David Neiwert recently left a comment to a post I wrote last week, which touched on the hate crime issue. Because I try to at least make a stab at being fair (possibly a bad idea in blogging) and I’m afraid readers might miss it, I thought it should be addressed in a new post.
Here’s Mr. Neiwert’s comment:

The Supreme Court has always been quite clear in its rulings that hate-crimes laws do not violate the equal-protection clause of the Constitution.
It’s pretty clear why: The laws are written in a way that applies them across all sectors of society.
To illustrate: The four chief categories of bias motivation listed under most hate-crimes laws are race, ethnicity, religion, and sexual orientation.
It doesn’t take much to realize that these are universal categories: everyone has a race, an ethnicity, a religion, a sexual orientation.
And indeed, if you check the FBI’s annual hate-crime statistics, you will see that they are indeed generally applied evenly. Out of the 9,000 or so hate crimes reported every year, nearly 1,000 of them are anti-white hate crimes. Others include a large number of anti-Christian hate crimes, etc. The list goes on. The majority is protected by these laws just as assuredly as minorities.
Raging Bee, you have a very solid handle on this issue. And you argue well too. Thank you.

I disagree with David Neiwert about hate crimes (and also with his assessment of Raging Bee’s argumentative style, for the latter is fond of putting words in my mouth and accusing me of dishonesty for not discussing what he wants discussed).
I keep saying that I am not running a debate forum here, but people who enjoy debates (which they probably imagine that people “win”) don’t seem to hear me.
And now I seem to be tasked (at their insistence) with arguing not with their position, but with that of the Supreme Court.
This is really a bit much. At the risk of being redundant, I do not write this blog to engage in debate or to be told what I must write about (least of all by someone best known in the blogosphere for his repeated attempts to tar Glenn Reynolds with a charge of racism). I don’t have to address anyone’s opinion, answer any commenter, and I am not here to be “accountable” to anyone. Nor is there any rule which says I should. If people disagree, they can say so, and if they don’t like me, they can go elsewhere. I’m not obligated to do anything, even write this blog. I just say what I think, and what I think is my opinion. My opinions are not altered because someone has an opinion to the contrary.
I don’t care whether the opinion to the contrary is held by a commenter, another blogger, or even the Supreme Court.
What David Neiwert accomplished above, by reciting what the Supreme Court may have held (and I am not about to wade through their opinions) was to advance an argument to authority. It ignores the point I am trying to make, which is that I think hate crime laws are tyrannical, and violative of Americans’ right to equal protection under the law. At the risk of stating the obvious, I already know that those in authority disagree with me about hate crime laws. Otherwise, how could there be hate crime laws? Telling me that they disagree with my position on hate crimes is about as relevant as telling me that Leon Kass or his Commission disagrees with me on longevity or stem cells. It’s the sort of thing which might interest people who enjoy debating, but I find it a little tedious.
Without getting into the endless nuances of the Supreme Court’s holdings (which I have no intention of reading), I do think it’s at least fair to point out why I don’t attach much value to their interpretations of the Constitution. Time after time, the Supreme Court has upheld tyranny. Most people are familiar with the infamous Dred Scott decision, which upheld slavery laws, and held that the black man has no rights a white man must respect. There’s Plessy v. Ferguson, which upheld deliberate segregation in accommodation by race. Korematsu v. United States, which upheld the internment of Japanese Americans based on their race. Most recently, in McConnell v. FEC (the McCain-Feingold case), the court upheld restrictions on free speech which had been passed by Congress in direct contravention of the First Amendment.
I recognize that the Supreme Court is an authority, and an authority with great power. But that no more makes them right than Leon Kass’s position makes any of his opinions right.
Interestingly enough, even Neiwert has acknowledged that the Supreme Court can be wrong. In an individual case, what does its wrongness depend on? Apparently, not the “authority” of the Supreme Court itself. The variable seems to be whether or not Mr. Neiwert (or others he thinks are right) agree with it. Such a factor might be persuasive to him and to those who agree with him, but to me it’s superfluous.
I’m sure that if Michelle Malkin (or someone taking a position in favor of internment) were to cite Korematsu in support of such a position, Mr. Neiwert would exclaim that the Supreme Court was wrong. That it reversed itself. Fine. I have just as much right to think the Supreme Court is wrong, and should reverse itself. For what it’s worth, I think they were wrong in Korematsu, wrong in Dred Scott, wrong in Plessy, wrong about McCain Feingold, and wrong about hate crimes.
Let me illustrate by simple example why I think hate crime laws are wrong. I can’t think of a simpler example than one used by David Neiwert: a swastika painted on a synagogue. Neiwert scoffs at the idea that this is mere vandalism:

Harsher sentences traditionally have been assigned to crimes committed with intentions and motivations considered more harmful to society at large.
Now, you may ask, are hate crimes more harmful than the crimes for which, as the editorial points out, there are already laws on the books? Well, ask yourself this: Is a swastika painted on a synagogue the same thing as graffiti scrawled on a downtown wall? Is an assault in which the perpetrators sought out gay or black people to send a “message” the same thing as a bar fight?
Are hate crimes truly different from their parallel crimes? Quantifiably and qualitatively, the answer is yes.

