Citing recent killings in Arkansas, Kansas and the nation’s capital, Attorney General Eric Holder on Tuesday said new hate crimes law were needed to stop what he called “violence masquerading as political activism.”

The attorney general’s call for Congress to act came as a civil rights coalition said there has been a surge in white supremacist activity since the election of the first African-American president and the economic downturn.

“Over the last several weeks, we have witnessed brazen acts of violence committed in places that many would have considered unthinkable,” Holder told the Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs.

source

Is this legislating thinking? Or is it legislating stupidity?

Comments

  1. #1 steve s
    June 22, 2009

    The guy who killed Tiller committed 1st degree murder. The death penalty obviously wasn’t enough to dissuade him. Why would we think a hate-crime law would?

  2. #2 Dale
    June 23, 2009

    Hate crime laws don’t actually address anything of consequence.

    At most, they only criminalize thoughts, organizationally abrogating the right to believe as one wishes, however ignorant that belief may be.

    Let’s take the case of someone being murdered. In what manner does the motivation of the murderer really make a difference to the family of the murdered? If you murder someone to rob them, or because you’re a moron and dislike the (race / sex / orientation) of your victim, there’s no logic in having different punishments. Murder is murder, pure and simple. Punish it accordingly, regardless of what the moron committing the murder was thinking at the time.

    Those who exhibit hate, etc. for someone because of some ostensible personal or ideological characteristic are clearly idiots, but they *do* have the right to be an idiot, however reprehensible that view may be. The alternative is to start building the petard upon which we will all be hung, because once you open that box, it becomes all too easy to start applying it wherever you want, regardless of merit or harm, and sooner or later, it will be your beliefs that are hung.

    Freedom really does mean freedom, whether you like it or not. If you believe that you have the right to what you believe, you cannot, in good conscience, deny that same freedom to those who disagree with you, even if they are morons or politicians (morons who managed to get elected).

  3. #3 steve s
    June 23, 2009

    No, intent, mental state, motivation, does matter in whether or not something is a crime, and how serious the crime is. It’s the difference between manslaughter and murder one, for example. Consideration of mental state is a very basic and well-established feature of the law, and has been recognized for centuries. From wikipedia:

    Mens Rea:

    In criminal law, mens rea – the Latin term for “guilty mind”[1] – is usually one of the necessary elements of a crime. The standard common law test of criminal liability is usually expressed in the Latin phrase, actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea, which means that “the act does not make a person guilty unless the mind is also guilty”. Thus, in jurisdictions with due process, there must be an actus reus accompanied by some level of mens rea to constitute the crime with which the defendant is charged (see the technical requirement of concurrence). The Criminal Law does not usually apply to a person who has acted with the absence of mental fault; this is a general rule.

    While I don’t support hate crime legislation in general, it’s not true that they represent some new expansion of the law into the realm of thoughtcrime.

  4. #4 Paul Browne
    June 23, 2009

    I tend to agree with Steve on this, some murders and other attacks such as arson etc.) are worse than others because they are not just intended as an attack on the victim but as an attack on a whole section of society. Such crimes have the potential to do damage that extends far beyond the victim and their family and friends, and when they are associated with hate campaigns, however loosly organized, they constitute a threat to the stability of society. We have to send a signal that ideologies that tolerate such methods will not be tolerated.

    I do wonder why Eric Holder is using the term “hate crime” when in some instances, notably the murder of Dr. Tiller, the crimes are clearly part of an ongoing terrorist campaign (also involving arson etc). Or do the terrorists need to use an acronym before the government will call them terrorists?

  5. #5 Bill James
    June 23, 2009

    In response to steve s:

    You brought up Mens Rea in a previous thread and I looked into that including the wikipedia article cited. Hate – an emotional state – does seem well covered in the law already. Which leads to the next question: purpose of hate crime legislation?

    In general response:

    It would be good to actually read the pending ‘hate crimes’ bill and if Greg posted a link I missed it. I’ll search at next opportunity but if someone has it, please post.

    The overall concern I have is specialty legislation aimed at specific groups thereby introducing inequality under the law. This was eluded to in the previous thread when I asked if “hate crime legislation makes good law.”

    On cursory introspection given the nature of the bill and recent comments by our nations Attorney General, that what is being brought before the people is a presentation bolstering the case in specific instance, for the circumstantial suppression of speech as suffocated under the weight of guilt by implication, allegation by association and incidental complicity held in evidence but for a confluence of corrosive reasoning in provocation of susceptible minds motivated to criminality.

