Tuesday, 19 January 2010


Much excellent bloggage and Twitter traffic on the case of Paul Chambers yesterday:
When heavy snowfall threatened to scupper Paul Chambers's travel plans, he decided to vent his frustrations on Twitter by tapping out a comment to amuse his friends.

"Robin Hood airport is closed," he wrote. "You've got a week and a bit to get your shit together, otherwise I'm blowing the airport sky high!!"
Was he an idiot? You wouldn’t think so. Just someone online, doing what thousands of people do each day. Posting ironic comments limited to 140 characters.

But in another sense, yes. Because we live in the kind of society where this happens:
Unfortunately for Mr Chambers, the police didn't see the funny side. A week after posting the message on the social networking site, he was arrested under the Terrorism Act and questioned for almost seven hours by detectives who interpreted his post as a security threat.
More likely, interpreted his post as an easy, ‘tick the box’ job…
After he was released on bail, he was suspended from work pending an internal investigation, and has, he says, been banned from the Doncaster airport for life. "I would never have thought, in a thousand years, that any of this would have happened because of a Twitter post," said Mr Chambers, 26. "I'm the most mild-mannered guy you could imagine."
Well, yes. There’s another clue for exactly why this happened to you.

And it’s got far less to do with paranoid security forces, and far more to do with lazy jobsworths who, having had something ‘brought to their attention’, have to then ‘do something’ about it, even if that something exposes them to yet more contempt and ridicule from the public they are (ostensibly) paid to protect…
Mr Chambers said the police seemed unable to comprehend the intended humour in his online comment. "I had to explain Twitter to them in its entirety because they'd never heard of it," he said.
*hollow laughter*
"Then they asked all about my home life, and how work was going, and other personal things. The lead investigator kept asking, 'Do you understand why this is happening?' and saying, 'It is the world we live in'. "
No, it’s not. It’s the world you and others like you - that is to say, lazy, semi-competent timeservers looking for an easy life and unable or unwilling to use the brain in your head - are intent on making. There’s a difference…
After the interview, Mr Hale was returned to a cell for an hour then released. But, he said, not before the police deleted the post from his Twitter page.

He has been bailed until 11 February, when he will be told whether or not he will be charged with conspiring to create a bomb hoax. In the interim, detectives have confiscated his iPhone, laptop and home computer.
They deleted his post? What on earth for?
The civil libertarian Tessa Mayes, an expert on privacy law and free speech issues, said: "Making jokes about terrorism is considered a thought crime, mistakenly seen as a real act of harm or intention to commit harm.

"The police's actions seem laughable and suggest desperation in their efforts to combat terrorism, yet they have serious repercussions for all of us. In a democracy, our right to say what we please to each other should be non-negotiable, even on Twitter."
Well said.

But is anyone listening?

Cameron? Anything to say..? Here’s an open goal, are you capable of taking a kick at it? Or do you want to ask a few focus groups first?


woman on a raft said...

See also this story from Staines.

Essentially, the police bash the panic button because they seem to think that terrorists do thing like writing stupid twitters or standing around with badly-spelled banners, and then, having wasted thousands of pounds worth of police time which should have gone to catching murderers and burglars etc, have to try to think of some obscure charges to justify their inappropriate and disproportionate action. They were obviously wetting themselves when this man wouldn't agree that he was a dangerous terrorist or a psychopath at least.

There is a cry going up that "there is a war on" and "there have been terrorist actions" as if that isn't always true. There has always been a war on and we have had a terrorist group operating on mainland Britain for the last 40 years to my certain knowledge.

Brian, follower of Deornoth said...

A week after he'd posted it, eh? Nice to see the plods are on the ball. Makes us feel so much safer, doesn't it?

banned said...

Presumably the Police will now be arresting The Independent and closing it down for repeaeting the "threat"?
As you suggest, this incident will be logged as a success in the fight against terrorism which they attempt to scare us with despite more people being eaten by cats than are ever likey to be killed by terrorists.

woman on a raft said...

sorry - busted link. Try

Student arrested for protest at army base

banned said...

Thanks WOAR, I noticed that but thought it rude to say so. Good link, not sure if you can "fight" a police caution once you have accepted it.

Quiet_Man said...

@ Banned,

You should never, ever under any circumstances accept a police caution.

Dr Evil said...

How often does one child say to another "I'm going to kill you!" ? They never mean it of course. Just playground banter. The police reaction to hyperbole is remarkably stupid. But so are many of the provisions of the terrorism act, which is well named I reckon, as opposed to the Anti-Terrorism act which it should have been called. The ones provoking terror are now the police who can stop and search you at random. 7 hours to investigate a Tweet with no evidence of wrong doing? FFS!!!!

Anonymous said...

So it is confirmed. Twitter - haiku for morons

JuliaM said...

"How often does one child say to another "I'm going to kill you!" ? They never mean it of course. Just playground banter. The police reaction to hyperbole is remarkably stupid."

Oh, Chalcedon, you must be psychic... ;)

Joe Public said...

He should have given them only 6 days "to get their shit together"; then by the time PC Plod arrives on the 7th day, everyone (with any sense) would realise it was just hot air.

[I suppose we should all be thankful he didn't Twitter in Arabic.]

JuliaM said...

"See also this story from Staines."

The police helicopter..? *boggle*

"You should never, ever under any circumstances accept a police caution."

Sound advice! I believe it was on Nightjack's list for what to do if arrested as well, wasn't it?

David Gillies said...

How do you stand it, Julia? I watch the ever-ascending spiral of hallucinatory bullshit that is life in the UK and wonder why anyone would voluntarily live there. Get out while the going's good, girl!