[Marxism] Hate crimes, again

John johnedmundson at paradise.net.nz
Fri Sep 11 20:52:47 MDT 2009

On Fri, 2009-09-11 at 16:27 +0200, Jeff wrote:
> At 17:48 11/09/09 +1200, John wrote:
> >The article David posted is odious....
> >. But the issue of hate crimes is a separate one.

> And not a terribly important one, in my opinion. What is important is that
> racists oppose it because it is a statement against racism (perhaps not the
> best one, but it is). So I oppose racists trying to regain "rights" that
> they have lost because those were not democratic rights but the "right" to
> be racist with impunity. It aids the enemy when someone on our side
> actively joins that campaign (as Thorstad does, I'm not talking about you
> or the others).

I guess for me, and I don't live in the States so can't comment on the
situation there, the problem with things like a category called "hate
crimes" is that they hand to the state a whole layer of extra authority
to incarcerate people. Hate crime legislation is not really about
addressing discrimination, it's about upping the ante, increasing prison
terms when we should be reducing them.

There's a parallel in New Zealand a few years ago where, in an
environment of a push for longer sentences (a referendum came in with
over 80% in favour of longer sentences IIRC), there were a couple of
pretty horrific crimes when people broke into a house, held the
occupants hostage, drove the people's car to the ATM after extracting
the PIP number from the victims etc. The government's reaction was to
implement a new category of crime known as home invasion, with, guess
what? Much longer sentences. 
> >..... as someone just said, before adding that
> >they're fine for people who we don't agree with.
> No, I didn't say anything about it being a matter of whether I/we agree
> with them. Please don't misrepresent my words!

My humblest apologies for what was, in retrospect, a pretty crude
misrepresentation of what you said.

> I was saying that I have no
> reason to oppose the principle of racism/sexism/homophobia being considered
> as an aggravating factor in determine someone's punishment. So after
> reducing sentences to 1/3 of their current levels (as I had advocated) a
> judge might have the power to punish a racist crime with an increased
> sentence, perhaps a triple sentence. But it wasn't my intention to mix up
> these issues.

I guess I see that as a can of worms that would just see endless appeals
and further enrichment of law firms . . .

> >What if, in a period of heightened class struggle, a Marxist killed
> >his/her boss. Could that be called a hate crime?
> NO, because in the US at least, the term "hate crime" refers to crimes
> motivated by racism and in some states sexism or homophobia. That is just a
> legal DEFINITION and obviously if you change a definition then statements
> that someone previously made using that WORD no longer represent their
> opinion. So this is not a valid objection. I can't help that they used the
> term "hate crime" which might be considered a misnomer, but I am concerned
> with RACIST crime, which is what we're discussing.

Actually racist crime was not the original focus, it was homophobic
crime. As I said, in New Zealand a defence of provocation was often used
in the killing of gay men, and the campaign to repeal that clause only
gained traction in Parliament  when a pretty young heterosexual woman
was killed by her partner. Do I think that was right? No. It should have
been repealed years ago as it was a cop out for homophobic attacks. But
neither do I think the guy who killed a gay man should get a longer
sentence than the guy who killed his girlfriend simply on the basis of
his backward social beliefs. I will concede here though that homophobia
and homophobic violence is much less prevalent in NZ than in the USA. We
do tend to look at the States and ask ourselves how the most advanced
capitalist country in the world can harbour such reactionary attitudes.
People prefix bizarre stories with "only in America".

> >All such legislation does, whether it's hate speech legislation or hate
> >crimes sentencing, is to silence people and drive ideas underground.
> (We'll talk about "hate speech" later). What did you just say? That
> punishing racist assault or murder is driving their IDEAS underground? How
> could that be unless the "idea" you're talking about is publicly advocating
> racist violence. No, unfortunately racists will still have their ideas, but
> might be less likely to ACT on them, which would be GOOD! 

No, I'm saying in the case of hate speech laws, they'll keep thinking as
they do but it will be harder to confront those ideas when they're
entirely underground. In cases of hate crime laws, they'll simply try to
deny a "hate" element. Neither really moves us forward I don't think.

> > Getting rid of that defence seems
> >entirely appropriate, but pushing for a special thing called a hate
> >crime, with longer sentences
> In the first place, I am not "pushing" for it: it already exists in most US
> states and I don't oppose it on principle.

Well I oppose it on principle because it hands more power to the
bourgeois state and because I think it disguises the problem.

> But this issue arose because one
> person on this list finds it important to oppose the extension of these
> laws to include homophobic motivated crimes rather than just racism. I
> think that's very wrong, and puts us in alliance with the right wing which
> opposes these laws for more insidious reasons even though they use the same
> ABSTRACT arguments about "free speech" and "reading someone's mind" that a
> few on the left have chosen to advance.

What I found particularly obnoxious about that article was the idea that
the murdered man's life was considered fair game for a political
campaign. I don't think long gaol sentences for being a racist or a
homophobe is the right way to progress. Saying that if I'm a homophobe
and I kill a gay guy, I should go to gaol for 3 times as long as if,
say, I was gay as well and killed my partner, is what support for hate
crime laws effectively does, and in my view, that is not a useful

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