What happens when a society gets so advanced that it can predict (and so prevent) a crime before it happens? Philip K. Dick imagined an advanced and generally crime-free society when he wrote ‘Minority Report’, while George Orwell wrote about an efficiently opressive totalitarian state which prosecuted thought-crimes in ‘1984’. The reality in Taiwan is slightly different to both of these scenarios …
A couple of weeks ago, Taiwan’s pre-crime department swung into action in Taoyuan:
Taoyuan police yesterday arrested four people on suspicion of producing a VCD to defame Taoyuan County commissioner Chu Li-lun (朱立倫), a member of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) who is standing for re-election in the Dec. 3 local government elections.
“Police learned that there were people who were producing a VCD and planning to publish it in order to defame Chu, so police raided a company studio at Zhongxiao E Rd (忠孝東路) in Taipei on Friday night, seizing the VCD,” the Taoyuan Police Bureau said in a press statement yesterday.
The statement said that police arrested the VCD’s producer, Peng Jin-wen (彭金萬), and three of his aides. The four were then released after police took statements.
Police said that because the VCD has not been released, the suspects had not violated the Law of Offenses Against Personal Reputation and Credits (妨害名譽罪), so they would let Taoyuan prosecutors decide whether to charge them.
So, because the VCD hasn’t been released, no crime has been committed yet. Hmm … tricky one. Should the police claim he would have broken the law and charge him with pre-crime? Or crimethink? While the legal geniuses were mulling that, the press and politicians had no doubt what to do:
- The pan-Green politicians (including that champion of free speech Pasuya Yao) started screaming about freedom of speech, and how the KMT were suppressing it.
- The pan-Blue politicians started screaming about how the VCD was the work of the DPP, who were trying to besmirch the good name of blameless KMT politicians.
- The media gave Lin Yi-fang more publicity for his VCD than he could have dreamt of.
Bizarrely, most of the rumours as to what is on the VCD have come from KMT politicians – who seem to be doing everything they can to publicize the thing. As a result of all this posturing, Lin Yi-fang has held a very well-attended press conference in Taipei, followed up by another in the legislature, and has even had the DPP candidate for Taoyuan staging a hunger strike on his behalf.
All this over a video that hasn’t been (and may never be) released. I might suggest that if the police had not arrested him before he did anything wrong, and if the KMT politicians hadn’t made such a fuss, then noone would have been particularly interested in the thing. After all, as far as anyone can make out (remember, noone has actually seen the VCD yet – beyond a few outtakes at the press conferences), the content is a home movie of a few ‘actors’ having a chat about some of the more famous politicians. The conversation is along Beavis and Butthead lines, something like this:
“That Ma Ying-jeou looks totally gay in his running shorts.”
“Do you think he is then?”
“What? Gay? Bet he is.”
“Yeah. I bet Jason Hu is too.”
“Yeah. Could you imagine if Hu and Ma got together …”
“Ewww! Dude! Totally gross.”
“Yeah. What about Chu Li-lun?
“Gay? Nah. If he was he wouldn’t have hired such a hot babe as a secretary.”
“Ahh … so you think he and his secretary are …”
“Totally. Not just with his secretary either!”
(My apologies if it turns out to be Oscar material, or a model of investigative journalism. However, I believe I have captured all the major allegations along with all the supporting evidence)
The final word has to go to DPP Legislator Tsai Chi-fang, who gives us all a lovely mental image to help us understand the legal subtleties of of the case:
Legislator Tsai Chi-fang (蔡啟芳) said that it does not make sense for prosecutors to arrest Lin before the VCD is distributed.
“It’s as if the police stormed my house while I was jerking off in my room and said that I was undermining public morality,” he said.