The thing lawmakers don’t seem to understand is that laws don’t prevent crimes. I have some objections to “hate crime“ legislation, generally speaking just about every hate crime includes an underlying existing crime such as assault or battery, which of course are already illegal. Very recently congress passed anti-hate crime legislation providing protections to and harsher penalties for crimes against Asians and Pacific Islanders after several acts of violence surrounding unfounded accusations about the COVID-19 outbreak occurred.
Putting aside the absurdity of blaming Asian people in this country for spreading a virus that originated on a different continent, why would Pacific Islanders be in that group? Wuhan province isn’t exactly a Pacific Island. I suppose there is no logic, or at least no rational logic when it comes to hateful people.
The challenge we have is that our Congress seems to lack logic in its own right. Admittedly I find myself in a bit of an uncomfortable position here, these days it doesn’t seem like a great decision to argue against the passage of hate crime laws… But here we are. I want to believe in the good intentions of the people advocating for and passing these laws. I want to believe that their intentions are to prevent innocent people from being hurt by hateful behavior; a notion that I think everyone agrees with in principle.
The concern with these laws is that they don’t seem to serve a useful purpose other than allowing the legislators who passed them to talk about how progressive their thoughts are. These laws however almost never address the societal inequities and cultural ignorance that are frequently at the root of bad behavior. These laws don’t educate the ignorant, or protect the vulnerable, they only punish the guilty more harshly. The vague language around “rehabilitation” included in the Senate Bill doesn’t inspire confidence that this will in any way prevent innocent people from being hurt. It strikes me as remarkably unlikely that the people who perpetrated the crimes mentioned above didn’t know their behavior was illegal. They didn’t seem particularly concerned with the consequences regardless of what they were. Passing laws with harsher penalties is not a long-term (or short term really) solution to stopping the violence.
This is another example where the press is also complicit, because many major media outlets when reporting on this type of legislation tout it as a victory without any cross examination of exactly what this law will do to prevent violence in the future. Incidentally, considering that “a harsher punishment is almost never a deterrent to a crime” is the basis for many liberal minded people’s (mine as well) case for ending mandatory minimum prison sentences; that seems a tad hypocritical my liberal brothers and sisters.
Those same media outlets frequently report on backsliding democracies, and there are no shortage of examples of them in eastern Europe, South America, and of course China. Without a question these countries can be dangerous, generally speaking they have, in a position of power, a despot of some kind, and most importantly an impoverished exploited population. Definitely something we need to keep an eye on, particularly if they start rapid militarization.
What is much less reported on, though no less a reality, is the newfound trend of modern “progressive” nations deliberately infringing upon the rights of its citizens, often with the consent of the majority of those citizens. For instance, there are variations of hate speech laws in countries on every continent, but the ones to focus on in my mind are Germany and Canada. Germany because they have a prominent fascist regime in their national history and it surprises me that they would restrict any speech at all, even speech that we would all agree is hateful.
Canada is a more interesting case, because Canadians as a group are generally more liberal socially than Americans, so it’s surprising to see a country that sings about how strong and free it is, wanting to restrict free-speech. Fighting the government censoring speech has been a large part of far left liberal counterculture since the hippies of the 1960s. But more and more nations are making the use of certain words punishable by criminal penalty.
For the second time in this piece I find myself in the unenviable position of having to defend something we all generally agree is bad. That being hateful speech, I certainly don’t advocate people speaking hatefully, but as a matter of principle I have to oppose any law that makes the free exchange of ANY ideas illegal in ANY way. That speech could cause harm I know, but I believe that vigilance is a price you must pay for freedom.
Just like the hate speech laws, hate crime laws have unfortunate consequences. The intention of protecting minorities is undermined by effectively changing criminal penalties based on the demographics of the person the crime is committed against. These laws only provide convenient talking points for phony liberals and “progressive” conservatives who now can say they have done “something” to address the acts of violence.
Laws need to be passed that provide equal protection to all citizens. Special accommodations should be made for people due to age, infirmity, disability, etc. But I would greatly prefer that all of the rest of us be treated the same, all crimes committed against us be prosecuted the same, with all convictions and sentences being the same. I’m not delusional, I know that is a bit of an idyllic presentation of what the world could be. But that’s the direction I want my country to go.
When it comes right down to it I just don’t want to give the government that much power. To be able to decide what is and isn’t considered hateful. To be able to decide what speech is or isn’t allowed. To be able to decide whose crimes are more serious than others because of our demographic differences. I want justice to be blind, and let each defendant have their day in court, all equal in the eyes of the law.
Major reform is needed, and meaningful change to the way our judicial system works has to happen, but hate crime laws are not part of the solution.