February 05, 2013
In the dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, thoughtcrime is the criminal act of holding unspoken beliefs or doubts that oppose or question the ruling party. In the book, the government attempts to control not only the speech and actions, but also the thoughts of its subjects. To entertain unacceptable thought is known as to crimethink in Newspeak, the ideologically purified dialect of the party.
In the book, Winston Smith, the main character, writes in his diary: "Thoughtcrime does not entail death: thoughtcrime is death." There is also a "ministry of love" which is actually the place of torture for people who commit thoughtcrime or any type of crime for that matter.
Florence, Ariz., high school freshman Daniel McClaine, Jr., found out what thoughtcrime means when he was suspended three days for having a picture of a Yugoslav AK-47 as the wallpaper on his school-issued laptop.
Check out the video from ABC-15.
School district policy says students are prohibited from "sending or displaying offensive messages or pictures," and cannot access, send, create or forward pictures that are considered "harassing, threatening, or illegal."
Now, I am all in favor of vigilance by school officials. None of us wants another school shooting, and it would be an especially fishy coincidence if one just happened to coincide with debate on Sen. Feinstein's assault weapon bill. It is also the case that endless lawsuits by parents and the ACLU have reduced school administrators to mindlessly enforcing Kafkaesque bureaucratic regulations rather than showing children by example how to make reasonable judgments.
But this one gets into the realm of thought control, and clearly even the district realized that, since it backpedaled as soon as a local TV station made inquiries
There was a prominent British gun-control activist in the 1980s, a woman whose name I regret I can't recall, who thought banning ownership of guns, while a good first step, was hardly enough. She wanted to outlaw BB guns, toy guns, antiques, dummy guns, pictures of guns, guns in museums, the use of guns in films — essentially, she wanted to erase the very concept of guns from the collective memory.
Give her credit for big thinking, but that's a truly quixotic dream, and one that would require coercion at the North Korean or Khmer Rouge level. The desire to strike a blow at a distance dates back to the atlatl or the boomerang, and no level of thought control will ever extinguish it. We may someday do it with ray guns instead of gunpowder, but there's no changing human nature.
In the meantime, Daniel McClaine, who hopes to join the U.S. Army after graduation, has changed his wallpaper to something the school district, at least for the moment, can accept.