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Thought Crimes

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A tip of the hat to the Department of State, which had the guts and good sense to express its opposition (sort of) to congressional legislation creating an office for monitoring “anti-Semitism.”

The bill passed both houses of Congress by voice vote and was signed into law by President Bush last week.

It’s a very silly and dangerous measure.

“We opposed creation of a separate office for the purpose and opposed the mandating of a separate annual report,” a State Department spokesman told the press. “We expressed the view that separate reports on different religions or ethnicities were not warranted, given that we already prepare human rights reports and religious freedom reports on 190 countries.” [Anti-Semitism office planned at State Department, By Nicholas Kralev,Washington Times, October 14, 2004]

But the Department isn’t dumb. Having seen how easily it passed, the spokesman explained also why the law really wasn’t a problem after all:

“It´s more of a bureaucratic nuisance than a real problem. We are not going to fight a bill that has gained such political momentum.”

You bet your pension you’re not.

The bill did not, of course, pass Congress because there was such a massive groundswell of grassroots support for it. It passed because Jewish organizations demanded it, and no sitting politician wants to get on the wrong side of these groups.

That’s why the bill passed the Senate by agreement and the House by voice vote—there’s no debate and no record of how anyone voted.

Pushed by the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith and most other major Jewish organizations, the bill requires the Department to record acts of physical violence against Jews, their property, cemeteries and places of worship abroad, and the response of local governments to them.

As the Department notes, it already issues reports on “human rights”abuses, and there’s no special reason why attacks on Jews should be recorded separately.

Why not reports about attacks on other groups—black people, white people, women, Christians?

If the lobbies that represent such categories can make enough noise for it, there would be such reports. The State Department could then spend all its time recording what should be the concern of local police departments.

The Department was right the first time that the bill requires a duplication of what it already does, but that’s not what’s really wrong with the law.

What’s wrong with it is that it opens one more door to the criminalization of thought and expression.

The bill requires only that acts of physical violence against Jews be recorded, not expressions of anti-Semitism, but you can bet the bill’s promoters will soon be pushing to include what they claim are “anti-Semitic” expressions to be reported as well. As press reports noted,“among the attacks that prompted passage of the bill” was “the recent claim by former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad that Jews ‘rule the world by proxy.’”

That’s the sort of stuff the State Department will now have to record and report about?

Last year the British Parliament debated a bill that would have allowed British citizens to be extradited to European Union countries to stand trial for expressing “xenophobia and racism” if the expressions were broadcast into countries where they are illegal, as in several European countries they are. It didn’t pass, and the law just enacted doesn’t do that, but all of it is part of the same pattern.

The pattern is the criminalization of thought—for xenophobia,” “racism,” “white supremacy,” “homophobia,” “anti-Semitism,” “patriarchalism,” and any number of other isms, manias and phobias unknown to any language a few years ago.

What really drives the crusade to criminalize thought and expression is not any legitimate revulsion against real violence (which is already illegal) but the compulsion of powerful and well-organized lobbies to muzzle criticism.

Neoconservatives are already claiming that criticism of them is really “anti-Semitism,” which is what they also said about the recent FBI investigation of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) for espionage for Israel, and what the Anti-Defamation League and many other Jewish spokesmen said about Mel Gibson’s movie, “The Passion of the Christ,” and what the same groups say about criticism of Israel or of U.S. policies toward Israel.

It might be a lot simpler if the State Department had to report on what isn’t anti-Semitism.

The list would be a lot shorter.

What is worrisome about the new law is not that the Department will have to duplicate what it already does but that what is not anti-Semitism at all, let alone violence, but merely criticism and dissent will be demonized and curbed.

Maybe in some minds that was the real purpose of the law all along.

And maybe, before the congressmen and senators all shouted their approval of the measure, they should have talked and thought about it a little more than they did.

• Category: Ideology • Tags: Anti-Semitism, Thought Crimes 
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With terrorist bombings in Morocco and Saudi Arabia and the closing of the American embassy in Riyadh, it should now be obvious that the much ballyhooed “war against terrorism” is a colossal, monumental, titanic flop.

Since the 9/11 attacks, we have fought two wars, conquered two countries and enacted laws that jeopardize constitutional rights, and still terrorists seem able to strike whenever and wherever they wish.

Well, the central rule of anarcho-tyranny, the system of government under which we now live, is that if you can’t or won’t punish the guilty,criminalize the innocent and punish them.

