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Archive for June 1st, 2011

Distinctions drawn by the mind are not necessarily equivalent to distinctions in reality.  –  Thomas Aquinas

Why do so many modern people imagine themselves to be mind readers?  It used to be that we understood that telepathy, if it exists at all, is a rare talent; scientists have tried to measure it and writers of science fiction have used it as a plot device, but nobody has yet succeeded in conclusively proving its existence.  And because the wiser leaders of the past understood this, they developed laws which basically said that when the individual or the state accuses someone of wrongdoing, the accuser must present proof rather than guesses; claims of preternatural knowledge of the thoughts of others have been disallowed in Western courts of law since at least the 18th century.  But in the past few decades, that’s all changed; the rise of identity politics and pop psychology has convinced the chronically paranoid, the hopelessly narcissistic and the borderline megalomaniacal that they have the ability to know what’s going on in the heads of others with the same level of certainty as that provided by scientific or documentary evidence.  And though at one time courts, journalists and most other educated people would have scoffed at such claims, that is no longer true.

As I mentioned in my review of Silverglate’s Three Felonies a Day, federal prosecutors in the United States no longer bother to provide evidence of mens rea (criminal intent); the very fact that the prohibited actions (whatever they might be) were performed is considered proof that the accused intentionally broke the law.  Those accused of crimes used to be referred to by police and reporters as “suspects” (thus indicating the presumption of innocence); nowadays they’re called by the ugly word “perps”, short for “perpetrators” (thus indicating the presumption of guilt).  “Sexual harassment” laws and codes require courts to analyze the hidden mental states behind otherwise-innocuous acts, and “hate crime” laws officially grant prosecutors the power to read the minds of those accused of violent crimes in order to punish them above and beyond the penalty determined by their objective actions, for the “crime” of having a normal (if ugly) human emotion.  Nor are officials the only ones who claim telepathic powers; those who embrace victimhood are always quick to point the finger and shout “racism!” or “sexism!” or “homophobia!” at those who say things they don’t want to hear, even if those things happen to be true.  Even in today’s climate of intellectual repression the truth has not yet been banned, so those who wish to suppress that truth seek to criminalize the motivation instead, and claim to be empowered with the ability to discern that motivation with crystal clarity.

Of course, this is nothing new for whores; we’re long-used to police accusing us of crimes without any proof whatsoever, though in the past they at least troubled themselves to lie or to pretend that ordinary objects and actions constitute “evidence”.  But now the Utah legislature aims to free police of the inconvenience of having to make things up by criminalizing “acting sexy”, as detailed in this May 20th AP story:

Two escort services have filed a federal lawsuit to halt a Utah solicitation law they fear could lead to the arrest of strippers or escorts who are simply acting sexy.  Utah defines solicitation as a person agreeing to sex in exchange for money.  A new law that went into effect this month broadened the definition to include any person who indicates through lewd acts, such as exposing or touching themselves, that they intend to exchange sex for money…Andrew McCullough, an attorney representing the escort services…said the law is so broad that it could allow police to arrest licensed employees of sexually oriented businesses, such as escort services or strip club dancers, for doing their job.  The expanded law includes language that makes a person exposing their genitals or touching themselves sexually an indication that they are offering sex.  Those acts are legal in Utah for private strippers.  “Most girls who touch their breasts are not telling you they’re open for sex,” the attorney said.  McCullough said the law is “virtually identical” to one struck down by a federal judge as unconstitutional in 1988.  The Utah law could be used by police to hassle businesses protected by the First Amendment, McCullough said.  For example, he said a semi-nude dancer at a strip club could be arrested for “suggestively thrusting.”  [Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris] Burbank said officers would not target anyone who is not a prostitute…

As if it’s not bad enough that normal female behavior is criminalized (technically I’d be in danger just walking down the street in Utah, since I’ve been told numerous times that almost everything I do is sexy), the discretion as to what constitutes “sexy” is left entirely up to the cop.  But the police chief promises that not a single one of the paragons of virtue under his command will ever, ever charge women with breaking this law even if they do…unless of course, those women are prostitutes.  But wait, doesn’t the law define any woman who acts that way as a prostitute?  Shhh, go back to sleep; you weren’t supposed to notice that.  What Chief Burbank actually means is that this law won’t be used alone, but rather only after a cop determines that a woman is a prostitute through use of his Super Psychic Mind Probe power; the law is just to provide a convenient excuse in court since mind-reading isn’t technically recognized under Utah law.

But as so often happens with these prohibitionist stories, the reporter saves the best for last:  “The intent is to target prostitutes, especially underage ones who are forced into the sex trade and trained to evade arrest, [law sponsor Jennifer] Seelig said.  The arrest would be the first step in helping them get off the streets.”  How can the state justify literally forcing girls into prison cells as somehow “better” than other unidentified parties allegedly “forcing” them into the sex trade, especially when the act of trying to evade arrest would seem to indicate that the “victims” prefer the latter to the former?  Why, because deep down they really want the state’s “help”, that’s why.  And how does Seelig know this?  By reading their minds, of course.

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