What is the optimal level of clothing to avoid prison?

In shit-I-can’t-believe-I-need-to-say-in-20-fucking-12, people shouldn’t be sent to prison for the clothes they choose to wear. Or not wear. But yet, apparently I need to say this shit because apparently the legal system doesn’t fucking get it, and neither do various cheerleaders for the legal system.

First there’s the “naked rambler”, who, as his title suggests, rambles while naked. It’s a completely desexualised nudity. It’s just a naked bloke walking through the countryside. Who keeps getting sent to prison, because apparently the law doesn’t like it when people walk around naked.

Then there’s the young woman who was arrested for refusing to remove a scarf at the culmination of a campaign of police intimidation. Ellen Yianni was cleared, and the judge was quite, quite horrified by the state of the police testimony.

Then there’s  the case of Barry Thew, who went to prison for wearing a T-shirt. The T-shirt in question was somewhat distasteful and very crudely made, saying something about killing police. He has been sentenced to an eight-month prison sentence, of which he’ll serve at least four.

The thing is, the mainstream media has reported the whole thing very badly, making out like he made the T-shirt upon hearing that some police officers had died and just went around trolling the world for no goddamn reason whatsoever.

In fact, a more detailed local news report reveals the truth to be far more complicated than that.

He was wearing the t-shirt before the incident. The T-shirt went from being “somewhat distasteful” to “highly fucking distasteful” because he happened to be wearing it on a day that some police officers were killed. On any other day, he would have gone out in that T-shirt and yes, people would have been offended, but he probably wouldn’t have gone to prison. A coincidence contextualised the T-shirt into being more offensive than it otherwise would have been.

And so, if context is pertinent, i.e. that he was wearing the T-shirt on a day some police officers died, then it’s important to look at other context to the story. Like the fact that Barry Thew had mental health problems, and was taking medication. The judge didn’t think this was relevant, instead opting for swivel-eyed retribution.

Or another piece of crucial context, unremarked upon by most of the mainstream stories: three years ago, Barry Thew’s son was killed by police.

Now, I’m not surprised the media didn’t bother mentioning this. They have a cosy relationship with the police, and it’s in everyone’s interest to make out like it’s inexplicable and Barry Thew was merely some sort of funeral-picketing monster. Mentioning these important details might have the effect of generating a degree of understanding and thus increasing outcry against the sentence.

Which, by the way, would still be ridiculous if Barry Thew had just quickly knocked up a T-shirt about dead cops upon hearing the news, with no prior grudges against the police, just to troll the fuck out of the world.

What one wears or does not wear should not be a matter for the police, the legal system or prison.  To use the state to crack down on the garments people wear is absurd, and hardly fitting for any country that calls itself democratic. They might call a flapping dick on a rambler obscene, but what’s really obscene is that they’re using their disproportionate power to regulate what people wear.


5 responses to “What is the optimal level of clothing to avoid prison?

  • Jack

    What were his mental health issues for which he was taking medication? Were they relevant, then?

  • Carrie-Anne Tennick

    Totally agree. It shouldn’t even matter if Thew had put it on after the Manchester police killings. There is no reason why he should’ve been jailed.
    It doesn’t matter if it was offensive. I’m offended by sexist slogans on T-shirts. Can I get someone arrested?

  • Alex

    You missed out the continued, tedious calls for burkah bans. Possibly even scarier as, on top of the ideological respect-our-British-values shite, a ban on face coverings pretty much amounts to mandatory nudity.

  • James

    It’s an interesting one this, and mirrors the people getting arrested for hate speak on twitter, etc. Ignoring the specifics of the case, which is clearly politically motivated and an offensive sentence, there is the erosion of free-speech versus personal responsibility not to offend issue.

    If a colleague was sat in my office with a t-shirt emblazoned ‘all queers should die’, that outfit choice would offend me, and I would probably speak to my employer and ask for the person to be sanctioned. I expect to feel safe and secure at work, and there are policies and laws to ensure that. Should said person go to jail for wearing the tshirt? No, of course not, it’s too bloody expensive! Do they have the right to wear the tshirt? This question makes my brain ache a bit!
    Take the context away from the workplace; if said tshirt wearer is a stranger sat opposite me on the tube giving me menacing looks, would I speak out? Would I tell the police, and would I expect the person to be punished? Or do I ignore it and stay intimidated or for others to feel so? Or do I confront them myself?
    Of course, a minority group and a state institution are very different, but the principle of having the right to express your opinion, versus having the right to not be faced with those opinions stand.
    Personally, I’m all for colonising many different planets, and people with varying opinions can live in their own particular utopia and live happily ever after. Capitalist Moon, Anarchist Comet, Socialist Metiorite. And aged 14, each inhabitant takes a validated test to evaluate their views and are merrily moved to the appropriate space-body in a big celebration of difference!

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