Suddenly another voice – a man with the same tone of voice as those little Nazis in ludicrous hats and luminous jackets who stand at railway ticket barriers waiting to ﬁne you £20 because you’ve gone one station too far with your ticket.
‘Hello, Mr Carr?’ said the little Nazi, ‘I’m afraid there’s a serious problem with your hosting. At ten o’clock this morning we received a call from the Metropolitan Police’s Obscene Publications and Computer Crime Unit asking us to shut down your web server. Apparently one of your sites was offering advice on setting up a vigilante mob...'
He said the words ‘setting up a vigilante mob’ in the same way as an arresting officer might say, ‘Yes, Sarge, apparently he was just “cuddling the sheep” ’.
The Obscene Publications and Computer Crime Unit, he explained, had phoned Host Europe and asked for my site – my spoof site – to be shut down, without any kind of warrant, and Host Europe had complied without even bothering to tell me. This was bizarre. And I wasn’t going to stand for it. I knew my rights! (I had no idea what my rights were.)
Unfortunately, the only response I could muster to communicate how little I was going to stand for it was a sort of gaspy yelping noise.
I took a deep breath and tried again. ‘But this is ridiculous. It’s a joke—’
‘It may be a joke to you, sir,’ said the Nazi, ‘but I assure you that we and the police take these complaints very seriously. You’ll need to speak to the ofﬁcer in charge at the Met...’
My next call, to the Obscene Publications Unit, confirmed my lack of faith in humanity.
‘Yes, Mr Carr, we did ask Host Europe to shut down your site... No, sir, we didn’t have to get a court order. We received a complaint and, after investigating, we recommended that they take down the site.’
At this point I lost my temper.
‘You recommended it? That’s all it takes to censor something? Jesus, Fahrenheit 451 would have been a much shorter book if the ﬁremen just bloody recommended that books be burnt.’
For a moment I had forgotten that the person I was shouting at probably had the power to send me to jail if I got too lippy. He also didn’t get the reference. But my point stood: ‘On exactly what basis did you “recommend” deleting it?’
‘That it could be interpreted as inciting violence.’
Yes, officer, I wanted to say, you’re absolutely right, it could be interpreted that way. If the interpreter was the type of baying, inbred, placard-waving, tabloid-reading fucking moron that the site was parodying in the first place.
I was too angry to think straight. I couldn’t believe how easily it had been for the police to get the site taken down, just because some idiot Daily Mail reader couldn’t recognise a joke, compared to how difficult it would be to get a book pulped or a film banned in similar circumstances. I didn’t care how unfunny thinkofthechildren was any more – I just wanted it put back up. Right. This. Minute.
‘I’m sorry, sir, I can’t actually make that decision. Host Europe were the ones who decided to take down the site. You’ll have to ask them if they’re prepared to reactivate it.’
I called my Nazi friend at Host Europe again, ready for a fight.