Thursday, May 28, 2015

Hate Crimes vs. Hate Speech: A False Dichotomy

“Thoughtcrime is death. Thoughtcrime does not entail death. Thoughtcrime IS death. I have committed even before setting pen to paper the essential crime that contains all others unto itself.” Winston Smith, Nineteen Eighty-Four*

I was alerted to the renewed assault on freedom of speech by a Jihad Watch article by Robert Spencer of May 26th, “Half of Democrats support laws curtailing the freedom of speech.” He opens with:

The problems with this should be obvious, and it’s a sign of the fix we’re in that they aren’t. Who decides what speech is “intended to stir up hatred against a particular group”? Islamic supremacist groups such as Hamas-linked CAIR and other “Islamophobia”-mongers relentlessly claim that foes of jihad terror and Sharia supremacism are stirring up hatred against Muslims. This charge is entirely baseless, as any Muslim who sincerely rejects jihad terror and the imposition of Sharia in the West should be standing with us, and is welcome to do so.

But the key question here is, who decides? The allies and friends of those who believe, or claim to believe, that it is “inciting hatred” to oppose jihad terror and Sharia supremacism are in the corridors of power. If the Democrats succeed in criminalizing “hate speech,” there is no doubt that it will become illegal to speak honestly about the nature and magnitude of the jihad threat, and the jihadis will be able to advance unimpeded. [Italics mine]

Here is the article of May 20th from UGOV from which Spencer quotes:

Since 1994 people convicted of federal crimes motivated by the 'actual or perceived' identity of victims have faced tougher sentences. Many other states had passed 'hate crime' statutes in earlier years, and in recent years many states have been adopting laws which make crimes motivated by the victim's sexual orientation of gender identity hate crimes which face tougher sentences, something the federal government did in 2009. Unlike much of the rest of the developed world, however, the United States does not make it a criminal offense for people to make statements which encourage hatred of particular groups. For example a prominent British columnist, Katie Hopkins, is being investigated by the police for referring to African migrants crossing the Mediterranean as 'cockroaches'.

YouGov's latest research shows that many Americans support making it a criminal offense to make public statements which would stir up hatred against particular groups of people. Americans narrowly support (41%) rather than oppose (37%) criminalizing hate speech, but this conceals a partisan divide. Most Democrats (51%) support criminalizing hate speech, with only 26% opposed. Independents (41% to 35%) and Republicans (47% to 37%) tend to oppose making it illegal to stir up hatred against particular groups….

When it comes to crimes motivated by hatred, most Americans do back the current federal hate crime laws, including the expanded definition of hate crime passed in 2009. 56% of Americans back the federal law mandating tougher penalties for cimes motivated by race, religion or gender, and 51% support expanding that to include sexual orientation, gender identity and disability. Democrats (68%) tend to be much more supportive of the law than either independents and Republicans. Republicans (38% to 39%) are split over the expanded definition of hate crime, while independent tend to support (46%) rather than oppose (28%) it. 

And one of the questions in the survey was whether respondents supported or opposed “the federal law which expands existing federal hate crime law to apply to crimes motivated by a victim’s actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability?”

Although the survey results are interesting, the percentages are irrelevant. I subscribe to the “Fifty million Frenchmen can be as wrong as one” school of deciding whether or not  something is right, or whether or not  something exists, or whether or not  something ought to be. That is, I do not make value judgments or act on a consensus. I base my decisions and conclusions on the evidence of my own senses, and not on the collective opinion of countless, anonymous others.

According to Wikipedia, “The modern era of hate-crime legislation began in 1968 with the passage of federal statute, 18 U.S. 245, part of the Civil Rights Act which made it illegal to "by force or by threat of force, injure, intimidate, or interfere with anyone who is engaged in six specified protected activities, by reason of their race, color, religion, or national origin." However, "The prosecution of such crimes must be certified by the U.S. attorney general."

The Leadership Conference site on hate crime legislation cites the

Hate Crimes Sentencing Enhancement Act of 1994
Originally introduced by Rep. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) as freestanding legislation, the Hate Crimes Sentencing Enhancement Act was enacted into law as part of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. Pursuant to the Act, the United States Sentencing Commission established a sentencing enhancement of "not less than 3 offense levels for [federal] offenses that the finder of fact at trial determines beyond a reasonable doubt are hate crimes." The enhancement defines a hate crime as "a crime in which the defendant intentionally selects a victim, or in the case of a property crime, the property that is the object of the crime, because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, gender, disability, or sexual orientation of any person." In other words, sentences imposed on defendants convicted of federal crimes may be substantially increased if the crime is found to be motivated by bias. This measure--which covers only federal crimes--applies, for example, to bias-motivated attacks and vandalism that occur in national parks and on other Federal property. This enhancement took effect on November 1, 1995. [Italics mine]

The notion of hate crimes has been troublesome for me ever since it was introduced. I couple it with the phenomenon of hate speech. The two notions are intimately – nay, intrinsically linked. For if one thinks a politically incorrect or criminalized thought, the assumption is that one will likely act on it. Ergo, the speech police must discourage, frustrate, and even censor speech before it could possibly entice the speaker to commit a violent crime. And if a hate crime is committed, then the penalty for it must be made more severe than if one committed the crime for banal reasons (e.g., committing a murder in the course of another felony, or just holding up a bank or a convenience store for “mere” money).

