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21 Sep 2010

Paul, You're Doing it Wrong

Gallery snapshot. View gallery of Paul, You're Doing it Wrong

For those not familiar with the Paul Chambers "Twitter joke" story, the basics are that Paul was arrested, fined and received a criminal record for sending a tweet. In the interests of public education, here is that incriminating tweet in full (the mere act of reproduction, by the way, could get us arrested too):

"Crap! Robin Hood Airport is closed. You've got a week... otherwise I'm blowing the airport sky high!"

Nasty, huh? Rather than detailing the rest of the case, I'll let the excellent Jack of Kent bring you up to speed and explain better than I ever could why this case matters.

Paul's hearing is this Friday and anyone with an ounce of common sense is hoping that Doncaster Crown Court will overturn the original ruling.

This matters not just for Twitter users, but for anyone planning on having a potentially overheard conversation and using either humour or hyperbole (or heaven forbid both!) to communicate a message - and that's pretty much everyone.

As our government and that of the US are fond of telling us, we now live in "dangerous times" ("Yeh, thanks to you, you fuckers" - thanks, Bill Hicks) and that "the rules of the game have changed". You can no longer go around joking about bombs and terrorism and stuff.

The message is clear: Our government has created a false climate of fear and if you don't take this fabrication seriously, you will be punished.

As a result, Paul lost not one but two jobs, had his computers confiscated (I believe he still hasn't had them returned), was fined 1,000 pounds and received a criminal record. I can only begin to imagine the impact on his personal life.

I don't know about you, but that scares me shitless. I'm also in no doubt that this is the precise, desired effect intended by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS): so much as a snigger and you'll have your life ruined.

But watching Tony Blair being interviewed by Andrew Marr on the BBC earlier this month made me realise that Paul's mistake wasn't rooted in naivety or misunderstanding of the "changed climate" of the times we live in - as some commentators have egregiously suggested the case might be justified. Paul's problem, plain and simple, was that he didn't go far enough.

Tony Blair announced to the world in a public broadcast on 1 September that he would advocate "military confrontation" with Iran should they "continue to develop nuclear weapons" (a statement that, incidentally, has yet to benefit from any credible evidence - but when did that stop them). Here is Mr Blair's threat verbatim:

"I think we've got to be prepared to confront them.. Militarily? If necessary militarily. I think there is no alternative to that if they continue to develop nuclear weapons and they need to get that message loud and clear"

So you see, had Paul threatened to bomb an entire country and not just a provincial airport, he would most likely have been applauded for it. You set your sights too low, Paul.

To ram the point home. We made a lovely little graphic with a summarised comparison of the two men and their respective "threats":

On balance, Tony Blair is definitely the more dangerous man
On balance, Tony is the more dangerous man.

So what do we do?

There have been some nice suggestions of using Twitter as a form of mass civil disobedience to co-incide with Paul's hearing. Some people are going to retweet Paul's original tweet. Others have cleverly suggested quoting from John Betjeman's wonderful poem, Slough: "Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough! / It isn't fit for humans now,".

But I think we need to show the CPS what a real threat looks like. Fortunately they're on Twitter, so we can easily point them in the right direction:

@cpsuk For a REAL "menacing communication", see Blair advocate an invasion of Iran http://bbc.in/cDR4wW
#twitterjoketrial #yougotthewrongguy

No one, with a good conscience, should be idly standing by, hoping it will never happen to themIf we all tweet this on Friday at 10am, this will serve an excellent dual purpose. Firstly, it should help the CPS get both a sense of proportion and a sense of what characterises public interest. Secondly, this might actually start the necessary cogs in motion to get this war mongerer behind bars where he belongs.

Please help us spread this far and wide. As we say, it affects more than Twitter, more than the Internet. It is an affront and an insult to the most basic of civil liberties. Feel free to use the image above to help get the word out. Of course, you don't have to do exactly what we suggest, the important thing is that collectively we say something. Whatever works, really. No one, with a good conscience, should be idly standing by, hoping it will never happen to them.

Edit 22/09/10: Our 'call to arms' tweet used to read "RT tonyblair: I'm going to bomb Iran lol". But someone who understands Twitter much better than I and whose opinion I respect suggested that urging the 'twitterverse' to issue a mass bomb threat on Iran might not be a great idea So I tweaked the end message a bit. Hope it's still clear. (Possibly clearer?) As I said before, it doesn't really matter what you say, but say something.

Edit #2: It's started: #yougotthewrongguy


Posted by Andy S on 21 September 2010 - 2 comments

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Comments so far:

  1. Does this mean i can no longer announce my intentions to b**mb the crap out of Fr***e or nu*e the Per****s when i go to play Civ 4Mark Baxter from Portsmouth - 22 September 2010
  2. Just commenting on our website has got you added onto the "CPS most wanted" list. Let alone threatening to nude Peruvians...TerrorBull Games - 23 September 2010

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