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UK Politician Arrested Over Twitter 'Stoning Joke'

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the watch-how-you-tweet dept.

Crime 422

History's Coming To writes "The BBC is reporting that a Tory city councillor has been arrested over a 'joke' he posted to Twitter suggesting that Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, a UK based writer, be stoned to death. The full tweet read, 'Can someone please stone Yasmin Alibhai-Brown to death? I shan't tell Amnesty if you don't. It would be a blessing, really.' Following complaints he was arrested under the Communications Act 2003 and bailed. He has since apologized. This comes on the same day that a conviction for a Twitter 'joke' about blowing up an airport was upheld."

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422 comments

A bomb! (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34198596)

Bomb, Bomb, Bomb the parliament!

Doing in wrong... (5, Insightful)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 3 years ago | (#34198602)

Obviously he should have phrased it "Won't someone rid me of this meddlesome columnist?"

Re:Doing in wrong... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34199248)

His phrasing was off, here, in the states, he could have phrased it (with apparent immunity) as such:

"There are a lot of unhappy people in the world, I wouldn't be surprised if someone were to want to stone Yasmin Alibhai-Brown to death, he lives at xyz road,... Jesus loves christian solders, and hates people with 'Alib' in there name."

Re:Doing in wrong... (1)

need4mospd (1146215) | more than 3 years ago | (#34199540)

Apparently he should have said, "Can someone please stone the fucking morons that wrote the Communications Act 2003 to death."

Asshat (3, Insightful)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 3 years ago | (#34198606)

Joking about killing a writer whose views you don't agree with? Surely they teach you not to do that in their "Politics: Good Manners 101" class.

Re:Asshat (5, Insightful)

SirThe (1927532) | more than 3 years ago | (#34198688)

Maybe, but he still shouldn't be arrested for it!

Re:Asshat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34198762)

Maybe, but he still shouldn't be arrested for it!

Really hard to tell without more context but on the face of it I think someone could reasonably view his comments as inciting violence. It could also reasonably be viewed as a poor taste joke. Those are the risks you take if you're not very bright. Life's a bitch.

Re:Asshat (2, Interesting)

AnonymousClown (1788472) | more than 3 years ago | (#34198854)

Inciting violence?

All he asked was a rhetorical question. Many times, I've asked if it were possible to have someone flogged like in the old British Navy and no one takes it seriously. Has asked if she could be stoned - NOT shot; not beaten to death with a cricket bat; but stoned, as in an old fashioned fantasy sort of way.

The real morons here are the folks who are taking this seriously.

Re:Asshat (5, Informative)

gmack (197796) | more than 3 years ago | (#34198924)

Not that it entirely defends his poor joke but he was reacting to her recent assertion that politicians have no right to criticize human rights abuses such as stoning women in Iran.

Re:Asshat (1)

Entropius (188861) | more than 3 years ago | (#34199008)

Poor jokes in poor taste are not crimes.

Re:Asshat (1)

MaskedSlacker (911878) | more than 3 years ago | (#34199254)

Parliament and the courts in the UK would seem to disagree with you.

Re:Asshat (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34199486)

Yes, it seems the entire western world is stumbling over themselves to be first in line for Muslim pandering. Hopefully once Obama is voted out in 2012, we can resume a reasonable course in the west. That is, in pursuit of God (read: Christian God, not catholic, mormon, muslim or any other nonsense fabrication), Country and Freedom.

Re:Asshat (1)

amicusNYCL (1538833) | more than 3 years ago | (#34199416)

Where, legally speaking, is the line between a threat and a joke, assuming all you're seeing is text and no body language?

Re:Asshat (3, Interesting)

amiga3D (567632) | more than 3 years ago | (#34199092)

Actually it sounds like an appropriate response to her column then. She should be stoned. After all, she apparently thinks it's okay. Oh...I missed the part where she thinks it's okay for "others" to be stoned. Sorry 'bout that!

Re:Asshat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34199130)

She should be stoned. After all, she apparently thinks it's okay.

