The Plastic Hippo

November 13, 2010

I`m Spartacus

Filed under: History,Law,Media — theplastichippo @ 12:07 am

Doncaster is a long way from Thrace, Erdington is even further from Tehran and Twitter is a million miles away from a real conversation. However, the seemingly unstoppable influence of the 140 character bon mot now unites the Thracian leader of a slaves revolt, Robin Hood, an Iranian woman condemned to death by stoning and a very, very, very stupid Birmingham councillor.

Back in January, accountant Paul Chambers was trying to book a flight from Robin Hood airport near Doncaster to visit his girlfriend in Belfast. Frustrated and suffering from airport rage, he tweeted the following to his 600 followers:

Crap! Robin Hood airport closed. You’ve got a week and a bit to get your shit together otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high!!!”

In May, Chambers was prosecuted under section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 and found guilty of sending a “menacing electronic communication” and given a fine of £385. The airport and the police did not consider his rather weak joke as a serious threat. However, his appeal was rejected on Thursday and Judge Jacqueline Davies increased his legal fees to £2,600. He has lost his job and gained a terrorist related criminal record as a result of the prosecution. National treasure Stephen Fry has offered to pay his fine and Twitter itself came close to exploding when tens of thousands of re-tweets of the original message appeared carrying the hash tag “I Am Spartacus”. M`learned friends might be in for a profitable year.

Conservative councillor Gareth Compton of Erdington is just as unfunny a comedian as Paul Chambers but at least has the gift of timing. On the day that Chambers was legally found to be not very amusing, Compton was listening to Radio 5 Live and could not resist posting this comment on Twitter:

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

If the airport “joke” was ill considered in an atmosphere of bomb threats to airports, this attempt at humour is about as funny as cancer. In Iran, mother of two Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani is facing death by stoning on unproven charges of adultery. In the face of an international outcry against such barbarity, the Iranian judiciary invented a charge of conspiracy to murder against her which will allow them to hang her rather than half bury her in sand and then throw stones at her until she is dead. Such is the compassion of a legal system that listens to media pressure. There are rumours that Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, after suffering torture, may be already dead, executed by a corrupt, intolerant and bigoted autocracy.

Interestingly, there has been no Twitter “I Am Spartacus” hash tag defending the Compton “joke”. He was arrested and bailed under – yup, you guessed it – Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 and suspended from the Conservative party. Her honour Judge Jacqueline, now clearly an expert on menace and humour, is perfectly placed to preside over any court hearings that the comic Compton may face. Sadly, the sentences available to her do not include stoning to death.

There are many losers here; not least humour, freedom of speech, individuality, scrutiny and, God bless it, democracy. There is only one winner. Terrorism seeks to disrupt lives and instil fear and is becoming remarkably successful. Looking up at a low flying Boeing or handling a printer cartridge, trying to book an airline ticket or seeing a man with a beard wearing a rucksack and even boarding a bus is now stressful. Instead of prosecuting bad comedians, should we be forcing the masses to hand over Spartacus?

It would be a blessing, really.

Under current law, the statements quoted above are illegal.

See you in court.

1 Comment »

  1. I can see the black helicopters circling overhead…

    Comment by stymaster — November 13, 2010 @ 9:17 am | Reply

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