Notes from underground

يارب يسوع المسيح ابن اللّه الحيّ إرحمني أنا الخاطئ

Thought crime

Back in the bad old days of apartheid we had all sorts of repressive laws in South Africa. There was detention without trial, a long list of banned books and films and laws restricting press freedom. The democracies of the world, including the UK, rightly criticised us for these things, and eventually we repented and abandoned them and opted for a free society.

But now those democracies seem to be adopting the evil ways that we discarded back in 1994. Hat-tip to The Ergosphere for this example:

Just seen on the Telegraph: a story about a woman convicted of a crime for downloading a banned magazine that promotes Islamicist terror. Her story, which the judge believed: she wanted to see what had convinced her brothers (both convicted terrorists) to become terrorists. She was given a short jail sentence, just a month after the time she has spent awaiting trial.

I have a problem with this. Thought crime is NOT crime. Acting on what she read would almost certainly have been criminal, but reading it? I’ve downloaded and read a bunch of terror material, starting with the Turner Diaries and Mein Kampf. I had no interest in becoming a Nazi: quite the contrary. I was merely interested in these documents that convinced people to support Hitler and led to the Holocaust. I wanted to understand what could cause people to do such things.

Is this British justice in the 21st century?

It reminds me of Pontius Pilate “having examined him before you, have found no fault in this man touching those things whereof ye accuse him… I will therefore chastise him, and release him” (Luke 23:14, 16).

What was the “therefore” there for?

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3 thoughts on “Thought crime

  1. I’ve been hearing a lot about SA of late and it doesn’t sound safe down there.

  2. Bingo. Many in parts of the west are loosing their trust in the values of free societies — freedom of thought, of conscience, of belief, and of expression — just as many in Africa and the Middle East are recognizing these values. Still, the Telegraph story hit my funnybone. Jailing somebody for *reading* material and thinking about it!? 😦

    I’m not British, but I know many who reacted to this outrageous case as I did. So all is not lost there. And I don’t believe that this case could have happened in my country (America), at least not yet. The U.S. constitution has nearly complete protection for freedom of speech and thought, and our courts have recently demonstrated that they are unwilling to look the other way and allow laws that restrict freedom of thought and expression remain in effect.

    No constitution is proof in the long run against that strain of creeping fascism that is born from fear of what other people who think freely might choose to do, though. I’m so glad to see a country like South Africa, with its history, turn away from this error. I hope that we in America have the humility and good sense to pay attention. 🙂

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