Twitter joke trial

Dunno if you guys in the US are up to speed on the Twitter joke trial, a classic collision of new technology, post 9/11 paranoia, witless judges, and a hapless victim. Here’s one of our leading comedy scriptwriters on the warpath back in May.

The conviction was upheld on appeal!

Here’s a geek carefully setting out what’s all stupidly, stupidly wrong about the verdict (h/t Felix Salmon). In the meantime everyone over here is tweeting the text (with hashtag iamspartacus) that got Paul Chambers into the courts, landed him with a fine, and trashed his career.

The protest seems to be widespread. Join in, it can’t hurt. I’m not a big fan of Twitter but it might even be enough to make me emit my first ever tweet.

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  1. Peripheral Visionary

    The fact that the authorities get worked up over jokes is fairly indicative to me of a desire to Do Something for the sake of being seen as Doing Something. There seems to be little realistic risk assessment in the process; e.g., what is the correlation between jokes made about terrorist attacks and actual terrorist attacks? (Most like correlation: zero; as distinct from, e.g., suicide, which is often preceded by relevant half-jokes.) Is there any indication that preventing ill-advised jokes over terrorist attacks actually enhances security? (Again, most likely: no.)

    I hereby propose a new legislation covering Stupid Jokes, that provides for a maximum penalty of a $100 fine for any extremely ill-advised joke, which would cover the authorities’ need to be seen as Doing Something while leaving the ill-advised jokesters in question with a lesson in what should and should not be said in public, but no further penalty.

  2. Paul Tioxon

    The Governor of PA found out that the State Homeland Security Director had contracted a security company to assess possible infrastructure threats, among many other possible threats. What was revealed, in addition to the company essentially surfing the internet to check on web sites for rable rousers like the American Friends Service Committee and Grannies against war were political rallies that were attended by the Gov for Democratic Candidates in the Fall election. The scandal of spying on hundreds of groups, with discerning pattern of much of anything, other than they were speaking out and holding a rally or protest or gathering of some sort placed them on the Homeland Security Terrorist watch list. When anyone can get caught up in this ridiculous dragnet, there is no threat assessment being developed, just a collection that included virtually everyone. Included with lefties like the Friends were Tea Parties in PA. It didn’t seem to matter what you spoke up for or against it just seem to matter that you spoke up at all that targeted you as a threat.

    I am tempted to Tweet just to fuck with these assholes. The Government needs to be kept in its place.

    1. PunchnRun

      If I were a serious revolutionary intent on causing maximum damage to a population or organization like the US, would it make sense to draw attention to myself by posting rants and advocating civil disobedience, attending and organizing public demonstrations? More likely I will seek to penetrate the organization I wish to destroy, so I can direct it in resource-wasting, self-destructive and confidence-damaging activities.

      1. attempter

        So that’s where they all went.

        (There’s a good Tom Tomorrow cartoon on that theme, showing Bush and Cheney planning out the original commie plot back in the 60s, and how they were on the verge of success when the reactionary agent Obama showed up to thwart them.)

      2. Jason Rines

        But say you were successful in your effort. People follow leadership and that is why one signs on the dotted line for freedom. And alter is the 1st set of instructions in the Declaration of Independence.

    2. Externality

      What is interesting is that Pennsylvania had to outsource this to an Israeli company called the Institute of Terrorism Research and Response (ITRR); average Americans seem more dedicated to what the elites call our “outdated Constitution.” (Most, but not all, of the career DoD and Justice Department leadership refused to help the neo-cons with torture and illegal surveillance, forcing the neo-cons to hire outside contractors.) Much of the work done by the Department of Homeland Security is outsourced to companies in Israel or “headquartered” at mail drops in tax havens.

      While ITRR was led by “Aaron Richman, a former Israeli police captain, and Michael Perelman, a former York police commander,” it is impossible to find out who their employees are.
      The company even tried to set up its own Stasi-style system of informants to report (or, in Soviet-speak, “denounce”) Americans who engaged in peaceful protest.

      What is worrisome is that, after the dot-com crash, but before 9/11, Israel decided to refocus its tech sector on security technology to take advantage of the experience of recent Jewish immigrants from the former USSR. Many of the Jews who fled the falling USSR had served in the KGB (and its predecessors such the NKVD), Red Army, GRU, Interior Ministry, CPSU, and other organs of Soviet repression. Whatever their technical skills, employees of these agencies were not known to respect people’s civil rights or care about constitutional guarantees. Even President Clinton has complained about their authoritarian tendencies and opinion of Palestinians.

