The Problem with Hate Crimes — or Perhaps I Should Say ‘Hate Crimes’

Written by Wes Walker on May 17, 2013

But some reasons for animosity are socially acceptable — business executives, for example. Against “The 1%”, even anti-social acts can be dismissed as “protest”, rather than hate, no matter how incendiary the speech or actions.

Imagine a successful businessman, perhaps black or Jewish; were he accosted, by malcontents, what shall we do? Is it race-based, and therefore hate? Envy-based, and therefore “not” hateful? Seriously? It’s assault either way.

And it’s even more insidious when only words are involved. Control of words, as Orwell’s famous “1984” pointed out, is control of thought. Are there words we simply must not say? Are some ideas too dangerous to speak out loud?

Two relevant Canadian cases are worth mentioning. I’ve referenced elsewhere the Supreme Court decision re: Bible as Hate speech. The other is Ezra Levant’s reprinting of the infamous Danish Cartoon in his news magazine. (The only publisher in Canada with the stones to do so.)

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He was brought before a so-called “Human Rights Tribunal” (not part of our legal system) where the defendants are almost universally found “guilty”. He recorded those sessions, where he made a spectacular defense of his free speech: why free people don’t need to justify their words to the State ; why he as a free citizen has a right to say whatever he wants, especially if it is offensive; and why such free speech is absolutely necessary to a free society. [These clips are short, and well worth the watching.]

Here’s what we can do.

Convict people of actual crimes when they are committed, regardless of their motives! Stop looking for subjective “thought crimes” to prosecute, and deal with the crimes themselves. Assault is assault, whatever the reason, for example.

But we also need to leave legal room to say the unpopular thing; to hold the offensive view; to dissent on any and every topic — to be a bigot, even! We must even leave room to be a thoroughly repulsive and horrible person, such as Dan Savage. [Warning: link has explicit language] A truly free society requires it.

Image: Cover of the Communist propaganda pamphlet Race Hatred on Trial [1931]; Workers Library Publishers, New York; source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:31-Race-Hatred-on-Trial.jpg; author: cover art by Ryan Walker; public domain

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