I was thinking this week about the whole concept of "harassment" as it applies to communications sent via Twitter. I have to declare an interest, of course, since someone not a million miles away from me is currently due up before the beak in Birmingham Magistrates Court on February 18 to face a charge of Racially Aggravated Harassment for allegedly calling that mendacious grievance-mongering taqqiyya-artist - Fiyaz Mughal OBE of TellMamaUK notoriety - a "Lying Muslim Scumbag."
I have to say at this point that the phrase "Lying Muslim Scumbag" was perhaps unworthy of someone who had received a good old English 1960's Grammar School education; back in the days before the Marxist ideologue Anthony Crosland abolished what was probably the best educational system in the country. A far better term, and one which would have been much more colourful and descriptive, not to mention a distinct improvement in factual accuracy, would have been "Inbred Lying Goat-Shagging Paedo-Worshipping Fuck-Wit." But then, as they say, 20-20 hindsight is a wonderful thing.
To return to the concept of harassment – back in the days before we had the Internet, it was necessary to seek out your target for harassment purposes, maybe by finding out his telephone number or his home address or his place of work, and either bombard him with telephone calls and letters, or accost him in person and wag your finger vigorously under his nose while telling him exactly what you thought of him in no uncertain terms.
Tell Mama is Busted
Now that is genuine, good old British harassment good and proper, that is - genuine copper-bottomed gold-plated harassment with the Assayer’s “100% Pure Harassment Mark” hall-marked into the side of it. The reason that it is harassment is because your target can’t easily walk away from it without suffering some material or psychological inconvenience.
If you are bombarding him with phone calls, for example, he can try not answering the telephone, but then he might miss that all-important call from the President of the Bank of Swaziland whose uncle had suddenly died and unexpectedly left a large amount of funds unclaimed, 30% of which would be available for the trifling up-front cost of an advance fee, or – oh, I don’t know - perhaps that the Association of Chief Police Officers had decided in the interests of community cohesion not to challenge his organisation’s obviously fabricated figures for the next twelve months.
Equally, if you are bombarding him with mail, you might induce a certain psychological anxiety in your target as he attempts to sort through his mail with a view to distinguishing your vitriol-filled missives from that all-important letter from Littlewoods telling him that he was this week’s lucky pools winner, or – oh, I don’t know - perhaps that the Department of Communities and Local Government had had a change of heart and decided to ill-deservedly award his organisation several hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of long-suffering tax-payers money for yet another year.
And of course, if you accost him on his doorstep, or in the street, or at his place of work, although he could in theory turn tail and run away, or thump you on the nose if he thought you were being particularly obnoxious, neither of these courses of action would be particularly becoming for a man who had been awarded the OBE for distinguished services with valour to the community in the face of unremitting Islamophobia by hateful, racist, fascist, intolerant right-wing extremist bigots.
However, if you are communicating with someone on Twitter, I contend that the concept of “harassment” cannot possibly exist. The manufacturers of the Twitter software platform, in their infinite wisdom, foresaw the possibility that one or more of their users might decide to be mean to some of their other users and start sending tweets of a distinctly unfriendly nature. These tweets might range from the mild “I don’t like you very much and not only that, but your breath smells like it has come straight from Satan’s bottom” to the not-so-mild “I know where you live and I am coming round tonight with a petrol-driven chainsaw to hack off the heads of your entire family.”
But with the click of a mouse on the Block button, the potential for harassment has been eliminated at a stroke. The offending Twitterer is forever deleted from your purview and peace and harmony is immediately restored. (Unless of course the Twitterer in question does in fact come round to your house that night and slaughter your entire family with a chainsaw, in which case you may have some redress under the existing laws without having to resort to complaining about online harassment.)
Of course, there is always the possibility that you might not want the Twitterer in question to cease his obnoxious tweeting. You might (forgive me for plucking a purely hypothetical example out of the ether) want your Twitterer to continue sending his tweets in the hope that one or more of them might be suitable for your online hate crime database, which you just happen to be compiling for your organisation in the hope that you can persuade the holders of the Government purse-strings to release some more of that lovely tax-payers money for you to fritter away on compiling really useful things like lists of women-friendly mosques – in which case it’s not really harassment, now is it?
And as for the one of the definitions of online harassment being “tweets of a nature which the recipient may have reasonable cause to find threatening, alarming or distressing” – oh, puh-leeze. If you don’t know where I live, and I don’t know where you live, unless I make a specific threat, which would be covered under existing laws relating to any form of communication, it’s not threatening, is it? Same for being alarmed or distressed – why not just put your big boy trousers on and grow up?
Of course, there is always the possibility that someone of a particularly sensitive nature, let’s say – oh, I don’t know – an inbred lying goat-shagging paedo-worshipping fuck-wit perhaps – might not feel threatened, harassed, distressed or alarmed at all, merely offended that his dignity has been punctured, his ego shredded, his poor little feelings hurt in a way that he hasn’t been used to ever since the Queen pinned the OBE on his chest and said “there you go, you fat ugly bastard, now fuck off because I’m late for my lunch.” In which case he might well see fit to use our badly crafted laws to persecute some of those well meaning people who, understandably outraged and incensed by his fraudulent misrepresentation of his organisation’s statistics in pursuit of another huge wodge of tax-payers money, decide to call him out for being a mendacious, grievance-mongering taqqiyya-artist.
Just in case the magistrates at Birmingham Magistrates Court take a different view on 18 February – perhaps due to the politically correct, multicultural environment that passes for British justice these days – or perhaps simply because they do not want to be seen taking the side of a hateful, racist, fascist, intolerant, extreme right-wing , Islamophobic bigot, please donate to our Legal Defence Fund which can be found here – http://bit.ly/1gZFKFT All contributions will be gratefully acknowledged.