Tag Archives: Joseph Harker

Own Goal: Think Before You Tweet

The fuss about Liam Stacey’s tweets just won’t die down. Victoria Cohen has recently posted an article asking if we actually knew what Liam was being arrested for. This is something that was troubling me ever since the news initially broke. Whilst I may be perilously close to sounding a bit too liberal, isn’t it a bit concerning when other more severe cases aren’t dealt with nearly as quickly as this scenario?

I’ll pause here for a moment to clarify my position. Yes, I understand that racism isn’t something we should be condoning. Yes, I am a white male, and I am not likely to be on the receiving end of racial abuse. As a country, however, Britain seems to place a lot of stock in free speech. Except when this sort of thing happens. ‘I disagree with what you say, but I defend to the death your right to say it’ sort of thing.

The tweets:

Obviously he’s a twat, and his meaningless swearing suffers from the law of diminishing returns, which really rustles my jimmies. If he had acted on his racist remarks, then the law would be entirely within rights to give him a right bollocking. The sentence he actually received, however, seems disproportionate to many other incidents of more blatant (and physical) racism.

Here is one example:

Three male police officers in east London have been placed on restricted duties for allegedly making racist comments, Scotland Yard has said, two days after the Metropolitan police commissioner urged his staff to report inappropriate behaviour by colleagues and declared he would “not stand for any racism or racists”.

Wait a second.

Three male police officers in east London have been placed on restricted duties for allegedly making racist comments.

WELL THIS MAKES SENSE. Police officers throwing their weight around? Slap on the wrist. Bloke mistaking Twitter for 4chan? SEND HIM TO THE DOGS. I can’t fathom why police officers somehow have this limited immunity to allegations such as these, even in the face of hard evidence. Their lot should be a swift kick from the police force. ‘Restricted duties’? Well, that has surely put the alleged victim’s worries to rest. One case involves an audio recording.

I mean, if we’re that set against racism, why hasn’t Nick Griffin been locked up already? How does the EDL still exist? Joseph Harker suggests that they get away with everything, whilst people are content to chase down ‘easy targets’ such as Liam:

At the moment, it seems, the criminal justice system is unleashing all its energy on the little guys. Twitterers, train ranters, even footballers – for venting their emotions in public. These are all issues which, a few years ago, would have gone mostly unnoticed by all but the victims. Now, though, these incidents are likely to be recorded, replayed, retweeted, stuck on YouTube and viewed by millions. And the state seems keen to go after these “quick wins” to try to claim that racism will no longer be tolerated.

I know how unpleasant racial abuse can be: as a child I was regularly insulted, sometimes assaulted, by passers-by in the street hurling racial epithets. They knew they could get away with it, and I never thought to report a “racial incident” to the police – there was no chance they’d have done anything about it. (Later, as a student, I had bricks thrown through my window wrapped in paper covered with Nazi slogans. I reported that: the police did next to nothing.)

But to me, the sad individuals who vent their emotions this way have never been the real problem: they’re mostly uneducated, they hold little real power over me, and the threat they pose is minimal. By contrast, the people who actually go out organising, who form political organisations pledged to ethnically cleanse the country, forcing me and my family out, are the real danger. And they seem to get away with everything.

This isn’t justice. Liam’s case was a lynching. It was a textbook case of mob mentality, and had a modicum of restraint been exercised then Liam would probably have been subject to a disciplinary hearing at Swansea University and banned on Twitter. Perhaps that would have happened if a Twitter moderator swooped in on his tweets early enough (though that would have been nearly impossible). What good does a jail sentence serve, other than to make an example of him?

Whilst I’m at it, I found another news article floating about today. Brendan O’Riodran is facing a malpractice probe, a year after posting the following on his Facebook account:

Back and causing chaos. Been on call this week. Been in theatre this week slaughtering the innocent.

The doctor was already under fire for an issue with one Johnnie Antoniazzi, who had died whilst under Brendan’s care. What does this Facebook message have to do with the issue? His widow is quite right to be angry with his doctor for what she perceives as a neglect of care, but this message has nothing to do with the issue at all.

Regardless of all this, Liam Stacey has learnt a very important lesson this month: Life is unfair. Twitter is especially unfair.

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