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[[quoteright:324:[[ComicBook/NemesisTheWarlock http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/nemesis_thoughtcrime2.png]]]]

->''"Whether he wrote DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER, or whether he refrained from writing it, made no difference. Whether he went on with the diary, or whether he did not go on with it, made no difference. The Thought Police would get him just the same. He had committed -- would still have committed, even if he had never set pen to paper -- the essential crime that contained all others in itself. Thoughtcrime, they called it. Thoughtcrime was not a thing that could be concealed forever. You might dodge successfully for a while, even for years, but sooner or later they were bound to get you."''
-->-- '''Winston''', ''Literature/NineteenEightyFour'', Part 1, Chapter 1

How the AppealToForce and the AdHominem are codified into law.

Whenever a {{dystopia}}n government tries to control the speech and actions of its citizens, it'll label what it considers dissent as Thoughtcrime, and take whatever steps needed to quell Thoughtcrime, by every means possible. The clever trick here, since in most stories the government has no access to these thoughts, is that it trains the oppressed to oppress ''themselves'' via internalizing what is seen as disapproved thought.

If a reason is ever given at all, [[BigBrotherIsWatching apart from the obvious]], Thoughtcrime can be [[HalfTruth explained]] as "intrusive thoughts," and their [[HappinessIsMandatory repression]] leads to "[[BlatantLies a happier society]]".

It is nearly impossible to remove Thoughtcrime policies once enacted. The definition tends to expand until ''[[WhoWatchesTheWatchmen whistleblowing]]'' is illegal--after all, only a [[AcceptablePoliticalTargets communist/fascist]]/[[AcceptableReligiousTargets atheist/religious fanatic]] etc. would be deceptive enough to claim that our glorious and beneficent regime could possibly make errors, suffer from wishful thinking, or be corrupt.

Of course, by inherent nature, trying to not think what they forbid you to think about [[ThoughtAversionFailure will always fail]] - and expect one or two citizens to be trapped by this thought process and then get captured by the SecretPolice (or worse) for their "trouble". Taken to extremes, this may lead to ''everyone'' getting punished.

Naturally, when no one [[WhoWatchesTheWatchmen is allowed to guard the guards]], the guards abuse their power left, right and center. Add to that the fact that no person or organization on this earth is capable of getting everything right, and [[DontShootTheMessage even the best-intentioned crimethink laws end up convincing people that their purpose is to keep the masses from]] [[HeKnowsTooMuch knowing too much]].

Overlaps with CulturePolice. Compare with TheHeretic, for a religious equivalent. Related to TheEvilsOfFreeWill. In more nuanced stories, some of these guys sincerely believe they're using BrainwashingForTheGreaterGood. For others, it's just business as usual. As a means of propaganda, if the methods combating Thoughtcrime are known to the public, the government (or their corporate benefactors) might attempt to paint it in a lighter vein by calling them EnhancedInterrogationTechniques. PoliticalCorrectnessGoneMad often occurs when a free, democratic society is the one that tries to codify such rules.



[[folder: Comic Books ]]

* ''ComicBook/TwoThousandAD'':
** ''ComicBook/AndersonPsiDivision'': Played for dark laughs when Anderson is driving her Lawmaster before suddenly stopping to beat up several confused perps. She tells control to pick them up for "insulting a Judge and resisting arrest".
** ''ComicBook/NemesisTheWarlock'': Under Torquemada's rule over Termight, it is illegal to even think of opposing him, and his Terminators scan the planet day and night to look for thought offenders. Purity's father was sent to the vaporization vats for committing thoughtcrime ''in his sleep''.


[[folder: Fan Works ]]

* In FanFic/EquestriaAHistoryRevealed, the LemonyNarrator often fears that she is guilty of this, even calling out the [[SecretPolice "Fallacy Police"]] in-text. Of course, it is strongly hinted that her paranoia [[PlayedForLaughs is all just in her mind]].


[[folder: Film ]]

* ''Film/THX1138'', which is ''Literature/NineteenEightyFour''-esque.
* ''Film/{{Equilibrium}}'' takes this to an even more disturbing conclusion; "Sense Offense" or ''emotion'' crime. Their leader extolls "The revolutionary concept of the hate crime." Dubbing the "hate" the important part of the "crime" essentially makes this entire trope NotSoCrazyAnymore.
* ''Film/Fortress1992'': The "unauthorized thought processes", i.e. erotic fantasies. Brennick receives an electronic shock from [[MasterComputer Zed-10]] after it reads his mind during REM sleep.


