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Proud Americans refuse to be out-stupided by the Limeys

We British had the Twitter Joke Trial.

R v Paul Chambers (appealed to the High Court as Chambers v Director of Public Prosecutions), popularly known as the Twitter Joke Trial, was a United Kingdom legal case centred on the conviction of a man under the Communications Act 2003 for posting a joke about destroying an airport to Twitter, a message which police regarded as “menacing”. The conviction was widely condemned as a miscarriage of justice, and was appealed three times, the conviction being quashed as a result of the third appeal.

I posted several times on Samizdata about the absurdity of prosecuting Paul Chambers for what anyone could tell was a joke:

  • If this is security theatre, it gets one star.
  • Nuke the entire court from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.
  • Pretending to be scared
  • Twitter joke not menacing after all

    A blackly funny coda to the whole miserable saga was posted by Michael Jennings here: Irony

    It being easier for me to search out my own old posts, I may have missed some from other contributors. Apologies if so. The point is, it was plain from the very first day that the actual threat to life and limb from Mr Chambers was zero. Yet this had to go to the highest court in the land before someone put a stop to the farce.

    By the way, according to a Guardian article in 2012 the Director of Public Prosecutions at the time did not merely allow this prosecution to go forward but insisted that it should.

    The director of public prosecutions (DPP) stopped his staff dropping the case against Paul Chambers, author of the “Twitter joke” about blowing up Robin Hood airport in South Yorkshire, it has been claimed.

    Crown Prosecution Service lawyers had been prepared to back away from one of the most controversial cases in years, telling Chambers that they no longer saw a public interest in opposing his appeal against conviction. Chambers had said he felt “immense relief” that the prosecution – which had seen him lose two jobs and gain a criminal record – appeared to be over and that the authorities seemed ready to restore his good name.

    The CPS even sent Chambers and his solicitor, free-speech campaigner David Allen Green, papers stating that it now agreed that the case should end. However, at the last minute the DPP, former human rights lawyer Keir Starmer, overruled his subordinates, it is alleged.

    After a blunder like that, I trust this Starmer fellow resigned from public life.

    Perhaps Judge Jacqueline Davies and Sir Keir Starmer were kidnapped as larvae and raised to believe that this was what they had to do for the sake of the colony. Little else can explain their ant-like official determination not to think.

    But wait! We have a challenger! Not to be outdone by the effete Brits, the United States of America now has its own long-running Twitter Joke Prosecution:

    In dumb union case, a Twitter joke becomes a federal case.

    That Washington Examiner story was from May 4th. As of yesterday, it is still a federal case:

    Here’s The Latest On Federal Agencies’ Targeted Harassment Of The Federalist:

    “No jokes allowed. Ever.” Apparently, this is the new Twitter rule, as The Federalist national news publication faces a joint administrative and judicial broadside at the National Labor Relations Board. What the publication is going through constitutes just one of the many costly, silly, and arguably unconstitutional quasi-judicial proceedings underway throughout the federal bureaucracy.

    A recent case before the NLRB — in which the agency served as legislator, police, prosecutor, and judge — helps illustrate why not everything can, or should, be handled in-house at the executive branch. In June 2019, The Federalist publisher Ben Domenech tweeted, “FYI @FDRLST first one of you tries to unionize I swear I’ll send you back to the salt mine.”

    His followers got the joke. His employees got the joke. But one Twitter user apparently did not get the joke, so he filed a complaint with the NLRB. The user does not even work for Domenech nor have any ties to The Federalist, but the NLRB didn’t mind. Political appointees for the NLRB investigated the claim and prosecuted Domenech for violating NLRB rules, all while presiding over the so-called hearing.

    When The Federalist employees came to Domenech’s defense by testifying that they understood the tweet to be a joke and in no way felt threatened by Domenech, the administrative law judge rejected their testimony. He reasoned the testimony of the employees could not offer any value to the proceedings, and ultimately decided that Domenech violated NLRB rules.

    (Hat tip: Mark Tapscott at Instapundit.)

  • 16 comments to Proud Americans refuse to be out-stupided by the Limeys

    • Behind Enemy Lines

      The US case isn’t a failure to understand a joke. It’s anarchotyranny in action. Everyone at NRLB knows what’s going on, they just see this as an opportunity to use the laws against an enemy. If I could be bothered wasting fifteen minutes on it, I’m sure I could find something actually illegal coming out of a woke megacorp like Google, but they’re safe from the law so long as the left runs the institutions.

    • staghounds

      Just in case that wasn’t a joke, and for ignorant foreigners like me,

      Starmer is your shadow prime minister.

    • bobby b

      No one in America with employer-responsibilities and any knowledge of the workings (and leanings) of the NLRB would be dumb enough to draft such a tweet.

      Or, at least, I had thought.

      “Can someone somewhere possibly construe this statement as tending to discourage employees from pursuing unionization?”