First of all, common sense tells us that a swastika on a synagogue is not the same thing as graffiti scrawled on a downtown wall. Any judge who did not sentence the swastika painter to the maximum term would be derelict in his duty. But that is a sentencing consideration; it doesn’t change the nature of the crime, which (fortunately) manifested itself as graffiti instead of violence. If the legislature made it a crime to paint a swastika on a synagogue (without the consent of the synagogue, of course), that law would not violate equal protection. But criminalizing conduct based on the political beliefs of the offender does. Let’s assume the swastika was painted by a street anarchist or agent provocateur with a view towards turning people against each other, or a Communist hoping the swastika would be blamed on neo-Nazis. Would not the synagogue’s congregation be just as terrorized and oppressed? Suppose it was a Muslim who believed passionately that Israel is the moral equivalent of Nazism. Should he be treated differently than another Muslim who believed Hitler and the Holocaust were right? And further, should these Muslims be treated any differently than a white American skinhead? For the life of me, I cannot understand why.
In the absence of hate crime laws, these factors are sorted out by a judge as he decides what sentence to impose. Hate crime laws, though, would require an examination of the political views of the offender not in determining his sentence, but in determining his guilt. Politics becomes the basis of the offense. Thus, the anti-Nazi prankster would not be charged with a hate crime, while the skinhead would. I think they’re both equally revolting and stupid, and equally offensive to the congregation so victimized.
How about a swastika or “God hates Republicans” painted on a Republican Party office? Who is to say that wouldn’t be just as upsetting to them as “God hates fags” painted on a lesbian gay center would be to the occupants of the latter? (For what it’s worth, I happen to think the “God hates fags” people are so ridiculous that they are discrediting the cause of anti-gay bigotry, and I am not intimidated by that silly slogan in the least. Who the hell has a right to tell me that I am, or should be?)
Suppose someone spray-painted a swastika on my house. Do I have to be Jewish in order to be a hate crime victim?
And why should the criminal have to be in actual sympathy with Hitler, anyway? Might it not be at least as offensive for a swastika to be intended to falsely associate someone with Hitler as it would for the same swastika to be proclaiming the author’s solidarity with Hitler?
I think it is better to punish the crime, and not get into the politics behind it. To give another illustration, the ACLU defended the right of uniformed Nazis to march — in full Nazi regalia, with Nazi flags, through the heavily Jewish retirement community of Skokie, Illinois. I would be willing to bet that some of the elderly Jews felt just as terrorized and oppressed as they would have felt had one of those same Nazis spray-painted a swastika on their synagogue. In fact, a good argument could be made that a uniformed marching group is far more oppressive than a lone coward wielding a spray can at night. Yet the elements considered off limits and irrelevant as protected free speech become an integral element of a new crime even though they are otherwise protected by the First Amendment? Am I alone in thinking this is an anomaly?
In ordinary life, however, there just aren’t that many Nazis. But there are plenty of people who hate other people for a wide variety of reasons, and who might be inclined to commit crimes. Why should only some of these offenses be treated hate crimes, but not others? Typical hate crime laws limit their use to crimes committed out of hatred for a race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation or gender. But why stop there? Isn’t it just as hateful to assault someone for being old as for being gay or for being a woman?
In the recent movie Crash (discussed infra), a pair of carjackers targeted only members of the white race, yet this was portrayed sympathetically, as if it made them morally superior to criminals who’d just carjack anybody’s vehicle. Despite my problems with the film’s credibility, assume for the sake of argument that a criminal only preyed on white people because he didn’t want to harm members of his own race. Is this a hate crime? The fact is, many criminals select only those they consider weak — meaning less capable of defending themselves. Is this hatred? Suppose a big tough guy deliberately selected women because he was convinced they were “easy” targets. Does the picture change if he only selected homosexuals for the same reason?
I think these laws invite institutionalized victimization, in which victims who can show they are “better” victims have a better chance at seeing their attackers punished. Old people and disabled people have to wait in line for now, as they just didn’t make the grade.
If that isn’t discrimination, I don’t know what is.
And no! I am not advocating adding the elderly and the disabled to the hate crime laws. I just don’t think creating new crimes based on which form of hate is deemed the most politically unpopular is good policy.
MORE: A New York phenomenon called “Chink bashing” led to a savage and deadly beating, which (according to Andrew Popper) was not treated as hate crime.

Apparently some victims of racist murder warrant more sympathy from the media than others. It is time that all victims of such vile hate crimes receive equal attention and that the evil hypocrisy of selective indignation is ended.

It was a brutal murder, and (regardless of the minority-versus-minority aspects of the crime) it should have been treated as a brutal murder — regardless of which minority might have more political clout.