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Six Oddities About "Hate" Crimes By: Lowell Ponte
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, August 30, 2001


"HATE CRIME" LAWS INVOLVE STRANGE ILLOGICALITY. Here are six reflections on why we need to think rationally about abolishing them.

  1. Is "Hate" Rational? Hate crime laws, as most critics note, punish people for what they think and say, not for what they do. The rationale for this is that those who commit a crime out of "hate" are terrorists, deliberately causing fear among all who belong to the group – racial, gender, gender preference, or whatever – of their victim. This additional crime, the reasoning goes, merits additional punishment.

    But is the hatred to be punished by "hate crime" laws born from ideas or emotions?

    If the purported "hate" comes from ideas, however strange, then what we call "hate" should more properly be called an ideology or belief system. The right to have and express ideas, however distasteful, is protected by the First Amendment.

    If the purported "hate" comes from emotions, and these emotions are presumed to be strong enough to have caused violent or criminal behavior, then arguably a "hate crime" should be punished less than the same acts committed without hatred.

    A person blinded by hate can be said to suffer a kind of temporary insanity. Or on a parallel track, one could argue that irrational hatred is evidence of impaired mental capacity, of low I.Q., obsessive-compulsive disorder, or other limitation of mind.

    Our friends on the Left regularly argue that low I.Q. should serve as a "Get Off Death Row Free" card – that Bill Smith with an I.Q. of 105 can be executed, but John Doe with an I.Q. of 78 should be able to commit the same murder without any risk of facing the death penalty.

    Our friends on the Left also regularly declare racists, sexists, and homophobes to be of limited intelligence and irrational.

    So why don’t our Leftist friends recognize that the "hate" in a hate crime should be a mitigating factor that should beget less punishment, not more?

     

  2. Selective Hatred. Oddly, not a single enacted or proposed "Hate Crime" law universally outlaws or punishes hate. All are highly selective, singling out only

    certain limited kinds of hate – e.g., based on a victim’s race, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexual preference, and so forth.

    Many other kinds of hatred are excluded and hence go unpunished by such laws. As I first argued in print in the November 14, 1997 Wall Street Journal, we should demand that "social class and economic status" be included among the factors protected under such laws. When Leftists engage in class warfare against those they call "the rich," this is hate (and any resulting selective taxes aimed at singling out this minority for expropriation should be very much viewed as a political "hate crime"). The traits that lead to wealth may even be genetic and hereditary, deserving the same protection as skin color. Have you noticed that wealth tends to run in families?

    If the goal is to outlaw "hate," then outlaw all hate. Because this is not done, we should recognize that selective "hate crime" laws have a very different motive and objective.

  3. Hate Crimes Versus Equality. Their supporters say that "hate crime" laws help make us all more equal by defending those victim groups most in need of protection.

    Of course these same mostly-Leftist folks also tell us that racial quotas, preferences, and set-asides are making America more egalitarian by moving to the front of the line those who in past decades were unfairly kept in the back of the bus.

     

    Because "hate crime" laws are highly selective as to whom they protect, these laws in practice mean that if Caucasian Tom punches African-American John, Tom will be punished more severely than would John for slugging him.

    We are told that these laws are even-handed – that if a black shouting racial epithets attacks a white man, he too can be prosecuted under the "hate crime" statutes. Yes, and in the old segregated South a white could be prosecuted for going into a "Negroes Only" rest room – but in practice 99 percent of those punished under the segregation laws were black. And today 99 percent of "hate crime" prosecutions are aimed at Caucasian male heterosexuals.

    Precisely like racial quotas, "hate crime" laws have the effect of making the same crime against some citizens more subject to punishment than if committed against others.

    These laws in practice, and therefore by disparate impact, violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution’s 14th Amendment. This clause says: "…nor shall any state…deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the law."

    Instead of this, "hate crime" laws have given us the "egalitarianism" George Orwell depicted in his pig-ruled dystopia Animal Farm, where by government fiat "All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others."

  4. Hate – Good and Bad. While "hate crime" advocates say their goal is to abolish hate, at least of certain kinds, one could argue that part of their true objective is to foment hatred. We are to hate the "haters." And the best way to stigmatize those with such politically-incorrect views and beliefs is to criminalize them, just as in earlier mind-controlled societies it was made a crime to be a Jew, dissenter or non-conformist.

    This was Nobel-laureate Albert Camus’ theme in The Stranger – that a person may be found guilty and punished not for what he does but for what he is, when his values and attitudes deviate from society’s norm. These laws promote the notion that it not just morally but also legally wrong to "hate," for those known to be haters may suffer added legal penalties on this account.
Among the targets for acceptable, sanctioned hatred nowadays are Jews and Christians who take the Bible literally, as well as those who display the Confederate flag.

In New Stanton, Pennsylvania, earlier this month, security guard Curt Storey filed a lawsuit against Burns International Security Services. Burns had fired him after he refused to remove Confederate flag and related stickers from his lunch bucket and pickup truck. Of Southern descent, Storey’s attorney Kirk Lyons from the Southern Legal Resources Center argues that his client is a victim of discrimination against his "Confederate Southern American" national origin. This, he argues, may violate Mr. Storey’s civil rights just as if he had been fired for honoring his African or Syrian or Japanese ancestry. Two other bumper stickers on Storey’s truck read "The South was right" and "Heritage not Hate." Trouble is, many have been taught to hate his heritage.

