(law/philosophy) The Irrationality of Hate Crimes Lawgreenspun.com : LUSENET : TB2K spinoff uncensored : One Thread
And here's a good one you could read on the way home from the beach -- just not while you're driving.
Hate Crimes Law Not Answer to Gay, Racial Killings
Hate Crimes Law Would Undermine Protection of Rights by Using Criminal Law to Enforce Ideological Orthodoxy
(Op-Ed Released June 21, 2000) (The site gives a release date of June 21, 1999, but it appears to be a typo.)
by Robert W. Tracinski
Tuesday the Senate passed legislation for a federal hate crimes bill. A hate crimes law would make crimes motivated by enmity toward blacks, gays or other protected groups into a special federal offense. The ostensible purpose of such a law is to protect minorities from persecution. The result, however, would be the exact opposite. Targeting those with politically incorrect motives undermines the principle of objective law which undergirds our legal system's protection of rights.
Criminal law exists to prohibit certain actions to safeguard individuals against force or fraud. For this purpose, there is no shortage of existing statutes. For instance, the killer of Matthew Shepard, the gay college student from Wyoming, was charged with a state crime.
What, then, will a hate crimes law add? Despite its name, it is not hatred as such that the proposed law targets. After all, which crimes arent motivated by hatred? Are assaults and murders usually committed out of benevolence toward the victim? The real target is the criminals ideas. The proposed law declares that criminals motivated by a government-designated set of intolerable ideas racism, sexism, religious sectarianism, anti-homosexuality deserve special prosecution and additional punishment.
But to subject someone to trial and punishment on the basis of his ideas regardless of how despicable those ideas might be constitutes a politicization of criminal law. Why, for example, should a racist be prosecuted for the special crime of targeting blacks, while the Unabomber is not subject to special prosecution for his hatred of scientists and business executives? The only answer is that the Unabombers ideas are considered more politically correct than the racists.
A hate crimes law would expand the laws concern from criminal action to criminal thought. It would institute the premise that the purpose of our legal system is not to defend the rights of the victim, but to punish socially unacceptable ideas. This is a premise that should be abhorrent to a free society.
In addition, if committing a crime based on bad ideas warrants greater punishment, then committing a crime based on politically correct ideas should warrant lesser punishment. The judicial process would have to focus on the criminals ideology, rather than on the objective violation of his victims rights.
The beginnings of this politicization of crime are already in place. When anti-Vietnam War protesters, for example, forcibly occupied buildings and bombed laboratories in the 60s and 70s, they were heralded as political dissenters, deserving of special leniency while today, those who commit similar crimes in the name of racism are considered deserving of special penalties.
Similarly, in recent years the left has (properly) campaigned for laws to prevent anti-abortion protesters from harassing doctors and halting access to abortion clinics. Yet its own protesters routinely use force such as the occupation of timberland to prevent logging with no fear of special government prosecution.
Nor is the attempt to politicize the criminal law limited to the left. Several years ago, a conservative judge suspended the sentences of two priests arrested for physically blocking entry to an abortion clinic because they were motivated by sincere religious beliefs.
Under such a system, anything goes. The entire criminal justice apparatus can be used as a political tool by whatever faction happens to be in power. Crimes can be whitewashed if done for the correct political motives, while extra punishment can be meted out to those with incorrect motives.
Where will this end? If a man convicted of an actual criminal act can be sentenced to additional years in prison simply for his ideas then, in logic, why cant someone be punished solely for his ideas? Even if he has not committed a single action against another person, why cant he be tried simply for being a purveyor of hate? Indeed, this development is already foreshadowed by campus speech codes, which bar statements deemed offensive to protected groups.
The first official step on this deadly path the creation of a special category of hate crimes should be resoundingly rejected. It is an attempt to import into Americas legal system a class of crimes formerly reserved only to dictatorships: political crimes. Instead, we should insist on the one principle that forms the foundation for the protection of all rights, i.e., that the purpose of law is to punish criminals for initiating force against others not for holding bad ideas.
Robert W. Tracinski is a senior writer for the Ayn Rand Institute in Marina del Rey, Calif. The Institute promotes the philosophy of Ayn Rand, author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead. www.aynrand.org
-- eve (email@example.com), June 28, 2000
Oops...forgot the link. Here it is:
Hate Crimes Essay
-- eve (firstname.lastname@example.org), June 28, 2000.
"Instead, we should insist on the one principle that forms the foundation for the protection of all rights, i.e., that the purpose of law is to punish criminals for initiating force against others not for holding bad ideas."
eve, at one time I thought this statement was a core principle of nearly all adult human beings. Not to be. Power is about attempting to control the bodies AND minds of the serfs.
Nitpick of the day: The use of the phrase "bad ideas" is a poor choice. This is purely subjective and does nothing to advance the essay. Or was this intentional on the part of the author?
-- Bingo1 (email@example.com), June 28, 2000.
THEY can pass a million new=law,s & never get at the ROOT!!! the root of all evil,is SIN!!and satan uses it too destroy lives! a new=nature is needed,[YOU MUST BE BORN AGAIN] 2 SPIRIT,S AT WORK IN THE WORLD. it,s the ROOT=THE ROOT=THE=ROOT!!!!!!
-- al-d. (firstname.lastname@example.org), June 28, 2000.
At first glance, the author's logic sounds quite reasonable. Really, what IS a hate crime if there isn't a LOVE crime. It seems to ME that this hate-crime law was passed because there was nothing else on the books that included things done. [Note: I don't KNOW this to be true. I'm just GUESSING.]