    I can understand why some would consider this an expansion of law into the realm of thought crime. We do seem to inch ever closer. Nevertheless, we see the Attorney General and the Justice Department take every opportunity to increase their scope of authority and sphere of influence, with the power of oppression but a chilling consequence. So I question if this is necessary? Or desirable? And if so, by whom? For what purpose? Ultimately.

  6. #6 Greg Laden
    June 23, 2009

    The philosophy of what is wrong (with people, society) and how the law is structures are not independent but they are not coordinated either. For this reason (and other reasons) we can argue forever about what makes sense and our arguments are little more than mental masturbation. The law is at least in part (large part, I would say) an organic process that we don’t get to rewrite. This is relevant here simply becasue the addition of new kinds of laws do serve an organic purpose but also can seem like better ideas at the time than they turn out to be.

    I’m not making an argument for or against hate crime legislation (see * below) but I’ll throw these items out for consideration.

    1) Federal Hate Crime Legislation (HCL), or for that matter any federal legislation that parallels state legislation, can serve the purpose of bringing federal resources to bear on a crime. Most day to day felonies are prosecuted as state crimes. After decades of this, it is quite possible to look at the situation and say … “if we could make a new law that covers that is missing, normalizes what is quirky, and mandates federal resources be spent, then we could get xyz results.”

    2) Having any federal law that parallels but expands on existing law for a special group has historically been important. Our system can become utterly bogged down in the mistreatment of a particular group. Saying that black people would no longer be slaves resulted in Jim Crow laws. Saying that one black person = one anyoldkinda person when it came to a vote resulted in local legislation to disallow blacks from voting (the tests of the 1950s and 1960s). And so on. It took “thought laws” to stop this zombie effects whereby racist laws and practices simply kept coming back and coming back and coming back.

    3) Sometimes (not here in our comments and discussion, but elsewhere on the internet and I expect them to show up any time now) anti hate crime rhetoric is linked to strategies such as we are seeing with the Seatle Power utility LGBTQFC maneno whereby some yahoo is claiming to be a “civil rights advocate” because he has anti-gay politics and leanings that he feel needs to be protected. An organization like the KKK is not illegal unless there is some kind of anti-hate legislation. Perhaps we don’t want to illegalize the KKK because the next thing you know we’ll be locking up all the kittens. It’s a fine line after all. But if the range of KKK activities from murder to cross burning to harassment etc. is seen under the old lawas vs. newer civil rights laws, there is a big difference and police have been able to do more to limit such obvious hate groups with newer laws.

    *A troll technique that we could see coming is the argument over what I think or what I’m arguing for or against. Repeated adducement of evidence that I really am arguing a certain thing, semantic bullying of anyone, and general voice squashing will all be considered off topic and the troll will be politely (or not so politely) asked to stop. He won’t. And then he’ll be gone. (I’m starting to internally articulate what really annoys me about certain trolls and related blog policy. I figure two or three years of blogging is a good time to start considering the nature of the beast.)

  7. #7 Stephanie Z
    June 23, 2009

    No, Bill, Greg didn’t post a link to the text of the bill. I did that in my first comment in the other thread you’re referring to.

    How are the squirrels?

  8. #8 the real meme
    June 23, 2009

    So would we include the anarchist group the ‘Black Bloc’ in that discussion? They have been subverting peaceful protest for years, and perpetuating the myth of the violent protester at every opportunity.

    One thing about black racism though, is that when white victims of black crime report it, they seldom have the language to describe it as a ‘hate crime’, largely because they are so burdened with white guilt. As one person said on the Craigslist Rants and Raves section the other day:

    “Since I live in the inner city and I’m black, I’ll give your lilly white ass the skinny on how people think and feel in the inner city.

    They hate you. They see you as a source of easy money because you’re white, timid and you give up easily. If you try to act “cool” with them, they’ll pretend to be your friend, but in reality, they fucking will rob you blind. For the most part, they don’t like you. If one of them decides to like you for who you are rather than what you are, their friends will try to hurt you and your new friend.

    Again. For the most part, they hate you. The ones that are hard working like you because they’re also frustrated at the anti-intellectualism and racism from mainstream black America. A few of the nutcase hard working ones worship you.