Under anarcho-tyranny, criminals aren’t punished (which is why it’s anarchy), but the innocent are (which is why it’s tyranny). The Bush Administration seems determined to develop this insanity to a state of perfection.

Unable to destroy real terrorists, the Administration is inventing new ones, as the Washington Post discussed this week.

The funny thing about the fake terrorists is that they all seem to be on the extreme right.

Thus, in Northern Virginia, federal agents recently nabbed a gentleman named Byron Calvert Cecchini, a “self-described white supremacist,” who runs a website “rife with anti-Semitic and racist language,” as the Post describes it.["Tracking Hate Groups Aids Terrorism Fight |Federal Agents Turn to Domestic Front," By Maria Glod and Jerry Markon,Washington Post, May 19, 2003]

But the feds seem to have had virtually no good reason to arrest him. Their warrant alleged he had a “violent criminal history” and “probably” owned weapons. But after the feds threw him in jail and walked off with his computer and files, all they could charge him with was trademark violations. Mr. Cecchini sold T-shirts that resembled those of another manufacturer.

“You prosecute what you can prosecute,” a “law enforcement source” smirked to the Post, in what ought to be the motto of anarcho-tyranny.

You can’t or won’t prosecute the guilty and the dangerous, so you prosecute political eccentrics who have done nothing illegal or violent and call it a “war on terrorism.”

Mr. Cecchini isn’t the only victim. In the last few months far right activists all over the country have run into legal problems from the federal government.

In February, Ernst Zündel, an immigrant from Canada and “Holocaust denier” living legally in Tennessee with his wife, a naturalized U.S. citizen, was deported back to Canada where he was denied bail and kept in a prison cell with the lights on 24 hours a day. His offense: He missed a single immigration hearing.

More serious charges have landed white racial activist David Duke in prison, and Matthew Hale of the “white supremacist” World Church of the Creator has been charged with conspiracy to kill a judge.

Some might even have broken a real law or two, but the pattern discloses nothing less than a government witch hunt against the far right, criminal or not. As the Post describes it, “It is a tactic being used with increasing success nationwide as authorities step up efforts to curb domestic hate and terror groups: prosecute any illegal activity by known extremists and, at the same time, work to infiltrate potentially dangerous groups to guard against future attacks.”

Neither the Post nor the government specifies any actual “terror” groups on the receiving end of the witch hunt, and indeed it’s difficult to say that any of the victims has broken any real law at all.

In Georgia, a neo-Nazi leader named Chester Doles was nabbed for federal firearms violations. His crime: an undercover informant said he saw Mr. Doles with firearms. Federal law forbids convicted felons from owning firearms. But Mr. Doles is not a convicted felon and says he didn’t own the guns. The government says he has spent more than 12 months in jail for misdemeanor convictions and that constitutes a felony conviction in its eyes.

Others are being arrested simply for opinions expressed — “In Pennsylvania,” the Post reports, “an Aryan Nation member who expressed anti-Semitic beliefs on the Internet in an open letter of support to Saddam Hussein was indicted on weapons charges in March.” Unable to muzzle him for his beliefs, the government is simply concocting charges to muzzle him for other reasons.

While the government silences the far right, it seems to have done nothing against the far left — such as the communist Workers World Party, whose anti-American rallies against the war with Iraq were allegedly financed by North Korea.

It’s the right the federal leviathan hates and fears, not the country’s real enemies.

Anarcho-tyranny, of course, never lasts. Its natural and logical destiny is tyranny pure and simple.

Conservatives may be indifferent to the wave of repression against the far right over which their hero George W. Bush is presiding, but they should remember one thing: Once the current far right is silenced and suppressed, conservatives themselves will then become the far right that remains — and the next target of the witch hunters.

• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Thought Crimes 
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Great Britain and the United States may not be quite prepared to crack down on dangerous thinkers, but where those guardians of Anglo-Saxon liberties fear to tread, the European Union is ready to gallop.

This week the London Daily Telegraph reported that the Union is even now sprucing up new laws against “xenophobia and racism” to make sure no one has any unusual thoughts at all—and that British subjects will be extradited to the continent if they violate them.

