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Virtual Hate Crimes By: Lowell Ponte
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, March 06, 2002

SHOULD "HATE" BE OUTLAWED ON THE INTERNET? Many of the 43 nations of the Council of Europe have laws prohibiting "hate crimes" and "hate speech" within their own borders. Because the Internet crosses their borders, they want to cleanse it of what they define as any communication of "hate."

What kind of speech they aim to ban became clear in February 2002 in a draft Protocol to the Convention on Cybercrime. It would criminalize "Racist or xenophobic material" on the internet, meaning "any written material, any image or any other representation of thoughts or theories, which advocates, promotes, incites [or is likely to incite] acts of violence, hatred or discrimination against any individual or group of individuals, based on race, color, [religion, descent, nationality,] national or ethnic origin."

Because the United States presently objects to such speech suppression as a violation of our Constitution’s First Amendment, other member nations of the Council of Europe are being invited to sign or not sign this Protocol as a side agreement. But it sets a disturbing precedent for censoring the Internet that a future Leftist American President and Senate might be willing and eager to put into law.

The advocates of "hate crimes" legislation are always very choosy about what kinds of hatred they would prohibit or permit, as this column has noted.

All agree that it is wrong to hate anyone based on his or her race. But what Leftist has ever proposed punishing "hate" based on social class or wealth? Fomenting and exploiting class hatred against the "rich" is the Left’s bread and butter, its meal ticket. Outlaw the rhetoric of class warfare, and overnight almost every Democratic politician and speechwriter would be out of a job.

Class warfare and envy are even more common in the divide-and-conquer politics of Europe. It’s no surprise, therefore, to see class hatred omitted from this list of prohibited Internet hatreds. If such speech were a crime, what would become of Europe’s Greens, Laborites, Socialists and Marxists?

But oddly enough, the Council of Europe does have a "sort of" Bill of Rights. Called the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, it includes in Article 14 a "Prohibition of Discrimination." This forbids discrimination based not only on "sex, race, color, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, [and] association with a national minority" but also discrimination on the basis of "property, birth or other status."

Class hatred, and by extension the hate speech of class warfare, is arguably therefore also prohibited by the Council of Europe’s Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms Convention. Why was this language not included in the new draft Protocol to outlaw hate on the Internet?

This European Bill of Rights in Article 10 also affirms "Freedom of Expression," including "freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers." How does this square with politicians and bureaucrats capriciously deciding to ban Internet speech they deem hateful?

By American standards, Europe is a rather unfree place. The same Article 10 in the Council of Europe’s convention of rights concludes by saying that freedom of expression, "since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary."

A European may enjoy freedom of expression, in other words, except wherever and whenever politicians or their appointed judges wish to silence people. Is it any wonder that most of us have ancestors who fled from Europe?

How petty or tyrannical might European leaders become? Socialist German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder is taking to court the German news agency ddp. Why? Because it allegedly violated an injunction by quoting a public relations advisor saying that "it would do Mr. Schroeder good to admit that he dyes his graying curls." A truly partisan government could easily twist that hair into prohibited "hate speech" that referred not to Schroeder’s age or vanity but to his ancestry or DNA. Hatred, like beauty, is often in the eye of the beholder. Schroeder sees the world predominantly through his Left eye.

Council of Europe rights also include religious belief and expression, but this has not deterred France from designating dozens of faiths – including the Mormons, Seventh-Day Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Scientology – as "cults" and moving to make their property subject to government seizure. Churches such as Scientology, said French Prosecutor Christine Forey, are "purely commercial" and their practices "amount to a form of mental manipulation."

American politicians are also tempted to control the media. Campaign Finance Reform is calculated to stifle citizen ads critical of incumbents. Senator Bob Smith (R-N.H.) wants to fine and/or imprison news people who commit "broadcast fraud." And the Anti-Defamation League is documenting the growth of "hate games" on the Internet, although ADL researcher Brian Marcus agrees that these will be hard to shut down with Hate Crime laws. "The defense would be that it’s virtual," he told ABC News. "Clicking a mouse is not real."

Mr. Ponte co-hosts a national radio talk show Monday through Friday 6-8 PM Eastern Time (3-5 PM Pacific Time) on the Genesis Communications Network. Internet Audio worldwide is at GCNlive .com. The show's live call-in number is 1-800-259-9231. A professional speaker, he is a former Roving Editor for Reader's Digest.

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