by Michael McKay
Remember “War Games,” the 1983 movie starring Matthew Broderick? Its plot involves a teenager who hacks into a military computer network and finds a nuclear war simulation program that, when turned on, almost starts World War III in real-life. To stop this from happening, David – the teen hacker played by Broderick – tracks down the rogue computer’s programmer Professor Stephen Falken to learn more about the simulation, which is named “Joshua.” The following dialog ensues:
David: I’m not giving up. If Joshua tricks them into launching an attack, it’ll be your fault.
Stephen Falken: My fault? The whole point was to practice nuclear war without destroying ourselves; to get the computer to learn from mistakes we could not afford to make. Except, that I never could get Joshua to learn the most important lesson.
David: What’s that?
Stephen Falken: Futility. That there’s a time when you should just give up.
Jennifer: What kind of a lesson is that?
Stephen Falken: Did you ever play tic-tac-toe?
Jennifer: Yeah, of course.
Stephen Falken: But you don’t anymore.
Stephen Falken: Why?
Jennifer: Because it’s a boring game. It’s always a tie.
Stephen Falken: Exactly. There’s no way to win.
After a great deal of nail-biting drama, the teens and Professor Falken are able to prevent the military from launching a real nuclear retaliation in response to Joshua’s simulated Russian nuclear attack. They literally stop the government from destroying the entire country – perhaps even the world – in their response to a phony threat. Think about that.
In the end, the rogue computer program has learned something profound:
- Joshua: Greetings, Professor Falken.
- Stephen Falken: Hello, Joshua.
- Joshua: A strange game. The only winning move is not to play. How about a nice game of chess?
How wonderful would it be if we, as a society, were willing to face the fact that when it comes to the sex offender registry, everyone loses?
Our communities are not safer as a result of putting people on a registry. When over 95% of sexual assaults are by people known and trusted by the victim, a public registry does nothing but focus everyone’s attention where it is least needed. “Stranger danger” is largely a myth.
Some 25% of all sex crimes are committed by juveniles, and there are over 89,000 kids on the registry. Does anyone truly think that putting a child on the sex offender registry will accomplish anything but preclude any chance for redemption and ruin that child’s life forever?
Registrants typically face public humilation, job and housing discrimination, homelessness, and threats of violence and vandalism. The cards are stacked against them from the moment they are released from incarceration. Their innocent family members also become the targets of hate, humiliation, discrimination, and violence.
Law enforcement is increasingly tasked with enforcing unenforceable laws, tracking the homeless, and working through a gargantuan paperwork drill that is typically lacking adequate funds and keeps officers off the streets. Jails, courts, prisons, and probation departments are unable to keep up with registry requirements that change constantly, often in knee-jerk reaction to the latest news media hysteria. And all of this continues despite published studies showing that the registry may actually create more crime than it prevents.
I won’t even go into how the registry egregiously tramples constitutional rights, making it far more likely that similar civil rights violations will be perpetrated against non-registrants in the future. Whatever you allow the government to do to others, it will eventually get around to doing to you.
Where does it end? When will we learn that this is a “game” where absolutely no one wins?