During the debates at the Constitutional Convention, when a Bill of Rights was proposed, one of the arguments monarchist Alexander Hamilton offered against it was that any right not specified would be assumed not to exist. James Madison and others countered with the 9th and 10th Amendments, which reserved any unnamed, undelegated powers to the states and/or the People. (Leftist judges, of course, have done all in their power to nullify these two Amendments, for much – indeed most – of what the Federal Government does nowadays is based on undelegated, hence unconstitutional, power.)

But consider Hamilton’s argument in the context of "hate crime" laws. These laws are applied today in practice almost exclusively to specific kinds of hatred – hate against racial minorities, gays, and other politically correct groups. Does this mean that these laws, by omission, are declaring "undelegated," unnamed kinds of hate – e.g., class warfare – acceptable? Do other kinds of hatred have tacit government approval?

We know that politicians throughout history have encouraged hate. The enemy in time of war is routinely depicted as Evil Incarnate using crude racial, ethnic, and other stereotypes. If the rhetoric of class hatred – "Let’s soak the greedy rich!" – were outlawed, one of America’s major political parties would shrivel to nothing overnight; encouraging hate and envy is its bread and butter.

5. The Hate Non Sequitur.
"Hate crime" laws infer a nexus between prejudice against groups and crime that may or may not exist or be relevant in a particular case. Consider the case of Idaho resident Lonny Rae, charged with a kind of hate crime, felony malicious harassment, a crime punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

As ABC News reported on August 15, the Raes and their attorney describe what happened when Lonny’s wife Kimberly, a newspaper reporter, asked permission and was allowed to photograph the referees after a controversial local football game. One of the referees then allegedly seized her camera, injuring her neck as he tried to tear it away from her. Her screams brought her husband, who threatened the African-American referee while invoking the "N" word. No physical contact happened between the referee and Lonny Rae, who, like his wife, is Caucasian.

The referee, who according to the Raes’ version may have committed actual assault and battery on Kimberly Rae, has not been charged with any crime. Lonny Rae, who committed no physical assault or battery whatsoever, has been put in jeopardy of spending five years in prison and paying a $5,000 fine. Apparently some are more equal than others.

Prior to his wife’s screams for help, Rae had done and said nothing untoward. Arguably, in his fury, Rae used verbal intimidation as a substitute for physical violence and a way to hit back with words at the man he believed had injured his wife. Oddly, if the Raes’ version of events is accurate, had Lonny Rae said nothing but beaten this referee to a pulp, he might not have faced as severe a penalty. Had his wife pulled a gun and shot the referee at the moment she says he was injuring her neck, a jury might have found that she acted in self-defense.

This case could send a counter-productive message to many Americans. Rather than blow off steam with words, it will tempt some to zip their lips but take out their anger in direct physical violence. "Hate crime" laws might thus paradoxically increase violence by penalizing the pressure-releasing valve of verbal confrontation.

Was Rae acting maliciously out of "hate," or merely in emotional defense of his assaulted wife? And even if, as some suggest, Rae’s thinking might be tinged with racism, was that a meaningful part of his motivation in this ugly incident?

The Idaho statute reads, in part: "It shall be unlawful for any person, maliciously and with the specific intent to intimidate or harass another person because of that person’s race, color, religion, ancestry, or national origin to….Threaten, by word or act, to do the acts prohibited…."

Assault happens when somebody lifts a club over the head of another in a threatening way. Battery happens when that club is brought down on the head. With his racial "fighting word" and threats, did Lonny Rae commit a "hate crime" assault?

You make the call. You be the mind reader, for that is often what is needed to punish someone for his or her thought-crimes. Would you send Lonny Rae to prison for five years for his act of verbal, but not physical, violence?
  1. Eye of the Behater. We all think we know what "hate" is, until we try to define it. My old American Heritage Dictionary, for example, says it can mean "To loathe; detest," but also "To dislike: hates washing dishes."

    Like beauty, hate is in the eye of the beholder and ear of the behearer. It can be quite individualized and vary widely in focus, depth, intensity, and significance. Compare and contrast this with the typical Leftist, who loves humanity and racial minorities but despises most individual human beings, especially the ones who dare to be individuals.
The reason scientists and star techies find it so hard to build a computer that works like the human brain is that our neural networks weave "pattern recognition." Give one of today’s home computers a command that is off by one letter or number and it will fail to understand. Draw three-quarters of a circle for a child and he or she will almost invariably recognize the pattern and complete the circle.

Human survival came from our ancestors’ ability to recognize patterns and thereby anticipate dangers. Most "scientific" thinking is a sophisticated search for pattern recognition. But so, too, are racism and sexism – negative perceptions derived from prejudices taught by the culture, or from generalizing a youthful encounter with one or two people into assumptions about what everyone who shares the same skin color or ethnicity is like. Racism and other prejudices often get reinforced because human beings tend to see only what they want or expect to see, and to ignore contrary information.

Those who "hate" whole races, ethnic groups, and genders of people are themselves victims of faulty pattern recognition, propaganda, mental fixation or obsession, or unfortunate bad experiences that continue to distort their thinking. To paraphrase an early musical meditation by The Moody Blues, we should learn to see that when we feel hate, it is because we are not understanding.

Hate will not be overcome with subjective laws and punishments, which drive hate to fester and grow in the dark of the mind away from healing sunlight. It will not be cured by "hate crime" laws that favor some groups over others, thereby creating a spiral of more inequities and hatreds. Hating and hurting the haters will not end hatred. The way to overcome hate, as a Master from Galilee once taught, is through justice, understanding, compassion and love.

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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