People of England, be careful what you tweet. Make a mistake, say something you shouldn’t, get too heated, and you could find yourself dragged to court, punished for committing libel, and out of pocket by thousands of pounds. This is what happened today, in the scandalous case of Guardianista kale fan Jack Monroe dragging Daily Mail columnist Katie Hopkins to the libel courts over something she tweeted. Tweeted. It’s a dark day for free speech when you can find yourself in the dock for a goddamn tweet; when even the largely thoughtless thumb-tapping of one’s feelings into the ether can become a matter of law. Liberty online has been dealt a low blow.
Monroe took Hopkins to court over two tweets she wrote in May 2015. Hopkins, known for her provocative style, asked Monroe if she had ‘scrawled on any [war] memorials recently’. Monroe has never scrawled on a war memorial or suggested that doing so is a good or acceptable thing. Hopkins had mixed her up with Laurie Penny, a New Statesman columnist, who did once say that the daubing of the words ‘Fuck Tory scum’ on the women’s war memorial in London during an anti-austerity protest was an acceptable part of political protest.
It’s understandable Hopkins confused Monroe and Penny: both are drab writers obsessed with their own identities and given to blathering about being genderqueer or trans, of which the press has its fill these days. Hopkins realised her mistake and deleted the tweet, though she followed it up with one asking what’s the difference between Monroe and Penny. The End? Of course not. This is England, where libel law acts as a permanent invitation to punish those who say wrong or bad things about you.