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Godwin Orwelled
March 8, 2013 10:36 AM   Subscribe


 
Wow, some of those convictions are truly alarming. I had no idea. Thanks for posting.
posted by No Robots at 10:45 AM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


The cannibal cop hadn't just shared fantasies online, he actively stalked potential victims. That crosses the line from simple "crimethink".
posted by natteringnabob at 10:46 AM on March 8, 2013 [13 favorites]


This doesn't seem like a particularly unique defense of the so-called "Cannibal Cop" - we had a very similar, and much longer, one here a few months ago. My response hasn't changed - hasn't 'conspiracy to commit' pretty much always been a crime? What makes this case unique? Is it because we can imagine that people actually want to commit murder-for-profit or terrorism, but we can't imagine that someone will actually want to commit violence sexual assault?

I have a huge problem with prosecutions based on fictional acts or photos, but that doesn't seem to be the case with Valle. I guess that's up to a jury to decide.
posted by muddgirl at 10:49 AM on March 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Godwin-Orwelled

What?
posted by thelonius at 10:51 AM on March 8, 2013


Is it weird that my first thought upon reading this was "hell, they had this very dicussion 3 years ago on that one episode of Law and Order SVU"?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:52 AM on March 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


A police officer was actively stalking women, breaking the law by using his resources as a police officer to do so, while discussing plans to kill and eat them. This is not a simple or obvious case. Reducing it to a simple political issue of "Orwellian crimethink" seems like an unhelpful way of approaching this to me.

Yes, there are cases where people have been punished for thoughts instead of acts – and those cases are unfortunate. The criminalization of text, or of cartoon porn, isn't in line with the principles of liberty. But it seems alarmist and unhelpful to me to indicate that these problems, no matter how serious or widespread they are, constitute a "looming war." Better (and more constructive) to say that they are problems which need to be fixed. We need real solutions here, in the form of legislation and / or litigation, not alarmist agitprop.
posted by koeselitz at 10:52 AM on March 8, 2013 [7 favorites]


Rall is the political cartoonist (that's NOT one of his in the column) who is a stalwart defender of the Newspaper Syndication model and persistent detractor of independent comics (especially webcomics). He knows there's no need for "thoughtcrime" laws as long as everything is filtered through Newspaper Editors.
posted by oneswellfoop at 10:57 AM on March 8, 2013 [7 favorites]


We need real solutions here, in the form of legislation and / or litigation, not alarmist agitprop.

When the only link you have is a Ted Rall essay, every solution looks like alarmist agitprop.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 11:01 AM on March 8, 2013 [12 favorites]


Godwin-Orwelled

As in, when people invoke 1984 in the same reason-denying way that some invoke Hitler.

As for thoughtcrime, I worked for years with seriously mentally ill folks. My job, in essence, was to monitor their thoughts and stop them before they became acts. I personally had to report and have locked up several people whose behavior and thought patterns indicated a crime about to be committed. Now it's all well and good to say we can't convict someone for a crime they never committed, and that's true, and we didn't lock away a guy for rape when he said he had been fantasizing repeatedly about this underage girl he saw at the bus stop and so on. But it was as plain as if he had been caught with his pants down that he was going to rape this girl unless I did something. I did, and he was sent back to jail, and then prison (our patients were on parole at first and a sort of extended probation later).

It's not always so clear-cut. Even in that case we had to discuss it extensively and attempt other means first. But in many cases, the thought precedes the crime like lightning before thunder, and I have seen firsthand how dangerous it is not to act on that knowledge. But it must be done with deliberation and out of kindness rather than out of vindictiveness. It's not "he was gonna take a swing at me," it's "he would have killed someone tonight," which one of our patients did, and although we warned of it, no one paid attention, and a girl was stabbed to death walking home on new years eve. I'm prepared to weather a little moral ambiguity on this issue to prevent that from happening again.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 11:02 AM on March 8, 2013 [11 favorites]


Godwin-Orwelled

As in, when people invoke 1984 in the same reason-denying way that some invoke Hitler.


Ah, you mean Orwell-Godwinned.
posted by The Tensor at 11:05 AM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]




This doesn't seem like a particularly unique defense of the so-called "Cannibal Cop" - we had a very similar, and much longer, one here a few months ago. My response hasn't changed - hasn't 'conspiracy to commit' pretty much always been a crime? What makes this case unique? Is it because we can imagine that people actually want to commit murder-for-profit or terrorism, but we can't imagine that someone will actually want to commit violence sexual assault?

