Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Torquemada Fantasy


Tomas de Torquemada
Say some one has Torquemada fantasies and wants to roast infidels over hot coals, can they go to jail for e mailing these thoughts to a friend? Recently the Times ran a follow up to case about Gilberto Valle, the New York City policeman convicted of plotting cannibalism ,“Two More Are Accused of Plotting to Kidnap, Torture and Kill Women,” (NYT, 4/15/13).  One of those accused was apparently a former librarian at Stuyvesant and the Times writers Joseph Goldstein and William K Rashbaum did take the unusual (for the Times) step of remarking “Everything about the case, from the two suspects to the alleged crime, sounded unlikely.” Of course, you never know what runs through a librarian’s head. After years of students asking where's All Quiet on the Western Front, anything is possible. According to the Times piece the two suspects were apprehended after the FBI agents intercepted “the e mail of Michael Vanhise, an auto mechanic who was later charged with conspiring with Officer Valle.” Mr. Vanhise, according to the Times sought out the librarian and the other suspect since he “had been trying to find someone willing to kidnap, rape and kill his wife and other relatives.” The “other relatives” will probably be a sticky point in the prosecution of this “unlikely” case. It’s like Diogenes search for an honest man. The amount of jokes about irritating mother-in-laws suggest that others have shared similar fantasies. Still in all, when is the line crossed? When does sadistic fantasizing become a crime? Prosecuting someone who spells out a fantasy in detail could have chilling effects on expression? When does fantasy become conspiracy? Would you arrest Dostoevsky for "The Grand Inquisitor" chapter of The Brothers Karamazov?

1 comment:

  1. jylle benson-gaussMay 16, 2013 at 2:12 PM

    An interesting post, since I make no bones (ha!) about my feelings about cannibalism, though they are intended as satire rather than intention...torture seems to be acceptable only when and where mandated to be in the public good, i.e., when performed by soldiers and spies. The problem doesn't seem to be so much sadistic tendencies or fantasies, as the stupidity of expounding them rather than realizing them--in the CIA.

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