Thought police are on patrol (not here… yet)

Just after my extensive discussion of the language parsing in the amended stalking statute, Josh Zerkle shared this article from Europe on Facebook.  Matthew Woods made some tasteless jokes on Facebook, and got himself 3 months in a youthful offender’s lockup.  I haven’t seen the jokes, but I don’t care how terrible they are, he should not be prosecuted for his statements, particularly when they were meant to be satirical in nature.  I don’t think Gilbert Gottfried should have been fired for his tasteless tsunami joke, but I respect the right of his employer to do so.  However, for the government to try to regulate thought by punishing unsavory comments, we lose the discourse that is essential to a free society.  Restrictions on expression are one of the key ways that governments are able to oppress people around the world.  We should be a long way from this happening in the United States, thanks to our Second Amendment, but there is always a risk.  What if someone were to take a joke as threatening, regardless of the intent or ability to carry out a threat… it could become criminal based solely on how it is received.  That’s a stretch, I realize, but a reminder as why we must be vigilant at protecting our right to express ourselves, by standing up for even those we disagree with.

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3 responses to “Thought police are on patrol (not here… yet)

  1. And a job-poster in the Portland area is threatening to prosecute for harsh comments (good luck with that)… http://gawker.com/5949880/worst-writing-job-ever-offering-between-009-and-02-per-word

  2. I don’t think there is any way to regulate thought, but only action. Speech, as much as most of us have a pretty consistent correlation between what we say and what we think, still have a gap between the two when we lie. Thought can’t be directly regulated by anyone other than the person (or until some sci-fi gadget becomes reality or brain leaches are discovered). However, action and behavior can easily be regulated. I think the danger comes when speech is regulated because of who the speaker is or because of who they are speaking against.

  3. Pingback: Law Student Charged for Angry Statements, but Is She Constitutionally Protected | crimcourts : A Criminal Law Blog

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