Giving Ideas to the Bad Guys

The past week has been rough here in America, with terrorist bombings, Texas explosions and shootouts in the streets of Boston.

And yes, before you say anything, I know we have it pretty good here. I’m not comparing us to other countries.

But it occurred to me that, just perhaps, writers like myself might possibly come up with some pretty nasty tricks that terrorists and the Anarchy-minded might exploit. For example, one of my novel ideas involves a terrorist attack at the beginning (chronologically) of the story. If I were to come up with a (pick one or more) easy/cheap/low-tech/insidiously clever idea that the terrorists use in their attack, what responsibility do I have if I publish it?

In other words, If I come up with a way that helps terrorists harm people, and it can be traced back to me, what am I to do with that information? Am I morally to blame? Am I innocent of all wrong doing because it was the terrorists that used my idea? How do I sleep at night knowing my idea was used to kill others?

I’m not aware of this actually happening (yet), but it likely will some day. And I’m also sure I’m not the first writer to consider this. And yet, as I think of this, a bigger question comes to mind, one that troubles me far more than my own personal angst.

If this sort of thing happened even once, or it became something the public worried about, then our deranged and dysfunctional lawmakers in Washington D.C. might see this as a chance to score political points by passing a law interfering with what fiction writers can write. I really don’t want to get political here – I’ve sworn off of talking about politics with anyone – but if one party decided to take issue with this concept now or in the future, they could attack our free speech rights under the guise of “terrorism”. It’s already happened, since 9/11; check it out yourself if you don’t believe me. Just look up the Patriot Act.

Anyway, I don’t know how likely this is, and I hope it’s not something I need to worry about. But as someone who expresses myself best through the written word, and crazy ideas, I can’t just let it go.

Just imagine the headlines one morning. “Terrorists carry out attack as described in the best seller by Stephen Dean Patterson!” Just imagine it going the worst possible way.


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