Yep. All supporters of the death penalty should be killed and the rest of us should be imprisoned. After all, apparently we think it's okay.

Re:Asshat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34199502)

Tomorrow's headline: /. user amiga3D arrested for comment alleging author should be stoned.

Good thing I post as AC

Re:Asshat (4, Interesting)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 3 years ago | (#34198952)

asked if she could be stoned - NOT shot; not beaten to death with a cricket bat; but stoned, as in an old fashioned fantasy sort of way.

s/n old fashioned fantasy/ current, 3000 mile to the southeast/

Re:Asshat (2, Interesting)

ChipMonk (711367) | more than 3 years ago | (#34199020)

Okay, how about if someone does say so-and-so should be shot? Paul Kanjorski said it of Rick Scott [thetimes-tribune.com]:

"That Scott down there that's running for governor of Florida," Mr. Kanjorski said. "Instead of running for governor of Florida, they ought to have him and shoot him. Put him against the wall and shoot him..."

Yes, I excerpted the quote. Read the entire quote, and make sure to keep reading what's after the quote.

So, should Paul Kanjorski be arrested for inciting violence? Or do any words qualify for you as "rhetorical" after they're said?

Re:Asshat (4, Insightful)

digitig (1056110) | more than 3 years ago | (#34199264)

Given that Yasmin Alibhai-Brown is a Muslim secularist and campaigner for democracy and women's rights (amongst other things), I think that there is a real chance that there are many who wouldn't see calling for her to be stoned to death as a joke, and there is good reason for the tweet to be considered incitement to violence. Joking about the death of a random celeb is one thing; it's another thing when that person really is already at serious risk of violence.

They don't have that class (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34198930)

"Politics is perhaps the only profession for which no preparation is thought necessary."
    -- Robert Louis Stevenson

Re:Asshat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34199522)

Now if only Muslims were joking when they make such comments...

Stupid (1, Insightful)

Antisyzygy (1495469) | more than 3 years ago | (#34198616)

This is somewhat ridiculous. I know its not the US, so the laws are different, but who really cares if this man says something like that, as long as he doesn't follow through with it. If I were him I would not apologize.

Re:Stupid (0)

Fast Thick Pants (1081517) | more than 3 years ago | (#34198712)

He posted a public request for the woman to be murdered. He even suggested a specific weapon. How could he follow through any more than that -- start suggesting exact times and places?

Re:Stupid (0)

xnpu (963139) | more than 3 years ago | (#34198776)

No he did not. He made a joke. If you can't tell the difference that's really just your problem.

Re:Stupid (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34198816)

It takes just one determined (and mentally ill) person who does not see this as a joke for a murder to happen. This is one of the main reasons why this kind of 'joke' is not acceptable.

Re:Stupid (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34198860)

It takes just one determined (and mentally ill) person who does not see this as a joke for a murder to happen. This is one of the main reasons why this kind of 'joke' is not acceptable.

However, if you assume someone of that sort of mental illness, you can't guarantee he/she'll misinterpret anything else you say as an "order" to murder someone. If you start down the path of kowtowing to people whose mental deficiencies give them homicidal tendencies, you don't solve any problems. Ever.

Re:Stupid (1)

xnpu (963139) | more than 3 years ago | (#34198890)

Ah. So mentally ill persons are also barred from watching action movies? novels? pictures? thoughts of their own? Not to mention that you can easily coax a fragile person into committing murder without literally asking for it.

Re:Stupid (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34198922)

It takes just one determined (and mentally ill) person who does not see this as a joke for a murder to happen. This is one of the main reasons why this kind of 'joke' is not acceptable.

People are morons, the correct way to make the joke is using sarcasm; "Hope no nutjob stones this person to death, that'd be terrible". Is there a single case (ever) of a mentally ill individual murdering a 3rd party because they took a joke literally?

How about stuff like "Do us all a favour, go fuck a power outlet"... should phrases like that be banned because one in a hundred million people are stupid or would it merely prove the point in such exceptional circumstances?