[[folder: Literature ]]

* ''Literature/ChristianNation'': The US Constitution is supplanted by the Fifty Blessings, religiously-inspired laws, many of which are vague or unenforceable, dealing with such vagaries as coveting. The laws against 'sexual deviancy' are all too clear, and there comes a presumption that any single person above a certain age must be gay.
* TropeCodifier comes from ''Literature/NineteenEightyFour'', by George Orwell. To hammer it home, the main character of the novel, Winston Smith once wrote in his diary, "Thoughtcrime does not entail death: thoughtcrime IS death."
* In the short story "Literature/HarrisonBergeron", being ''smarter'' than another person is outlawed, and smart people must wear devices to disrupt their thoughts lest they take advantage of others with their intelligence (naturally, the Handicapper General is very intelligent, and [[{{Hypocrisy}} free of this impediment]] to do her duties).
* ''Literature/{{Victoria}}'' sees the titular state forbid the use of any technology that wasn't in general use by the late 1930s, including television, computers, and cars capable of making more than purely local trips. The good people of Victoria attempt to write this into law, to the horror of the heroes who imagine the police state needed to enforce it. Instead, they settle on making it a cultural more, much harder to change, and encouraging people to ostracize, ridicule and abuse their technology-using neighbors.


[[folder: Live Action TV ]]

* A mundane variant comes from the ''Series/DoctorWho'' episode "The Happiness Patrol", where [[HappinessIsMandatory enforced cheerfulness was the law]] on the planet Terra Alpha.
* ''Series/StarTrekVoyager'' had an episode where they came across a people who were extremely telepathic, so sensitive that any extreme emotions would incite them to act out on those feelings; having violent thoughts was a crime in and of itself. Torres was put on trial for having a brief violent thought when someone bumped into her, and Tuvok's investigation into the planet's culture found a sort of "violent thoughts" BlackMarket. Of course it examined the issue that when something was so taboo, it meant their own people were unable to handle it when confronted with the situation.
* In ''Series/BabylonFive'' the [[SecretPolice Nightwatch]] organization was set up to report not just actions, but potentially seditious attitudes (as could be "inferred" from casual remarks and such) among Earth Alliance personnel and citizens. [[spoiler: As Earth Alliance [[SlidingScaleOfLibertarianismAndAuthoritarianism slid further into despotism]], it is mentioned that [[MutantDraftBoard PsiCorps]] was routinely used by the Clark dictatorship to telepathically scan for supposedly seditious (anti-regime) thoughts.]]


[[folder: Music]]
* From the Music/{{Prince}} song "Electric Chair":
-->''If a man is considered guilty''
-->''For what goes on in his mind''
-->''Then give me the electric chair''
-->''For all my future crimes-Oh!''

[[folder: Religion ]]

* Some of the most notable examples of thoughtcrime are the concepts of ''sin'' and ''[[TheHeretic heresy]]'' in some religions. Couple it with ''guilt and fear of eternal punishment for even thinking about it'' and ''an omniscient Judge who knows and sees all'' and you have a very effective method for auto-enforcement of policies.
* A few of the classic SevenDeadlySins, like Envy and Lust, seem to have more to do with thoughts or feelings than actions.
* Some scriptures of Literature/TheBible point out that thinking of a sin is just as bad as doing it in God's eyes. For example, a literal reading of the commandment "thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife" would indicate that the proscription is not merely against the ''act'' of adultery, but the very thought or feeling of envy. Indeed, the Book of Matthew in Literature/TheFourGospels states that a man who lusts after a woman "hath committed adultery with her already in his heart."


[[folder: Stand Up Comedy ]]

* Played for laughs in Paula Poundstone's standup routine.
-->I live in San Francisco where the parking is impossible. I saw a sign on a guy's garage that said "Don't even think about parking here". So you know what I did? I sat right there and I thought about it. I yelled up at his window "Hey buddy, I'm thinking about it. Go ahead, call the cops. I'll just tell them I was thinking about something else."


[[folder: Tabletop RPG ]]

* ''TabletopGame/{{Paranoia}}''. Under The Computer's rule every citizen is required to be happy. Anyone who isn't happy is a traitor and can be punished, such as by being required to take drugs that ''make'' you happy.
* ''TabletopGame/{{Mindjammer}}'': The Core Worlds of the Commonality ban memes like [[OutgrownSuchSillySuperstitions religion]], [[DemocracyIsBad democracy]], capitalism[[note]]though they allow [[MegaCorp Corporacies]] to run ramp shod over the Periphery[[/note]], etc. And thanks to the Mindscape they actually can tell what you're thinking, though how they keep memes from spreading when people can upload their memories directly into an interstellar internet is unclear.


[[folder: Webcomics ]]

* ''Webcomic/SluggyFreelance''[='=]s 4U City enforced mandatory happiness with involuntary drugging. And mandatory efficiency with mandatory drugging. And so on. The alternative was to be thrown down a judgement chute.


[[folder: Western Animation ]]

* In a merge of OrwellianEditor, ''WesternAnimation/AvatarTheLastAirbender'' has the higher-ups of Ba Sing Se brainwashing everyone who dares to mention that there's a century-long war going on in the whole world outside the walls. The resident LovableRogue had this inflicted upon him, which [[spoiler:led to his death]].
* In an episode of ''WesternAnimation/RockosModernLife'', Rocko is desperately looking for a place to park his car. He finds an empty spot with a sign that says "Don't even think about parking here." He does think about it for a second, but a policeman sees him and gives him a ticket for it.


