Of hate crimes and traitors

Sam Smith – The recent killings in Kansas  City have revived talk of hate crimes. The problem with having a category of hate crimes is that there is no constitutional prohibition against hating, rotten as it may be. In fact, the right to be wrong is one of the most basic concepts behind our constitution. If you do something illegal, you are to be caught and punished, but for the act, not the evil thoughts behind it. What’s next? Anti-war crimes in which additional penalties are added to offenses by protestors?

By blending a clearly illegal act with a constitutional right, we have opened the door to a plethora of crime penalties based on formerly constitutionally permitted acts and beliefs. And the sad fact is that no one seems to be even arguing about it, even despite the complete absence of any evidence that hate crimes reduce the number of hate encouraged offenses.

The motivation behind such laws – like those centered on the ever expanding definition of terrorism – is actually more political than judicial. It gives a comfortable tag for politicians and the media to use to make it look as though they’re doing something. In fact, viral hate in this land seems to have increased since these laws were passed. It would make more sense to do something about the problem.

But we live in a time when name calling is – for both liberals and conservatives – a convenient alternative to constructive action. Consider the latest issue of Vanity Fair with the headline “Edward Snowden: Patriot or Traitor?” Since he gave considerable space to Snowden’s story, should we be asking the same question of Vanity Fair’s editor Graydon Carter? Or should we merely suggest a fairer and less libelous headline?

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