We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

Presumably Matthew Woods learned a powerful lesson about the potential consequences of tasteless humour when a 50-strong mob turned up at his house and the police had to arrest him for his own safety. Jailing him on top of that is insane. Sick jokes can upset and offend. Hurriedly formed vigilante mobs can kill. If the state earnestly believes that the former pose a greater threat to social order than the latter, the state is nuts.

– Charlie Brooker, quoted here, on the latest person in Britain (last time I checked) to be sent to prison for a Facebook posting. Sometimes we end up on the same side of the barricade as the Guardian in-crowd.

8 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Sometimes we end up on the same side of the barricade as the Guardian in-crowd.


    The small faint silver lining to the very large black cloud of people (however obnoxious) being SENT TO JAIL for saying things on Facebook is that this is so blatant a denial of free speech that the Guardian in-crowd might get a reminder that they once believed that hate speech is included in free speech if free speech is to mean anything at all.

  • Tedd

    Under what section of what act was this man convicted? The article doesn’t seem to say anything about that.

  • guy herbert

    It is an offence contrary to s4A of the Public Order Act 1986 (confusingly, as is the way with British criminal law, that s4A was added in 1995):

    4A Intentional harassment, alarm or distress
    1)A person is guilty of an offence if, with intent to cause a person harassment, alarm or distress, he—
    (a)uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, or
    (b)displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting, thereby causing that or another person harassment, alarm or distress.
    (2)An offence under this section may be committed in a public or a private place, except that no offence is committed where the words or behaviour are used, or the writing, sign or other visible representation is displayed, by a person inside a dwelling and the person who is harassed, alarmed or distressed is also inside that or another dwelling. […]

    He plead guilty. Probably a mistake, since the intent element and actual harassment, alarm or distress would be hard to make out.

    This is an even broader offence under s5, and there exists a campaign to reform that, by removing the word “insulting”:

  • Paul Marks

    A good post Mr Herbert.

    Agreed – on all points.

  • James Hargrave

    It is usually under some 2003 Communications act – as with the Robin Hood airport man. But the ghastly Public Order Act has been wheeled out before for the student Tweeter in March – he also made the mistake of pleading guilty and found himself before a grand-standing stipendiary magistrate whose comments were so bizarrely over the top that perhaps it was he who was rather more in need of taking out of public circulation. At least this time it wasn’t under the ‘racially aggravated’ clause – an addition to the Act also quite beyond belief. People do and say foolish things, but so what?

  • Ernie G

    Thank God for the First Amendment, with its guarantee of freedom of speech. That sort of thing could never happen here, unless he had committed something like a minor parole violation. Then the local sheriff could come to his door in the middle of the night, seize him, stage an impromptu perp walk for the benefit of the press, and hustle him off to jail.

  • Paul Marks

    Yes Ernie – and anyone who believes that this was a “judgement made by the local authorities – with no pressure from the Federal government” is an idiot.

    And remember the endless P.C. speech codes – in schools, in universities, and even in private places of employment.

    The constant threat of being sued (for “creating a hostile workplace” or other such) has, and is intended to have, a “chilling effect” on free speech.