It is such a cliché to tell a policeman engaged on trivia that he should be catching burglars that - though we all think it - only the least educated of us now say it out loud. Yet what else, really, is one to say to the Dorset Police? They have arrested a young Twit known as @Rileyy_69 for his unpleasant tweet to an Olympic diver. Is Dorset really so peaceful a shire that this is an honest-to-God arrestable offence?
I have been repeatedly burgled. I lost a ring and my first good watch from my parent's home (they lost much more). Mrs Paine and I had all our wedding gifts stolen from our first home. Even in the home that has not (yet) been robbed, I pay insurance premiums that make me a victim of crime. Not one person has ever been arrested in connection with tangible harms done to me. Yet a foolish boy makes a stupid remark on Twitter and the full majesty of the law descends.
That mere words are now criminal in the land that pioneered the rule of law and once prided itself on the forthrightness of its yeomen is beyond me. Yet my fellow citizens seem - for the most part - unconcerned or even approving. Theirs is the ethic of the afternoon TV show, where sentiment rules the head and fists fly for imagined slights. More athletes have been dropped from their teams for racist tweets than for blood doping and otherwise sensible people say "Of course these ejections are justified..." It's a running and jumping contest, boys, not a vicar's tea party. Who cares what sports people think? That they think at all is a pleasant surprise.
Goodness knows I am in no mood to defend someone who taunts a young chap who lost his father to cancer. Yet his nasty words were just that. Words. They were the dark but logical corollary of the sentimentality that held him out as honouring his late father by his athletic achievements. Have he and his coaches not motivated him by the fear of doing precisely what @Rileyy_69 nastily accused him of; letting his late father down?
I do hope his name is not published. This young fool's life should not be rendered even more unpromising because he said something nasty and silly. As a boy of his age I was exhorting everyone who would listen to rise up and slaughter the bourgeoisie in the name of "the masses." This, to the approval of my leftist teachers who thought my murderousness showed my heart to be in the right place. And to the amusement of everyone else, because my words were of no consequence. Have we lost that common sense?
@Rileyy_69 is no worse than I was. I venture to guess, gentle reader, that you were foolish yourself in your youth and have said things that would have sounded as bad on Twitter as they looked on the wall of the bike shed. These new technologies allow us to disseminate our foolishness more widely than before, but that's really no reason to take it more seriously.