15 November 2010

I Am Spartacus...

The moral of this story...

No matter what the occasion, no matter what the circumstances, and no matter how funny you think you might be being...don't do it!

Paul Chambers has learned this the hard way. His lesson has also shown how far we have come in taking the silly to the extreme of seriousness with respect to consequences. Chambers crime was to jokingly suggest in a Tweet that he might have to blow up Robin Hood Airport in northern England if the airport stayed closed because of snow. There is obviously nothing micro about micro-blogging site Twitter. The actual message looked like this: "Robin Hood Airport is closed. You've got a week and a bit to get [it] together, otherwise I'm blowing the airport sky high!!"

In that perversely funny way there is nothing very charitable about Robin Hood in this story.

Unfortunately, for Chambers, an airport manager discovered the Tweet and reported it to a superior, who then reported it to police. The initial discovery came five days after the tweet was made, but for some reason the message was deemed to be "non-credible" but worthy of being passed onto police.

Chambers was charged and convicted for sending the Tweet. He appealed. That appeal was rejected and he was fined and ordered to pay costs.

The case has attracted plenty of attention from all directions. Stephen Fry has offered to pay any fine that Chambers ultimately is required to pay. However, the Twitter-sphere has ratcheted-up support for Chambers. In Twitter-land "IAmSpartacus" has been used as a tag to show support for Chambers. In fact, "IAmSpartacus" has become a hot trending topic.

The "IAmSpartacus" tag comes from the 1960 Stanley Kubrick film "Spartacus" starring non other than Kirk Douglas. In the film Spartacus' fellow rebels adopt his name in a show of solidarity.

What I do not get about this case is how a non-credible threat results in a charge and a conviction, which is then upheld on appeal. The offending Tweet was clearly a joke. In these times, a poor joke. I find it difficult to see how if Chambers had been serious about blowing up the airport that he would have Tweeted those plans in advance. Oh well!


Multibrand said...

Hi Rob,
Airport authority should always take threats very seriously, no matter how funny they might be.

Rob Baiton said...

@ Harry...

Mate, I think you missed the point.

I am not arguing that authorities should not take threats seriously. I am suggesting that this threat was assessed and deemed to be "non-credible".

I am arguing that the "non-credible" determination should have ended this thing. It should not have been escalated and ended up with a conviction for this person.

It was a stupid thing to do in the current climate, but it should not have resulted in a criminal conviction.

Such is life.