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Punishing “Hate”

March 21, 2000

The “progressive” community — news media, politicians, and various moralists at large — is in a lather about “hate crimes,” demanding federal legislation to combat them. The trouble is that nobody seems to know exactly what they are.

There are of course notorious and stereotypical examples — racial lynchings, gang murders of homosexuals — about which there is no room for doubt. But when we move to other cases, we find ambiguity. If one man kills another in a rage over a homosexual advance, is that a “hate” crime? What if a father kills a pedophile who has tried to seduce his child? Would that be a “hate” crime?

The very word hate has become tendentious. White murders of blacks may receive nationwide attention as hate crimes, but black murders of whites — which are far more numerous — are rarely treated as hate crimes; seldom do the media describe them as “racially motivated.” When a six-year-old fatally shot a classmate in Flint, Michigan, recently, the media tried to conceal the fact that the killer was black and the victim white. And maybe race had nothing to do with it. But on the same day, a black man in Pittsburgh went on a violent spree, killing several whites at random after announcing his intention to shoot white people, and there was no media uproar about racial hatred, such as we have come to expect when whites commit “racially motivated” violence.

In fact, progressive-minded folks consider it hateful to call attention to such obvious facts about interracial crime. They like to remind us that America is a particularly violent country, but they refuse to recognize the amazing disparity between blacks and other races. The least violent states — the Dakotas, for example — are those that are virtually all white; their crime rates are as low as those of Norway and Japan. I’m probably committing a hate crime by noticing this fact.

Gay rights groups consider themselves victims of hate merely because most people consider homosexual acts immoral and disgusting. They call Dr. Laura Schlessinger “the queen of hate radio” because she has called them “sexual deviants.” But it’s clear that they hate her far more bitterly than she hates them, and they are waging a campaign to prevent her from getting a television show.

[Breaker quote: The 
hateful war on 'hate crimes']In fact it would be hard to find a more hate-crazed group than the gay rights movement as a whole. It hates any religion that condemns sodomy, dismissing a moral code as old as Moses as “bigotry”; it desecrates churches and delights in obscene insults against Catholic prelates like New York’s Cardinal O’Connor, without rebuke from the progressive-minded. While demanding tolerance, it displays none of its own. There is no better evidence of its own sense of defilement than its love of defiling others; self-respecting people don’t behave with such an utter lack of dignity. The civil rights movement wouldn’t have succeeded if its leaders had mooned those Southern sheriffs.

Many of the people who like to bemoan hate actually thrive on it. They ascribe it to their enemies with a priggish confidence that they are immune to it, no matter how vile their own conduct is.

President Clinton constantly insists that “the things that unite us” must take precedence over “the things that divide us.” But the things that divide us may be important principles, which it’s unfair and unrealistic to equate with hate. Even Christ said, “I bring not peace, but a sword.” His words could be shockingly “divisive,” as we now say. After 2,000 years, they still are.

Despite his platitudinous sanctimony, Clinton himself is quite a hate-monger, but he incites hate against political targets rather than racial groups: the special prosecutor, conservative talk radio hosts (who he said inspired the Oklahoma City bombing), the tobacco industry, the National Rifle Association. Since he does this in the name of protecting “our children,” he gets away with it. The trick, of course, is to make hate sound like love.

The concept of hate crimes is too nebulous, too subject to arbitrary application, to be a useful legal category. It’s sufficient that murder is already a crime; especially heinous murders can be punished appropriately under existing laws. There is no need to give the state more discretionary power than it already has.

Joseph Sobran

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