    Most people in the inner city are anti-intellectual and they’re violent. Way back in the late 60s, some left leaning “black liberation” types radicalized the black American and turned them all violent. Before, civil rights were a right-leaning issue because most Democrats hated the fact that “Negros” were competing against them and couldn’t accept the fact that many of those “Negros” were hard workers that pulled themselves from their bootstraps and told the racist society of that day to suck it.

    But the American left radicalized the black community to the point where they think that violence, shaming language towards whites, and anti-intellectualism is going to get them far instead of hard work, persistence and innovative thought. Because of that culture of violence and outright hatred towards whites, they will rob you and they won’t think anything of it.

    Again, may I repeat, they hate you. Many black people hate me because instead of believing in this culture of blaming white people, I only try to be the hardest, most honest worker I can be, I hate individuals rather than races and I don’t try to think that anything’s owed to me.”

    Greg, sorry to hear about your reconsideration of your troll policy. It seems to me that you might have been influenced by the definition of ‘troll’ that can be found in the Entitled WhiteWomans Rhetorical Dictionary…
    In other opinions:
    http://books.google.com/books?id=uYZUL2EXhVAC&pg=PA33&lpg=PA33&dq=white+womans+privilege&source=bl&ots=FlpjQeo4x0&sig=HJ_qa0rkIPRLUc1dd71rc-LFTtI&hl=en&ei=uRBBSseeLom-Mpz_gdII&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2

  9. #9 Moebius
    June 23, 2009

    Currently we have left-wing radicals charged with “domestic terrorism” serving ten or twenty year prison sentences for acts of property destruction. These right-wing political murders should, at the very least, be classified under the same category. Scott Roeder was charged with first degree murder which means he could get parole after twenty years. However, because he’s allegedly mentally ill, he might get a reduced sentence. This is hypocrisy of the highest degree.

  10. #10 Greg Laden
    June 23, 2009

    Real: What I’m considering is not allowing people to systematically take over threads for the specific purpose of shutting other people up with endless boring and senseless ranting about semantics, telling people what they “really said” or “really meant” and so on and so forth. That is an intentional rhetorical technique designed to cause a person’s point of view, and voice, to be lost. It is the same exact thing as sticking your fingers in your ears and shouting “Bla bla bla!” at the top of your lungs whenever anyone else in the group starts to speak.

    So far, in the history of this blog, there have been two people who have commented here a fair number of times AND taken this on as their main approach.

    This is 100% NOT about what people’s opinions are. In fact, I probably agree with 90% of what one of those commenters says, and half of the other’s comments.

    This is 99% NOT about how a commenter approaches the issue. There is a lot of diversity here in that regard. It is about only this one thing. The finger in the ears “bla bla bla” troll, or, FIEBBBT for short. I’m pretty sure I’ve decied that FIEBBT’s have to not comment here.

    Well, actually, they can comment here. But they have to get past my spam software and anything they say tht is FIEBBT in nature will be summarily deleted.

    Moebius: Exactly.

  11. #11 the real meme
    June 23, 2009

    Greg: Thanks for that reasoned explanation. The first thing that came to mind was Jason Thiebault and Rystefn ranting back and forth in an ego charged pee-pistol contest, looking into the reflection in the bucket for themselves…

    On a personal note: thanks for that definition of a “finger in the ears “bla bla bla” troll, or, FIEBBBT for short”

    I never knew what I should call her when she did that.

  12. #12 Greg Laden
    June 23, 2009

    it can be a verb. You can get Fiebb’d

  13. #13 catgirl
    June 23, 2009

    When it comes to committing crimes, motive really does matter. People who kill for one reason may be more likely to re-offend than someone who kills for a different reason. Also, some crimes have an impact on more people than just the victim. That’s why terrorism is considered different than just plain murder. It’s not just murder, it’s a threat for even more murders to come. Hate crimes are meant to send a message and intimidate and entire groups of people.

    It would be really wonderful if murder were just murder, and that’s it. But the world is complex and it’s not that simple. If someone kills another person by accident, it’s not murder. If someone kills another person by accident due to their own recklessness or negligence, it might be homicide. If a doctor helps a terminally ill patient commit suicide, they don’t deserve the same punishment as someone who kills their child for insurance money. The list goes on.

  14. #14 the real meme
    June 23, 2009

    Moebius: I am not sure that those destruction to property left wingers are so harmless. The black bloc, et al diminish the force of actual non-violent peaceful protest, and in some way, that makes them accessory to the murder of dissent. Or in this case that of a murdered abortion doctor versus the right of all peaceful protesters. The right of an individual versus the rights of all.

