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Twitter airport bomb joker arrested

A man is frustrated at the potential disruption to his travel plans by a snowbound UK airport. So he tweets to his friends that he will blow the airport up. The police are unamused.

I have an announcement to make. You know this Twitter thing? Well, it's public. Lots of people can see it. That might just include policemen.

I am forced to make this announcement because of the plight of Paul Chambers.

Chambers, according to the Independent, had decided to go on vacation to Ireland. He was, however, disturbed that his local airport, in Doncaster, U.K., was closed due to the snow that has stunned the old country into its much-admired traditional winter paralysis.

Being a Twittering fiend, he tweeted to his followers: "Robin Hood airport is closed. You've got a week and a bit to get your s*** together, otherwise I'm blowing the airport sky high!!"

Not for one moment did he think that someone might imagine him to be, well, a fiend. You see, if you watched Ricky Gervais host the Golden Globe awards, you'll know that the British like to joke about anything.

Picturesque Doncaster in the recent snow. CC Al Green/Flickr

And you have to understand something about Doncaster, Chambers' home town. It's a few years since I've been there but, it used to resemble Fresno, Calif., without the sense of hope. A clue that things might not have improved would be that they have named their airport, Robin Hood, after a hero who has traditionally been associated with the city of Nottingham.

So who could possibly be surprised that a week after sending the tweet, Chambers received a visit from the police who questioned him for seven hours?

He told the Independent: "They said I was being arrested under the Terrorism Act and produced a piece of paper. It was a print-out of my Twitter page."

Chambers said that these particular policepersons were not entirely au fait with microblogging: "I had to explain Twitter to them in its entirety because they'd never heard of it."

The police, who said they'd received a tip about the tweet, perhaps explained to Chambers that it wasn't all that funny. They certainly removed it from his Twitter page. They also arrested him. They have bailed him until February 11. They have taken away his laptop, his home computer, and even his iPhone. To add to the emotional drift against him, he was suspended from his job as a finance supervisor and banned from Robin Hood airport for life.

Perhaps the police might have overreacted. Perhaps Chambers is, indeed, "the most mild-mannered guy you could imagine", as he claimed to the Independent.

However, the most mild-mannered guy I could imagine--my often semicomatose friend, Luke--would definitely not send a tweet threatening to blow an airport sky high. Because he's funnier than that.