June 10, 2009 – Yet another tool of oppression this way cometh, to the applause of the politically correct ignorami.
By The Cerebral Aesthetic Vagabond
As H.R. 1913 wends its way through Congress, certain to be signed by the president if it emerges from the other side of Congress, it might be worthwhile to consider, albeit a tad late, just what is a “hate crime.”
First, though, the most troubling aspect of this proposed new law, perfectly consistent with other troubling recent laws, such as the Patriot Acts, is the broadness of its definitions. Under this proposed new law, almost any crime could theoretically be classified as a “hate crime.” Any act that causes or attempts to cause bodily injury, because of a lengthy list of actual or perceived traits harbored by the victim, and employing “a channel, facility, or instrumentality of interstate or foreign commerce” (such as the Internet) can be classified as a “hate crime” carrying an enhanced sentence upon conviction.
As if the latitude for applying this law weren’t broad enough already, if the defendant’s behavior “interferes with commercial or other economic activity in which the victim is engaged at the time of the conduct,” that constitutes yet another circumstance in which the hate crime classification can be applied. Assuming for a moment that “bodily injury” includes “psychological harm,” it would seem that causing the “victim” to withdraw from “economic activity” because they are “upset” would be sufficient to constitute “interference” by the defendant.
Suppose, for example, one published an opinion of another person on a blog and casually included words that referred to any of the “victim’s” traits, perhaps even the words “she” or “he.” Under this proposed law, if the “victim” claims they have withdrawn from “economic activity” due to “psychological harm” caused by the defendant’s words, then the defendant’s actions would warrant a “hate crime” label. Even if the “victim” does not withdraw from “economic activity,” the “hate crime” label might still be applied because the defendant employed a “channel of interstate commerce,” the Internet, in publishing his words.
Of course, I’m sure the proponents of this proposed law will swear up and down that it won’t be abused. The same assurance was given about the Patriot Acts, after which the FBI immediately began abusing those new laws by issuing National Security Letters with abandon.
Two provisions in the Magna Carta, one of the foundations of our modern justice system, clearly stipulate that punishment should be proportional to the “offence”:
(20) For a trivial offence, a free man shall be fined only in proportion to the degree of his offence, and for a serious offence correspondingly, but not so heavily as to deprive him of his livelihood.
(21) Earls and barons shall be fined only by their equals, and in proportion to the gravity of their offence.
To this day, punishment in proportion to the offense is one of the supposed tenets of our justice system. Punishment should be based on the harm actually caused, not assumed. Harm, either physical, as in the case of a broken bone, or psychological, as in the case of mental trauma, can be evaluated by medical professionals and punishment meted out according to the degree of harm diagnosed. Hate crime laws impose an automatic supposition of harm caused to the victim, whether real or not. Our system of justice should not be based on accusation, hearsay, suspicion or supposition, but on provable, observable facts.
“Hate crimes” contain within them the assumption of harm caused to the victim, without actually going to the trouble of evaluating the harm caused. Such laws punish the accused for thoughts imputed to them rather than for the harm observably caused.
Even if punishing people for their thoughts rather than their deeds were just, how can we reliably ascertain the thoughts of another anyway? How can the words or actions of a person in the midst of a physical or verbal altercation, at the height of emotional tension be considered representative of that person’s general attitude? We’ve all been in altercations in which we temporarily “lost control” and did or said things we didn’t intend to do or say, things which we later regretted. Would any one of us want our entire character to be summarized based on those regrettable deeds or words? Yet that’s precisely what hate crime laws seek to do.
Some would say we already have similar precedents, such as punishing people more severely for “premeditated” murder and “conspiracy.” Under both precedents, a crime committed may be punished more severely depending on the accused’s supposed intentions prior to committing the crime. I disagree with those precedents as well and don’t believe those existing perversions of justice justify the further perversions of justice embodied in hate crime laws. People should be punished for the measurable harm they cause to others and no more.
The primary appeal of hate crime laws to the government is precisely their ambiguity, affording prosecutors the capricious latitude to decide whether to employ them against a defendant in order to coerce a guilty plea bargain and maintain their 99% conviction record. After all, if a defendant is facing an extra twenty years in prison as a result of a prosecutor escalating their crime to the status of a “hate crime,” they are more likely to knuckle under and submit to a plea of guilty to lesser charges, enabling a zealous prosecutor to scratch another notch into his prosecutorial gun barrel.
Since this particular hate crime law now moving through Congress appears to have a bearing on free speech, especially conducted on the Internet, I suspect it will become a valuable tool for suppressing, or at least chilling free speech in the most popular of public forums, a wet fantasy of repressive governments everywhere.
Another reason people support hate crime laws is the same reason they support the death penalty, for retribution. People are understandably repulsed by murder, vicious acts and vile speech, and seek enhanced punishment for the perpetrators under the guise of “justice.” But is it justice or vengeance they seek?
Once we start punishing people for their thoughts, where does it stop? Who among us is pure enough of mind to not be prosecuted for their occasional thoughts? As we speak, the government is laying the foundation for a policy of “preventive detention,” locking people up because the government believes they may be a threat in the future. Is that not a logical result of sliding down the thought crime slippery slope? Would not the logical end result of prosecuting people for thought crime be the preemptive execution of such putative future murderers? Or a preemptive attack on a sovereign enemy that might “threaten” us in the future?
Proverbs 11:6. The justice of the righteous shall deliver them: and the unjust shall be caught in their own snares.
In embracing the totalitarianism of “political correctness,” codified by “hate crime” legislation, and enforced by a zealous, well-armed government, people are embracing their own intellectual and physical enslavement.
How convenient for the proponents of H.R. 1913 that a “hate crime” should occur as this bile (this should read “bill,” but “bile” seems an appropriate typo) wends its way through Congress. I can’t help but suspect that these two things aren’t a coincidence, especially since the author of this rabid article cites three “hate crimes” in the last two weeks. The author combines the evil notions of “hate crimes” and “preventive detention” in logical fashion, producing the following sterling conclusion:
Isn't it time we started rounding up promoters of hate before they kill?
By the way, I have a feeling that this author hails from the left-wing branch of authoritarianism, which goes to show that there’s not much difference between authoritarians on the left, who want to lock up “haters,” and authoritarians on the right who want to lock up “unpatriotic” people. In fact, I believe my oft regurgitated diagram below succinctly portrays the correct way to look at authoritarians of either persuasion.