Spanish Citizen Sentenced To Jail For Creating 'Unhealthy Humoristic Environment'

from the first-they-came-for-the-punchlines... dept

Spain is perfecting regulation no one asked for. The country's government is in the business of determining which jokes are funny… and which punchlines should be greeted with criminal charges.

A few years ago, jokes of the "too soon" variety were met with calls for social media censorship. The assassination of a member of the People's Party was met with the usual interactions: a mix of genuine condolences and mockery. The assassinated official wasn't universally loved, having voted herself a 13% pay raise while simultaneously supporting a 12% budget cut to programs she didn't care for.

Some social media reactions were terrible. Reactions from government officials were even worse. One official said social media users shouldn't be allowed to denigrate others. Another vowed to "clean up undesirable social media."

Flash-forward three years and a Spanish citizen is again dealing with government regulation of social media, as well as its idea of what is or isn't proper discourse. And, oddly enough, another assassination of a political figure is at the center of it, albeit one where adverse comments and jokes could not possibly be of the "too soon" variety. (via Reason)

When she posted jokes on Twitter about a 1973 assassination committed by Spain's Basque separatist group ETA, Cassandra Vera never for one moment thought they would land her a one-year jail sentence.

But last month, one of Spain's top criminal courts found the 21-year-old guilty of "justifying terrorism" and humiliating its victims - the latest in a series of such convictions for social media pranks that has the country divided, and partisans of free speech worried.

They ruined my life," Vera tweeted about the 13 posts about the 1973 murder of Luis Carrero Blanco, the prime minister and heir-apparent of dictator Francisco Franco who was killed in an ETA bomb attack that sent his car hurtling into the air.

Whether or not the jokes could be considered funny is up to the reader. But Spain's government -- using its terrorism concerns to increase its control of its citizens -- feels that tweets like Vera's should be held to a different standard. The government will let Spaniards know what's funny… after the fact. And, possibly, after sentencing.

The National Court's sentencing comments made it very clear it found Vera's blend of assassination imagery and space program mockery to be criminally unfunny.

The National Court that sentenced her, which specialises in terrorism cases, ruled that her jokes did not form part of a "healthy humoristic environment" and that her attitude was "disrespectful" and "humiliating."

There's nothing more devoid of humor than a government-ordained "healthy humoristic environment." Vera has been sentenced to a one-year prison term for failing to make the court laugh. She won't serve any actual jail time, which is a plus, but will find it much more difficult to move forward with her studies, as the criminal record prevents her from obtaining a scholarship.

Even the assassination victim's granddaughter thinks this sentence from the National Court goes too far. She sent a letter to El Pais, the most-read paper in Spain, stating she was dismayed Spanish social interaction had been reduced by the government to the point where free speech leads to jail sentences.

Not that her protest of Vera's sentencing is likely to change anything. The Spanish government has embraced the host of new powers it granted itself in response to terrorist attacks and widespread economic protests. The Spanish government is in the humor policing business -- which is quite fitting, considering its humorless police forces are in the business of shutting down any other non-joking speech the government doesn't like.


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  1. icon
    Oblate (profile), 5 May 2017 @ 10:57am

    Wasn't expecting that...

    Has the funniest joke in the world been translated to Spanish? I wonder what the Spanish humor police would think of it...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 May 2017 @ 11:19am

    • Vera has been sentenced to a one-year prison term for failing to make the court laugh. She won't serve any actual jail time,*

    ?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. icon
    hij (profile), 5 May 2017 @ 11:19am

    Who won the Spanish Civil War?

    Spanish politicians' predilection for dictating internet behaviour knows no bounds. It was just like yesterday they wanted Spanish publishers to charge search engines for searching. It would seem that the old punchline from Saturday Night Live, "Franco is still dead," no longer applies at least in a figurative sense.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. icon
    Ninja (profile), 5 May 2017 @ 12:58pm

    And what will be the excuse when they inevitably overreact and kill a kid with a bright orange replica gun? Sue the public utility company because the public lights are too dim?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. icon
    Ninja (profile), 5 May 2017 @ 12:59pm

    Re:

    Bah, wrong post, my bad.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. icon
    JoeCool (profile), 5 May 2017 @ 1:16pm

    Re:

    It's called "probation".

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 May 2017 @ 1:29pm

    Re: Wasn't expecting the Spanish inqusition

    I came to say that this sounded like a Monty Python skit.

    "Is this the office of internet humor?"

    "No, this is the office of internet sarcasm, internet humor is down the hall."

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 May 2017 @ 1:35pm

    Dear Spanish National Court,
    With all due disrespect, fuck you, you fascist fucks!
    Disrespectfully yours,
    Anonymous

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    David, 5 May 2017 @ 1:50pm

    Could be worse.

    Just imagine the "can make the court laugh" standard in Germany.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. icon
    Bergman (profile), 5 May 2017 @ 10:41pm

    How is this legal?

    Can member nations of the EU violate EU human rights laws?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 May 2017 @ 1:03am

    Everyone's racing to become the most fucked up dystopia in their own nationalistic way.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. icon
    AnaChronic (profile), 6 May 2017 @ 12:06pm

    Sounds like the country that gave us the Inquisition hasn't learned yet.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. icon
    justok (profile), 6 May 2017 @ 4:13pm

    Re: Re: Wasn't expecting the Spanish inqusition

    riiiiight.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Bruce C., 8 May 2017 @ 4:10am

    Re: Re: Wasn't expecting the Spanish inqusition

    More like Happy Valley: "I sentence you to be hanged by the neck until you cheer up."

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. icon
    JustMe (profile), 8 May 2017 @ 4:16am

    I was there in the late 80s

    The people were warm, generous and had an easy love for life. It is sorry to see that Franco's legacy of repression, cruelty and capriciousness continues three decades later. I truly hope the people regain control of their government before incidents like this are the norm instead of the unusual.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 May 2017 @ 6:25am

    The court made the entire world laugh ... at them

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 May 2017 @ 6:55am

    You'd think by now people would have learned to expect the Spanish Inquisition.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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