'Hate Speech' Laws Are Just Another Way For Governments To Punish People They Don't Like

from the adding-more-tiers-to-the-'equitable'-justice-system dept

Two recent legislative efforts have been mounted to add police to the rolls of “disadvantaged” citizens in need of the additional shelter of “hate crime” laws. Hate crime laws are immediately problematic. They add additional punishments to criminal acts already punishable under existing laws. It’s exactly the sort of thing justice isn’t meant to be: vindictive. A murder is a murder, whether or not it was propelled by someone’s underlying biases. A threat is a threat, no matter the threatener’s personal views on race, marriage or human sexuality. Adding additional punishments solely because of a perceived motive serves no purpose other than to make those who support these laws feel like past racial/sexual wrongs are slowly being righted. The sinners of the present pay for the sins of the past sinners.

Adding police officers to this mix is not just stupid and completely antithetical to the underlying rationale of “hate crime” laws. It’s also incredibly dangerous. Elizabeth Nolan Brown of Reason takes a look at how hate crime laws are being deployed in other countries. What she’s found is that hate crime laws are like any other: they’re abused most frequently by those in power and deployed inconsistently to further governments’ aims.

The agency tasked with prosecuting hate speech in Kenya is called the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC); it was formed in 2008 to address ethnic conflicts in the nation. Onyando asserts that NCIC has ignored the bulk of complaints it has received and acts “more like an arm of the ruling coalition” than an independent agency, honing in only on those who speak out against the Jubilee Alliance, a coalition established in 2013 to support the candidacy of current President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto.

In this case, the government only cares about hate speech when it’s on the receiving end of the hate. But this selective enforcement isn’t limited to non-Western governments with a history of corruption. It’s also happening in Europe.

Because “hate speech” is not narrowly defined, it’s up to those in power to decide what qualifies as hate and what doesn’t, and often that depends very much on both whom the speaker is and the sympathies of those in power. France has been accused of treating anti-Semitic sentiment with kid gloves while ignoring anti-Muslim expression. In the U.K., a British teenager was arrested after criticizing British military actions in Afghanistan.

So, selective enforcement should work out great when it’s cops who are targeted. Threats against law enforcement officers will be treated as exceptional crimes, even though they’re facially indistinguishable from threats made against non-uniformed individuals or groups.

The government in general is supportive of law enforcement, even when agencies’ track records indicate this trust is unearned. The selective application of hate crime/hate speech laws will almost always favor this particular “protected” group. “Hate crime/speech” sentence enhancements will be piled on top of existing sentence enhancements pertaining to the assault of government employees. Fines and bail amounts will increase dramatically.

In San Francisco, for instance, leaders recently condemned graffiti saying “No More Chinese” as hate speech. The suspected spray painter was charged with 13 crimes, including felony vandalism with a felony hate crime enhancement. “We’re exposing a man to somewhere around six years of jail time for spray painting,” said public defender Yali Corea-Levy. And while bail for felony vandalism is normally set around $25,000, the suspect’s bail awas set at $155,000. Similar outrage has not been summoned in San Fran for street art advocating the killing of hipsters or urging “techie scum” to die.

Our own government has already indicated a willingness to punish speech that “attacks” the home team. It won’t take much to persuade it to use its power against those who take aim — verbally or physically — at law enforcement professionals. These new rights won’t be equally granted. They will be used almost exclusively to ensure groups with considerable amounts of power and protection are given just a little more.

Filed Under: , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “'Hate Speech' Laws Are Just Another Way For Governments To Punish People They Don't Like”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
57 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Weak argument

Yes, you are correct but still a valid argument.

The very idea of all it all is for people to remain vigilant which is completely not happening.

All laws are nothing more than people with power establishing what they do not like, this will never be different at any other time or any other place.

You can concoct all manor of blame or excuses like “separation of church and state” to try to block something you don’t like in a law… but the reality is this. If enough people in power want you marginalized or marching to their orders… you either march or you fight back.

The idea that all religion is bad only creates a cover for the real evil… humanity and it contrived institutions… some do manage to do some good, but when they become trusted… that is moment corruption has become its core and it will be slowly eaten away. Hate Speech is the same… an idea of corruption that breeds and props corruption up. A construct of sheep that live in fear and weakness.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Weak argument

This is factually incorrect.

Before we had laws and separation of powers, governments were absolutely free to destroy any citizen they disliked.

Laws are a way to -PREVENT- the government from simply punishing who they dislike, specifically defining what kinds of behaviors are punishable, and guaranteeing that everything not listed is ok.

Vaguely worded, subjective, overly broad laws, are a way for governments to punish people they don’t like.
It’s why we oppose them.