Re:Stupid (1)

ArsenneLupin (766289) | more than 3 years ago | (#34199234)

How about stuff like "Do us all a favour, go fuck a power outlet"...

That'd be a really teeny dick... How about "Do us all a favour, go fuck a light socket"? Already more plausible...

Re:Stupid (2, Insightful)

sjames (1099) | more than 3 years ago | (#34198978)

Sam Kinnison said it best, "You'd have gotten the same thing from the Monkees!". Crazy people might interpret nearly anything as a command from God to do a crazy thing if that's what they're predisposed to. If we're going to restrict speech based on the possibility that a crazy person might mis-interpret it, then we can't say anything at all, including "Hi" or an acknowledging grunt. Of course, silence might also be "creatively" interpreted....

Re:Stupid (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34199114)

Dearest Anonymous:

Drop dead!

Signed,
Anonymous ;)

Re:Stupid (2, Insightful)

MaskedSlacker (911878) | more than 3 years ago | (#34199272)

Do you honestly think that someone who would murder based on this tweet wouldn't have committed murder anyway?

Re:Stupid (1)

coolsnowmen (695297) | more than 3 years ago | (#34199422)

Yes. People become enamored with people in power, or thing a quid pro quo might hold. There is far more motivation to commit this crime-for-request when a person in power requests it versus if I were to post it on twitter/fb.

Re:Stupid (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34198858)

Actually, it's his problem now. When are people going to realize there are consequences for what they say? Having free speech doesn't mean you have freedom from responsiblity. His arrest and hopefully conviction for making a death threat will teach him this lesson.

Re:Stupid (1)

xnpu (963139) | more than 3 years ago | (#34198962)

It won't teach him a lesson because he didn't make a death threat. Instead it instills fear into other people who have to increasingly worry about what they say and how they say it.

Re:Stupid (3, Interesting)

Malenfrant (781088) | more than 3 years ago | (#34199012)

The UK government have already instilled this fear. If an islamic man had posted that about a white woman, you can guarantee he would be arrested, charged and convicted for it. Similar has already happened. If this councillor gets away with it it'll be yet another case of hypocrisy from our corrupt government.

Re:Stupid (0)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 3 years ago | (#34199238)

The UK government have already instilled this fear. If an islamic man had posted that about a white woman, you can guarantee he would be arrested, charged and convicted for it.

Because stoning is still a viable punishment according to Sharia Law, which some devout Muslims attempt to follow even in adopted countries. If the councilor instead said something that made sense from his perspective ("can someone please tell MI5 to remove her?", "can someone please fine her egregiously for not paying her BBC tax?"), then it would be easy to see that it's not a joke. As it stands, his tweet is the tweet of a bigoted douchenozzle, but not a murderous bigoted douchenozzle.

Re:Stupid (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34199184)

Obviously by publicly apologizing for making the death threat, he is making a tacit admission that he violated the law and thus is guilty. Why apologize if you didn't do anything wrong? So he's already learned the lesson of not making death threats publicly since there can be severe consequences if you do. But the lesson isn't over for him. The other part of the lesson he is about to learn is that the State has no sense of humor when it comes to death threats, no matter how facetiously the threat was delivered. You don't get to call for the murder of another person and then say "Oh, c'mon, it's just a joke" when the authorities (who are required to investigate) become involved. I hope his sentence is severe enough to give other "jokesters" pause to consider the potential consequences when they are about to make an implied death threat over the internet, or anywhere else for that matter.

Re:Stupid (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34199028)

Having free speech doesn't mean you have freedom from responsiblity.

Nine time out of ten, people who say this really mean "I don't really believe in free speech at all". And you are not number ten.

Re:Stupid (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34199372)

Sure I do. I fully support your freedom to disagree with me. What I wouldn't support in our discourse, though, is a call to have me murdered; not even if you put a smiley :) at the end of your sentence.

