Monday, January 18, 2010

Joking about terrorism is now ThoughtCrime

We all know that its a bad idea to make bomb jokes in airports, as humourless security officials will not see the funny side. In the UK, that principle has now been extended to the internet. Last week, frustrated by the threat of snow disrupting his holiday plans, a man named Paul Chambers made a perfectly unremarkable comment on Twitter:

"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!!"
As a result, he was arrested under the Terrorism Act, interrogated for seven hours, suspended from his job, and banned from the airport for life. The humourless security state has expanded well beyond the airport, into our private conversations with our friends. Civil libertarian Tessa Mayes hits it on the head when she says:
"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."

That right is now seriously under threat. Its not one we should give up. And if the security services want to take it off us, maybe its time we got rid of them.