Linked in the USGOV story was an International Business Times story about Katie Hopkins, a British writer who characterized in her Sun newspaper column the hundreds of “migrants” from North Africa crossing the Mediterranean in boats to Italy and Europe as “cockroaches.” The Have a LIttle Faith site provided a more extensive quotation from the Sun article: 

Katie wrote in the Sun newspaper that instead of rescue boats helping migrants, there should in fact be gun ships. She refers to migrants as “a plague of feral humans” and likened them to cockroaches. She suggests we take the “Australian approach” of “threaten[ing] them with violence until they bugger off, throwing cans of Castlemaine in an Aussie version of Sharia stoning,” a statement which manages to be offensive to Australians, Muslims and migrants all in one.

Of course, liberal/left blog sites like The Huffington Post climbed on board the let’s-get-Hopkins fried-and-fired train. Regardless, however, of what one thinks of her remarks, should Hopkins be punished for speaking her mind? Is it the Sun newspaper’s option or is it “society’s” to determine her career status? Suppose I called all the illegal immigrants pouring into the U.S. from Mexico “cockroaches”? Or, better yet, “termites” meant to undermine the country and to solidify the Democratic voting bloc in this country for decades to come, as Obama intended all along? Should we gag Ann Coulter for alleging that one of the purposes of the border invasion is to achieve the “browning” of America, and force her to perform “community” service in an orange jump suit? Should the government shut down Rule of Reason for printing my “provocative” speech, or threaten other sites to refrain from reprinting my remarks on pain of financial or other penalties? For a detailed exchange between Coulter and her inadequate Fusion host, go to Salon here, or read her Point column about the Fusion interview here.

The Orwell quotation that opens this column is pertinent. The key part of it is the essential crime that contains all others unto itself. Wikipedia lists other terms that occur in Orwell’s dystopian novel.

Crimestop means to rid oneself of unwanted thoughts, i.e., thoughts that interfere with the ideology of the Party. This way, a person avoids committing thoughtcrime…. Crimestop means the faculty of stopping short, as though by instinct, at the threshold of any dangerous thought. It includes the power of not grasping analogies, of failing to perceive logical errors, of misunderstanding the simplest arguments if they are inimical to Ingsoc, and of being bored or repelled by any train of thought which is capable of leading in a heretical direction. Crimestop, in short, means protective stupidity.”

A voluntarily self-imposed protective stupidity, to be more precise. To dwell on unorthodox thoughts is crimethink. At the moment, Muslims seem to be the only observable group, aside from the MSM, to follow a regime of crimethink and presumably engage in crimestop. They do not question the basic, fundamental tenets of Islam, do acknowledge that some of what its adherents do is really awful, but stop short of blaming Islam itself. They don’t wish to commit hate speech. They do not wish to risk the charge of blasphemy. They do not wish to question the politically correct orthodoxy that Islam has been “hijacked” by monsters. They not wish to suggest, let alone say it explicitly, that Islam by its nature inculcates monsters and that monsters are all we can expect from Islam.

Imagine having a serious discussion with Joe Biden about Aristotelian philosophy. No? With Shirley Jackson Lee of Texas? I can hear the raspberries.

Or with Barack Obama on the golf course. “All I know is,” he’d say, “is that when I hit the ball, it goes somewhere. Not always where I want it to go. That’s metaphysics for you. Unreliable. Usually it’s in complete conflict with my epistemological expectations and desires.”

Want to call that “hate speech”? Go right ahead. It’s called satire. And I haven’t seen a flattering political cartoon of Obama in, well, years. Why aren’t those cartoonists in jail for having provoked enmity towards Obama? They’ve done violence to his reputation and credibility. Of reputation, he has carloads; of credibility, it amounts to a rusted Chevy sitting on cinder blocks in the Arkansas hinterland.

Back to the essential crime that contains all others unto itself. Imagine that I shot a rabbi, or a priest, or even an imam. Why would I shoot a cleric? Is it relevant why? Perhaps I found the cleric’s garb “provocative.” Perhaps he flipped me off some time in the past. Perhaps he shouted at me in front of witnesses that I was as thick as a brick. Anyway, the sight of him was personally offensive. But the motive, if objective law was adhered to, would be irrelevant. I committed a capital crime: first degree murder, aggravated assault, premeditated murder, whatever. Before the introduction of exception-making in criminal jurisprudence to protect specific groups, the physical crime was all that I would be tried and convicted for. I initiated force against another man. I murdered or wounded him. That’s the crime, and that’s all that would be to it.

My motive would not have been criminalized. My animus for clerics and my thinking about shooting the cleric would not have been criminalized. The contents of my mind would not have been the subject of criminal legislation. My motive likely would have been used by the prosecution and defense to explain why I shot the cleric, but my motive would not have been on trial. Just my provable, demonstrable actions. Atheistic or anti-cleric or Islamophobic literature might have been found by the police in my home, on my computer, or buried in the back yard – or there might have been no such literature at all to find.

