Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Making fun of airplane crashes from 60 years ago should not be a crime in any country

I saw this article on Facebook. This was my comment:

Why are police investigating this? I'm from the States and I know we have more robust free speech protections here than you do, so maybe somebody can explain this mindset to me. I get why the club might wish to ban fans from its premises who sing obscene chants, and that's their right as the stadium is private property. But once they've left and the game is over and the stadium is empty, why is law enforcement still involved? The idea that a song like this could be a criminal offense is preposterous to me. It's one thing to ban speech that makes fun of ongoing injustices with present-day victims - still a bad idea, from my view, but I understand it. But it's another thing entirely to ban speech about an isolated incident that happened 57 years ago! The chant is unkind, yes. It's impolite and distasteful and insensitive, perhaps immature. But illegal? Who is the victim of this conduct? Practically everyone who ever knew those victims personally must be dead by now. At what point does there become a statute of limitations where everyone stops pretending to be offended by a bit of crass, irreverent humor describing historical events? Much less, SO offended that you need to get the police involved to come and wield violence on these people?

In the US we make jokes about 9/11, for Christ's sake. We make jokes about Catholic priests molesting little boys. We make jokes about ISIS. We know these are serious subjects, and almost nobody would ever deliberately do it in the presence of someone affected, but sometimes humor can take the mick out of things and make life less glum all the time. If you were never allowed to crack wise about things like this, there's enough bad news in the world to keep you in perpetual mourning. If that's not your thing or makes you uncomfortable, you roll your eyes and move on. If it really bothers you, you decline to associate yourself with that person in the future. And if you have some horrible personal experience related to that - perhaps a relative who died in the towers or was molested - perhaps you stand up and give them a good telling off in a public place where it will embarrass them. Maybe these guys deserve that. But calling the police? Come now. We should be able to distinguish between conduct we disapprove of in our personal lives, and conduct so morally unconscionable as to warrant imprisonment and state coercion. Too many people in both Britain and the US do not.

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