A man who posted a joke on his twitter page about blowing up Robin Hood airport has been arrested under the Anti-terror laws. Paul Chambers vented his frustrations when the airport was closed following snow disruption by typing in a comic threat to blow ‘the airport sky high!!’ (Note the two exclamation marks. Bad punctuation is the first sign of criminality.) A week later, he was arrested under the Terrorism Act, questioned for nearly seven hours, released on bail, suspended from work pending an internal investigation, and been banned from the Doncaster airport for life. “I would never have thought, in a thousand years, that any of this would have happened because of a Twitter post,” said Mr Chambers, 26. “I’m the most mild-mannered guy you could imagine.” (Mild-mannered, eh? Aren’t they always the suspicious ones?)
Admittedly it’s not a very good joke, but that’s not technically a crime. If we locked up everyone who told bad jokes then we’d have to create a special prison, holding the cast of Hi-de-hi, every clown in existence and Bruce Forsyth, who would be serving four life sentences with no chance of parole. (Actually that’s not a bad idea.)
No, the real crime is blasphemy. Because he’s not taking things seriously enough. As we all know, you can make jokes about anything these days: race, religion, disability, the Queen, you name it. Anything except terrorism. Because that’s not humour: that’s blasphemy.
This is why this man is VERY WRONG to joke in this manner. Because it shows that he is NOT TAKING THINGS SERIOUSLY ENOUGH. And the government and the police want to be sure that we take the terrorism threat VERY SERIOUSLY INDEED. If we don’t take it VERY SERIOUSLY INDEED, we might start to question why, exactly, anti-terrorism laws are being used against photographers or people who put their bins out too early or people engaging in entirely legal demonstrations. We might start to wonder why the use of these powers has quadrupled since 2005, despite the fact that not a single stop-and-search under the new anti-terrorism powers has resulted in a conviction for terrorism.
That’s why the police have to come down strongly. (And deliberately not getting someone’s jokes, is one of the best ways of unnerving people, of proving that you have the power. ‘So, you think this is funny do you?’)
And another thing, what happens if someone doesn’t get the joke? There is always a chance that jokes posted on social network sites can become rumours. What happens if people too stupid to recognise humour read it? They might come and arrest you… oh, hang on.
Anyway, obviously that’s not what happened. Obviously the police were entirely justified, because, as everyone knows, if you were going to bomb an airport, you would be likely to twitter it in advance.
In fact, I’m not sure they have gone far enough. Here’s what I think should happen.
1. More Police time should be diverted to scanning Twitter, Facebook and MySpace. Then, when they see messages like ‘I’m going to burgle someone’s house today’ or ‘I’m thinking of taking up a career as a drugs mule’ they can swoop.
2. We should create a new offence of ‘Loitering with the intention of not taking things seriously enough.’
3. Anyone seen laughing at the Home Secretary should be taken in psychiatric care.
4. Bruce Forsyth should be arrested under Anti-terrorist legislation. His wig should be searched for liquid explosives.
5. All security staff at Robin Hood airport should be forced to wear tights and use a bow and arrow.
I think this proves that I, for one, don’t think this is any laughing matter.