      These outside “contractors” tried, for example, to get Bush the Younger to institute a Soviet-style internal passport system where one would need to show identification to police and/or DHS whenever one crossed a state line. Bush, thankfully, rejected this. We do however, have post 9/11 legislation that resembles some of the draconian laws against “anti-Soviet activities,” “wrecking,” and “anti-Soviet agitation” Now that DHS has reclassified peaceful protest as “low level terrorism,” peaceful protests against natural gas drilling, homophobia, and high taxes, are handled with a degree of surveillance approaching that used on “wreckers” who undermined the confidence in the Soviet Union by criticizing its policies.

    3. Richard Kline

      The AFSC, rabble rousers? That’s a bit of a hoot (though I entirely understand and agree with your point, Paul). I _know_ folks who’ve served on AFSC, and they’re the calmest, most grounded, non-Buddhists you’ll ever meet: they just don’t put governments above people. All that not swearing oaths nor doffing hats to lords stuff really is bred deep in the bone, there. [Full disclosure, I was raised a Quaker, my parents worked for AFSC affiliates, and organizing for therm would be me, oh, dream job, time was.]

      What we are dealing with here in Twitterergate is what was called in the RSA the securocracy. Fascist-lite badge-and-bogey types with the rules and suits of vested bureaucrats _invent_ security ‘threats,’ it’s full employment forever for them, and entangle insurgent, mook, and upstanding citizen alike in red tape stronger than leg irons. The real enemy however is THEM, the securocrats. Or it becomes so. Doing something to be seen doing something has been the order of the day since we bombed empty training camps in Afghanistan weeks after 11 September 01. The Admin then like the stupes they were were totally caught with their pants down, and bluster and bombsaway have been their cover-up modalities on their own problematic or absent competence ever since. . . . These guys are _far_ more dangerous to the citizenry of our country than anyone they putatively ‘secure’ us from.

  3. ex-PFC Chuck

    Thanks for the “Geek” link. For someone who’s been thinking about checking Twitter out it filled the bill as a crystal clear explanation of the basics of how it works.

  4. Jaap

    couldn’t help but think of the brilliant movie V for Vendetta. especially when Stephen Fry got picked up with the secret police saying: “not so funny now, is it, funny man?”

  5. Tertium Squid

    Though I measure just a bit of satisfaction that this guy gets to learn that words have meanings and consequences, no way is it the state’s business to make him learn the lesson like this.

    How blessed we’d be if actual terrorists actually personally and publicly announce exactly what they’ll do and when. It’s a pernicious sort of bureaucratic officiousness that seeks to prosecute this kind of behavior. And bottom line, it is not a healthy, secure or strong society that fears such words from ordinarly people.

  6. rj

    Twitter is one of the dumbest things in the history of mankind. It’s like people think whatever they write there isn’t real and doesn’t count. Reminds me of that one Facebook post that went viral over the internet where the girl said she hated her job and her boss was a pervert. Her boss responded to her saying that she probably didn’t remember making him a Facebook friend, that although he didn’t prance around like a fairy he was gay so he couldn’t be a pervert, and that she was fired immediately because it was still within her trial period, and yes he was serious, so come in tomorrow and clear out her stuff.

  7. Jim Haygood

    One of the defining characteristics of a police state is the absence of a sense of humor.

    Jokes fall flat. The regime, knowing that it’s popularly despised, overreacts dramatically to any threat, real or imagined.

    Of course, I’m talking about the distant past. Today’s enlightened, democratic governments don’t fit this description at all. ;-)

  8. Paul Repstock

    My good freinds: Please wake up and smell the pretty flowers. For the past 9 years there have only been two growth industries in the United States of America: One is ‘Financial Security’ and the other is ‘Homeland Security’. They have both been enormous frauds perperated upon the citizens.

    In this blog we have thoroughly trashed the Financial security aspect already so I will adress the “other”.

    To avoid unnecessay confrontation I will avoid discussion of 9/11.

    When the DHS was formed I and many others immediatly were suspicious. It was suspected of being enormously expensive and of doubtfull value. This has since proven to be the case. For ‘security reasons’, the populus is told that they cannot be given the details of the “many” cases in which this security apparatus has saved their bacon…sure??

    The cases which have been disclosed have in common a surprising lack of credibility. “Shoe Bomber”, “Underwear Bomber”, Burning gasoline and propane in Times Square, Dangerous chemicals smuggled in from Canada….Phulleeeease…

    If weighed against the direct costs and the indirect costs(impediments to transport and commerce), Then all of these Terrorist Plots,(if credible) would have assigned a relative cost of tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars for each of the possible victims of the above plots. Your Government does not assign such a value to your hides. Please think of how soldiers and their families are compensated.

    1. Chris

      Speaking of frauds, did you see where the FBI was using their shiny new Patriot Act wiretap privileges to go after drug dealers, instead of terrorists? I’m sure nobody saw that coming.

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