A police officer was actively stalking women, breaking the law by using his resources as a police officer to do so, while discussing plans to kill and eat them. This is not a simple or obvious case. Reducing it to a simple political issue of "Orwellian crimethink" seems like an unhelpful way of approaching this to me.

I do agree that the language Rall uses is unfortunate. He, however, brings up a very important point. Valle isn't on trial for stalking. He's on trial to commit conspiracy to murder. The question is whether or not the stalking was a tangible step towards the commission of the alleged murders or a separate criminal activity not related to the planning/fantasy behavior.

As for use of the police databases, that's a firing offense in my experience. I've never really seen an officer get anything less than termination for that kind of misuse of computer resources.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:09 AM on March 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yeah, conspiracy isn't thoughtcrime, and what the cannibal cop did was pretty clearly conspiracy to commit kidnapping and murder. He planned the crime with a conspirator and then performed voluntary actions towards committing that crime (stalking the planned victim). This doesn't seem like a difficult case at all.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:10 AM on March 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


He's on trial to commit conspiracy to murder.

Putting him on trial for murder would be prosecuting a thought crime. Is he on trial for murder? Rape? Cannibalism? From what I've read, no.

The jury has to decide if he was conspiring to commit a murder. That's not a thought crime - that's an actual crime with specific legal guidelines.
posted by muddgirl at 11:12 AM on March 8, 2013 [7 favorites]


This is a basically a duplicate of this.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:17 AM on March 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Is it conspiracy if it comes out later that all of the co-conspirators were chatbots?
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 11:19 AM on March 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


First they came for the cannibals and pedophiles, and because I was not a cannibal or pedophile, I pretty much said "yeah, that's pretty damn creepy, we're lucky nobody got hurt, lock those people up."

I can see there's a case for not having the full weight of the already bluntly and over used criminal justice system fall on someone because of evidence of their thoughts / predilections alone. But the cannibal cop as an example may be worse than al-Awlaki being a poster child for due process rights.
posted by weston at 11:21 AM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Rall neglects to mention that the man convicted in 2001 for writing a "child porn diary" had his conviction overturned on appeal. The case was later dismissed.

Of course, including that information would contradict the main point of his essay.

Rall sucks.
posted by DWRoelands at 11:21 AM on March 8, 2013 [17 favorites]


Thanks for finding that, DWRoelands.
posted by No Robots at 11:25 AM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


My impresson of Ted Ralls, never good, has not improved.
posted by edheil at 11:35 AM on March 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Rall neglects to mention that the man convicted in 2001 for writing a "child porn diary" had his conviction overturned on appeal. The case was later dismissed.

Of course, including that information would contradict the main point of his essay.

Rall sucks.


I don't disagree that Rall sucks, but my understanding is that the "child porn diary" guy's case was dismissed after he spent a couple of years in prison. That's still a pretty damn horrible thing to have happen to you, even if it's eventually dismissed.
posted by dsfan at 11:35 AM on March 8, 2013 [8 favorites]


I see nothing served in using the cannibal case to make a point when in fact the case has not been judged.
If things are as bad as Rall seems to suggest, what then does he propose be done?
posted by Postroad at 11:36 AM on March 8, 2013


This is quintessential Rall, really. Minimum of actual thought or research, maximum of button-pushing. I'm just heartily sick of him.
posted by yoink at 11:51 AM on March 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


Of course, including that information would contradict the main point of his essay.

This essay is not one of Rall's better moments, unfortunately. But he's usually right more often than he's wrong, which is a lot more than can be said about his critics.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:51 AM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


How about we actually discuss the article and its ideas instead of Ted Rall's outlook on webcomics or whether his detractors suck even worse?
posted by Etrigan at 11:54 AM on March 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


For legitimized torture and cannibalism fantasy, don't forget to catch Hannibal: The TV Series, coming in April on NBC prime time.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 11:59 AM on March 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


BlackLeotardFront: I see what you're saying, but if you're going to think about preemptively preventing people from doing harm, you need to think about how to do it in a better context than the legal system we have.

