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"It's the Thought That Counts"

July 15, 2001

Satire by
Lauren Weinstein


Harvey Specks was bubbling over with enthusiasm when he called. He was talking so loudly that I had to keep pulling the handset away from my ear.

"Ever since I became a prosecutor twenty years ago, I've been waiting for an opportunity like this! Finally I think we're going to be able to clean up this country and lock up all the scumbags where they belong!" said Harvey.

"Wow, that sounds pretty exciting, Harvey. What's the story?" I asked.

"OK, now stay with me on this. One of the big limitations of law enforcement has always been that you can only arrest people for what they do, not for what they might think about doing."

"Well, naturally," I said, "You can't know what people are thinking. And even if you could know, it's criminal actions that can be prosecuted, not thoughts."

"Ah! That's where you're dead wrong, Lauren! We may not be able to extract people's thoughts yet, but we can easily infer their thoughts from what they write down," said Harvey.

"You mean like if somebody writes in their personal diary that they'd like to go out at night and sabotage those robot traffic cameras at intersections, you think you could find a way to prosecute them just for those writings?"

"That's the plan!"

"But I don't see how you can ..."

"Lauren, new ground is being broken in the prosecution of thought crimes every day. We've already arrested kids who wrote fiction stories that had violent content."

"That's true, but ..."

"And you've heard about the guy in Ohio who was on probation for possession of nasty pictures of children, who was just convicted for writing fictional stories in his journal about doing terrible things to kids?"

"I heard the stories were pretty horrific. Who'd he give them to anyway?" I asked.

"Nobody! They were just his own made-up stories for himself. His probation officer found them during a routine search of the house. But remember what I said before, it's the thought that really matters. The prosecutor there said that the case was a breakthrough in prosecutions, and I couldn't agree more!" said Harvey.

"Well, maybe since he was on probation, that makes a difference ..."

"No, no -- it shouldn't make any difference at all, Lauren. We need to apply the same rules to everyone, and we need to go after everybody who thinks inappropriately in any way about anything criminal. And you can't limit it to cases involving the abuse of children, either. Right now anyone could write a story in their diary about all sorts of other murder, mayhem, and traffic violations, but nobody could touch them. That's a loophole we've got to close," said Harvey.

"Doesn't that run the risk of branding most of the population as crooks or perverts in one way or another, just for their own personal thoughts and writings?"

"Let the chips fall where they may, Lauren," said Harvey. "And by using these prosecutions as a form of preventative detention, we'll make things cleaner, safer, and more wholesome for the law-abiding citizens who keep impure thoughts out of their minds. And if we simply force people to pay fines for more minor thought crimes, the revenue potentials are enormous!"

"Well, Harvey, I must admit that you've hit upon an approach that could really change things."

"I certainly hope so, Lauren. But I could really use some help getting the word out about these terrific possibilities -- would you be willing to write up something about all this for me?" asked Harvey.

"I'll think about it," I replied.

= = = = = =

Lauren Weinstein

For information about the author, please see: http://www.vortex.com/lauren

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