Yesterday Paul Chambers lost his appeal against his fine and conviction for posting a joke on twitter which was prosecuted under the anti-terrorist legislation.
The case was so obviously ridiculous that everyone thought common-sense would prevail, but eschewing humour and reality, Judge Jacqueline Davies deemed the tweet "menacing in its content and obviously so. It could not be more clear. Any ordinary person reading this would see it in that way and be alarmed."
Any ordinary person would have seen it as a joke. I had previously thought this was simply a case of the law getting itself in a mess, escalating something and then being unable to climb down. Added to that a healthy dose of people not understanding twitter.
Now though I'm convinced it's more than that. I don't believe in conspiracy theories, I know all those involved haven't got together at some late night meeting and decided to make a random citizen's life a misery. But when something so nonsensical progresses through multiple stages and possibilities to put an end to it, then you have to look for some explanation. I think although there is no outright conspiracy, what we do have is a conspiracy of sentiment. All those involved at various stages: politicians, the police, CPS, judges, media are all acting from the same unspoken emotional base. This can be summarised as: they hate you.
They hate that you undermine their carefully crafted messages and turn them into jokes. They hate that you are forming new methods of entertainment that they don't understand. They hate that you can organise yourselves without them knowing about it. They hate that power has been democratised. They hate that you get at content for free. They hate it, hate it, hate it. So when the opportunity arises to stamp on one of you snivelling social media types, they grasp it with both hands.
And that's why the Twitter Joke Trial is important – because it reveals the mindset of those in power, and because it will be the first of many attempts by them to control or at least seek revenge on what they don't understand and loathe.