The criminal justice system's whole history is based in multifold retribution and the enforcement of social conformity. At best it provides a somewhat "moderated" outlet for mob bloodlust against people who break taboos... but there are plenty of people who see it as a positive goal to enforce such taboos somehow, even if they have nothing to do with any real harm.

Those running the system have never wholeheartedly adopted harm reduction as a goal, neither for offenders nor for victims. They surely haven't structured the system to reach such a goal effectively. And the standards for determining guilt and innocence, and even court procedures and standards of evidence, assume flat-out falsehoods about human behavior and cognition.

When there's a system that doesn't have those problems-- when the system actually implements harm reduction, actually works to improve things for all involved, and has truly effective protections against all the pressures that might cause it to devolve back into the mess we have now, then maybe it will make sense to think about taking away any of the few protections in the existing system, such as the requirement of actus reus.

And, no, the medical system doesn't reach the standard. I doubt human beings are capable of creating one that does.
posted by Hizonner at 12:02 PM on March 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


When will people start to take the George R.R. Martin threat seriously?!
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:02 PM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


My favorite part on the thought-crime aspect of the cannibal cop case is that he already hadn't followed through on his plans by the time he was picked up. Slate had an article last week that goes into some of it:
Eventually they agree on a price of $4,000 for the kidnapping. Valle promises to drive her over in the trunk of his car one day in February 2012, but when the appointed day arrives, no delivery occurs. The government offers no evidence that Valle and Van Hise discussed this aborted plan again. Instead, the correspondence jumps ahead to another round of negotiations, very similar to the first, except the price is now $5,000. Van Hise never mentions that the price went up, nor that he failed to receive his sex slave the first time around. The two men inexplicably behave as if the first arrangement never even happened.

The whole situation is just bizarre.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 12:36 PM on March 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


My favorite are the edgy avante-garde neofascists who don't even bother pretending that thoughcrime shenanigans aren't going on— they straight up call it a good thing.

Bonus points for claiming they're "leftists" elsewhere.

I would've liked to see this essay take into account those cases where the FBI essentially builds the terrorists they're trying to prosecute, though. It seems related.
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 12:54 PM on March 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Less Ted Rall, more Ted Maul!
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:54 PM on March 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


My favorite part on the thought-crime aspect of the cannibal cop case is that he already hadn't followed through on his plans by the time he was picked up.

I keep coming back to the connection between some kinds of terrorism and this case because it seems to me like the fantasy-to-reality chain is similar. If we look at the Columbine killers, for example - they fantasized about mass acts of violence for a long time before committing the act. They took steps to plan and obtain hardware to commit the crime. They had several different dates picked out but did not go through with it for one reason or another. And yet I don't think anyone would have predicted the outcome prior to the day.

I agree that our current system is failing people like Valle, and people like Klebold and Harris, but that doesn't mean that any arrest and conviction prior to actual acts of murder are 'punishing thought crimes.' It's a very difficult problem, and it's not going to be solved by the default assumption that the US justice system is committed to jackbooted fascism, as Rall seems to assume.
posted by muddgirl at 12:55 PM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


It seems related.

FBI entrapment of 'terrorists' is a much better example of jackbooted thuggery than charging someone who seems to be conspiring to commit murder with conspiracy to commit murder. Leave Valle out of it altogether, I say.
posted by muddgirl at 12:56 PM on March 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


My favorite part on the thought-crime aspect of the cannibal cop case is that he already hadn't followed through on his plans by the time he was picked up.

Hadn't followed through on his first set of plans you mean.

The plot he was arrested for was still in progress.

Also, I'm not sure the idea that someone chickened out the first time makes me secure about future attempts.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 1:14 PM on March 8, 2013


Oh good lord. Do not apply this standard to someone stalking people. Jesus Fucking Christ
posted by angrycat at 1:37 PM on March 8, 2013


Hadn't followed through on his first set of plans you mean.

Yeah, that's a good distinction.
I may have phrased that poorly, because it does seem to be clear that he wasn't up to much good. I just find it interesting from my armchair prosecutor's POV. As muddgirl alluded to, what's the line between someone who writes a bunch of gross emails and stalks people and someone who's actually planning something that just didn't fully happen yet?
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 1:43 PM on March 8, 2013


It's worth noticing that right at the end of the essay Rall makes sure to point out that a young guy who was entrapped by the Feds into some kind of fake "blow up a Christmas tree in a crowded location" plot - a young guy who was Somali and thus I assume Muslim - "really meant it" and thus deserved to go to jail. Scary misogynist creeper who at the very least was using his cop powers to stalk women? A victim of jackbooted state thuggery! Young Somali dude who was actually aided and abetted by the Fibbies? Totally deserved jail time!
posted by Frowner at 2:32 PM on March 8, 2013


Wait, I thought conspiracy _was_ an actus reus.

