The Secret Hate in "Hate Crimes"

By Ponte, Lowell | Ideas on Liberty, February 2001 | Go to article overview

The Secret Hate in "Hate Crimes"


Ponte, Lowell, Ideas on Liberty


A variety of recent laws and policies, such as university "speech codes," have been imposed with the proclaimed goal of prohibiting "hate." They have set forth punishments for acts and crimes motivated by hatred based on a victim's race, ethnicity, religion, disability, age, gender, and sexual preference.

Opponents criticize such anti-hate measures on several grounds. These rules are vague, and convictions can come from the sensitized eye of the victim rather than the blindfolded objective standard of justice. These rules presume an ability to read the mind of the accused and function either as Orwellian "thought crimes" or punishment for politically incorrect free speech.

Critics also observe that anti-hate measures are applied unequally. In almost all cases, for example, they are invoked to mete out additional punishment when a white attacks a black or a heterosexual assaults a homosexual, but almost never when such roles are reversed. Reminiscent of medieval societies, where crime by a peasant against a noble was more severely punished than the same act by peasant against peasant or noble against peasant, anti-hate measures in practice give some a privileged legal status over others. One recent anti-terrorism law took us a long step back toward feudalism by providing special punishment for anyone who assaults a present or former government employee, thereby affording agents of the ruler special legal protection denied to us peasants. (And is it not odd that a person can be found "not guilty by reason of insanity," or have punishment mitigated by the temporary insanity purportedly caused by eating a Twinkie or suffering premenstrual syndrome, yet is punished more severely for having been environmentally poisoned into mind-dimming madness by racism or anti-Semitism?)

But if "hate crimes" laws are here to stay, they should be remedied for a larger sin of omission, for the secret hate implicit within them. If the sincere goal of such measures is to banish all forms of hate from our society, then all such laws and rules should be expanded to include crimes and expressions of economic hatred.

Such economic hatred takes several forms. One is verbal and policy attacks against "the rich" by populist politicians. This provides an us-against-them, divide-and-conquer way of polarizing an electorate against an object of jealousy. Such politicians are usually careful never to define a precise level of wealth or income as "rich," knowing that for their supporters "rich" is anybody with a dollar more than they possess. As fuel, it ignites one of the ugliest aspects of human psychology, the deep-seated perversity of covetousness prohibited in the Ten Commandments, as analyzed in the classic study Envy: A Theory of Social Behavior by sociologist Helmut Schoeck.

Closely related to hatred of "the rich" are class hatred and class warfare. In this occult Marxist notion, "the rich" are not merely individuals who happen to have acquired a certain amount of wealth. They are part of a collective ruling group that is to be overthrown and expropriated, like ruling royal families of yore, so that its wealth and power may be redistributed to the working class. Recipients of privilege and mutual aid, this partly heredity class of the rich is depicted as living off the surplus wealth stolen from workers. This wealth and gain, the envious are told, are illgotten and should be confiscated and shared with you. But even if shared only with the government, this wealth should be expropriated because the wealthy class uses it for its own excessive pleasure or to manipulate property, goods, prices, and sock-puppet politicians to gain more for themselves and advance their global class interests. As socialist author George Bernard Shaw observed, those who rob Peter to pay Paul can always count on Paul's support.

Hatred of Capitalism

A third manifestation of economic hatred is hatred of capitalism. Wealth in the market-- place, the envious are told, comes not from hard work providing goods and services people freely buy, but from luck wagering in the stock market casino, or from chancing to land on the right "Monopoly" square or Web site, or in the phrase of one prominent politician (Representative Richard Gephardt), from otherwise being "winners in life's lottery. …

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