Sunday, 8 April 2018

Hate crime laws are still stupid

Even after a century of dumb ideas, people seem to really want hate crime legislation.

Hate crimes will never deter people from targeting a group for violence when existing laws against violent crime already fail as a deterrent. Just because a law makes something illegal doesn't stop that thing from happening. Secondly, hate crimes require an actual crime. Even with legislation, it remains perfectly legal to say, very publicly and vocally, that some group is evil, subhuman, should be dead, deported or whatever. Although, I'm sure the democratic totalitarians want to penalise that too.

Hate crimes laws already exist in many developed countries. They have not in any way reduced the amount of hate. Hate crimes are pointless because they don't alter the social dynamic in any positive way. They are also counterproductive by implying that a violent crime against an individual - because that person is a member of a protected group - are somehow worse than the same violent crime against the same individual because they are a member of a group that the law does not designate as special.

We also must remember that hate crimes only target certain kinds of hate. Consider the following example:

A white man who attacks, robs and kills an old black woman because she is black is guilty of a hate crime. A black man who attacks, robs and kills an old white woman because he assumes old white ladies are easy targets for robbery is not guilty of a hate crime. Both men are racist. But only the former has committed a hate crime. Does this seem reasonable?

In the real world, it should be as simple as saying, "people are not free to assault or kill." I can replace "assault or kill" with a variety of other actions and my activity against homosexuals, for instance, becomes perfectly legal ("mock," "parody," "campaign against"). But there is nothing I can replace in the latter part of that statement (after "kill") that makes it legal. You can't "go out and assault and kill" anyone. Period. No matter the target. It's always illegal.

Let me diagram this:

Law 1: It is criminal to do X. Doing X is punishable by Y years in prison.
Law 2: It is criminal to do X if motivated by reason R. Doing X motivated by R is punishable by Z years in prison.

Z is greater than X. The difference between Z and X is due entirely to R being the motive for the crime. This is true for all values of R, especially the R's you personally agree with. Not just the R's you don't like.

Is that really a path you want?

We already recognise different categories of assault and homicide. That's why there is more than one degree of murder. There is absolutely no reason a judge can't take the motive of a crime under advisement during sentencing. There doesn't need to be a separate law in place for him to do so.

I've heard it said that a person committing a hate crime does it not to assert their own identity, but to refuse the validity of another’s. The problem is we don't actually know why someone commits a hate crime. We think we know, but we want to criminalise based on a) the speculation and b) that speculation is okay if you are doing it. I could argue the person committing a hate crime does so to suppress her own identity. In other words, hate crime legislation creates the impression that what is being criminalised is the hate because the act itself - the assault or the murder - is already criminalised.

Calling something a hate crime confuses "intent" with "motive." The motive is not an element of any crime. We don't care why someone killed someone else, just whether they intended to do it or not. Hate crimes very clearly criminalise motive, which is a dangerous step because it tells a minority group that the majority explicitly condemns criminal action against them.

Since when is it a laudable goal to use the law to deliver the messages of the majority? The purpose of the law is to temper the will of the majority against the minority. The purpose of hate crime laws is not to remedy the situation where crimes motivated by hate went unpunished. In fact, when those situations did happen, legislation was not the solution. There already are laws demonstrating "the majority explicitly condemns criminal action" against anyone, which inherently includes the minority.

Using legislation to send messages is a terrible idea. People do not receive the same common message. If you want to deliver a message, then deliver it. Clearly. Buy a billboard or something. Start a newspaper. Get a Twitter handle. Hate crime laws aren't the way to do this.

I think what people don't realise is that hates crime legislation creates a precedent for bringing motive into the elements of a crime. No one can predict or control how this precedent is used, and it will almost certainly spiral in a way they won't like.

By that time it will be too late to repeal.

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