English novelist Mary Anne Evans, better known by her pen name George Eliot, was not terribly off the mark when she wrote prophetically: “A difference of taste in jokes is a great strain on the affections”. And, in the post-9/11 world, those words have got a new meaning. Two British tourists were sent back to their country by the US Homeland Security from Los Angeles (LA) airport after the security men found the travellers’ jokes on Twitter suspicious. The two happy souls were detained at LA airport after one of the tourists tweeted that he was “going to destroy America” during their vacation. When the officials interrogated them about their suspected plot, the two insisted that the expression is British slang for some mad, bad partying. That was not all: the two were also questioned about another tweet that said: ‘digging up Marilyn Monroe’.
However, the humourless and paranoid US officials (what a deadly combination) are not alone. In 2010, the Delhi Police arrested two Britons for “suspicious plane-spotting activities”. But at least, to give the Delhi Police their due, the two men had some sophisticated equipment with them which could raise suspicions. But the two at LA airport were probably just looking to make merry in the land of opportunities. Then again in 2001, 14 Britons (what is the problem with the people of this island nation?) were charged with espionage in Greece after they were arrested outside an air base while they were — oh, not again — plane-spotting.
While ensuring national security is a laudable cause, one wonders why the US authorities did not keep the ‘tourist-terrorists’ for some more days to ferret out information about their sinister plan if they were so sure about their intentions. And, the men who fight for America in every corner of the world must be laughing their heads off and calling for a party themselves because 9/11 did more than they expected: along with spreading security paranoia, it has also managed to kill the art of making harmless jokes. What a dry world we inhabit! We feel a little destroyed ourselves.