Thursday, October 11, 2007

When is it Hate?

Recently in the Washington D.C. area there was a supposed "hate" crime. There were posters plastered all over campus extolling the virtues of hating Muslims. This act was reported as a "hate" crime, and university officals where intent on finding the culprits. The group that was identified on the posters was a conservative group, and many thought they were really responsible. They were prepared to prosecute them to the full extent of the law.

Well, it turns out that the whole thing was a hoax perpetrated by left-leaning group of young people, looking to smear the conservative organization. It is being looked at as a prank. These young people may be reprimanded. However, the smeared conservative group asked that these people be at least expelled from the campus community.

This brings up a troubling development. Why is this now considered simply a prank? The act was considered a hate crime prior to knowing who did it. Is this proof that hate crime legislation is indeed unfairly applied? It seems that "hate" is subjectively applied to selective groups of people who criticize other selective groups of people.

In other words, when is a crime worse than the crime itself? Is murdering a single mother worse, if the mother is black and the killer is white? Is it worse when the mother is a homosexual and the killer is a heterosexual? Is it not as bad when the victim and perpetrator are both of the same race? What makes the crime "hate" when all crime is hate of some sort?

I know the reasoning. A hate crime is a crime that not only harms the victim, but also victimizes a whole group of people. But how do we determine this—other than having the perpetrator tell you that was his or her intent? If we judge simply by the results it produces, how do we know when the results are intended? "Hey, we thought we were simply bringing awareness of hate. We didn't intend to cause the Muslim community to feel victimized. Oops. Sorry."

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