Thursday, May 24, 2007

What's the difference?

Ed Morrissey asks the question of "what difference exists between this and the hate-crimes legislation that I opposed two weeks ago."

The case in question is of Jonathan Paul, member of the Earth Liberation Front and the Animal Liberation Front -- a radical anti-scientific-research, anti-development, generally anti-human organization connected to PETA -- standing trial for arson terrorism. This is, right here and now, different from plain arson due to the intent to force the majority population, by fear, to follow the radicals' agenda.

The acts of which Paul stands accused are attempts to undermine this constitutional democratic republic's rule of law. His action isn't aimed at anybody special -- it's aimed at everybody. This is a deliberate threat to our entire free nation, in much the same way as any other treason, petty or grand.

But in a later post, Morrissey says
I'm starting to think that hate crimes and terrorism designators both take us down a dangerous road. If the criminal act doesn't carry enough deterrent through normal penalties, then increase the penalties for everyone who commits them -- whether it be battery, arson, or murder. Let the motivation prove the crime rather than become a crime in itself. Otherwise, we invite a thought-police mentality that will ensnare American liberty more than it does evil.

Ed is right. It is a dangerous road to start down -- having special laws for intent... but then, isn't that always the case? After all, the difference between plain old manslaughter and murder is often one of intent. "I didn't mean to kill him," can get a person out of jail (well, maybe with a fine and probation) nine times out of ten, if the argument is well presented. But if your intent was to kill and leave his body parts across seventeen states so he'll find it hard to rise again on Judgment Day, well, heck, see you in Marion, eh? The difference between prosecution for shoplifting and going home embarrassed is, did you really mean to run out from Victoria's Secret into the Mall's Food Court with that unpaid-for bra draped across your arm? (And, no, it didn't happen to me. It's hypothetical, okay?) Did he really need those 300 kilos of heroin for his own use, or is he a dealer? Did she drive over her ex-husband thirty-seven times because she hoped to teach him a lesson or did she just think there was something goofy going on with her left rear tire? The whole issue in most criminal cases involves intent.

A young man I once knew burned down a building in a town quite far from here, because he liked to watch those sexy fires. He is a danger to anybody who owns a flammable structure, but, by and large, that's the extent of his threat.

Jonathan Paul, on the other hand, was networking to do damage far beyond just watching the pretty colors of the flames. Intent matters.

"Hate crime" laws, on the other hand, are designed to declare or create one or more protected classes, and an act against one of those classes is not necessarily an act against the entire nation. There is often no crime other than expressing an ugly opinion -- as in the case of the Illinois high school girls.

In some ways, I see the laws describing and limiting "hate speech" and the like, as much of an assault on our free nation as Paul's fires are. It is again the tyranny of the few, and in both cases, it's done in all arrogance, by others who in reality don't give a rat's patootie about any of us, "for our own good" and for their own gain.

And, sadly, the latter of Ed's two posts rather nicely reinforces our apparently very similar opinion of those "hate crime" laws.

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