Anonymous Coward says:

sorry, but no

Yes, adding police to the umbrella of hate crime is problematic.

But hate crime laws speak to motive.
If you beat someone up because you don’t like their hat, that’s a lesser offense than beating someone up because you don’t like the color of their skin.

Just like punishment for homicide hinges on motive.
Will you argue that a traffic death should be adjudicated no differently than a serial killer?

Scott says:

Re: Re: sorry, but no

Hate speech is a slippery slope that can easily surpass the freedom of speech. You aren’t free to say anything and everything you want and throw the blank of “the 1st amendment” over your head when someone has an issue with what you said. The 1st amendment provides for specific instances, outside those instances you don’t have the right to open your mouth and say whatever you want too. That is not how the 1st amendment works. Learn how “your rights” actually work before you’re the next dumb ass dying for a “right” you never had.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: sorry, but no

That’s not how it works in practice, the prosecutor will try and get the biggest sentence they can adding hate crimes if they can.

To use your example if I beat up a person of a different ethnicity from myself because I dislike their hat I’m likely to incur hate crime laws despite my crime being hat motivated. Then it’s just a case of painting me as a filthy racist and giving me double or triple jail time.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: sorry, but no

Will you argue that a traffic death should be adjudicated no differently than a serial killer?

YES
if I kill someone with my car,
it should not matter if I was texting, calling, under the influence of legal or ilegal drugs, happy, sad, tired, disappointed, offended, scared, late for an important government meeting, wearing a badge, a hat,an uniform, naked, wearing a tuxedo, wearing an expensive/cheap car, carrying a bat/gun, my credit ratings, my government happy face points

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: sorry, but no

“Will you argue that a traffic death should be adjudicated no differently than a serial killer?”

Yes, if the person was killed with an “assault vehicle” with a “hollow point” grill and a large capacity magazine.

Thousands of people get away with murder every year, because they commit it with a car instead of a gun.

It’s high time we start a federal registry for car sales (with a 3 day waiting period) to snuff out the “car show” loophole.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: sorry, but no

Hate crime laws have no place in modern society. If someone with malice and forethought kills someone, they have murdered. If someone isn’t paying attention and runs down a pedestrian with their car, they have committed manslaughter.

If I killed you because you had on a Houston Texans hat, would you be any less dead than if I killed you because you were purple?

Finally, they cause division. Anyone left out of the hate crime laws will start screaming that crimes against them aren’t as important as crimes against whatever group the hate crime covers. It causes societal tension.

I’m not saying hate crime laws come with bad intent. I’m saying they don’t really address the core issue and there is no way to fairly apply them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: sorry, but no

…a traffic death should be adjudicated no differently than a serial killer?…

Depends on how you get charged. The punishment for homicide does depend on motive, which is reflected in what charge the prosecution brings. In my area:

1st Degree Murder = prosecution must prove you planned this or intended to do it. In my area this is the only charge that can get the death penalty.

2nd Degree Murder = not planned but rather a ‘spur of the moment’ thing.

Manslaughter = not planned but a malicious or negligent action that resulted in a death.

Involuntary Manslaughter = you did not intend to cause a death but you could not avoid it either.

Vehicular Manslaughter = operation of an automobile caused a death, usually due to maliciousness or negligence.

AFAIK there is no such thing as ‘Involuntary Vehicular Manslaughter’, and 3rd Degree Murder (emotionally charged circumstances) was removed from the books years ago.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: sorry, but no

<>Will you argue that a traffic death should be adjudicated no differently than a serial killer?

If the traffic death was the result of a deliberate attempt to run someone over then yes – of course.

The key here is the word deliberate – which applies to all serial killers and ver few traffic deaths. Motive is not the issue

Wendy Cockcroft says:

Re: Re: Re:

It is an attempt to legislate morality and as Kennedy said, you can’t. Mean people are mean and putting limits on the words they can use or the symbols they are allowed to display in public will NOT make that go away.

You can’t solve an “inside” problem from the outside, people.

aglynn (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

In the event you live in the U.S., do you realize there are still “sundown towns” in states like the Carolinas, where if you happen to be black you’d better get out of town by dark or face physical violence? Should people be allowed to promote or defend that? The problem in this situation is not hate laws as such but their application to protect people least in need of such protection, the people who are themselves the #1 perpetrators of hate crime and the #1 protectors of other perpetrators, i.e. the police.

Anonymous Coward says:

There's already laws to protect cops more then ordinary citizens

The most ironic part about this stupid push is that there’s already laws on the books that give tougher penalties for harming/killing/attempting to kill a cop then doing the same thing to an ordinary person.

