Hate Speech and Crimes

Hate speech and crimes is a very unclear concept for many people – most likely because they are lucky enough to not be the subject of hate based on a shared characteristic with a group.

Hate crimes are easily confused with a crime motivated by hate.

Hate crimes are motives by hatred of a group and the victim of the violence is random, whereas a crime that’s motivated by hate is more likely hatred of the particular individual victim of the violent crime.

A hate crime is not about the individual victim – it’s about attacking a group of people by proxy or symbolically through attacking a random individual from the group or perceived to be a member of the hated group.

A gang of individuals, usually men – because as far as I know, there’s no documented cases of roving gangs of women randomly attacking people or attacking random people. Not to say women can’t be violent or in gangs – just that their violence tends to have either a defensive or financial motivation.

So, a gang of men laying in wait for the first person who is or appears to them to be a member of a group of people that the men don’t like, is very different than a mugger laying in wait for the first prospective victim.

For the mugger, it’s not personal, it’s not about any group the victim may belong to, it’s about money and opportunity.

The victim of hate crime can belong to any number of groups – the three main ones are a religion, an ethnicity or being gay/lesbian/bi/transgendered.

So, a member of an identifiable group does get mugged and in the course of the mugging, also suffers injuries.

That a victim of a crime is also a member of an identifiable group doesn’t make it a hate crime either – they could be simply the best target that the mugger identified.

So, how do you tell?

Victims of bashings are generally not mugged. They are assaulted, but their possessions are not usually taken from them – and when they are, it’s an afterthought insult – salt in the wound.

Muggers are concerned with obtaining the valuables and getting away – which may include assaulting a resisting person – maybe even killing – but mugging for profit is not about humilating or punishing a person.

Bashing is. A characteristic of bashing includes name calling, insults and often some form of humiliation – perhaps the removal of a religious symbol or garb, cutting of hair, violence or injury to specific body parts or facial characteristics of the group identity and in the case of gay bashing, often rape.

The other characteristic is the degree of alarm that the crime raises in the community.

The general public tends to not be fearful learning about muggers or con-artists working an area.

However, religious, ethnic and gay groups are alarmed when a member of their group is bashed or murdered in a manner that is suggestive of hatred towards their group. This also includes vandalism of group identified property such as cemeteries, community centres, religious buildings and, well, I guess gay bars are a kind of a house of worship for us.

Now, where there’s a hazier distinction is violence against women.

Women are alarmed and even warned by police when there’s evidence of a serial rapist or serial rapist/murderer.

I do beleive that rapes and murders of women meet the hate crime criteria.

The male perpetrator generally targets a specific subgroup of women – either women from a group that they loath – often sex workers or street involved or lesbians – or women from a group that cannot have through normal methods or women who are a stand in for another woman who spurned them or other sexual inadequacy hang up.

Interestingly, the women and sometime male victims who have escaped or been released by a male serial rapist/killer, have accomplished this by becoming an indiviual to the man – breaking their group identity and their fantasy. Forcing their abductor and would be killer to see them as a person – often by talking about their family and lives focusing on how much they’d be missed.

This tactic doesn’t work with female serial killers, as they tend to kill  victims known to them – often related or in their care – and are not acting out fantasies. Women serial killers tend to be drawn to careers where they can murder without notice for decades or they become partners with a male serial killer, acting out his fantasies.

Hate Speech is to promote hatred towards a group and directly or indirectly inspire hate crimes such as bashing or murder.

Hate speech isn’t just not liking a group of people either. You don’t have to like or accept everyone. But for an orderly society to work, we do have to tolerate each other and accord each other not only social courtesies but same treatment as anyone else.

Hate speech is to promote violence or harmful discrimination against a group of people because they are part of the group.

Hate speech is an attempt to make one group lesser than all other groups (or just your own group?) and to make the target group less than human.

No one is subhuman, we are all humans, there are no sub-species of humans.

The rule of thumb for tolerance is, if the comments against a group were being said about a different group, would it be okay? If not, then it’s not okay to say the things.

The rule of thumb for hate speech is, by saying these things and people believing it, will it change people’s attitudes for the negative? Will it allow the listeners to feel entitled to actively harm the target group? Will this speech validate a listener’s hatred and violent inclinations towards the target group?

Is the speech creating the perception that the target group is deserving of violent actions? That they will have little recourse after the fact?

But what about freedom of speech?

Free speech is not a get out of being labelled a hate monger free card.

Free speech is not entirely free nor is it limited to the first speech.

Just as one person has a right to an opinion and expression of it – so is everyone else to agree or disagree with it and to respond. So, don’t be surprised if the response is less than pleasant or agreeable to that first speaker.

After all, most people will not take kindly to a speech that says that they are second class, sub human or unworthy of consideration and deserving of negative or violent treatment.

Free speech was also never intended to cover all speech – you can’t scream fire when there isn’t any, you can’t slander people and you can’t promote violence and hatred – these are reasonable limits on speech for an orderly and civil society.

Sadly, if you are a woman on the street being attacked, you are more likely to be helped if you scream fire instead of rape or help.

Since people will react to a scream of fire, since it may potentially impact them.

Heavy sigh.

Have you been a victim of hate crime?