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The Chilling War on "Hate Crimes"

by George Szamuely

The Republican-dominated Senate's passage of the Hate Crimes Prevention Act was entirely to be expected. Politicians salivate at the prospect of increasing the powers of government, arming prosecutors, and throwing yet more people in prison. Hate crimes, Bill Clinton explained, as always mouthing the cliches of the hour, "are not like other crimes because these crimes target people simply because of who they are, and because they strike at the heart of who we are as a nation." Whenever one of these crimes is committed, it creates a tension and a fear that rips at the fabric of community life."

If your crime is motivated by antipathy towards gender, sexual orientation or disabilities then it's a "hate crime" and the federal government will come after you. If, on the other hand, it's motivated by contempt for the overweight, the short, or those with a funny accent you can breathe easy. You only have the state courts to worry about. Homosexuals are more important to the "fabric of community life" than the obese.

Here is a nice contribution to the protection of civil liberties. Washington wants to make double jeopardy the law of the land. If the state courts acquit you, the federal government can step in and try you again. Likewise, if a state judge hands down a sentence that some Janet Reno-like nitwit in the US Attorney's office thinks is too lenient. In hate crimes motive is all-important. So now, in order to prove that a crime was particularly dastardly, the police will be empowered to rummage around among your things to find out what books you read, what magazines you subscribe to, what music you listen to, what web sites you visit, who your friends are, what kind of jokes you like.

In the meantime, the various busybodies who devote their energies to pleading for more Government repression go about drawing up ever expanding lists of "hate groups" and "hate sites" that are so dangerous to our "community life." A recent conference in Berlin on hate speech and the Internet, co-sponsored by the German government and the Simon WiesenthalCenter, demonstrated where this obsession with "hate crimes" is leading us. German Justice Minister Herta Daeubler-Gmelin urged a crackdown on hate speech. "What is forbidden offline, must be forbidden online," she declared chillingly.

Internet companies must make sure they do not sell extremist books or music. And service providers must block web sites that promote hatred. German President Johannes Rau declared that, "We need a framework that sets boundaries for the use of modern information technology. We cannot just stand by and watch while opponents of human rights and those contemptuous of democracy exploit these new technological possibilities." Rabbi Abraham Cooper, of the Wiesenthal Center purred with approval. There were 2000 hate sites on the Internet, he claimed. "We turned to Germany to wake up American-based companies to the fact they had captured the nichemarket in hate," Cooper said. Americans are a little slow in adopting German authoritarian habits. There's still time.

Now one would have though that a United States with a prison population of 2 million, and that executes people at a nice steady clip, is scarcely crying for more prosecutors and extra jail time. Moreover, many states already have hate crimes laws on their books. James Byrd's killers in Texas were sentenced to death. Matthew Shepard's killers got life without parole, and onlyavoided the death sentence through a deal with the victim's parents. "Hate crimes are terrorist acts. They are modern-day lynchings that can easily terrorize whole communities," Teddy Kennedy blusters hysterically.

Actually, the "hate crimes" industry is based on total fraud. The FBI cooks the statistics. Yet even so, the "hate crimes" total is ridiculously paltry. Here is how the FBI manipulation works. If a Mexican-American commits a "hate crime" against a black, that counts as a "hate crime" perpetrated by a white on a black. If, on the other hand, an Italian-American commits a "hate crime" against a Mexican-American, then that counts as a "hate crime" committed by white on a Hispanic. In both cases, the crimes count in the white "hate crimes" ledger. If you are Jewish and commit a "hate crime" against someone from Puerto Rico, that also counts as a white "hate crime" perpetrated on a Hispanic. If, on the other hand, the Puerto Rican turns around and commits a "hate crime" against a Jew, then that counts as a white anti-Jewish "hate crime."Again, both crimes count as white "hate crimes." In other words, the FBI grossly overstates the "hate crimes" numbers perpetrated by whites.

Yet even this dishonesty cannot conceal the absurdity of all the hyperbole about "hate crimes." According to the Justice Department, in 1998 5,295,480 whites and 854,450 blacks were victims of violence. 14 percent of the white victims were attacked by black assailants. And 16.1 percent of the black victims were attacked by white assailants. This means that there were around 137, 500 cases of blacks being victimized by whites-approximately 2.2 percent of the total number of violent assaults for that year. And there were around 741, 360 cases of whites being victimized by blacks-approximately 12 percent of the total. But according to the FBI, the total number of incidents that could be counted as "hate crimes" that year was 7,755. Of these, 2,901 were anti-black crimes, 792 anti-white crimes, 1081 anti-Jewish crimes, 482 anti-Hispanic crimes, and 1260 that were based on sexual orientation.

However, it turns out, that no less than 38 percent of these "hate crimes" amounted to "intimidation." Simple assault accounted for a further 18 percent. The grand total of murders or negligent manslaughter was 13. Intimidation is, of course, a very vague term. People can be intimidated by an insult, an ugly stare, a reluctance to say "Good morning," or the expression of an opinion they disagree with. Yet with all the larding of the statistics, it turns out that blacks still commit a disproportionate number of "hate crimes." According to the FBI, 66 percent of the offenders were white and 17 percent black. "Hate crimes," like "hate speech" epitomize the Clinton era-an era of meaningless symbolism and nasty authoritarianism.

July 4, 2000

George Szamuely is a columnist for the New York Press and Antiwar.com.

 
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