Re:Stupid (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34199510)

If my "call to have you murdered" is not serious and you want me to be punished for it anyway, then you DON'T support my freedom to disagree with you, as you're clearly just using the nonexistent "threat" as an excuse to lock me up for doing so. No other reason is possible.

Re:Stupid (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 3 years ago | (#34199348)

Having free speech doesn't mean you have freedom from responsiblity.

Yes, it fucking does. At least, it means you don't have to answer to the government for your speech. What ELSE would it mean? Is it just one of those general principles that people give lip service to but find a reason for its inapplicability in every specific case where it comes up?

Re:Stupid (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34199382)

BTW. A nigger and a jew went into a bar...

Re:Stupid (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 3 years ago | (#34199086)

He posted a public request for the woman to be murdered. He even suggested a specific weapon. How could he follow through any more than that -- start suggesting exact times and places?

Suggesting a weapon that is not a cultural norm, in fact, is culturally ridiculous, should make one think that there is another reason for the choice of weapon. For example, if he had asked why someone doesn't drive a stake through Robert Pattinson's heart, further investigation shows Mr. Pattinson to be the actor portraying a vampire in tween/cougar fantasy movies. My guess is that either Yasmin is a staunch defender of Sharia Law and he's making an observation, or he's just being bigoted and making a joke in poor taste.

Re:Stupid (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34199230)

Actually he suggested that she be stoned after she argued that it was perfectly acceptable. Therefore he couldn't have offended her!

Re:Stupid (5, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 3 years ago | (#34198736)

In the UK, it is illegal to threaten to kill someone. There is no exemption for it being just a joke, because that provides a pretty trivial loophole ('Oh, did he take it seriously officer? I was only joking...').

Re:Stupid (4, Funny)

Antisyzygy (1495469) | more than 3 years ago | (#34198790)

Sure thing. On the movie set when a bad guy threatens to kill the good guy it should be taken the same way. You cannot prove they weren't serious. What about when you get pissed off at someone and say "God, I want to kill you!". You cannot prove you weren't serious. Common sense would tell you this man didn't want to actually kill someone.

Re:Stupid (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34199262)

What about when you get pissed off at someone and say "God, I want to kill you!". You cannot prove you weren't serious. Common sense would tell you this man didn't want to actually kill someone.

However, the question reduces to did the person uttering the statement direct the statement (threat?) to God or to another person with whom the person making the utterance was speaking?

Re:Stupid (2, Insightful)

jav1231 (539129) | more than 3 years ago | (#34199270)

The UK doesn't have Freedom of Speech. It's that simple.

Re:Stupid (1)

Antisyzygy (1495469) | more than 3 years ago | (#34199444)

I would argue that everyone is born with freedom of speech, along with a right to do just about anything. They give it up when they decide to continue being citizens.

Re:Stupid (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34198916)

I hope they choke to death on their stupid speech restrictions.

Re:Stupid (1)

Entropius (188861) | more than 3 years ago | (#34199084)

It is also illegal in the US, but the threat has to be credible. Are threats with no credibility (i.e. a man with no arms saying "I'm going to strangle you!") still illegal in the UK?

Re:Stupid (1)

skuzzlebutt (177224) | more than 3 years ago | (#34198850)

It's absolutely ridiculous...anyone with a modicum of reason would assume that it was a joke. Making a threat is enough to investigate, in many cases, but a clear joke does not warrant arrest.

Funny part is, though, that he is now a victim of a stupid law that he may have been a party to legislating.

Re:Stupid (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34199152)

This is somewhat ridiculous. I know its not the US, so the laws are different, but who really cares if this man says something like that, as long as he doesn't follow through with it. If I were him I would not apologize.

The US' version of "free speech" isn't all that free, either. Despite direct prohibition against any such laws in our constitution, the legislature has insisted on implementing primitive libel and slander laws, as well as others that directly restrict speech. Speech does no harm. The listener must take action for harm to occur, and the responsibility for such action is with the taker of action. All you get when you restrict speech is an inability to know what people think and a culture of repression. And if that weren't enough, we've got a layer of "politically correct" social battery on top of the legal system, where saying what you think can, if not politically correct, lose you your job or worse.

