21st Century Wire says…
How significant is Twitter really? Is it really worth arresting anyone whose comments are ‘offensive’, even when the same things are said every minute of every day in offices, pubs, parks and parties across the planet? For example…
“I could kill Neil Lennon for that coaching decision,” does anyone imagine that the boozy chip merchant would have ended up in the back of a police car? But on Twitter, the man with a half dozen followers and no retweets is presumed to either be a homicidal madman or in possession of the power to suborn murder.”
The police in Britain are becoming ultra-ambitious when it comes to rounding up Twitter users, but something doesn’t quite add up here.
How can it be a crime to ‘Tweet’ anything, outside of genuine and direct death threats? How come Americans can handle Twitter chatter without the police state getting involved, but the British cannot?
Weren’t the British famous for having an ultra-dry sense of humour? Didn’t the British used to be tolerant, thick skinned and tough? Whatever happened to that famous British stiff upper lip?
In the new nanny state, where everyone is crying to the state for various and sundry harmless online ‘offenses’, people think it’s a good use of law enforcement and judiciary time – to patrol the internet for thing that might hurt people’s feelings somewhere.
Last time we checked, Twitter and Facebook are opt-in services, and are not mandatory. How about the ‘delete’ option? Can adults handle that level of self-responsibility? Apparently not.
Social controllers are only using social network platforms to promote conformity to the establishment’s orthodoxy, and the end result is chilling freedom of speech and expression…
When Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman (image,left) briefly melted down in a post-game interview Sunday, shouting something about his superior skills as a football player and the relative insignificance of a player on the opposing team, the Internet did what the Internet does best: In high dudgeon, it sputtered, typed in all caps, and excreted hundreds of witless tweets. Well, most of it was witless. Some of it, predictably, was racist. A young lad named Travis Ozegovich, representing the latter category, tweeted “Richard Sherman = typical nigger.”
Now, there is likely no person on Earth that I would want to have a drink with less, much less befriend or employ, than a young troglodyte like Travis Ozegovich. And by dribbling out his racist bile on Twitter—and by me writing about it, repeating his name for the spiders and robots of Google—it seems that Travis Ozegovich will have a rather difficult time convincing future friends and employers that he isn’t a racist moron. Mostly because the available evidence suggests that he is.
But imagine if we could levy punishment—fines and jail time, piled on top of the standard obloquy and backlash—on Ozegovich for the crime of being a sad little racist. And imagine if we could deputize bureaucrats and police pencil-pushers to trawl Twitter in search of other sad little racists, filling our already overstuffed prisons with even more racists. In the United States, thankfully, we crowdsource our anti-racism efforts, leaving the public shaming to websites like Deadspin, which flagged Ozegovich’s dead-on George Wallace impression and apparently forced him to shutter his Twitter and Facebook accounts.
But there are plenty of places where people like Ozegovich would be remanded into police custody for their knuckle-dragging comments. Because while an American sports star was being abused on Twitter, sports fans in the United Kingdom were venting their anger at various stars and coaches in various professional soccer leagues—and drawing the attention of prosecutors.
Like the chip shop employee with 23 Twitter followers—all close friends—who vented this measured and enlightened critique of Celtic manager Neil Lennon’s coaching style on the microblogging service. “I seriously do wish that someone would kill that ugly ginger cunt.” It was retweeted an astonishing zero times.
Yes, yes. One shouldn’t be in the business of threatening to kill professional athletes and their coaches, no matter how much their decisions or substandard play ruin your afternoon. And threats of violence, even if hyperbolic and meant in jest, are something rather different than cruelty towards “gingers” (though this is likely also an offense. The flame-haired children of the United Kingdom gathered in London recently to protest wide-spread discrimination against red heads). Had he joked at a pub, and within the earshot of a concerned constable, “I could kill Neil Lennon for that coaching decision,” does anyone imagine that the boozy chip merchant would have ended up in the back of a police car? But on Twitter, the man with a half dozen followers and no retweets is presumed to either be a homicidal madman or in possession of the power to suborn murder.
We can allow a little more understanding for the policeman who investigates a call to violence—tone is difficult to capture on Twitter, after all—but the Scottish police waste a good deal of time hauling in those accused of racist, sectarian, and generally offensive online speech. A supporter of Celtic’s bitter rival Glasgow Rangers was sentenced to six months in prison for “sectarian threats” when he employed the word “Taig,” a derogatory term for Catholics, during a podcast.
Abridgements of free speech aren’t justifiable, I’m afraid, when we disagree with the views espoused, no matter how repulsive.
After broadcaster and former soccer star Stan Collymore (image, left) accused a Liverpool F.C. player of drawing a penalty by taking a dive, he received a stream of racist abuse on Twitter. The authorities quickly involved themselves, tracking down his tormentors. “Several police forces have been fantastic,” Collymore later tweeted. “Twitter haven’t [sic].” Investigating the abuse, Staffordshire Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Ellis celebrated the future of draconian laws that abridged free—but vile—speech: “The law on matters such as these is still developing and I believe a time will come very shortly when people who act in this disgraceful way will get a nasty shock when they are tracked down. I will certainly be encouraging the police to take this investigation as far as possible.” How far that may be is unclear, though we can only presume that it would involve jail time for those tracked down.
And it’s not just sports fans being arrested for trolling. Two Twitter users who threatened Caroline Criado-Perez, a feminist campaigner who successfully agitated for Jane Austen to replace Charles Darwin on the £10 note, were successfully prosecuted for making crude, violent, and sexist threats. “[Criado-Perez] has suffered life-changing psychological effects from the abuse which she received on Twitter,” said prosecutors. Isabella Sorley, a 23-year-old shut-in, told Criado-Perez on Twitter to “f*** off and die you worthless piece of crap,” advised her to “go kill yourself,” and, in response to several rape “jokes” made at Criado-Perez’s expense, said that “rape is the last of your worries.” Sorley and her fellow threatener pleaded guilty.
Neil Phillips, a 44-year-old shopkeeper in Staffordshire, was arrested, fingerprinted, and had his computer seized by police when he made a pair of tasteless jokes about Nelson Mandela (“My PC takes so long to shut down I’ve decided to call it Nelson Mandela”). The joke, such as it, was reprinted in various British newspapers. As far as I can ascertain, no journalists were arrested for printing the offending joke, which could be repeated by readers and ultimately cause the Mandela family distress.
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