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The Genesis of Thought Crime
If H.R. 1592 is made law, mind what you say about anyone. Better yet, don’t even think of saying anything.

[May 16, 2007]

In discussing the invalidity of the notion of "hate crimes" in "The Democrats’ Assault on Freedom of Speech" (May 10), in connection with the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007 passed by the House of Representatives (H.R. 1592), I remarked: "A motive is not a crime, but an action is."

To elaborate on that observation, a motive cannot be a crime, but an action founded or based on it can be a crime. In a court of law, a motive can explain an action, but can no more be punishable than denying the existence of God, or man-caused global warming, or the link between actual violent crime and simulated violence in television programming and in movies. In a court of law governed by objective law, determining a motive for a crime is merely a means of explicating the otherwise inexplicable.

A competent trial lawyer can establish a motive and link it to evidence of murder, assault or even fraud (and this can include intent or conspiracy to commit it), but his key task is to prove a defendant’s criminal actions, not his motivation or character. He would not end his summation to a jury by asking it to find a defendant guilty of committing murder because he hated the victim’s looks or religion or odd behavior, but rather by asking it to find the defendant guilty of murder, based on the evidence he has presented to the court.

Under objective law, a prosecutor must prove the initiation of physical force. In the end, for the jury to decide on the validity of the evidence that the defendant was responsible for proven actions, the motive as established by the prosecution should be contributory for context setting purposes, but remain extraneous to the verdict.

One may feel the same level of contempt for a person who has committed a crime based on his hatred of his victim’s race, gender, religion and so on, as one might feel for someone who has not committed a crime but who holds the same irrational premises.

Objective criminal law, based on proving the initiation of force, is the best guarantor of justice. Although it was long in coming, stalled in part by the news media’s encouragement of lynch mobs and giving free publicity to notorious advocates of hate crime law, the exoneration of the three lacrosse players in the Duke University rape case in North Carolina is an instance of reason and reality trumping emotionalism and wishful thinking. Former District Attorney Nifong should not only be disbarred, but he should be indicted for conspiring to frame innocent men for political "hate crime" reasons.

On the other hand, remember what happened to Imus, the radio personality, who made some disparaging remarks about a women’s basketball team, remarks that hate crime law advocates blew out of proportion to their significance and, also with the cooperation of the news media (which played them on air repeatedly), made them a national issue. I am no fan of Imus, and I doubt that either I or the members of the basketball team or the nation would have known about his "insulting" remarks, had not some aspiring gauleiters decided to test the waters.

This commentary will examine the phenomenon of "hate crime" a little more closely.

The first and most crucial thing to grasp about what can be deemed a "hate crime" is that it is, essentially, a political crime. If this country were still ruled by objective law; if Congress fulfilled its proper role as a protector of individual rights; and if the Supreme Court acted to uphold the legitimate individual rights-based philosophy of the Constitution; then pressure and special interest groups would have no chance of having laws enacted that favored them at the expense of others. In short, they would have no political power to instigate the passage of fiat legislation.

The only crime that could legitimately be called "political" would be treason, that is, actions taken to aid and/or comfort the enemies of the United States.

But every piece of "public policy" legislation in this country, from Social Security, to Medicare, to banking laws, to disability laws, to anti-discrimination, racial and gender quota laws – the list is long and growing longer – is a consequence of political pull and a measure of the corruptive influence of collectivism.

George F. Will, in his May 13th column in The Washington Post, "No end to hate-crime laws," observed:

"The federal hate-crime law, enacted in 1968, enhanced punishments only for crimes against persons engaged in a federally protected activity, such as voting. H.R. 1592 would extend special federal protections to persons who are crime victims because of their race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or disability."

Will goes on to cite a statistic:

"Hate crimes are seven one-hundredths of one percent of all crimes, and 60.5 percent of them consist of vandalism (e.g., graffiti) or intimidation (e.g., verbal abuse)."

Will does not dwell on it, perhaps because he does not see it, but in that statistic lies the peril. Given the rate of disintegration of objective law, what is to stop pressure groups and legislators from extending the range of "hate crime" from the vandalism of graffiti on the door of a synagogue or church, and intimidation by "verbal abuse," to unflattering or disparaging portrayals of "protected" groups in movies or on television, and to intimidation or disparagement of them in the printed word?

What will stop the blurring of distinctions between disparagement, defamation, slander and libel? What federal, state or local judge will uphold the conceptual lines between them at the risk of being politically incorrect and inviting the wrath of the liberal left and pressure groups?

Well, nothing and no one. Rational jurisprudence is unraveling apace with freedom of speech.

Fox Television’s "24" toned down its anti-jihadist plots at the behest of CAIR. No major American newspaper or public figure came to the defense of the Danish cartoonists. And Dr. John Lewis last month was subjected to actions of intimidating thugs at George Mason University for daring to criticize Islamists. Do not forget that other courageous individuals, such as Daniel Pipes, Steve Emerson, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and other critics of Islam, can appear at universities and other public forums only after the most stringent security measures have been taken.

All this occurred while H.R. 1592 incubated in the House.

But Muslims would not be the only beneficiaries of H.R. 1592. What rankles conservatives more than its potential to further abridge the First Amendment is that it singles out for special protection homosexuals, the "trans-gendered," and "cross-dressers," all "sinners" by conservative moral criteria. Do not expect conservatives to defend the First Amendment with any important, fundamental arguments.

For example, the possibility that H.R. 1592 would have any connection to the abridgement of the First Amendment is nowhere mentioned in George Will’s column. He skirts the issue – "Hate-crime laws…mandate enhanced punishments for crimes committed because of thoughts that government especially disapproves."

In fact, Christian activists no more like seeing God’s or Christ’s name besmirched or hearing it taken in vain than do Muslims Allah’s or Mohammad’s. It is a certainty that they, too, will avail themselves of the power of H.R. 1592, if it becomes law, to punish or gag anyone who dares offend their religious feelings or sensibilities, as well.

And if you bruise the feelings or "violently" injure the "self esteem" of the obese, the elderly, the disabled, the under-achievers, the Indians, the "challenged" of any persuasion, or of any of the other gangs of protected ciphers and manqués, they would have the "right" to take a crack at you, too.

In the film "Twelve Angry Men" (the superior 1957 version), one of the deliberating jurors, a last holdout against acquittal, is certain that the young defendant (of apparent Hispanic origin, there is a single brief shot of him in the whole film) brutally murdered his father, because such behavior, he asserts, fits "his type. You know. Their type." Most of the other jurors turn their backs on him in disgust.

Half a century later, the implicit moral code of those fellow jurors has undergone an inversion. The revolting irrationalism of the racist juror may be legislated into a federal code that explicitly sanctions the primacy and supremacy of a score of "types" – of every "type" but the individual.

If H.R. 1592 is made law, mind what you say about anyone. Better yet, don’t even think of saying anything, lest you risk the accusation of thought crime. It would be a political crime, whether or not you ever acted on it.

That is thought control. Exercise your First Amendment rights as a private individual or as a public commentator at the peril of committing a crime.

I, for one, will not submit to it.

Edward Cline is the author the Sparrowhawk series of novels set in England and Virginia during the Revolutionary period, the detective novel First Prize, the suspense novel Whisper the Guns and of numerous other published articles, book reviews and essays.


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