  15. #15 seks izle
    June 23, 2009

    All eyes are on Iran as young people struggle for basic freedoms: to assemble, to speak freely, to participate in civil society regardless of gender. It’s a struggle not special to Iran. For some Americans, winning those rights is within recent memory

  16. #16 the real meme
    June 23, 2009

    Good point–She was so fiebbbed in that way. Even if that is kind of FIEBBBT’d-UP. I was fiebbbt’d for being there in the first place; maybe kind of selfish at the time, hurt, or just tired of fiebbb’ing around…

  17. #17 Jason Thibeault
    June 23, 2009

    Hey, if I’m off point, I can take a cuff upside the head for it. You can even call me out by name, if you really are talking about me, as Meme suggests.

    My main problem is I get sucked into exactly that type of argumentation — I convince myself that I can beat the troll at his own semantics game. I’m usually pretty certain that I’m not totally misinterpreting what their points might be, but instead of asking, I summarize what I understand the argument to be and counter. This obviously leads to “no, what I really meant was blah”, then side-arguments on why my rebuttal would have been wrong anyway.

    For my part in letting the conversations spiral out of control, I apologize.

  18. #18 Jason Thibeault
    June 23, 2009

    Catgirl is absolutely right — nuance is everything, so intent is extraordinarily important in such cases. Frankly, I wouldn’t cry if hate crimes got lumped into the terrorism category, since they have the same ultimate goal — to subject a whole group of people to terror by attacking one subset of that group.

    It’s funny that the same right-wingers that are all too willing to use terrorism as a boogeyman have no capability for self-reflection when it comes to their rhetoric against such subsets of society as homosexuals and liberals and abortion doctors.

  19. #19 the real meme
    June 23, 2009

    “I convince myself that I can beat the troll at his own semantics game”
    Nice self assessment, Jason. I was really talking about you, and thanks for your non-flammable, and highly accountable response.

    We call that ‘game’ “game calls game” where I came from. Trouble was, all the game players ended up dead, imprisoned, or otherwise just plain old fiebbb’t-up somehow.

    I might only add that you “get sucked in” because you seem utterly presumptuous as to who and what a troll is, and that leads you to bad judgment rather than listening between the lines and making reasoned responses. Maybe that need to please and fit in actually squeezes you out.

  20. #20 Jason Thibeault
    June 23, 2009

    I know YOU were talking about me, Meme — you said my name. I was more wondering whether GREG was thinking about me specifically. It’s his house, after all, and if I’m wrecking the china, I’d like to be told so directly.

    As for being presumptuous — well, that whole argument with Rystefn happened before I had any idea that he was trolling. We clashed because I thought he was earnestly saying the things he was saying, unaware as to how much it chafed on everyone. Except that he was quite aware that he was trolling.

    I don’t much think I’m trying to fit in. I’ve said some pretty inflammatory things myself. I just happen to find a good deal of what Greg writes to be pretty engaging, and I can’t help but get involved in the discussion, no matter how good or bad I come off in the process (and there has certainly been “bad”). If that seems like a need to please and to fit in to you, well, I’m not sure how — maybe by virtue of the fact that I was just complementary to the blog owner, thus appearing to be sycophantic?

    Anyway, this is off topic. And I should be cuffed for letting Meme drag me off topic.

  21. #21 Greg Laden
    June 23, 2009

    Nobody here talking is being asked to stop talking.

  22. #22 Joshua Zelinsky
    June 23, 2009

    Note that the legal profession has become much less certain about the use of motivation in determining severity of crimes in the last few years. That’s why a number of US states (such as Connecticut) have removed the distinction between first degree and second degree murder.

    If one is going to argue for strong hate crimes laws I don’t think one can make an argument based on deterrence. However, there are other arguments that still work: First, someone committing hate crimes is much less likely to be rehabilitated. So keeping such people away from society makes sense as they continue to be risks much more than most other criminals. Second, severe sentences for hate crimes makes an important statement as a society that we find such crimes particularly reprehensible.

    I don’t however think that adding additional hate crimes laws will substantially reduce the amount of “violence masquerading as political activism.”

  23. #23 the real meme
    June 23, 2009

    There goes Jason, bringing it all back to Jason. What an sycophantic, and unaccountable little shit you are when you say “letting Meme drag me off topic.”

