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Thought Crimes

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The Internet; Our Last Bastion Of Free Expression Is Under Attack


By James Donahue

February 2005


Wake up America. The religious fanatics that control your government want to close down your right to free speech on the Internet.


Two specific incidents; the arrest and jailing of a 26-year-old Oregon man on suspicion of arranging a Valentines Day mass suicide with 32 people via an Internet chat room, and the apprehension of a 55-year-old Houston, Texas man for using a chat room to arrange for the strangulation of a Wisconsin woman during sex, are cases in point.


Both cases involved loose words in Internet chat rooms. Both men were arrested and jailed based on what they wrote to other chatters, and not for having committed any criminal acts.


Edward F. Manuel of Houston reportedly made a pact to meet an unidentified Wisconsin woman at a Houston bus terminal for an arranged strangulation during sex. Manuel apparently kept the appointment, but instead of his alleged “victim,” he was greeted by police. A story in the Houston Chronicle said authorities found a "device for strangling" and yellow roses in Manuel’s car. The man faces up to 20 years in prison on an attempted murder charge.


That he showed up for the appointment does not make Manuel a killer. That he had a “device for strangling” in his car doesn’t tell us much. What was this device, a belt? A pillow? A rope? Are these really weapons for murder? Could it be that Manuel kept the appointment mostly out of curiosity . . . to see if the woman would show up for such a strange meeting?


In a more publicized case, Gerald Krien of Klamath Falls, Oregon, is in the county jail facing charges of solicitation to commit murder following his alleged involvement in an internet chat room with numerous people who agreed to a suicide pact on Feb. 14.


Authorities not only arrested Krien, but seized his computer after learning that he was allegedly arranging the suicides. Yet even the county sheriff has admitted the incident could have been a hoax.


Both cases may have been just that….hoaxes or else they were some foolish chat by overzealous participants. By their very nature, chat rooms are places where people can assume imaginary roles and be as creative as their thoughts will take them. The chatters take on phony names and remain anonymous. And this allows for lots of freedom of expression, especially when the writer doesn’t think anybody knows who he or she really is.


Since 9-11 and the adoption of the Patriot Act and other anti-terrorism moves by our government, however, authorities are watching Internet chat rooms, bugging telephone calls and tuning in on our private lives in ways most people would never suspect.


The result of this is seen in the arrests of two American citizens for thought crimes . . . things they said during chat room role play.


Were they crimes?  Absolutely not.


Will these people be prosecuted? I believe they will. Unless he can afford a high-priced lawyer, the Krien case, which has already gained national attention, will probably be highly publicized to the bitter end. The man will end up on the block in the town square for all to ridicule. The idea is to make an example of him and frighten people out of further free expression on the web.


Why would our government want to do something like this? Does it have anything to do with national security or even crimes against the public? Absolutely not.


All of the activities in Internet chat rooms are private conversations, somewhat similar to telephone conversations, where anything might be said. Sometimes, during the heat of the moment, statements are made that lead to the ultimate absurdity. Yet, once they are written down, or uttered from our lips, someone, somewhere, could be recording them.


And if you think nobody knows who you are, think again. Every computer has an identity that follows it where ever it goes on the web. It is four blocks of numbers separated by periods called an IP address. Some people can successfully screen the data from their computers to block access to these IP addresses, but I believe even these screens can be hacked by people who know what they are doing.


Also our government has high tech listening devices monitoring telephone conversations, which now are bounced off satellites circling the Earth. They are programmed to pick up specific words like “bomb,” or “kill” and “president,” or certain word combinations, so human ears can be alerted to listen in.


Thus the warning is . . . if you throw careless words into the web, or speak them over your telephone . . . they can be tracked right to your door.


Notice too the all-out assault on Internet chat rooms by the media. I recently caught part of a one-hour special “news” report on one of the television networks that examined how people are becoming addicted to Internet pornography and sex chat rooms, where they can have cyber sexual encounters with total strangers in the privacy of their homes.


The story suggested that people are having lives and marriages ruined by their addictions to these sexual encounters. People are being fired from their jobs after getting caught visiting the sites on the job. And psychologists testified they are working with more and more people who want to break away from this new American addiction.


It was compared to drug addiction.  


What amazed me was that so many people were willing to get their jollies by talking so openly about their sexual experiences in these chat rooms, and tell how the system has ruined their lives. I suspect they were hired actors and the whole story is a great big hoax.


Every red blooded American male, and I suspect a lot of women too, have visited these pornography sites and explored the chat rooms. Sex is of great interest to everybody, especially people living in a religious society where the subject is taboo, and the very word SEX is considered a four-letter word.


Yet I disagree that Internet sex is addictive. While it may be a kick for the moment, after a while the thrill is gone. We go on to more interesting and more stimulating subject matter, which we find in abundance on the World Wide Web.


That is the real bottom line to all of this government monkey business. There are people in high places that want to control the Internet because it is the last place left where there is a free exchange of information.


Right now we can say, post or express any opinion we wish on our personal blog page, or website, even if we are completely wrong. We can visit each other’s sites and read the material there, and form our own opinions as to what we wish to accept or reject. It is a public information system that is unparalleled in world history.


The government controlled newspapers in America are losing readers because most young people don’t trust these news sources. They prefer, instead, to get their news on the Internet. And news here is in rich abundance.


If people have a cause, their site reflects it.


Those who disagree with George W. Bush can say so, and poke fun at every move our president makes.


Those that support Mr. Bush can do this too. Although to be frank, it is rare when I find sites that support Bush these days.


This is what is making a paranoid government very nervous. This is why people in high places would like to either shut down the Internet, or if nothing else, attempt to get it under control.


It is hard to get the masses in lock step if protesters are allowed to speak freely in a forum as open as this.


America is a sick and dying nation, although most Americans haven’t yet realized it. You can see the signs of death in the lack of art. Nobody is producing good music, writing good literature, or producing great art works of any kind in America these days. That is because there is a social suppression of free expression.


The destruction of artistic expression has always marked the downfall of nations throughout history.


The last bastion of expression is the Internet. This may well be the only glue still holding things together.


When they succeed in building enough public support to control the web, or even worse, close it down, we can all shed a tear. It means the flame that was briefly a bright shining light in a bleak world, will be dimmed forever.

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