How utterly absurdist, outrageous and unreasonable to jail two young men for ‘inciting’ a riot through Facebook.
Jordan Blackshaw, 20, and Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan, 22, were given stiff jail terms in northwestern England on Tuesday for using social networking sites to “organize and orchestrate” disorder during the recent UK unrest. [More in The Guardian]
The judges have meted swift ‘justice’ to these unfortunate saps; supposedly this is in line with British public opinion. It certainly reflects the tub-thumping Colonel Blimp rhetoric of David Cameron and his Tory rump.
It’s doubtful that John Cleese and the Monty Python crew could produce a more biting satire than this real life episode. Well, they probably could, remember “Upper Class Twit of the Year”?
No, that’s not OTT, when you actually dig into this and other similar cases, the horror of these upper class twits being in control of a courtroom sinks in.
The Guardian‘s verbatim reporting of the judges’ words chills the blood of any decent reader.
Sentencing Blackshaw to four years in a young offenders institution, Judge Elgan Edwards QC said he had committed an “evil act”. He said: “This happened at a time when collective insanity gripped the nation. Your conduct was quite disgraceful and the title of the message you posted on Facebook chills the blood.
“You sought to take advantage of crime elsewhere and transpose it to the peaceful streets of Northwich. The idea revolted many right thinking members of society. No one actually turned up due to the prompt and efficient actions of police in using modern policing.”
Sutcliffe-Keenan, the judge said, “caused a very real panic” and “put a very considerable strain on police resources in Warrington”. He praised Cheshire police for their “modern and clever policy” of infiltrating the website.
The Crown Prosecution Service said in a statement that the men’s posts on Facebook “caused significant panic and revulsion in local communities as rumours of anticipated violence spread”.
It added: “We were able to serve upon the defence in both cases sufficient case material that led to early guilty pleas and we were able to present the facts in both cases in a fair but robust manner.
“While the judge heard the two defendants were previously of good character, they admitted committing very serious offences that carry a maximum sentence of 10 years. The consequence of their actions could have led to more disorder and this was taken into account.”
The police, the Crown Prosecutors and the judiciary are completely out of order and reacting to the political pressure exerted by the establishment in an attempt to deflect responsibility for the rioting onto poor communities, rather than the profit-sucking party set from Chiantishire.
Scottish police are also arresting Facebook suspects.
Apparently there was no riot in the case of the two English guys. But the over-reaction has stunned many people. It’s even wierder when you consider that another youth was only cautioned.
His reaction though is rather neat. He pointed out on Facebook after his court appearance that the original posting was meant as a joke.
Joshua Moulinie had posted a message on his Facebook wall urging people to damage the Spar store in Bream. He was told to write a letter of apology to the shop owner by way of punishment. He has since posted defiant comments on Facebook, saying he was not sorry for the remarks.
“It was a very, very blatant joke, I’m not sorry at all for it,” he wrote. “I’m sorry for the reaction it caused, but not for the action. Also can I make it very clear I never intended to riot? The police are sound. I have no problems whatsoever with them, they didn’t even charge me.” [Riot sentencing log jam]
Another court banned a young man from using social media for 12 months, that’s worse than incarceration for some digital natives, but again it shows the inconsistency and the harsh over-reaction to what was essentially a political message delivered with some sense of fun over a network that most young people take for granted, but have little understanding of:
The court heard that the boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, wrote the message at 9.45am on 9 August. It read: “I think we should start rioting, it’s about time we stopped the authorities pushing us about and ruining this country.
“It’s about time we stood up for ourselves for once. So come on rioters – get some. LOL.”
Prosecutor Lucy Miller said the college student had 400 friends on Facebook, some of whom replied to the message calling him an idiot.
She said: “The police were alerted and when they arrived he had already deleted the post.” [Facebook ban for teen]
Too bad that the British ruling class doesn’t get the defiant humour of young people.
That’s why law reform and prison reform groups are so important: they stand up to this harsh Laura Norder agenda of punishment and retribution.
This piece by Brendan O’Neill on Spiked sums up the situation nicely:
The nonsense notion that the riot was orchestrated by thugs on social media is exposed in the fact that Twitter and Facebook and BlackBerry Messenger were stuffed with rumour and misinformation during the nights of rioting, rather than with clear instructions for where and how to cause mayhem. The use of social media was secondary to the violence itself, which sprung from the fact that urban youth now seem to have so little moral or emotional attachment to the communities they live in that they are willing to smash them up, and the fact that the police, the so-called guardians of public safety, had no clue how to respond and therefore stood back and let it happen.
Incapable even of acknowledging, far less discussing, this combination of urban social malaise and crisis of state authority which inflamed the riots and allowed them to spread, our rulers prefer instead to fantasise that England was simply rocked by opportunists who love a bit of violence. And to fantasise that taking away their BlackBerries or restricting what they can say on Facebook – that is, curtailing youths’ freedom of speech – will make everything okay again.
Now the British legal system is going to be overwhelmed by appeals and challegenes to these disproportionate punishments. In the meantime the lives of another generation are being fucked up in the name of [in]justice.
I’m grateful that the issue is causing some bourgeois to squirm in their comfortable drawing rooms. One or two are clearly distressed by the courts’ inquisitorial pursuit of evil-doers:
Lord Macdonald, who led the prosecution service in England and Wales for five years, warned that the courts risked being swept up in a “collective loss of proportion”, passing jail terms that lack “humanity or justice”.
Meanwhile his fellow Liberal Democrat peer Lord Carlile, the barrister who was until this year the government’s independent adviser on terrorism strategy, warned against ministerial interference in the judicial process, arguing that “just filling up prisons” would not prevent future problems. [Riot sentence rift]
All the hand-wringing and appeals to Laura Norder do not address the real causes of the recent events in the UK and they are no guarantee it won’t happen again.
It’s not social media it’s social dysfunction. It’s the fact that unemployment, racism, rejection and disappointment lead to rioting, not virtual gangs roaming on prepaid CrackBerries.
We all now have to be careful too about expressing our views on social media. Facebook is no longer safe, it never has been private.
However, we should never let them shut us up.
And you know, EM does not joke about such serious matters.
Take this recent report of Laura Norder’s digital sock puppet making an appearance on a social network near you.
U.S. law enforcement agents are following the rest of the Internet world into popular social-networking services, going undercover with false online profiles to communicate with suspects and gather private information… Think you know who’s behind that “friend” request? Think again. Your new “friend” just might be the FBI.[From MSM: Break the law and your new ‘friend’ may be the FBI « Dprogram.net]
Just in case the thoughtpolice are watching, I might amend my new banner:
We can only laugh in their faces and riot intelligently.
um, is it technically a riot if no one turns up?
Sort of falling tree and forest scenario.
Shouldn’t the charge be inciting 200 cops to meet you for a cup of tea – coz that’s all that happened.