One of my favourite jokes: a kiddie-fiddler and a child are walking through the woods. “I’m scared!” cries the child. “You’re scared?” retorts the kiddie-fiddler. “I have to walk back alone!”
Like many such jokes, the sheer awfulness of it is what makes it funny – but would it still be funny if I tweeted it because a real child had gone missing?
Last night, as six people lay dead in Glasgow’s George Square after a terrible accident, a parody account on Twitter ( @hackneyabbatt) tweeted a joke about the lorry crash causing £3 of damage. It wasn’t very funny, but more importantly the timing was crass and insensitive: people searching Twitter for news of the deaths in George Square, a situation that was still ongoing – the bodies hadn’t been removed at the time and as I write this, their identities haven’t been revealed yet – would see it.
I was one of a few people who replied to the poster – “shame on you”, in my case – and hoped they might realise they’d been a bit of a dick; it’s easy to post something on the internet thinking it’s funny without thinking of who it might upset. The poster deleted the tweet and went off in a huff.
But I think somebody called the police. According to The Drum:
Northumbria Police have announced that they are investigating a crass joke published on Twitter, since deleted, poking fun at yesterday’s bin lorry crash in Glasgow in which six people died and eight were injured.
If it’s the same post, and I’m assuming it is, that’s all kinds of wrong. The post was insensitive, yes, but the poster wasn’t responding to anybody or hurling abuse: they were just making the kind of off-colour joke they’d make to friends in the pub, posting something they thought was hilarious. There are lots of things online the police should take more seriously, but that isn’t one of them.