Consequence arrives swiftly
The jailing of Liam Stacey today for 56 days for acts a judge condemned as "vile and abhorrent" brings into focus the consequences of the abuse of social media tools.
Mr Stacey, a 21-year old biology student had taken the opportunity to be nasty and unsympathetic when Patrice Muamba, a football player unfortunately suffered a cardiac arrest whilst playing some 10 days ago.
When called out for his comments, he became more unstrained in racist and atrocious abuse that people who read his comments contacted the police to act on his expressed views.
With freedom some responsibility
There is a place where people might have forcefully defended the freedom of speech and that in itself is a right but such freedoms must be used responsibly and with consideration – that is what differentiates between those who are considerate and those who are unreasonable or even worse.
A person when told they are wrong should be able to recognise that fact, accept fault and do well to make amends through apology and restitution. To stubbornly hold one’s ground in defiance even if you are not answerable to anyone and though have acted in utterly bad taste might well be delusional and foolish.
In the case of Mr Stacey, he had revelled during the day and gotten apparently drunk in celebration of the victory of the Welsh rugby team, but drunkenness is no excuse for bad behaviour or the lack of restraint. Those who drink and drive can expect to face dire consequences when nabbed by the long arm of the law and in this case, those who drink and type stupidly will find themselves brought to book well beyond their expectations.
It might well have been a moment of foolishness, exacerbated by drunken stupidity and emboldened by a sense of anonymity provided by the Internet which naively allows for impunity and thereby no inkling of consequence, we know better now.
Express for distress
Mr Stacey has been made an example of and a precedent has been set; you cannot be ensconced behind a computer in some non-descript place fulminating in contrary and vile vituperations expecting nothing to result as your future begins to take a turn well beyond your control.
Once you sit at a keyboard and begin to type to the viewing and reading of a public, you automatically and implicitly assume responsibility for your publications be they on fast moving theatres of discourse as Twitter, Facebook or on blogs.
You cannot set out to abuse, offend and vilify for a thrill at the expense of others, even if there are few that might see your jokes, there might be many more that have just cause and purpose to seek redress for offence.
Seeking polite society again
We can for all reasons and manner of expression have the broadest range of views but they must be expressed with consideration, politeness [this is me being old-fashioned when rudeness with expletives comes easily to many], decency, with respect, in fairness, within a sense of discernment of the public mood and with some restraint even if the view is somewhat valid and true.
We all have the ability to be disagreeable, nasty and cantankerous but we can choose to just disagree, whilst being nice and sometimes restrain the urge to say anything.
That this issue has been so swiftly dealt with is instructive to matters of racial abuse and other reprehensible behaviour especially when it comes to football with players and the fans alike where the authorities seem to tardy in dealing with reports of offence and abuse – they need to be more responsive.
Your freedom or your liberty?
One can feel quite sorry for Liam Stacey but the bigger lesson to the many that learn of his ordeal should be, what you write matters; if you are vile, you are crossing a line and should immediately reflect, review, recant and repent, in any case you are not guaranteed anonymity whilst your excuses might not hold water as to your state of mind or the abuse of your computer.
If you cannot police your social media activities, the police will be on your door step and your freedom of expression just hours before might well be the loss of your freedom for days, weeks, months or even years – the harshness of the sentence might be determined by the absence of heart in the sentence that put you in trouble in the first place.
Don’t take undue liberty with your freedom of expression, else the law will be at liberty to curtail your freedom and restrict your liberty at the pleasure of constituted authority.