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.