The recent Scotland Yard investigation of journalist Taki Theodoracopulos for violating British laws against inciting “racial hatred” seems to have gone nowhere, but Taki, as the wealthy jetsetter journalist is known, may still not be safe. Thought crimes that the British won’t prosecute could still be punished if the EU bureaucracy can get its claws on the culprits through the extradition process.

Moreover, if it works for British Thought Criminals, it may also work for those in this country.

In an article in the Telegraph last week, Home Affairs editor Philip Johnston reported that the British government

“has undertaken that if such ‘offences’ take place in Britain the perpetrators would not be extradited—but it will be for the courts to decide the location of the crime. This opens up the prospect of a judge agreeing to extradite someone whose observations, though made in Britain, were broadcast exclusively in a country where they constitute a crime. Legislation now before Parliament will make ‘xenophobia and racism’ one of 32 crimes for which the European arrest warrant can be issued without the existing safeguard of dual criminality. This requires that an extraditable offence must also be a crime in the UK. Alongside the arrest warrant, EU ministers are negotiating a new directive to establish a common set of offences to criminalize xenophobia and racism.”

[Britons face extradition for 'thought crime' on net, By Philip Johnston, February 18, 2003]

Under current law, “Holocaust denial,” for example, is a criminal offense in some European countries like Germany and Austria. A British citizen who committed that “crime” in Germany and then returned to Great Britain could not be extradited back to Germany to stand trial. But under the proposed new laws and directives, he could be—if British judges so ruled.

What that means, presumably, is not just that Britons who committed such offenses while physically on the continent could be prosecuted. Also subject to the new laws would be those who merely broadcast or published their criminal thoughts, including through the Internet.

“Holocaust denial” is one offense, but new legislation against “xenophobia and racism” could broaden state control over thought and expression far more, even when those expressing verboten ideas never left their own living rooms.

The Telegraph article quotes Lord Filkin, a minister with the Home Office, as saying that no British citizen would be extradited to the continent “in respect of conduct which has occurred here and which is legal here.” But, asked whether “comments originating in Britain but carried abroad on television or through an internet chatroom would be extraditable,” he said, “It will be for the courts to decide.”

In other words, neither British law as written nor constitutional tradition will protect the British citizen from being hauled out of his own country to face trial in a foreign state under laws to which he never consented and possibly jailed merely for expressing unconventional thoughts that are legal in his own country.

Given the broad scope of existing European laws that punish “Holocaust denial,” there’s no telling how far the new laws could reach, but clearly they reach well beyond merely inciting racial violence.

Scientists who study racial differences and come up with the wrong answers, clergymen who criticize Islam and other non-Western religions, political leaders who object to mass immigration, and journalists who merely criticize political correctness and double standards may all have good reason to shut up and get jobs selling cars.

Could the laws reach into the United States? This country recognizes the European Union and generally extradites European criminals wanted in its member states, as they do Americans wanted for trial in this country.

Just this month immigration authorities expelled alleged “Holocaust denier” Ernst Zündel to Canada, giving only the thinnest technical rationale for kicking him out. Mr. Zündel, who broke no laws while living in this country, may eventually wind up back in his native Germany, where he could go to jail for what he has written about Nazi policies toward the Jews.

Mr. Zündel, of course, is not an American citizen, but the parallel with what may well be in the works is clear enough.

Any thought, any idea, any statement that challenges the official egalitarian ideology faces repression by the emerging global state, and neither constitutions nor national borders will protect those who question that ideology or the global power it serves.

• Category: Ideology • Tags: European Right, Thought Crimes 
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You have to feel a bit sorry for Scotland Yard, the famous British police force. There was a time when it hunted really evil and dangerous criminals like Jack the Ripper, the Moors Murderers and IRA terrorists. Today, such has been the progress of Great Britain into the happy land of multiracial utopia, the Yard is reduced to investigating Thought Crimes and the improbable gentlemen who commit them.

The most recent Thought Criminal to be hauled into the Yard’s lineup is one Taki Theodoracopulos, journalist and playboy, who for obvious reasons is better known simply as “Taki” to friends and enemies alike. These days there seem to be more of the latter than the former, and Scotland Yard may be among them.