Much of the attitude about speech being harmful - as opposed to placing the responsibility for actions on the listener's side - stems from the ideas that people must be protected from hearing unpleasant things; that they cannot discern idiocy, untruth, and data-free claims; that they cannot be trusted to act correctly when faced with exhortation or even simple insult. This is evidence of a complete failure to produce an educated, thinking populace, and further, of failure to intelligently discriminate between ideas and action. The correct answer is to look to regulating action; not speech.

A classic example is the "you can't shout fire in a crowded theater" idea. If someone shouts fire, no harm is done. If there is a fire, you should get out; quickly, orderly, carefully. We were all taught this in school; the principal or someone pulled the fire alarm, we all filed outside in an orderly fashion. If one child had trampled another, that child - not the person who shouted fire - would have been (correctly) admonished for their harmful action. Likewise, in the theater, fire or no fire, the only non-fire-related harm consequent to the announcement of fire comes from the actions of the listeners. If there is no fire, then the most you may have is an interrupted movie or play. Essentially a fire drill. Good practice, frankly. Certainly not an event that justifies repression of speech. In order to ensure the highest order of public safety, you should be free to announce fire at the earliest possible opportunity, not in fear that the smoke or combustion products you smell come from a controlled source. If you're wrong under the current laws, you could go to jail - this directly creates an unsafe condition. Finally, if there is any legitimate fear of citizens trampling one another, then obviously regular fire dills are called for to train them out of such behaviors before they screw up an evacuation under pressure of real danger.

Repressing speech also has disagreeable consequences such as creating individuals and groups who have unpopular opinions no one knows about; these opinions can range from absolutely correct ideas about social change and justice, to festering pockets of prejudice, misogyny, and worse. A person informed about another's state of mind is much better off than one who is not, particularly in the case where unfriendly intent is involved. Another consequence of repressing speech - either by law or via popular pressure - is that minority groups can end up muzzled or crippled with regard to expressing their views.

Re:Stupid (2, Insightful)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | more than 3 years ago | (#34199206)

People in Europe should rightly be worried about free speech laws. They are already a lot stricter than the US ones, and I am very much in favour of allowing more free speech in Europe, not less. I think all speech should be allowed...

...except direct calls for violence against individuals and groups. And that is exactly what this is. He didn't even add a smiley... how is this to be interpreted as a joke? The guy does not deserve full punishment for this, but arrest and prosecution are warranted IMHO, if only to give him a slap on the wrist for utterly irresponsibly behaviour. This is a bit like yelling "Fire!" in a crowded theatre.

Re:Stupid (5, Informative)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | more than 3 years ago | (#34199406)

You need to put it his comments in context. She said that UK politicians have no right to comment on things like stoning of women in Iran, presumably because that's a Muslim thing and she's a "political correctness" extremist who would sooner allow an innocent teenager to die a horrible death than dare insult precious male Muslim feelings. He shouldn't have even apologized, never mind get arrested. It's obviously a sarcastic response to her comments and in no way an incitement to violence.

Torn... (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 3 years ago | (#34198618)

On one hand... it seems odd to get arrested, convicted, etc., for a joke.

On the other hand, saying "oh come on guys, it was just a joke!" seems like it could easily turn into the "insanity" plea. True in some cases, but easy to claim for pretty much anything.

Re:Torn... (1)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 3 years ago | (#34198770)

Of course, he hasn't physically done anything. It'd be different if he bludgeoned someone to death and then claimed he was only kidding.

Re:Torn... (2, Informative)

Theaetetus (590071) | more than 3 years ago | (#34198836)

On the other hand, saying "oh come on guys, it was just a joke!" seems like it could easily turn into the "insanity" plea.

