Paul Chambers’ appeal was thrown out today, the Doncaster court once again finding him guilty and chucking another £2500-odd prosecution fees at him. I’ve written about Paul before (here and here) so I won’t repeat myself, especially as others are commenting and reporting on the case far more eloquently than myself (Martin Wainwright was there, Evan Harris offers a rational response, and don’t forget Paul’s superhero lawyer David Allen Green who will no doubt be blogging soon).

What I will do is urge you to support Paul by donating to his appeal fund, which you can do by clicking here.

If you don’t have much interest in Paul Chambers’  case, or even if you think he was a bit of a twat for tweeting his bad joke, you should still donate, and here’s why:

This isn’t just about Paul Chambers anymore. In fact, while I sympathise with Paul and will support him until he is once more a free man, he’s ultimately just a single symptom of a disease that has spread relentlessly through the UK’s infrastructure.

Note that I say infrastructure. This disease does not generally affect ordinary men and women, who are largely immune to its effects and simply get on with their lives. It’s a disease that specifically affects lawmakers and law enforcers, and it’s a disease that will kill the UK in the 21st century if action is not taken.

The double-whammy of the ‘Twitter Joke Trial’ and the Digital Economy Act have positioned the UK as a place where you do not want to be if you have anything to do with internet communications or online business.

This is a country ruled by politicians that do not understand the internet and who are happy to stifle the emerging markets so as to prop up archaic and irrelevant corporations from the last century that are clinging onto their crumbling empires.

This is a country with a justice system that is run by people that have no comprehension of online communications and culture and barely understand basic human behaviour and interaction.

When a bad joke can get you arrested and convicted, something has gone horrifically wrong.

Even in the case of Gareth Compton there are no sensible grounds for arrest. The guy would seem to be a prize fool with a rather unpleasant sense of humour, but his fate should be determined by voters or the leaders of his party: again, making a bad joke should not and cannot be illegal.

Increasingly, the UK’s policies, laws and judges are making it a hostile place for the internet and those that live and work through it. If this continues, the UK will be left behind as the world changes and evolves over the next 50-100 years. We’ll be left as nothing but a curious backwater, regarded as a poor ‘developing’ country that missed the boat when the flood came and which is lamely trying to catch up.

It’s difficult to comprehend why this is actually happening. As I see it there are two possible explanations for the Digital Economy Act and Twitter Joke Trial existing at all:

  1. Deliberate malice: elements within the government and justice system know exactly what they are doing and are taking the country in a calculated direction that serves their own desires.
  2. Ignorance and stupidity: the government and justice system genuinely don’t understand the 21st century and these problems are arising due to a lack of knowledge and understanding. Everything is a result of them blindly leading the country down a dead-end street without realising.

Either explanation is unacceptable. We can’t allow leaders that wish to destroy the country for their own personal gain, or leaders that are uninformed and unintelligent.

In both cases it is largely a generational issue: none of these people grew up with the internet. It appears that the judges and police forces involved with the Twitter Joke Trial have had to have Twitter explained to them extensively and repeatedly, while it was evident throughout the Digital Economy Bill that very few politicians had even a vague understanding of copyright, piracy or the online economy. The government and judiciary are increasingly out of step with wider society.

We could just wait for them all to retire or die, at which point informed people would theoretically take the reins. Except that would leave people like Paul Chambers to suffer in the interim period, which cannot be allowed. And let’s not underestimate the chances of the disease mutating, spreading beyond the internet and infecting every aspect of British life until all our freedoms are nothing more than cherished memories.

As well as donating to the appeal fund (an appeal that is not just about Paul but the fate of the country and anybody who has ever connected to the internet) I hope that the anger found in the #twitterjoketrial hashtag on Twitter will spill over into the streets, bringing awareness (peacefully!) of these issues to the wider public and demanding changes to a broken law system.

It might seem like this is just a silly trial about a guy that made a stupid bomb joke, but it’s actually a pivotal moment in UK history.

In the 21st century the Luddites are the government and the judiciary. Two hundred years ago they were wrong and they’re wrong today. I wrote something back in April that still applies:

What a lot of these politicians don’t realise, and neither do the big media corporations, is that the Internet is coming for them. They can legislate as much as they like but it won’t make a difference. It’s coming and it absolutely will not stop, ever, until there’s a new order, whether in a year, ten years or fifty years. They can either ride with us or be swept aside.


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