack

    Calm down Ian, tis only an out of touch judge who couldn’t grasp what Twitter is

  2. Pascale

    Talking of world events – did you see that Dick Van Dyke was rescued by porpoises? He fell asleep on his surf board. The use of surf board, porpoises and Dick Van Dyke makes me happy.

  3. Samuel Roberts

    I just want to take this time to admit I’m in league with the Galactic Empire – we’re planning on destroying the planet next week with a big space laser shaped like a testicle. Planet Earth, you’ve got a week to get your shit together.

    What a stupid, stupid country.

  4. Dan

    At least you’re safe on the “being exiled for making people laugh” law.

  5. Gem

    Good call on the exclamation marks. No serious writer should ever need to use them!!

  6. Tom

    I have been on the other side of the world for 3 weeks. I have only just seen this.

    I am coming back tomorrow. I’m not sure why.

  7. Pingback: Tweets that mention The Twitter joke trial, or: How I learned to stop worrying and hate my country « worthless prattle makes the world go round --

  8. ” ‘Multiple exclamation marks,’ he went on, shaking his head, ‘are a sure sign of a diseased mind.’ ”

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