Let’s change the scenario a wrinkle. Suppose I was a Muslim and I was offended by visual representations of Mohammad, or I was told by my American mullah or imam that I ought to be offended. I go to the magazine that’s published some really “provocatively” offensive images of Mohammad and shoot the staff. Or I go to Garland, Texas, and try to shoot everyone attending a conference held to celebrate the drawing of Mohammad. All those people deserved to die, I think, they were out to get my goat. Or my ewe. They were exploiting the phobia Americans have about Islam. About me.

Knowing that depictions of Mohammad are forbidden in Islam by the faithful and by the unbelievers wherever they live, they deliberately set out to provoke me! Taunt me! Dare me! I’m shot and wounded by a single policeman before I can do anything. The press and TV reporters learn I’m a Muslim. Possibly deranged, possibly not. A little strain of sympathy is felt for me. I couldn’t help but react the way I did. My religion was being mocked! My icon of a perfect man was being denigrated and slandered! Overwhelming hostility is felt for Pamela Geller and everyone having anything to do with scheduling and holding and participating in the Draw Mohammad conference. Geller and her fellow provocateurs ought to have known what the consequences would be. I would show up, or someone else. That’s what everyone would be saying. Wave a red cape at a bull and the bull’s going to charge. Don’t wave the red cape, and the bull will lie down beneath the press box to bask in the sun and dream of Pamplona.

Or of enlisting in ISIS.

Didn’t these freedom-of-speech fanatics know that? But they did know it! They boast of it! They were not practicing responsible free speech. They consciously set out to provoke me! I didn’t have to look at the drawings, no one forced me to. But I’m a product of my Islamic environment, and I can't help but look and be offended. I have no volitional consciousness. How do I know they deliberately provoked me? I just know it. I can’t help it if they choose to incite hatred against me and my faith!

The press and TV anchors, politicians, Donald Trump and Bill O’Reilly don’t much examine my motives. But they put Geller’s motives through the wringer. They also insinuated that the Charlie Hebdo staff had it coming to them. They further insinuate that had I not forgotten to thumb off the safety on my gun, Geller and Bosch Fawstin and Robert Spencer would have had it coming to them, too.

Spencer reported that a gaggle of Democrats are all for passing laws that would restrict freedom of speech, to make it more “responsible.” Of course, as a consequence, speech would no longer be “free,” but regulated. Which would mean that thought would be regulated. If you have a thought, and must express it in a way deemed acceptable and proper according to some authority’s criteria, and there are penalties for not meeting those criteria, how free can thinking be, either? Before you set hand to keyboard or brush to an easel, you must indulge in crimestop before you commit crimethink, or “hate speech” or a hate crime. You must vet yourself before letting the speech police can vet your speech.

Which can easily lead to thoughtcrime.

It would be wrong to call this petit totalitarianism. It is totalitarianism pure and simple.

Sean Gabb in his May 2012 essay, “Another Surveillance Law: One More Step towards the Big Brother State,” published in The Barrister, in discussing the rise of the “soft” but no less insidious police state in Britain, the kind that is “investigating” Katie Hopkins and her “cockroaches” remarks, noted:

….A police state is less about enforcement than control. Its function is to make a ruling class irresistible when robbing and oppressing, or when imposing its utopian fantasies. If people can be made to obey without being clubbed to death in a police cell, why bother with violence? There is no British Gestapo or KGB or Stasi, because our own police state rests on a foundation of changes of investigatory and criminal procedure and of omnipresent surveillance. When people know that they are being watched in all that they do, and when they know that stepping over some invisible line will put them to great inconvenience and expense, they will change their behavior and their attitudes to authority.

But, back to my enraged and offended Muslim scenario and my fumbled attempt to impose Sharia Law on Geller and her provocateurs. I’m finally put on trial for an attempted act of terrorism. I’m convicted of attempted murder and nothing else. My defense counsel protests and I protest: But…but what about my religion? What about my motive? This isn’t fair! You’re just sentencing me for carrying a gun with the intent to kill some people! Sure, I was about to commit a hate crime, but that should be in my favor, because I’m a persecuted minority! And oppressed. And anti-Islamophobia! This is more evidence of my oppression, judging me by my mere actions, and not by my motives! Geller and her provocateurs are guilty of a hate crime, too! They entrapped me!

Let’s turn that around. It is but a few tentative, mincing steps from treating a physical, demonstrable crime and bundling it with one’s motive or the contents of one’s mind and packaging it as a whole. Which is what is being done today.

Blaming Pamela Geller  et al. for the violence in Garland, Texas, and deeming the Draw Mohammad contest and event a deliberate “provocation,” and illegal and a crime, is what the government and the MSM are coyly, if not vociferously, sidling up to, a British- or European-style power to fetter and regulate freedom of speech – a.k.a., censorship.

If ever legislated, that will be the end of America.

*Part I, Chapter 1, Nineteen Eighty-Four, the complete text. University of Adelaide.

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