Friday, November 12, 2010

Do NOT stone Yasmin Alibhai-Brown

I repeat- do NOT stone Yasmin Brown whatever you do, and more importantly do not under any circumstances suggest that I told you to.

Birmingham councillor Gareth Compton made a poor joke (although who am I to judge the quality of somebody else's humour?) by Twittering the following:

"Can someone please stone Yasmin Alibhai-Brown to death? I shan't tell
Amnesty if you don't. It would be a blessing, really"

He has been arrested and released on bail. Whether he will be charged remains to be seen.

I do think that this affair raises questions about being offended and freedom of speech, as does the case of accountant Paul Chambers who texted jokingly about blowing up Doncaster Airport when it closed because of snow and lost his job as a result.

Here's a few questions that spring to mind:

1) If a comment is clearly not a serious threat (ie if Gareth Compton doesn't make a habit of calling for his opponents to be murdered and Paul Chambers' flat was not filled with explosives, detonators and books urging terrorist attacks) then should they really be arrested and have their careers ruined?

2) Is there a difference between comments made in private and those made in public?

3) If so, then where does the boundary lie? Where do emails, letters, blogs and Twitter fit into this?

4) Did the Police arrest these men for inciting Allah to burn British soldiers yesterday?

5) What will I do when all the people I've written nasty things about send the Police round to take me away?


Anonymous said...

In the case of Paul Chambers he posted the 'blow up' comment on his Facebook page. This was seen by a member of Doncaster Airport staff who reported it to the police.

The airport and Police confirmed that they never took this comment as a serious threat, nor was any interruption or inconvenience suffered, yet the CPS decided to prosecute, stating it was in the public interest to do so???????

The judge at the appeal stated that Mr Chambers had 'sent' a credible threat to Doncaster Airport and denied the appeal.

At what stage is posting a comment on Facebook 'sending' a threat and who (other than a judge) thought it was a credible threat, the airport security staff didn't, the police didn't, yet the conviction stands.

So Mr Chambers, who was a working taxpayer, loses 2 jobs and now has a criminal record, for what was in essence a silly comment made on a social networking site. His chances of future employment do not look too good, given his criminal record and the current jobs climate.

His post was, not in my opinion, inciting anything and this should never have gone this far.

Maybe if the same weight was thrown at the 'real' criminals it wouldn't seem so unfair.

Don said...

I didn't see the original reporting of the Paul Chambers case so I can only comment in general terms. But surely the whole point of things like blogs, Facebook pages, twitters and emails sent to multiple recipients is that they're intended to be read by an audience?

If something is so clearly and obviously a joke - for example from the context or the way it's written - that no reasonable person would take it seriously, then there shouldn't be a problem.

But such is the sea of the political correctness which has swamped the country in recent years that it's virtally impossible to make a joke now without somebody, somewhere being offended by it.

Anonymous said...

This has really scared me, I thought I'd seen it all. What country do we live in nowadays? Seriously.

Lilyofthefield said...

Facebook is public, not private. Take a bit of responsibility for you own half-assed witterings and confine them verbally to people you actually speak to.

That aside, I'm with Don. I expect to hiss "Grow up!" at the telly. I'd prefer not to have it say it to the judiciary.

Jim Taggart said...

Tell you one thing, if Ms Jasmin Alibhai-Brown had been stoned to death and I had witnessed it, there's no way I would give any evidence against whosover the police accused. Mind you the Police might be wondering why I was laughing out loud

jaljen said...

Double standards as exemplified by the picture at the bottom.

So we have paid to prosecute this Chambers fellow. It's outrageous.

Anonymous said...

As a policeman, I find this all a bit strange. To my mind, there are absolutely no grounds for arrest on either the twitter or Facebook jobs, but plenty of grounds to arrest the poppy burners under the public order act at the very least. We all agree at work about this. If I had been present at the poppy burning, I would have nicked the first person to shout the abuse or light the poppy. Perhaps the Met operate on the basis that this is what they WANT us to do? I don't know. Strange.

Suede Oasis said...

That's a reasonable assumption, Don - "that no reasonable person would take it seriously".

But the stock of reasonable people has diminished greatly over the years, especially in the police force (plus the teaching caper, of course), and anyway - what is 'reasonable' nowadays?

You have to go with the zeitgeist, you know, and he can prove to be a pretty elusive follow at times!

Anonymous said...

So the police have arrested a man for an obvious joke against the saintly Yasmin Alibhai-Brown. Stone me!

Lilyofthefield said...

Is there a difference (legally) between putting that comment on Twitter and being overheard saying it to your mate in the pub?

Don said...

Lilyofthefield - I would guess the difference is that if it's overheard in a pub, it's hearsay: it might have been misquoted or taken out of context. If it's posted on Twitter, it's there in print for all the world to see.

Cabbage said...

don - all that means is that if you chose to lie and deny that you said it in the pub, you could get away with it (because the statements of those who heard you wouldn't be sufficient evidence to convict). If you are honest and admit to what you said, though, or if it was somehow recorded, presumably there would be no difference.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to comment but must get home, if I'm late for dinner the wife will kill me. Oops what have I done.......