He isn't being prosecuted for thinking about eating people in general. He's being prosecuted for making plans (not in his mind, but in actual messsages written to actual people) to eat specific real people under specific real circumstances.

That's an act. A particularly reus act.
posted by edheil at 2:35 PM on March 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Jackson reminds the jury that Valle looked at autopsy photos, and pictures of naked girls on spits. According to the prosecution, these images "have no sexual value" at all. "This is not normal pornography for any human being," he says. And as he did in his opening argument, Jackson reminds the members of the jury to use their "common sense." Finally, he tells them what's been at issue in the case from the very start. Gilberto Valle fantasizes about seeing women executed, Jackson announces to the court. "That's not a fantasy that's OK."

I agree the facts of the case are more complicated (i.e. there is actual evidence), but a lot of the prosecutorial approach seems to be to be about making "sick" fantasies illegal. Why were those 3 (unrealized) plots any different than the 21 fantasy plots?

I guess that's how you get a verdict ... I have no doubt it won't work. We don't have all the evidence (the jury won't either), but it all *seems* like fantasy to me.

but this ...

Gilberto Valle must be one thing or the other. He's a monster or a martyr. There is no in-between.

I think there is an in-between.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:36 PM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


He's being prosecuted for making plans (not in his mind, but in actual messsages written to actual people) to eat specific real people under specific real circumstances.

Yep, and the real question is were those real plans? What supports that contention? Maybe I missed it, but did any of the communicators who were going to pay him take out the money to do it? I actually think without the ickiness of the sexual fantasies, it's a much harder case to win, which is why they are pushing the "these are not normal thoughts" angle.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:38 PM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yep, and the real question is were those real plans? What supports that contention?

He stalked the targets.
posted by mr_roboto at 2:51 PM on March 8, 2013


Less Ted Rall, more Ted Maul!

Ha! When I read shouty rants directed my way on Metafilter, I always read them in Ted Maul's voice, which immediately puts them in proper context.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:53 PM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think a more reasonable argument might be that this isn't thoughcrime, but is instead the criminalization of mental illness. And, unfortunately, many people with mental illness really do need to be slightly removed from society and given help. Sadly unless you're interested in hurting someone American society is quite willing to turn a blind eye, so obsessive pedophiles who don't actually abuse children go to jail (when ideally what they need is therapy) while severe schizophrenics are ignored and live squalid lives, abandoned on the streets.

The issue is less the freedom to write textual child porn and more how do we as a broad society support our members who are mentally ill. Sadly, neither jail nor more freedom is what the mentally ill really need.
posted by GuyZero at 3:12 PM on March 8, 2013


Ah, good old Ted Rall, fighting the good fight, focusing on what matters. Sheesh.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:14 PM on March 8, 2013


Ted Rall needs more of the facts of the case.
posted by Slackermagee at 4:43 PM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Illustrated Guide to Criminal Law on Conspiracy. Does NY require an overt act in furtherance?
posted by jewzilla at 6:27 PM on March 8, 2013


Sadly unless you're interested in hurting someone American society is quite willing to turn a blind eye

pretty sure this is part of how we manage to live together in a non-homogeneous society like the USA
many people with mental illness really do need to be slightly removed from society

wasn't institutionalization used as a weapon against the powerless back when that was a thing we did
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 7:37 PM on March 8, 2013


All you need to know about Ted Rall.

If Art Spiegelman, Tony Millionaire, Robert Crumb and Mike Diana all side against you, it's time to carefully examine your "Member of the Human Race" membership documents.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:52 PM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm back again, to serve as a reminder that there's a Venn intersection between the set of people with cannibal fantasies, the set of people who like blue websites with well-thought-out discussion, and the set of people with five dollars.

Seriously though, what I mean to say is that if you're talking about hospitalizing people with violent fantasies, for their own sake and for the safety of society at large? That's me. I am an actual real person that could be forcibly committed to a mental hospital in that hypothetical scenario.

I don't want to be "cured" of this kink. It's a part of who I am.

