Swell of support for Twitter bomb joker who lost appeal

Darren Allan

November 12, 2010

We reported yesterday on the case of Paul Chambers, the man who tweeted a joke about blowing Robin Hood airport up when bad weather threatened to disrupt his travel plans back in January.

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

Back in May, he was convicted of “sending a menacing message”, fined and lost his job over the affair. His appeal went to court yesterday, but was turned down by the judge.

Many folks have come out in support of Chambers, however, including Twitter mega-personality Stephen Fry, who actually offered to pay his fine and costs. In another tweet, Fry called it a “ludicrous court decision.”

The Guardian highlighted other high profile comedians who attacked the decision, too. Dara O’Briain called it “a victory for crushing literalism and scare-mongering by the judiciary. Horrible.”

David Mitchell tweeted that the episode was “a disgrace. He’s being punished for flippancy,” and then added, “Flippancy is important.”

A Twitter Joke Trial Fund account has been set up, and apparently donations flooded in. Yesterday evening, the account tweeted: “The extra costs of £2,000 have been covered in less than an hour, you people are extraordinary.”

It also pointed out that the #twitterjoketrial channel had become the number two trending topic worldwide last night. Furthermore, BBC Breakfast was talking about the topic this morning, in a discussion entitled: “When does a joke stop being a joke?”

An iPetition has also been set up, which you can sign if you “do not consider @pauljchambers tweet to be ‘obviously menacing.’”

That’s a reference to what the appeal judge concluded, which according to the petition was that his tweet was “menacing in its content and obviously so. It could not be more clear. Any ordinary person reading this would see it in that way and be alarmed.”

No, not really. An ordinary person would clearly see it as a joke (the tone and exclamation marks are little clues), and thus far 1,000 ordinary people have signed the petition to make this clear. We’d imagine that number will increase considerably as the day progresses.

As Brian Turner pointed out in his TechWatch article on this yesterday, if John Betjeman had wrote “come friendly bombs and fall on Slough, it isn’t fit for people now” nowadays he would be up on a terrorism charge, instead of being made Poet Laureate.


Comments in chronological order (5 comments)

  1. Nick says:

    This is set to become a test case of whether one person (the judge, or *any* judge, really) can accurately represent a combination of law, common sense and distilled public opinion. If any judge has – for example – mild social dysfunctionality, masked by his position and many years’ experience of passing for normal, then how on earth can his decision-making skills be considered reliable. Time to computerise the whole judicial system, I think!!

  2. Phil says:

    Well presumably this sets a precedent meaning the conservative councillor who tweeted asking someone to stone a Muslim journalist to death the other day will also be tried for sending racist death threats?

  3. SNS says:

    My personal frustration, and I’m sure others, is how seriously this has been treat by the courts compared to worse crimes.

    Compare this “crime” to people who are commiting knife offences, muggings, rapes, thefts and generally behaving anti-social on the streets.

    Those people are getting off-scot-free for their offences compared to this.

    It just astounds me how a man who makes a bad-taste joke and be arrested, dragged through the courts, fined and loose his job! Basically ruining his life.

    Yet when someone commits a knife-crime they get a slap on the rist and given a few months in jail or some community service.

    How does any of that make sense? Where are the priorities?

  4. jason says:

    Had this man, been Pakistani, and tweeted the same message jokingly, there would be no Fry support or this stupid Fund ! Surely this money should be given to a real charity.

    Justice has been served fairly according to the recent terror laws that have been introduced. Just because he is an average native white man, doesnt give him the right to joke about such matters.

    You can’t just assume the message is a joke. The world is full of nutters – just look at Facebook suicides – seriously look it up. The support for this joke bomber (!) is ridiculous !

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