Thought crime

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A thought crime is a legal construction that declares the mere thought of a possible crime or the desire (expressed or only felt) for a crime to be a crime itself. Actions that could theoretically serve as a criminal offense could also be declared a criminal offense.

Corresponding laws would give the possibility of a conviction without the requirement of a specific action. They contradict the human right to freedom of thought and are incompatible with a constitutional state .

In addition to the question of the legality of a conviction for thoughts, there is the problem that it has so far not been legally or scientifically verifiable whether someone has thought of something or not. The lie detectors used in some countries can only measure the current stress that can arise from deliberately false statements during an interrogation.

Since the possibilities of measuring and evaluating brain waves have evolved in the meantime, the first researchers are already warning of the associated possibilities of classifying people into certain categories based on the evaluation of the brain scans. For example, the neurologist Judy Illes from Stanford University asks : "How will we deal with information that predicts a tendency to sociopathy , suicide or aggression ?"

The question arises as to the feasibility of the demand for a “pure spirit” that is often demanded. Even if the vernacular often formulates phrases like “You can't even think that” or “Whoever thinks something like that ...”, psychology is certain that only a very small amount of thoughts can really be directly influenced by the respective person. The brain, especially the subconscious, constantly supplies associations and (negative) thoughts. It is well known that trying not to think something leads to the exact opposite. And if you want to control your own thoughts beyond a normal level instead of directing them, you risk mental illness such as B. Obsessive-compulsive thoughts .

In order to weigh things up and make decisions, we humans have to be able to play through thoughts. A “brain scanner” should therefore be able to differentiate between thought games and intent. But even the intention is not necessarily sufficient to carry out an act. Imagine intending to go through the traffic light when it is red. While you are already setting foot on the road, you see a child and remember that it was a role model. Instead of committing the regulatory offense, you make a different decision at the very last second and wait for green. As you can see from this example, due to the complexity of the world, we cannot foresee how we will actually behave at the decisive moment until the actual event occurs. So the concept of thought crime deprives us of the frequently used opportunity to change our minds at the last moment.

In his dystopian novel 1984 depicts George Orwell a totalitarian state in which a "thought police" by ubiquitous influencing and monitoring and psychological techniques controls the thoughts of citizens and possibly punished.


Japanese Empire

After the Meiji Restoration in 1868, modern technology found its way into the Japanese Empire . The country also came into contact with the whole range of Western political thought. Marxism in particular was seen as a threat to the monarchy. In 1910, in the wake of the high treason affair ( Taigyaku Jiken ) in Japan, there was a wave of arrests of anarchists and socialists after the police found explosives on a worker with which the emperor was to be killed. Then in 1911 the "Special Higher Police" ( 特別 高等 警察 , Tokubetsu Kōtō Keisatsu , also called 特 高 , Tokkō for short ) was founded, which was generally called the “Thought Police” because of its task to combat “dangerous thoughts” such as Marxism.

In 1936 a "Thought Crimes Probation Act" ( 思想 犯 保護 観 察 法 , Shisōhan Hogo Kansatsuhō ) was passed. "Thought crime " ( 思想 犯 , shisōhan ) was the Japanese expression for a "crime against the state".

From 1941 to 1945, the Thought Police had the opportunity to preventively arrest “thought criminals ” solely on the basis of an anti-regime attitude , even if no politically motivated crime was committed.

See also: Public Safety Maintenance Act (Japan) .

South Korea

According to the “Law on National Security” ( 국가 보안법 / 國家 保安 法 [ kukk͈apoːanp̎əp̚ ]) of South Korea , thought crimes (Section 7) and failure to report planned crimes (Section 10) can also be punished. The penalties can be reduced or waived for repentance or denunciation by others.


Orwell's 1984

The term thought crime gained international fame through the novel 1984 (1949) by George Orwell . The novel portrays a totalitarian society of the future. There the thought police , an undercover police force, has the task of discovering and punishing possible thought crimes. In doing so, she uses psychology in questioning and ubiquitous surveillance to find those members of society who are capable of criticizing official doctrine. The mere contemplation of thoughts other than official doctrine is also considered a thought crime. Winston Smith , the main character, describes thought crimes in his diary as follows: “Thought crime does not result in death, thought crime is death.” He said that “even if he had never set the pen, he committed the capital crime that included everyone else . They called it thought crime . ”See also the term" precrime ", which goes back to a story by Philip K. Dick .

George Orwell worked for the BBC from 1941 to 1943 as an editor for anti-Japanese propaganda.

After its publication, the widely acclaimed novel led to some very controversial debates about the concept of thought crime, for example:

  • whether the thought can already be a crime or whether the implementation of the thought is a criminal offense ,
  • from when the thought of a crime begins to become a plan and thus a will and
  • from when the criminal liability for a crime that has not yet been carried out begins.


  • Richard H. Mitchell: Thought Control in Prewar Japan. Cornell University Press, Ithaca NY et al. 1976, ISBN 0-8014-1002-9 .
  • Michael Rademacher: George Orwell, Japan and the BBC. The role of totalitarian Japan in the creation of "Nineteen Eighty-Four". In: Archives for the Study of Modern Languages ​​and Literatures. 149th volume = vol. 234, half-yearly volume. 1, 1997, ISSN  0003-8970 , pp. 33-54, online .
  • Ulrich Schödlbauer : Thought Crimes . In: Ulrich Schödlbauer (Ed.): Departure into the legal free space. Norm virulence as a cultural resource (= IABLIS. Yearbook for European Processes . Vol. 3, 2004). Manutius-Verlag, Heidelberg 2004, ISBN 3-934877-34-6 , pp. 113-136.
  • Elise K. Tipton: The Japanese Police State. The Tokkô in Interwar Japan. Athlone Press, London, 1991, ISBN 0-485-30065-6 .

Individual evidence

  1. 국가 보안법
  2. Suh Sung: Unbroken Spirits. Nineteen Years in South Korea's Gulag . Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham 2001, ISBN 0-7425-0122-1 , pp. 98 f., 103.

See also

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