Saturday, April 12, 2008

EDITORIAL: New Era Goes George Orwell One Better

Even George Orwell in "1984" only evoked the specter of a police state hounding citizens for what they said. Twenty-three years later we have taken the final step in the progression: crimes against others, non-victim crimes, and the crime of speech which so alarmed Orwell. We now imprison people for what they fantasize!

Seldom passing up any opportunity to revel in smut, the New Era ran a surprisingly balanced and thought-provoking front page story on April 10 headlined "Danger in Disguise?"

The article describes how 57-year-old Stephen Spiese, described by his numerous friends and colleagues as a "good man, a caring man" and a "talented teacher," was sentenced to one month incarceration and branded a sex criminal, thus ending his career and making him an outcast because:

1) He molested a child?
2) He tried to molest a child?
3) He watched pornography concerning molestation of a child?

If you guessed one or two, you were wrong. Spiese has been found guilty of fantasizing child abuse. Nothing in his life has suggested any action harmful to children whatsoever. Witness after witness testified that his relationship with children as teacher and volunteer have been exemplary.

So just as sensible people were questioning exactly what Spiese's crime was and whether he should have been tried, let alone convicted and sentenced to even a month in jail, enter sex-crazed Ernie Schreiber with a Saturday editorial "Child-porn case outcome troubling."

The editorial harrumphs: "The jail time seems insufficient for a crime that the judge himself noted creates a market for the abuse of children. Surely his prison sentence should have been marked off in years, not days."

If having ever looked at adult pornography were a crime, a very large percentage of us men would have done prison time by now. (We cannot speak for women, but we have our suspicions.)

Granted the idea of child pornography is abhorrent, but the basic concept is the same: A person should be held culpable for what he or she does; not for what he or she fantasizes. If thought is a crime, then we as a society have become even worse than those who conducted the Salem witch trials.

As a matter of prudence, Spiese might have been quietly reassigned to work with teenagers or even discharged. But sent to prison and prohibited for 11 years from owning a computer, accessing the Internet or having unsupervised contact with girls under the age of 18, that is way over the top.