If you’ve ever watched political ads at election time you’ll see that politicians often attack each other for not supporting those laws. I’ve seen so many ads saying “[name] voted against tougher penalties for cop killers”.

Bottom line, there’s no need to pretend it’s a hate crime to attack a cop, that just opens up pro-police groups/politicians to public mockery for supporting such laws.

That being said, hate crime laws are still actually needed to protect actual persecuted groups. And despite misinformation about it, hate crime laws DO apply to majority groups like whites, Christians, and men, as long as you can prove a racist like hatred for such groups motivated the criminal to commit the crime.

aglynn (profile) says:

Re: There's already laws to protect cops more then ordinary citizens

Given that you are entirely correct that hate crime laws do apply to majority groups, one has to ask why people like E.O. Wilson, Richard Dawkins etc. are not charged with hate crime? Of course the answer is that, like the police, they are on the side of the privileged, the wealthy and the powerful.

Anonymous Coward says:

Police Hate Crimes Task Force - coming to a city near you!

In cities like New York, things like plain old grafitti (even the kind that easily washes off) can easily get elevated from misdemeanor vandalism to hate crime status. The NYPD even has a dedicated division, the Hate Crimes Task Force, to investigate things like whenever some 13 year old boy chalks a swastica on the sidewalk in front of a jewish synagogue for the amusement of seeing his “crime” get reported in the press. And of course the controversial Church of Scientology has used hate crime statutes against protesters (many of them ex-‘church’ members) to an unbelievable extent, hiring its own lawyers to pressure city police and prosecutors to arrest and charge protesters to the most extreme degree possible for the slightest lapses of good judgement or behavior.

Whenever the police in any city need a dedicated division that mainly investigates rude behavior, empty threats and petty vandalism — while neglecting far more serious crimes — it’s a sure bet that the “hate crimes” will be defined as those thoughts and insults against the very people with the most political power.

The elevation of the police to protected “victim” status and recipient of Hate Crimes benefits should not come as a surprise. Not unlike the libel laws in many countries, the Hate Crime provides a vehicle for the wealthy, well organized and politically powerful to suppress speech that’s critical of them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Police Hate Crimes Task Force - coming to a city near you!

Fortunately the US doesn’t have too many strict laws against rudeness. However, that doesn’t prevent cops from administering their own form of “street justice” — which often includes a heavy dose of “attitude adjustment” to those who exibit the wrong attitude.

http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/video-appears-show-cop-body-slamming-student-s-c-classroom-n451896

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Here is a thought

Pretty much every demographic is already covered by hate crime laws except LGBT people for being LGBT (though some state hate crime laws do cover them).

Majority groups like whites, Christians, men are all covered already under hate crime laws. While hate crime prosecutions for victimizing those groups are much rarer, they do happen. I think the FBI or some other government agency keeps track of such hate crimes & hate crime prosecutions.

There’s no such thing (until now) as hate crime laws that protect people with specific jobs.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Here is a thought

Saying that ‘Majority groups like whites, Christians, men are all covered already under hate crime laws‘ instead of ‘race, religion, and gender‘ is disingenuous in the extreme. It’s a good phrase as a soundbite on TV, but really isn’t fit for use in an actual discussion.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

an addendum to that, When I say illegally. I mean under the constitution. The police did not care they were breaking a law and did not bother to charge the officers that did it. IN fact if I recall they threatened to homeowners with prison time if they pursued it. since it would be exposing an active investigation.

aglynn (profile) says:

Hate Crime Laws

Hate crime laws are meant to protect those still on the wrong side of violent systemic discrimination. For that purpose they are valid. Police officers are not on the wrong side of violent systemic discrimination, in fact they are one of the main perpetrators of it. Applying a law in a situation where it’s radically inapplicable is a massive misuse of that law, but doesn’t invalidate the law when used as intended.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Hate Crime Laws

Hate crime laws are meant to protect those still on the wrong side of violent systemic discrimination. For that purpose they are valid.

No they are not. Ordinary laws, properly applied, will do that just fine. Hate crime laws simply give an unfair advantage to those who, whilst nominally belonging to the disadvantaged group, are in fact wealthy and powerful.

tqk (profile) says:

"... techie scum to die."

I’m a tech. I have always wanted “techie scum” to die. I’ve long tired of cleaning up their messes. If it’s not going to be done right, don’t do it, and if it’s not broken, don’t fix it! “Great, you’re an engineer. Just don’t touch anything!” There are “Sun Certified” engineers out there who can’t list the contents of a directory! Aka, techie scum.

I hope that’s offended enough people, but I’m sure I could improve it if I were begged. Throwing money might help.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...
Loading...