    Dude, you sound like the borderline personality girlfriend from hell “you ::made me:: do it” not ” I did it because,” or “I said this in response to that.” Isn’t there some other way you can generate a hit or two for your onanist blog other than accusing others of being trolls?

    You fiebbb’t up little troll you.

  24. #24 Jason Thibeault
    June 23, 2009

    Joshua: there’s probably a lot of good reasons legal types are loath to have to argue motivation behind crimes, much of which stemming from the human condition and how hard it is to prove a person’s intent without them admitting it freely. And who would admit to something that’s going to double or triple your sentence? (At least, if you have a lawyer around.)

    That said, both of the arguments you’ve given regarding rehabilitation and making a statement could easily be covered if terrorism laws were expanded to include attacks on minority groups — while the targets aren’t necessarily political, they’re carried out with the same intent. Especially since “violence masquerading as political activism” actually expressly implies that the cases Greg’s talking about are political in nature, thus they’d fit nicely under these existing laws with the laws completely unaltered.

    Meme: lolwut?

  25. #25 the real meme
    June 23, 2009

    Moebius , I think it is dangerous to diminish the validity of the insanity defense even in cases where we despise the perpetrators. There are legitimate mental disorders that people have that contribute to such cases as this, and those disorders are often under/un-diagnosed in small communities, and in populations like white G–luvin’ hill folk who are under-served by the health care system.

    Worse, males are particularly less-likely to self diagnose, or be recognized in the spectrum disorders.

    Jason: There YOU go again. On topic,on topic, young brother–take your Ritalin, with a grain of “sense of humor”…

  26. #26 DuWayne
    June 24, 2009

    Moebius -

    I have to concur with Real – men are terrible at even recognizing the symptoms mental illness, much less seeking help when they do. There are a lot of really fucked up people running around out there, who really would do well to get into therapy and get psychiatric help.

    And in all honesty, while I tend to think that Tiller’s murder was intended as a terrorist act, the nut who shot him indicated he’s probably seriously mentally ill. That doesn’t necessarily mean that he should get put into a hospital instead of prison – he is a terrorist and mentally ill or not, prison is where terrorists belong. But there is probably no “supposedly” about it.

    I mention this not to excuse him, but because this case is another indication that we really need to deal with the serious problems fostered by archetypal male gender constructs. There are a lot of men who really need help and were they to get it, they would be less likely to commit terrorist acts like this one. And I think the lefty terrorists you speak of are in much the same straights.

    There is no reason that political idealism that has turned into despair, must inherently then turn to terrorism. It is not only not rational, it is indicative of a pathological need to vent frustration. It is the same helplessness and fanaticism that causes young people – mostly male, to strap bombs to their chests and blow shit up.

    But then, that is how boys are taught to be as men. Lashing out is generally considered reasonable, as long as the cause it just. We’re basically creating social pathologies that, when coupled with actual neurological propensities, can easily turn to violent fear mongering.

  27. #27 the real meme
    June 25, 2009

    DuW-W-Wayne?? Agreeing with me? I had better reverse my position here….

    JK. In all seriousness, I agree that we create in males an entire set of dysfunctional behaviors, ans worse, males are treated with ominously Pavlovian disregard for our actual needs and in complete disregard for our basic human rights.

    The one thing I disagree with you on is that this man–IF he is actually mentally ill–deserves to be put into a hospital prison environment, and treated appropriately.

    Anecdote .-.-.. . . – : in the last several years I was ( for various reasons I will not discus here) involved with a so-called terrorist, and all of the drama that goes along with the FBI making work for themselves. In a nutshell, it was a Somali guy who taught English overseas, and he was accused of lending material support to terrorism, and recently, after five years of relatively baseless incarceration( speedy trial my ass)he took a plea deal.

    Funny thing about it was this–everyone he actually knew or called a friend or associate knew him as a librarian, a tutor, and as a father who was going to college to learn some life skills, but the local Somali’s who knew him all felt that he likely had “bu’ufis” or “desert madness” meaning that he had been raised on a camel, in the hot sun, and likely suffered from what we would call depression with psychotic features. those features included ‘religious speech and ideation”, etc.
    But by all accounts his worst most dangerous action while we knew him was that he was a ” very bad driver”.
    But he is not, and was not a terrorist.He was an English teacher.