Friday, June 12, 2009

"Thought Crimes": IANAL, But...


When I hear/read the phrase "thought crime," I always think of the theosophical crimes: sacrilege, blasphemy, heresy, apostasy, and the like; crimes against "belief," where the real fault is loss of 'faith.'

I do not think of "hate" crimes.

But some folks do, among them Jeralyn over at TalkLeft, where yesterday she relieved herself of a post on the matter, in which she bemoaned the emerging practice of adding extra sanctions to the punishments of those convicted of criminals who acted out of deep, ethnic/gender/sexuality fear and loathing, under a rubric that bewailed the practice as that of punishing 'thoughts.' "The last thing we need are more crimes and prosecutions based on thoughts instead of actions. This is a very slippery slope," she wrote.

I was confused, and wrote her so--though my comment was ignored. My confusion centered on the well-known and long-established exaggerating factor, in the prosecution of certain crimes, of "premeditation," which is often a factor in what punishments the prosecution seeks for folks who commit murders, for example. To include charges of "premeditation" in a prosecution actually MEANS 'prosecuting' the thought, which preceded the deed. Though no act included in the process of premeditation be in itself illegal or criminal, because it became part of a larger act, the act of premeditation, itself, adds to the seriousness of the crime.

I tried to make a case that, with the issue of 'hate' crimes, the addition of more serious penalties was exactly analogous with the act of premeditation. By definition, a hate crime is an act of conscious, premeditated violence based on pre-existing bias, discrimination, etc. A hate crime is not "spontaneous," because the victim has to be selected for the act on the basis of observable behavior; then oppprtunity must be sought, and then the act committed for the premeditated motive.

Or?

IANAL....

1 comment:

Liberality said...

you used logic to no avail ;~)