Unlikely. See, what most people don't know and never bother to find out because they're too busying being incensed over people "getting off" under an insanity plea, is that while you don't go to jail if you plead insanity, you instead go to a prison mental ward... where you can be kept forever. That's right - if you just plead out of a 10-20 year sentence by claiming you were insane, you just opted into a potential life sentence. The state can keep you locked up in the mental ward until they believe you're completely sane. And since they don't like people who claim to be insane, they don't rush to release you.

So, yeah, I don't think people will say "oh, come on, it was just a joke," when the result is being locked up for the rest of their lives.

Re:Torn... (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 3 years ago | (#34198950)

Not all the time, according to speakout.com, which I cannot paste due to Chrome, bah.

Yes, I know that can happen and has happened, but the point is it's a subjective hard-to-verify excuse. "Oh, I wasn't threatening, I was joking! He's just overreacting!"

Is that what htis is? Meh, probably not. Hence the "torn" part of my post. But I'd rather not, at some point, get threatened, have my threatener stopped short of something he might have done, and have him get off because he was "joking." ;)

Re:Torn... (2, Funny)

Hatta (162192) | more than 3 years ago | (#34199134)

I'm wondering what the context is here. What provoked him to make this "joke"?

I think there ought to be an exception for jokes, but only funny ones. That solves the loophole, and punishes people for making bad jokes. Win-win.

About The news (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34198624)

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Re:About The news (4, Insightful)

Shikaku (1129753) | more than 3 years ago | (#34198700)

Can someone please stone spammers to death? I shan't tell Amnesty if you don't. It would be a blessing, really.

Re:About The news (2, Insightful)

amiga3D (567632) | more than 3 years ago | (#34199106)

Stoning is far too good for spammers. They should be burned at the stake.

Ridiculous (1)

xnpu (963139) | more than 3 years ago | (#34198668)

Ridiculous. I can appreciate that talking about bombs while going through airport security is not appropriate, but a joke on Twitter? Come on already! Who says who says what. Don't like it, don't follow him - that's sort of the whole point of how these social networks work.

Re:Ridiculous (1)

vux984 (928602) | more than 3 years ago | (#34199292)

I can appreciate that talking about bombs while going through airport security is not appropriate.

I honestly can't even appreciate that. And honestly the people TALKING about bombs while going through airport security aren't all that likely to be carrying one.

Oh hai, GW! BTW... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34198686)

GWB,

BTW, that whole WMD in Iraq thing we told you about, yeah, that was a joke! haha!

~NSA, FBI etc...

He tried to say he wasn't even on Twitter.... (4, Funny)

NiteShaed (315799) | more than 3 years ago | (#34198832)

....at the time the joke was made, but police didn't believe him since he had no Alibhai.

Nanny state (2, Informative)

Teun (17872) | more than 3 years ago | (#34198910)

The UK has in the last 15-odd years become the example Nanny State.

A day doesn't pass that either one of the tabloids is blasting the government for not acting on a perceived threat or an official or government department coming out with what should really be considered an outrageous policy.

A nice one was (yesterday?) the stopping of the head of MI6 from boarding a plane to the US because she had a can of hairspray larger than the allowed 100 milliliters in her bag.

Yes it's outside of the allowance but hey she's not exactly your typical terrist!

In the UK common sense has been outlawed.

Re:Nanny state (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34199088)

A nice one was (yesterday?) the stopping of the head of MI6 from boarding a plane to the US because she had a can of hairspray larger than the allowed 100 milliliters in her bag.

Yes it's outside of the allowance but hey she's not exactly your typical terrist!

If they don't stop her, they get accused of either providing special treatment or profiling, opening themselves up to lawsuits and even more criticism. The problem was, if she feels this security measure is useless, annoying, and not needed, why didn't she try and do anything about it while she was in a position to do so?

Re:Nanny state (1)

Teun (17872) | more than 3 years ago | (#34199436)

The problem is not that she was stopped.

The problem is the system does no longer allow for a further assessment of the situation.

