It’s the thought that counts

People took advantage of the Southern California wildfires to do some pretty sketchy things. For example, some enterprising Sacramentans decided they could go door-to-door locally, pretending to be Sacramento firefighters accepting donations for SoCal fire victims. Just to be clear, the fire department doesn’t solicit donations. If you donated, you were had.

Then there’s the United States House of Representatives, which on October 23, while the national media focused on the made-for-TV disaster, quietly passed the Thoughtcrime Prevention Act of 2007.

OK, it’s really called the “Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007.” Or just HR 1955 for Googling purposes.

The bill, if it becomes law, would establish a commission to study and figure out ways to prevent the kind of “violent radicalization” that might lead to domestic terrorism. The bill defines “violent radicalization” as “the process of adopting or promoting an extremist belief system for the purpose of facilitating ideologically based violence to advance political, religious or social change.”

The U.S. already has extensive laws on the books related to criminal conspiracy, which the Justice Department has been applying pretty broadly, many say far too broadly, in the so-called war on terror. But these definitions swerve into Thoughtcrime territory. “Smash the state” bumper sticker? You’re a homegrown terrorist. Self-proclaimed anarchist? Maoist poseur? Che Guevara T-shirt? Homegrown terrorist.

Naturally, the bill was passed overwhelmingly by the Democrat-controlled House. In fact, the entire Sacramento-area delegation voted in favor of the bill, as did all California lawmakers with the exception of the far right Dana Rohrabacher, R-Huntington Beach. Another of the few no votes was Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich. Make of that combo what you will.

The bill also finds that, “The Internet has aided in facilitating violent radicalization, ideologically based violence, and the homegrown terrorism process in the United States by providing access to broad and constant streams of terrorist-related propaganda to United States Citizens.” Broad and constant streams of something, all right, but terrorist-related propaganda? Is that anything like “weapons of mass destruction related program activities?”