If someone KILLS someone else, it makes sense to me that the offender be tried using existing laws. Does it really matter if someone kills someone because they don't like the color of their skin or because they irked the person in another way? *I* don't think so, and I can't believe that the folks initiating this bill thought so either.
OTOH, if I were the only person involved in a public event and someone singled me out over all others present because of some difference between me and the others, if there were no law against say spray-painting me in the face, I'd want SOMEONE to do SOMETHING.
-- Anita (Anita_S3@hotmail.com), June 28, 2000.
Al-d, I'm afraid it might go unnoticed, but you are on to the truth there, passing more laws aren't going to help.
I can see it now, two punks thinking about beating up a black guy...suddenly, one says "woah, wait a minute...that's a hate crime now, we better whup up a "non-protected" race, or maybe just go get some ice cream....".
Right. Hate crimes are to make the PC "feel" better, as most "social laws". Laws won't do it, the only thing that will is a real change of heart....
-- FactFinder (FactFinder@bzn.com), June 28, 2000.
"(law/philosophy) The Irrationality of Hate Crimes Law". (law/philosophy): you have spent too much time on EZ board if you use the prefaces. You are becoming one of them. This is a serious problem. You are now a Zogster [who by the way had his computer zapped by God].
-- DB (Debunker@nomore.xxx), June 28, 2000.
"Really, what IS a hate crime if there isn't a LOVE crime."
I think you can commit love crimes cheap down in Times Square. But maybe not now that Giuliani has cleaned the place up.
"If someone KILLS someone else, it makes sense to me that the offender be tried using existing laws. Does it really matter if someone kills someone because they don't like the color of their skin or because they irked the person in another way? *I* don't think so, and I can't believe that the folks initiating this bill thought so either."
I agree with you, Anita. True equality, such as that preached by the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., DEMANDS that people be treated EQUALLY REGARDLESS OF RACE. If all other circumstances are equal, then the killing of a white man (or a black man, or any other race of man) is reprehensible to "X" degree, REGARDLESS of the race of the killer. The race of the killer and the killed should not matter -- murder is murder. If it is a hate crime for a straight man to kill a gay man, then is it not a hate crime for a gay man to kill a straight man? I can't believe our lawmakers are SERIOUS about these laws. They serve only to divide us against each other.
-- March For Bullshit (email@example.com), June 28, 2000.
Hate crime legislation does not punish bad thoughts. They punish bad actions that arise from bad motives. You punish first degree murder more that accidental manslaughter because the motives (not the thoughts) were different.
Simple vandalism is a minor crime, usually juveniles acting out. Painting a swastika on a synagogue is a more serious crime, because the motive behind it is more despicable, and indicates the potential for greater harm.
-- kermit (firstname.lastname@example.org), June 30, 2000.
"The law is an ass"
"Do what thou willst art the whole of the law"
-- A (A@AisA.com), June 30, 2000.
You're right -- the phrase "bad ideas" should probably have been something like, "politically incorrect ideas."
I respect where you're coming from, but I can't identify with Christian roots, as I'm closer to Deism -- and sometimes I feel agnostic. I believe the root of all evil is tough to find out from an individual perspective, as you have to take their psychology into account. But, at the risk of oversimplifying this, in the end I think it all boils down to some type of irrationality, coupled with a low self-esteem.
Thoughtful post. And regarding your spray-painting example: Yes, the perpetrator should be held accountable. But for the ACT, not the hate.
FactFinder and March,
Good points -- right in line with the essay's (and my) perspective.
I appreciate the advice. But, you know, I may have started doing this even before EZ. Regardless, it's something that comes natural to me, and it gives the forum participant a hint about the content, so if there's a subject that they have absolutely no interest in, they can skip over the thread.
I disagree. Yes, you punish first degree murder more severly because of intent. Intent, though, applies across the board. But "hate crimes" are selective -- biased against all those crimes which did not include certain favored groups. Your swastika example doesn't hold, because while painting it is despicable, the victims are a government-selected, favored group. And what if the swastika was painted on a house that had no Jewish occupants, but the occupants had loved ones who were Jewish and were exterminated in the Holocaust?
And what if a joke ridiculing a bald person was spray-painted on the home of a bald person? Why shouldn't that be a hate crime too? What if a bumblebee was spray painted on the home of someone whose allergic child was killed from a bee sting? See the can of worms this opens up?
-- eve (email@example.com), July 01, 2000.
You are contradicting yourself, Kermit. You said
"Hate crime legislation does not punish bad thoughts."
But then you go on to demonstrate that hate crime legislation DOES punish bad thoughts. I will go farther.
"Simple vandalism is a minor crime, usually juveniles acting out. Painting a swastika on a synagogue is a more serious crime, because the motive behind it is more despicable, and indicates the potential for greater harm."
How does the act of painting ANYTHING on a synagogue indicate the POTENTIAL for greater harm? And since WHEN does our legal system punish POTENTIAL for greater harm? Our legal system punishes ACTUAL harm and PATTERNS OF PAST HARM. They don't often act to prevent FUTURE harm, except in the case of restraining orders. And I don't know of any restraining orders that would prevent idiots with cans of spray paint. Do you?
"They punish bad actions that arise from bad motives. You punish first degree murder more that accidental manslaughter because the motives (not the thoughts) were different."
So, since you say our legal system ALREADY has mechanisms to differentiate crimes on the basis of intent, WHY does our legal system need MORE mechanisms to do that? Are the ones we already have NOT ENOUGH? Or WHAT?
You CLEARLY indicate that it is the THOUGHT being punished, not the ACT. Kindly get YOUR act together, and please reply.
-- March For Bullshit (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 01, 2000.