Paul Krassner founded the counterculture press in 1958 when he self-launched The Realist. He went on to create the Yippies with Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, and was the editor of Lenny Bruce's autobiography. Krassner contributes Brain Damage Control monthly to HT, and has edited two HIGH TIMES books: Pot Stories for the Soul and Psychedelic Trips for the Mind.
CURB YOUR ADVOCACY
Paul Revere is remembered for riding his horse through the streets of pre-Revolutionary America and shouting, "The British are coming! The British are coming!" These days, a contemporary version of Paul Revere would be riding his Harley-Davidson through the streets of pre-revolutionary America and shouting at the top of his lungs, "The thought police are coming! The thought police are coming!"
A most shocking violation of the First Amendment has been foisted upon Ed Forchion, also known as the New Jersey Weedman. He had been sentenced to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to possessing 25 pounds of marijuana. He served more than 16 months behind bars before being paroled into an early-release program. Last summer he was jailed for violating his parole.
But what had he done wrong? He committed the heinous "crime" of advocating the reform of marijuana laws. It’s that simple, and it’s that terrifying. Forchion had the audacity to exercise his right to free speech by filming several public-service announcements that expressed his point of view. The injustice is intensified by the fact that those commercials were never aired.
Forchion is a Rastafarian who hasn’t exactly tried to keep a low profile. He has run for Congress three times, and smoked pot on the floor of the state Assembly as an act of civil disobedience. But now he had become a political prisoner—put behind bars for his ideas. In January, US District Judge Joseph Irenas held a hearing where state officials had to show cause for imprisoning him. The judge pointed out that Forchion probably would not have been returned to jail if he had not spoken publicly about the drug laws.
Forchion had already been locked up for six months. Now, Irenas ordered his release, stating that "speaking to the press, protesting and handing out pamphlets outside of the courthouse, running a Website, or producing and appearing in television commercials [are] clearly protected by the First Amendment, particularly since [this behavior] primarily involved [Forchion’s] belief that marijuana should be legalized." Yet, because the judge ruled that Forchion should be returned to the early-release program, he also ordered that Forchion cannot promote the illegal use of marijuana once he is released. His commercials dealt with First Amendment issues and the War on Drugs, but did not explicitly advocate the use of marijuana.
Another horrible example of the thought police in action involves Brian Dalton. He too was on probation after having served time in prison, but for possessing pornographic photos of children. After being released, he kept a private journal in which he wrote down his fantasies about the sexual abuse and torture of fictional children. He made up their names.
He had merely been exorcising his own demons. He never showed his journal to anyone else. But then one day his probation officer searched his home and found it. There were 14 pages of imaginary encounters with three fictional children, who were kept caged in a basement.
Dalton was arrested and charged under an Ohio law that prohibits the creation of obscene material involving minors. The prosecutor insisted that the statute covered not only images of real children, but also printed or written words involving fictional children, including words that had been intended for the eyes only of the writer himself.
However, members of the grand jury found those stories so offensive that they asked the detective, who was reading them out loud, to stop almost as soon as he began. For whatever reason, fear or foolishness, Dalton pleaded guilty instead of challenging his conviction, and he was sentenced to seven years in prison, plus 18 months for violation of his probation.
Thus he became the first person ever convicted in the United States for child pornography that involved writings rather than photographs, films, or other images of real children. Nor had he ever disseminated those writings. The fact that he would actually go to prison for what he had fantasized in his diary is way more shocking than any words that he wrote in it.
Sadly, the thought police are becoming more and more out of control.
Richard Humphreys happened to get into a harmless barroom discussion with a truck driver near Sioux Falls, SD. A bartender who overheard the conversation realized that George W. Bush was scheduled to visit the city the next day, and he told police that Humphreys—who was actually making a joke with a Biblical reference—had talked about a "burning Bush" and the possibility of someone pouring a flammable liquid on Bush and lighting it. Humphreys was arrested for threatening the president.
"I said God might speak to the world through a burning Bush," he testified during his trial. "I had said that before and I thought it was funny." Nevertheless, he was found guilty and sentenced to more than three years in prison. He decided to appeal, on the basis that his comment was a prophecy, protected under his right to freedom of speech.
America continues to gallop toward a police state in the guise of security. And in that process, rampant paranoia has now become our Gross National Product.
Some elementary schools have even gone so far as to ban parents from bringing cameras to record their children performing in the annual Christmas pageant, because authorities are afraid that those videotapes might somehow make their way into the horny hands of pedophiles.
Fortunately, Brian Dalton is safely behind bars, and he will not be subject to such tawdry temptation.