Taki, you see, writes a regular column for the London Spectator, a conservative weekly, and he is best known for his outspokenly incorrect sentiments about race, sex and other indelicate subjects. As the London newspaper the Independent recently reported some of his sentiments, “In 1997 he described Puerto Ricans in New York as ‘a bunch of semi-savages … fat, squat, ugly, dusky, dirty.’ In 2001 he called himself a ‘soi-disant anti-Semite‘ and has also referred to Kenya as ‘bongo-bongo land.’”[A racist rant too far? Police investigate Taki the playboy pundit, By Sholto Byrnes,Independent, February 01, 2003 ]Personally, I’m still waiting for something tasteless, but in Great Britain, you see, such men are dangerous.

Hence, when Taki published a column in the Jan. 11 Spectator with the headline “Thoughts on Thuggery,” the long ears of the Yard began to prick. With reference to the recent murders of two black girls in Birmingham, Taki wrote,“Only a moron would not surmise that what politically-correct newspapers refer to as ‘disaffected young people‘ are black thugs, sons of black thugs and grandsons of black thugs … West Indians were allowed to immigrate after the war, multiply like flies, and then the great state apparatus took over the care of their multiplications.”Apparently, under the Thought Crime statute, that was even worse than commenting on the physical appearance of Puerto Ricans, and soon the coppers came snooping.

The coppers came around mainly because one Peter Herbert, a lawyer and member of the Metropolitan Police Authority, alerted Scotland Yard’s “Diversity Directorate” (yes, there really is, in a British government agency, a bureau called that), which, as the Independent reports, “will assess whether the piece incites racial hatred and thereby breaks the Public Order Act, for which the maximum sentence is two years.”

The kicker is that some years ago, Taki, who inherited an immense amount of money from his father and is a bit of a jetsetter in what the Independent calls “Eurotrash plutocratic circles,” was busted at Heathrow airport for possession of cocaine. He wound up serving four months in the slammer. For a really serious crime like writing incorrect thoughts, he faces two years. So much for freedom of expression in the land where Britons never, never, never shall be slaves.

Taki would be well advised not to count on the deathless support of his conservative editors either. Boris Johnson, editor of the Spectator, was quick to tell the Independent, “It was a terrible thing. It should never have gone in.” Mr. Johnson, of course, insists that he was conveniently on vacation the week the article appeared (how about the week the article was approved for publication?), but “takes full responsibility.” How very responsible.

In fact, those in the know about British law and politics are pretty certain that nothing will come of the police investigation and that Taki will survive to spew hate once more. But what’s remarkable is that l’affaire Taki happened at all, as Dr. Johnson remarked about a woman preaching.

If Taki had been nabbed in China, Iraq or even South Korea, his investigation by the country’s Thought Police would hardly be surprising. But this, after all, is Great Britain, Mother of Parliaments, where freedom of expression has a long history so long that it’s also the mother of the same freedom in American constitutional law.

Today, police investigation of a journalist in the United States for something he has written (assuming it’s not obscene or actually treasonable) is probably not possible, mainly because we still take freedom of expression more or less seriously. But the exact same mentality that enacted and enforces Thought Crimes laws in Great Britain and in other European “democracies” exists also in this country and demands the same governmental enforcement of Correct Thought about race, sex and similar issues just as ferociously. Be not deluded that just because we still have a little sentence in our Constitution known as the First Amendment, what almost happened to Taki in Great Britain doesn’t await American journalists in this country. If it can happen there, there’s no reason it can’t happen here.

• Category: Race/Ethnicity • Tags: Taki, Thought Crimes 
Sam Francis
About Sam Francis

Dr. Samuel T. Francis (1947-2005) was a leading paleoconservative columnist and intellectual theorist, serving as an adviser to the presidential campaigns of Patrick Buchanan and as an editorial writer, columnist, and editor at The Washington Times. He received the Distinguished Writing Award for Editorial Writing of the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) in both 1989 and 1990, while being a finalist for the National Journalism Award (Walker Stone Prize) for Editorial Writing of the Scripps Howard Foundation those same years. His undergraduate education was at Johns Hopkins and he later earned his Ph.D. in modern history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

His books include The Soviet Strategy of Terror(1981, rev.1985), Power and History: The Political Thought of James Burnham (1984); Beautiful Losers: Essays on the Failure of American Conservatism (1993); Revolution from the Middle: Essays and Articles from Chronicles, 1989–1996 (1997); and Thinkers of Our Time: James Burnham (1999). His published articles or reviews appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, National Review, The Spectator (London), The New American, The Occidental Quarterly, and Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture, of which he was political editor and for which he wrote a monthly column, “Principalities and Powers.”