Now, I'm only interested in the fictional cooking of purpose-built fictional characters. Any similarity with real persons, living or dead, is not only coincidental, but actively avoided. But I have engaged in roleplay over IM, which is probably quite data-mineable. So I may or may not fall on the wrong side of said hypothetical laws, but I daresay I'd at least be close enough to the line that my private roleplay logs would be entered as an exhibit in a public trial.

I guess I'm coming on a little strong this time. Maybe I've become bolder after the other thread went so well. Maybe I've had a bad morning. But I think it's mainly because I've been in a mental hospital before (pediatric, unrelated) and I'm bristling at the thought of being made to repeat that experience.

"This is not normal pornography for any human being," he says.

I'd like to say I had a strong emotional reaction to this, but... honestly, I guess I'm used to hearing this sort of thing. I mean, it's a jury trial, that's an adversarial situation, you play the cards you've got... But yeah, the prosecutor probably really does believe what he's saying. It's understandable, really. Hell, I used to freak myself out.
posted by crazy socks for mister crazypants at 8:03 PM on March 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


If Art Spiegelman, Tony Millionaire, Robert Crumb and Mike Diana all side against you, it's time to carefully examine your "Member of the Human Race" membership documents.

The Wikipedia article on Ted Rall actually links to the Village Voice article that started it all:

In 1999, Rall wrote an article in the Village Voice[8] accusing Maus creator Art Spiegelman of lacking talent and controlling who gets high-profile assignments from magazines like The New Yorker through personal connections, including his wife, a New Yorker editor.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:49 PM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Please note that all comments here may be used as evidence against you one day, no matter if you are for or against the idea of thoughtcrime or persecution related to thoughtcrime.
It may sound flippant, but consider this - if one day what we generally consider 'thoughtcrime' today to have some form actual use in the prosecution of crime in the future, one's stated opinion on the subject in the past may be seen as relevant evidence to the prosecution.

Granted, it is unlikely, and it is a mindbender - perhaps the ultimate 'chilling effect' regarding communication of ideas. In little, seemingly inconsequential ways, it happens all the time: think of the words one hesitates to say in an airport, out of a ever so slight concern that they would be misinterpreted; or wearing a shirt with a logo or phrase on a plane that in the past would only mark one as asinine or a harmless statement of one's opinion or beliefs, but now can get you on the no-fly list due to misinterpretation or overreaction.

I think the threat of what we would consider 'traditional' thoughtcrime is at best an unlikely outcome or at worst many, many decades away, but there does seem to be a faint hint of it coming out way. It deserves neither dismissal or overreaction, because as technology increases our ability to perceive what one is thinking, these things will come up.
posted by chambers at 9:58 PM on March 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Man, I was stoked to bust into this thread, both barrels blazing, and give you my opinions on the crimethinc collective. I am dissapoint. So very, very, dissapoint.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 11:26 PM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]




If Art Spiegelman, Tony Millionaire, Robert Crumb and Mike Diana all side against you, it's time to carefully examine your "Member of the Human Race" membership documents.

I don't really think the opinion of Mike Diana is a reliable barometer for whether someone is a good person or not.
posted by "Elbows" O'Donoghue at 4:16 PM on March 9, 2013


he dislikes Flordia cops, so he can't be too far off

(this makes more sense if you've read the interview where he talks about their harassment and malfeasance)
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 4:54 PM on March 9, 2013


So... guilty. Sentencing will be in June, according to several articles I've seen:
The Independent: When he is sentenced on June 19, Valle faces up to life in prison on the charge of conspiracy to kidnap and up to one year in prison for the database breach.
I can't even imagine trying to come up with a fair sentence in this case. Guesses?
posted by taz at 11:19 AM on March 12, 2013


I can't even imagine trying to come up with a fair sentence in this case.

Seriously. But if the jury really believes that he really was plotting to kill and eat the women, then it seems like they would impose a heavy sentence. I mean they can't really say, "We believe you're guilty, but since this is a really messy situation and there's a chance you're not guilty, we'll go easy on the sentencing."
posted by torticat at 9:51 PM on March 12, 2013


..wait, does the jury sentence in a case like this, or the judge?
posted by torticat at 9:55 PM on March 12, 2013


As I understand it, the judge sentences.
posted by taz at 9:14 AM on March 13, 2013


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