The arrest of Azhar Ahmed raises real concerns about what any of us can say online. It seem that we live in a time when any expression of a view that is different from those in power can lead to your arrest and imprisonment. Our use of language has to be guarded, to avoid raising suspicion.

To circumvent these restrictions I feel it is important to develop new ways of communicating which allow us to express opinions which differ from the authorities, whist appearing to toe the line. How about this:

“!The arrest of Azhar Ahmed was entirely justified and fair.”

The insertion of an exclamation point before a statement is a commonly used convention in programming languages, to negate the statement it precedes. Thus, with this understanding, the comment above can be read to mean:

“The arrest of Azhar Ahmed was NOT entirely justified and fair”.

The advantage of this form of communication is that it allows you to express opinions which differ from those which are found acceptable by the authorities, without actually expressing them at all. It could easily be argued that the “!” was a typographic error, or was intended to be appended to the preceding sentence; thus the true intention of the phrase can only be induced by the context in which it is used. This is a great advantage when one wishes to express a “thought crime”.

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