On Remembrance Sunday a 19 year old boy was arrested by police. For shoplifting maybe, a drunken brawl? No. No doubt in an effort to look “hard” in front of his friends, he had burned a plastic poppy and put a picture of it on Facebook, with a disparaging remark about “squaddies”. He was arrested under the Malicious Communications Act.
Was he an idiot. Yes. Was it completely disrespectful. Yes. Should he have been arrested for it? Absolutely not. I think what worries me even more than his arrest, is the fact that someone in his friends list, because let’s not forget that it was posted on Facebook, not Twitter, reported him to the police. That someone actually thought that what he had done should and must be illegal, scares me just as much as his arrest.
The arrest on Sunday fuelled many conversations I had on Monday, but the most memorable of which spanned throughout the course of the day. The person whom I was speaking to thought that it was right that the boy be arrested and that in his opinion, he should be locked in a room full of squaddies to “teach him a lesson”.
To be honest, this is the opinion I have come to expect from the mob mentality. Threaten first, think later. When it becomes dangerous is when it becomes punch first and think later or becomes a pack of vigilantes who don’t think at all.
By the end of the conversation (I do confess I was banging my head against a wall by the end) he suggested that an appropriate punishment would be community service for a charity. Whilst I still do not agree that the boy should have been arrested at all, the conversation had got me thinking.
The mob mentality. An individual is smart and will listen to reason, a mob will listen to no one. The person I spoke to went from saying that the boy deserved to be beaten up by a group of “squaddies” to moving towards a community service order by the end of the day. If the conversation had been myself and a group of people who all thought the same way he did at the start, their position would not have changed.
The problem with these arrests is simple. This is going to escalate. Unless questions are asked and changes are made, this is going to escalate to a point where you have to be vigilant as to what you say, who you sa it to, what you do, how you act. If this happens, what did they actually fight for in the First and Second World Wars? Because freedom is about choice, not restriction.
The boy was arrested and released on bail, pending further investigations. I understand that a QC has volunteered to represent him for free should the matter go to Court.