This should not be construed as special treatment or profiling but instead seen as the next logical step.

At least that's how it used to be and people would generally feel much better.

Nice demonstration of "reasonable restrictions" (4, Insightful)

russotto (537200) | more than 3 years ago | (#34198974)

...and more specifically, how a law that on the surface seems perfectly reasonable can be so easily misused.

The law is against menacing, the statement -- made publicly, not directed at any given person -- is
"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!!"

Any sensible person can see there is no threat there, it's just someone being a drama queen. But it violates the letter of the law and it's politically expedient to ignore the obvious.

Similarly,
"Can someone please stone Yasmin Alibhai-Brown to death? I shan't tell Amnesty if you don't. It would be a blessing, really."
is not a serious solicitation to murder; it's just someone being an ass. Or making a point in an offensive way, given that he says he was responding to a comment by Alibhai-Brown that no politician has the right to comment on human rights abuses, including the stoning of women in Iran.

I would presume that this [bbc.co.uk] is the program in question, though I haven't listened to it so don't know.

Re:Nice demonstration of "reasonable restrictions" (1)

nanospook (521118) | more than 3 years ago | (#34199140)

Maybe he shouldn't make that point in an offensive way? Maybe he should dispute points and present his opinions. Or would he rather just slander everyone to death?

Re:Nice demonstration of "reasonable restrictions" (4, Insightful)

russotto (537200) | more than 3 years ago | (#34199266)

Maybe he shouldn't make that point in an offensive way?

Your dedication to the principle of freedom of speech is touching.

Maybe he should dispute points and present his opinions.

Maybe that wouldn't be as effective as being nasty.

Or would he rather just slander everyone to death?

There's no slander involved here.

Re:Nice demonstration of "reasonable restrictions" (1)

vux984 (928602) | more than 3 years ago | (#34199344)

Maybe he shouldn't make that point in an offensive way? Maybe he should dispute points and present his opinions. Or would he rather just slander everyone to death?

I find your post extremely offensive. You shouldn't be legally allowed to offend me. I've already called the police. I know you'll cooperate and accept your conviction because you clearly agree people shouldn't be allowed to offend other people.

Re:Nice demonstration of "reasonable restrictions" (1)

melikamp (631205) | more than 3 years ago | (#34199342)

"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!!"

Any sensible person can see there is no threat there

This is a literal threat. This says, literally, that the speaker will detonate something at an airport, unless his demands are met. The only way to not perceive this as a threat is by reading between the lines and assuming a context that's just not there. When you say this kind of thing at a bar to a friend, where the context is well understood by everyone in the audience (they know you personally!), it is clear that this is merely a hyperbolic expression. When you post this on a widely publicized site like twitter, virtually assuring that most of your readers will not get any context, it's just a bare, literal, unequivocal threat. Would it kill you to add "Just kidding ;)" in the end?

Question of freedom (-1, Flamebait)

Caerdwyn (829058) | more than 3 years ago | (#34198998)

These are serious questions.

Where do you have greater freedom of speech and presumption of innocence: Britain or Saudi Arabia? Where are you more likely to be harassed by police for trivialities: Britain or Saudi Arabia?

Every day the two look more alike.

And now I will commit a crime in the eyes of England: Will someone please put a bullet into the head of the police officer who made the arrest?

You mix up Britain and England (2, Insightful)

fantomas (94850) | more than 3 years ago | (#34199172)

>Where do you have greater freedom of speech and presumption of innocence: Britain or Saudi Arabia?

On balance I'd say Britain

>Where are you more likely to be harassed by police for trivialities: Britain or Saudi Arabia?

Not sure, do you have the figures that you could share with us?

>Every day the two look more alike.

Evidence from, say the last 5 days: could you give us five separate summaries to prove this point?

>And now I will commit a crime in the eyes of England:

I suppose you mean "in the laws of England". Are you aware that England and Britain are different?

