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Hate Laws - Putting
Beliefs Behind Bars

By Harmony Grant
The new TV show Life on Mars features a cop thrown back in time to 1973. On a recent episode, the cop from 2008 calls an assault a "hate crime." His buddy, a cop from 1973, retorts, "As opposed to an "I really, really like you crime?""
His witty comeback points out the commonsense response to the idea of a "hate crime:" all violence comes from evil emotions. We should not classify some rapes as more hateful or some assaults as more biased. This belittles individual survivors; it categorizes them based on their group identity, not their personal rights as a human being. 
In New York State, seven teens have been accused of a "hate crime" after a 38-year-old immigrant from Ecuador, Marcello Lucero, was attacked and stabbed to death. The assistant district attorney claims that the teens said, "Let's go find some Mexicans to -- -- up." She accuses them of a "well thought out crime targeting Hispanic males."
Say she's right. Say these seven teens murdered Marcello Lucero because he was the first Latin-looking man they saw and their agenda was to kill a Hispanic. That's appalling. But would Marcello's death be less horrible if the boys killed him because they wanted to gang-rape his wife? Would it be less hateful if they'd stabbed him to death so they could have a joy ride in his car? If they hadn't hated his race but had hated his wealth or his job or his resemblance to a man who had molested one of them-would the crime have been less evil?
"Anti-hate" laws say yes. These laws segregate society into groups and say bias and hatred of some groups, like minorities, is worse than against others. A crime against a member of a protected group is punished more harshly than a crime against an individual not of those groups. This is identity politics at its worst.
As we warn time and again, these laws are ultimately dangerous not just because they further splinter society into separate social groups but because they criminalize bias, which is held in beliefs, thoughts and speech. There is no freedom more precious than the freedom to believe, think and speak as you choose, even if you choose racism or nationalism or to worship aliens. Hate crime laws shatter this precious freedom, invading the most personal space of thought and belief to legislate what are acceptable beliefs and biases and what are not.
An Associated Press article about Marcello Lucero's stabbing reviews a few other assaults on Hispanic immigrants and quotes leaders of Long Island Immigrant Alliance; they blame the public debate on immigration for fostering a culture of hate. A local pastor and immigrant advocate even charged that "some of the highest leaders of our community also have blood on their hands." Wow, now political commentators on illegal immigration are responsible for this brutal killing?
That kind of rhetoric is precisely what happens when prosecutors parse the "bias" behind a crime and prosecute beliefs, not just actions. Soon the realm of ideas and public debate is picked apart. Legitimate political speech is blamed for "inciting hate." Soon government regulates ideas and speech. Bloggers are arrested for writing about immigration. Social scientists face jail time for taboo (but possibly true) theories about race. Pastors are put in handcuffs for quoting from the Bible about sexual immorality. Sound like a draconian dictatorship that could never happen in the USA? I wish it were. This kind of crackdown has already happened in Canada, Europe and Australia. It will happen here, too, if we continue to march to the steady beat of hate crime arguments. It is a natural path: you stiffen penalties for the thoughts behind a crime; soon you prosecute the thoughts if they are said aloud, whether or not an actual crime has been committed. The speech and the thoughts become the crime. And then we live in Orwell's world. 
In Burma, a 28-year-old poet and blogger has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for publishing an online poem mocking the country's dictator. The lines of his poem formed an acrostic calling the dictator "power crazy." He was arrested the day after publishing the poem. The blogger-now-prisoner owns three internet cafes in Burma's capitol. His mother was not allowed to attend his hearing, and as a detainee he was deprived of food and water during the proceedings.
Unfortunately, no American can view Burma's actions with indifference, as the fascist tactics of an outpost of civilization. Hardly. "Anti-hate" laws empower the most "civilized" governments of the world to imprison their citizens for online political and social speech. Just ask David Irving or Ernst Zundel, who served jail time for challenging establishment history of the Holocaust. As much as we might like to believe an American will never face a policeman's fist on his door for critiquing the government-or Judaism, or homosexual practices, or religion-on his blog-it can and will happen.
And it will happen through the seemingly righteous move of defining and prosecuting violent "hate crimes"-as if some crimes were based in kindness.
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