      Yep. He was the boss. The nugget of his public tweet to his employees was “do not unionize.” There is no “unless you’re just kidding, of course” exception.

      Stupid law, stupid interpretation, but stupid on Domenech’s part. Entirely predictable.

    • Flubber

      Lawfare. Same as the Mueller Probe.

      To be revealed post election as Joe Biden’s team of 800 shysters fuck up the election result.

    • Natalie Solent (Essex)

      Staghounds, yes, it’s the same man. Sir Keir Starmer is so much more mainstream than Jeremy Corbyn that there is a tendency to forget what being a member of the mainstream establishment involves – i.e. being the sort of person to think “security theatre” is obligatory.

    • Starmer is your shadow prime minister.

      No. Sir Keir Starmer is “The Leader of Her Majesty’s Most Loyal Opposition” usually shortened to “Leader of the Opposition”. He might be considered a “Shadow Minister” and he certainly leads the “Shadow Cabinet”, but he is most certainly NOT the “Shadow Prime Minister”.

    • itellyounothing

      Shadow first lord of the treasury?

    • According to the Ministers of the Crown Act (1937) and subsequent amendments (1960, 1975), he is simply the “Leader of the Opposition”.

    • Natalie Solent (Essex)

      John Galt writes, “he is most certainly NOT the “Shadow Prime Minister”.”

      Effectively, he is. It is interesting to hear about the exact term by which the position is known in law, but “shadow PM” will do as a succinct description.

    • djc

      ‘Shadow’ does everything the real thing does but to no effect. Which is rather different from an Opposition which should oppose or at least propose an alternative. Not much sign of that from the ‘Most Loyal Opposition’ in our present Great Panic.

    • Paul Austin

      What?!!!! How dare you question us uppity colonials to out-stupid you folks there in the British Isles! We take stupidity to new and higher levels here across the pond. We have the “If you see somethin’, say somethin'” that we’re reminded to do on TV commericals about every other day. Maybe it’s because we’re all sporting ‘shootin’ eye-rons’ but just making a off-handed remark at a Gulp,gas, and Gitty-up store will get you visit from the local constable: https://www.ky3.com/2020/10/01/remarks-made-at-convenience-store-lead-to-terrorist-threat-charges-against-ozark-father/

    • Fraser Orr

      Since we are talking about Twitter, I had a thought this morning. After Trump was hospitalized with Covid there were a lot of vile tweets about it which Twitter subsequently censored. I was thinking about this in a “shoe on the other foot” type of a way, and wondered if I, an aggressive supporter of free speech would go a bit wobbly when Trump’s opponents were being so vile. But I realized that I not only didn’t want them censored, I’d much rather they got as wide a distribution as possible so that all could see how horrible these people were. Why then is it that those of the left don’t have a similar reaction when they see a tweet from the right or libertarian that they feel equally vile?
      I mean the question is rhetorical since the answer is obvious.

    • Paul Marks

      The National Labor Relations Board goes back to the New Deal – of course it violates the basic principle of law, it is MEANT TO.

      The New Dealers were not good people – in the same way that the Atlantic Ocean is not dry.

      Some of them were Marxists, some of them were Fascists (much of the New Deal, for example the National Industrial Recovery Act and the National Recovery Administration, the Blue Eagle thugs, was directly inspired by Fascist Italy) and some of them were just power mad and corrupt.

      This goes back to the Progressive Movement – to Collectivists such as Woodrow Wilson and Richard Ely (both of whom corrupted academia before the corrupted politics).

      But then one can trace the evil all the way back to Plato.

    • James Hargrave

      Wilson – abominable man and an atrocious president, without even the decency to remove himself once incapacitated. I once got off a bus near his birth place and found that opposite lay the Woodrow Wilson Correctional Facility (I presume a gaol) – an appropriate memorial to him.

    • Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker) Gray

      Paul, I think that collectivism, whatever the current label, is always with us because it is the default setting in our make-up. Primitive societies, such as the Aborigines here in Australia, (and by ‘primitive’ I mean only in the objective term, without reference to their undoubtedly super-rich inner subjective life) have complex rules about sharing food and resources amongst the tribe. It is based on the idea that things often happen by luck, such as stumbling across a new herd of kangaroos to hunt, and the whole tribe should benefit. They find it hard to escape from this mental straightjacket, and hard to adjust to the notion of hard work being rewarded.
      This is why something like socialism will always be with us. Still, it gives us something to fight against- the inertia of the group. Where would stories about one man winning against the odds come from, if it didn’t happen sometimes in history?

    • Suburbanbanshee

      My employer let us know the other day that we can get fired for anything we say on social media, as long as it is deemed “egregiously inappropriate” in some way. Doesn’t have to be connected with the job in any way, doesn’t have to be sexist or racist or anything else.

      So yeah, my advice is to make sure that you post everything under Internet handles, and don’t let your coworkers know what your Internet handles are.