[[folder: Real Life ]]

* Just about ''any'' society or organization that advances a moral or ethical point of view is going to attempt to regulate the way people think, if only sometimes very subtly. Religions are old pros at this, introducing concepts such as "guilt" and "original sin" to inculcate in their believers that [[HumansAreFlawed they are fundamentally flawed]] and must guard against the temptation to even ''entertain'' disturbing thoughts. Political correctness, peer pressure, propaganda, public education and social engineering are some of the common ways this is carried out in the secular world.
* Under the reign of Henry VIII, it became treason to even ''think'' ill of the king, or to "imagine" his death.
* At least one street sign seen in UsefulNotes/NewYorkCity and elsewhere in the 1980s read "Don't even ''think'' about parking here!"
* The idea behind "re-education camps" in Communist countries.
* In the USA, respectful burning is the recommended method for disposing of old flags. However, many people want to ban flag-burning, when the intent is to protest the government. Thus, the actual crime isn't the burning, it's what you're ''thinking'' while doing it. Do note, though, that the Supreme Court has ruled that flag-burning as a form of protest is Constitutionally protected expression, and hence cannot be outlawed.
** Even more [[RuleOfCautiousEditingJudgement controversially]] the same argument has been made against [[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hate_crime hate crime]] legislation, since people are not just punished for committing a crime but for what they were thinking while doing it. For instance, assault is already a crime, but assaulting someone because they were ''black'' is a hate crime. So the specific motive is the difference.
* Possession with the intent to _____.
** Slightly averted in the case of "possession with the intent to supply" type crimes, in that you can possess more drugs/weapons/whatever than one person is ever going to need just for themselves (so the idea that you have that much of it so you can give/sell it to other people makes sense). The problem comes in proving that intent when other explanations are still possible.
* While there are laws that make Holocaust denial illegal and punishable in Germany, it is actually considered a special case of hate speech, even without making any statements about the victims. As such, it becomes only a crime when addressed to a public audience. Private conversation or correspondence is not affected, even when overheard by bystanders.
* After Kim Jong-il's death, the North Korean government sent anyone who didn't seem upset enough to TheGulag.
* In the wake of the Columbine High School massacre in Colorado in April 1999, a wave of paranoia swept through American schools. Since the root cause of the tragedy was very hard to determine, the MoralGuardians resorted to whatever measures could be devised -- everything from [[TheNewRockAndRoll cracking down on "subversive" student subcultures]] to urging bullies or would-be bullies to refrain from [[MuggingTheMonster tormenting potentially psychotic outcasts]]. Among the worst excesses were examples of PoliticalCorrectnessGoneMad (the possibly apocryphal suspension of a student for biting one of his cafeteria chicken nuggets into the shape of a gun and pointing it at other students) and censorship of any form of expression deemed "dark" or violent - even if it was wholly fictional.
* Comes up a lot when something goes wrong and is blamed on [[NewMediaAreEvil new media]], [[TheNewRockAndRoll video games]] or the like.
* Conspiracy to commit a crime. In some jurisdictions, a person can be punished and incarcerated for the act of plotting an illegal act -- even if they never carry it out! (They must have performed at least one overt act "in furtherance of the conspiracy" but that can be virtually anything-for instance legally buying a gun to commit a murder, but not actually using it.) Conspiracy law is where thought crime starts to bump into the (on its face) perfectly reasonable goal of police forces and the government to stop crimes like mass murder and theft before they are committed and cause harm to people (by allowing cops to intervene earlier instead of having to wait until the crime is actually carried out). The tension is prevalent throughout judicial opinions on the subject.
* For several decades, in many European and Anglophone jurisdictions, murder has been punished more severely if it was premeditated. Such jurisdictions often classify murder under different categories (like the UsefulNotes/ThreeDegreesOfMurder in UsefulNotes/AmericanCourts), which carry different sentences, and premeditation affects the sentencing if the defendant is found guilty.
* Strangely averted with British laws regarding homosexuality. All of these laws were about men having relationships with other men, with no mention made of lesbian or bisexual women; this was because the government actually thought that if they changed the law and made lesbianism illegal, then they would be introducing the concept of lesbianism to the public and thus giving "innocent women" the idea that it was possible. This still had the intended effect, however, with many women being unable to safely come out and some even feeling pressured to marry men anyway.
* The Khmer Rouge, among their many crimes against humanity and DisproportionateRetribution, made certain thoughts punishable by death in their campaign to reset Cambodia to "year zero." This included thinking about the past, holding any religious beliefs, showing too much individuality [[note]] like eating by yourself [[/note]], or showing any attachment to western ideals.