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Thoughtcrime

In George Orwell's dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four the government ("The Party" or Ingsoc) attempts to control not only the speech actions, but the thoughts of its subjects, labelling unapproved thoughts with the Newspeak term thoughtcrime.

In the book, Winston Smith, the main character, writes in his diary:

Thoughtcrime does not entail death: thoughtcrime IS death.

He also makes remarks to the effect that "Thoughtcrime is the only crime that matters," meaning that the totalitarian Ingsoc regime only cares that the population is not planning to overthrow it.

Modern Accusations

Some people believe governments may be currently enforcing laws that implement a de-facto kind of Thoughtcrime legislation. Prime among the laws accused of this are hate crime laws that mandate harsher penalties for people who commit crimes out of racism or bigotry. Opponents of those laws claim that all crimes are committed out of an element of hate, so that defining a specific subset of laws as 'hate crimes' is meaningless, and that the government should outlaw actions, not thoughts or states of mind. Proponents argue that hate crimes are no exception to the fact that the state of mind of the perpetrator has always influenced the punishment for crimes; and they further argue that hate crime laws are the only way to ensure proper punishment of those who commit egregious crimes in the name of prejudice or bigotry.

Laws providing for involuntary commitment may also be open to accusations that they provide for thoughtcrimes, since those who have committed no crime may be denied their liberty simply because a court finds that they are a "danger to self or others", yet others who may really be a "danger to self or others" may remain free so long as they have not been convicted of a crime. Thus it is purely on the basis of the thought or mood of the involuntarily committed person that he is deprived of freedom.



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