Has the entire world gone mad? (4, Interesting)

Calibax (151875) | more than 3 years ago | (#34199072)

Both the twitter posts cited in the article are jokes in poor taste by frustrated people, but are they evidence of intent to kill someone or blow up a plane? People bent on that sort of act rarely advertise their intent on some public media.

What's next? Being prosecuted for threatening to kill someone's character in World of Warcraft?

When I was a cop there were dozens of times that angry and/or frustrated people made comments (to me or to others) like "I'll kill you" or "You're dead if you do that again" or something similar. You have to make allowances for frustration and understand it's only human nature to make threats. Of course, it's different if you think they might actually do what they say, but that's not the usual case - people who are going to attack you just do it, they don't threaten first.

The difference is that on twitter (indeed, the internet in general) there's a permanent record. That plus a stupid/malicious prosecutor plus a judge who doesn't understand human nature is a recipe for damn stupid legal decisions.

Too far? (1)

firesyde424 (1127527) | more than 3 years ago | (#34199138)

This weekend my black labrador retriever snarfed two bags of M&M's off the kitchen counter while I was out raking leaves. He ingested roughly a pound and a half of chocolate. On the way to the vet hospital, I joked that if my dog lived through the chocolate poisoning, I was going to kill him. My wife understood this to be my way of dealing with the stress and that I really was worried about my dog and was in no way inclined to actually kill him. In other words, she got the joke.

If my wife got the joke, what is so hard about seeing the "joke" behind what this politician said? Or is it possible that my wife is smarter than the people that arrested this guy?

To the legal system: GO BACK TO SCHOOL. (0)

VortexCortex (1117377) | more than 3 years ago | (#34199232)

Can someone please stone Yasmin Alibhai-Brown to death?

This is asking a legitimate non threatening question: Is anyone capable of stoning Yasmin Alibhai-Brown to death?

The obvious answer is: Yes! Someone more than likely IS CAPABLE of stoning Yasmin to death (were the answer "no", then I suggest Yasmin be studied to determine the origin of her stone deflecting powers).

A threat would have been:

I will stone Alibhai-Brown to death.

However, this is not what was said.

When a child (or other semi illiterate) asks me, "Can I please do ____?", I frequently reply, "I don't know, are you capable of doing ____?" The correct question is: "Will you please let me..." or "May I please..."

Re:To the legal system: GO BACK TO SCHOOL. (1)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 3 years ago | (#34199518)

Rubbish. The intention of the statement, taken at face value, is obvious. I can assure you that if you took your argument to an English court, you would be made to look like an idiot in no time flat. I suggest that you don't offer to make an amicus curiae brief; the defence won't appreciate it.

Equality under the law (1)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 3 years ago | (#34199488)

Regardless of the particular rights and wrongs, both these cases have arisen because in England and Wales (not the UK - legal systems are different, and I do not know about Scots law) we theoretically have equality under the law.

It cuts both ways. If a Muslim cleric calls for stoning unbelievers and we arrest him, we have to be equally heavy handed with non-Muslims making similar statements.

I feel sorry for "airport guy" who has suffered far more than the case warrants - but he has failed to think it through. I'm sure that if the airport was closed because of a fake bomb threat, he would be complaining. He hasn't realised that the world doesn't consist of just "him" who he sees as the good guy, and everybody else. To everybody else, he is one of "them". This is what equality under the law means; being white, male and university educated does not make you privileged any more.

I started out, by the way, thinking his conviction was quite wrong. But I've been persuaded otherwise, and this is why.

I'm sure no one here got arrested ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34199498)

... for wishing real murder.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1328703/Remembrance-Day-Poppy-burning-Muslim-protesters-mar-Armistice-Day.html

Morning Announcements (1)

Layth (1090489) | more than 3 years ago | (#34199552)

Is Wendy Testaburger using your lunch money to buy heroin?
Will someone stone a journalist to death for me?

I'm just asking the hard questions.
Signing off, this is casey miller

Perfect (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34199566)

All politicians should be subjected to the stupid laws they impose. The rest of us should carry stones.

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