UDreamOfJanie

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Thought Police Making Inroads

That thought is not permitted, Mr Smith., by suburbanbloke @ FlickrA peek above our garters to Viviane for this:

PITTSBURGH – Karen Fletcher, the Donora, Pennsylvania woman who ran the RedRoseStories.com Website, which the government charged contained obscene text pieces involving sex with and torture of underage characters, today pleaded guilty to six counts of “using an interactive computer service to distribute obscene materials.”

Fletcher, whose site had 29 subscribers worldwide and charged $10 per month for access – then her sole source of income – received, under a plea agreement worked out between U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan’s office, Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen R. Kaufman and Trial Attorney Michael Yoon, both of the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS) of the Justice Department, and defense counsel Jerry Mooney and Lawrence W. Walters, a sentence of five years’ probation, including six months of house arrest with electronic monitoring, plus a $1,000 fine. U.S. District Judge Joy Flowers Conti pronounced the sentence, and could have imposed as much as five years in prison, but the government agreed that such a sentence was not appropriate.

What’s really disturbing about this is that the court is deciding that written words can be deemed obscene, and that you, and I, can go to jail for writing down the things in our heads.  We don’t have to act on them, we don’t even have to want to act on them.  We write them down, we go to jail because somebody else finds them disturbing or offensive.

Not sexual images of underaged children.  Not threats.  Not descriptions of actual events.  Just thoughts in our heads unapproved by the state.  Under such a ruling, Lolita would land Nabokov in jail.  Didn’t we already fight this battle?  Oh yeah, we did.  Timothy Sandefur has the legal dissection over at Freespace.

Most of all, given the fact that the written stories in question are unquestionably fictitious, it’s hard not to see these prosecutions as simple moralizing: as attempts, in the Osborne Court’s words, at paternalistically controlling the heads of the people who write these stories. Now, the general public may find such stories highly offensive, but that is not gounds for prosecuting them. Just about everybody has some sexual fantasy or other that they would be extremely embarrassed to make public—fantasies they would never act out in real life.

My thoughts exactly.  But only of course, if the state approves them.

From whence came the art:

That image is titled That thought is not permitted, Mr Smith., by suburbanbloke, and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 license.

Filed under: Censorship, Education, Erotica, Literature, Literature and Literotica, Politics, Rants, Sex, , , , , ,

8 Responses

  1. Infophile says:

    To me, the whole “obscene” thing is particularly worrying. The court has made it clear that they’ll make exceptions to that whole “free speech” thing when it comes to material deemed “obscene.” The problem is, they don’t give a good definition of obscenity, nor does any community who makes a claim of obscenity. How can you rationally say that, for instance, the word “shit” is obscene, but “shitake mushrooms” isn’t? And then there are many amusing memories of auto-censoring programs that make it impossible to say “drape”…

    Of course, the real problem comes when they extend the definition of obscenity too far. A Muslim community could very well declare that any pictures of Mohammed are obscene. Certainly fundamental Christian communities could say that simply writing the word “God” is obscene. Any criticism of this is also obscene, as it’s insulting to the religion.

    And right there, we’ve lost the key component to free speech, when we can no longer criticize the powers that be. Infringing free speech is a very slippery slope. Canada’s learning that lesson right now. They tried making what they thought was an innocuous limitation in banning advocating genocide or hate against any identifiable group. It wasn’t long at all before this was used to prevent people from mocking Americans or even criticizing the beliefs of religious groups.

  2. JanieBelle says:

    Yes, exactly, Infophile.

  3. Infophile,

    Here’s my definition of obscene:

    A government that cares more about protecting the establishment from its victims of exploitation than vice versa. A government that enacts and enforces “obscenity laws” (I could go on.)

  4. Stephanie Z says:

    What’s really appalling about this (okay, one of the many, many really appalling things) is that there is plenty of young adult literature that could easily fall under this. And I mean literature–serious works trying to look at serious topics. This is the stuff that’s aimed at kids who’ve already been through a lot, and now you want to tell me that it can’t include the nasty rape scene that would tell a kid someone else really has been through the same thing s/he has? Bullshit.

  5. JanieBelle says:

    Thanks for your thoughts, both of you.

    Seems like until we change the basic underlying assumption in society that sex and sexuality is dirty and private, and somehow a flaw, then we’re going to keep fighting the same battle.

  6. Rystefn says:

    Crap like this makes me want to scream. Land of the free, my ass.

  7. JanieBelle says:

    Land of the free-to-agree, more like.

  8. Pony says:

    I think, that since she was convicted of exploiting imaginary children, she should be able to pay her fine with monopoly money.

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