Get ready, Americans. We should all prepare to be arrested.
Or at least, you should if you have made an exaggerated or politically incorrect statement online within the past few years. That's what happened to Justin Carter, an 18-year-old from Texas who made an ironically incendiary statement on the comments section of the online video game "League of Legends."
When another player told Carter that he was crazy, Carter responded sarcastically with "Oh yeah, I'm real messed up in the head, I'm going to go shoot up a school full of kids and eat their still, beating hearts."
Carter then continued the statement with "LOL" and "JK," meaning "laugh out loud" and "just kidding."
Clearly, talking about shooting children should never be joked about, even when the sarcasm is acknowledged. That's particularly true after the Sandy Hook school shooting that killed 20 students and six adults.
But does that really mean that Carter should be jailed for up to eight years? That's the charge he faces, for making what judges deem a "terroristic threat." Think about how many times have you have said "I could just kill that person!" out loud.
However, as web chat replaces real conversations, more and more politically incorrect phrases are documented for everyone to see. In fact, the FBI recently expressed a desire to monitor online chats as they happen.
The FBI doesn't care if you are a teenager joking around with friends or a tired employee making off-the-cuff jokes after a long day at work. They only care if you are a terrorist. And if you make any threatening jokes or statements, they have the authority to arrest you.
This probably won't affect well-known comedians along the lines of Stephen Colbert or Jon Stewart, because their proclivity for political jokes is well-known and arresting them would be ludicrous. But for the average American who makes inappropriate jokes or satirical comments to a small group of friends, the age of internet communication might also become the age of internet communication-based arrests.
In Carter's case, a woman in Canada merely reported the threats that he made online to the police. The police department, which takes any threat made against schools seriously, then put Carter in jail.
However, Carter's case has already revealed that saying anything sarcastically threatening or grossly politically incorrect online can easily draw the attention of the police and even jail time. As regular conversation migrates more and more to the domain of the web, inappropriate sarcasm and politically incorrect speech might die off at the same rate as face-to-face contact.