PERSONALLY, I don’t know about you, but if I was going to blow up an airport – I’m not, don’t worry, I imagine it would be a bureaucratic nightmare – I wouldn’t flag it up on Twitter beforehand.
Doing so just doesn’t seem conducive to a successful operation.
Strikes me one of the first rules in any self-respecting terrorist’s handbook would be that, when causing carnage, the fewer people who know in advance the better.
I probably wouldn’t even tell me mam. Not unless she asked in that mother voice, anyway.
Which makes Paul Chambers – who sent such a tweet – either the worst terrorist since that bloke drove a slightly smoking car into a Glasgow Airport wall causing precisely no damage, or someone who was making a (albeit rubbish) joke.
You’ve probably seen this case rumbling through the courts.
Paul’s the Corby accountant who, in January 2010, arrived at Doncaster’s Robin Hood Airport to find bad weather meant his flight to see his girlfriend was cancelled.
“Crap!” he posted to his handful of followers. “Robin Hood Airport is closed. You’ve got a week and a bit to get your sh*t together otherwise I am blowing the airport sky high!!”
And then off he went on his way.
Until a week later, that is, when police arrived mob-handed at his work, arrested him for sending a menacing communication and the Crown Prosecution Service put him on trial. There Doncaster magistrates found him guilty of said crime and ordered he pay £985.
A completely authoritarian over-reaction?
Only this week, two-and-a- half years later, has common sense prevailed.
Because only this week has an appeal judge finally dismissed the verdict and ruled that Paul’s tweet wasn’t really ‘of a menacing character.’
“The more one reflects on it,” the justice ruled, “the clearer it becomes that this message did not represent a terrorist threat.”
Well, talk about someone finally stating the utterly bloody obvious.
Of course, it didn’t represent a threat. A person with the rationality of a chimp – or Paul’s celebrity supporter Al Murray – could see that.
It was an insensitive joke sent in bad taste but if that tweet constitutes a menacing communication, then what a pathetic, cowardly people the British have become.
If nothing else, just look at those exclamation marks. I’m no expert but I reckon men who blow things up, who dedicate their lives to death and destruction, are serious chaps. One imagines they don’t go in for comedy punctuation.
Probably neither does Paul any more.
Because, while he now walks away with no stain on his character, the whole episode has left him jobless and somewhat peeved.
Which begs one main question: how on Earth did it get this far? How did entire swathes of our justice system forget about humour and context? How was it allowed that £100,000 of public money be passed away pursuing such puerility?
See, here’s the thing: not everything written online should be ignored.
There are hate crimes committed there – by trolls, racists and the scum who name rape victims – and they must be pursued vigorously. But the jokes – the blindingly obvious jokes – shouldn’t be.
Let’s go back to that terrorists’s handbook. One imagines in its list of small-scale victories is forcing a society to alter its behaviour and curb its freedoms.
When the British are no longer allowed to tell bad jokes in frustrated moments, the baddies are winning without ever needing to blow up provincial airports.