Jan 28 2009

New Study Looks at Media, Hate Speech and Hate Crimes

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In an interview on Fox News Sunday, former President George W. Bush offered advice to his party on how to retool itself in the wake of last November’s elections. In order to remain competitive, Bush urged his fellow Republican Party members not to become definitively “anti-immigrant” in favor of being open-minded. The objectives the former President laid out contrast sharply with the rhetoric on many right-wing talk radio shows. Recently Freshman Republican Congressman Joseph Cao, himself a Vietnamese-American, hoped that his party would disassociate itself from repulsive comments made by Michael Savage of “The Savage Nation.” Referring to refugee immigrants, Savage said in 2007, “They come here and they bring their destitute ways to this country, and they never assimilate. And then their children become gang-bangers.” Congressman Cao, in an interview with Think Progress described the quote as “very anti-immigrant” and “borderline racist.” In a previous show, the right-wing talk show host referred to undocumented immigrants as “vermin.” In light of such hate speech in commercial talk radio, the National Hispanic Media Coalition, in partnership with other civil rights and media advocacy groups, is releasing today preliminary findings of a new study on media, hate speech and hate crimes.

GUEST: Alex Nogales, President & CEO of the National Hispanic Media Coalition

For more information, visit The National Hispanic Media Coalition

One response so far

One Response to “New Study Looks at Media, Hate Speech and Hate Crimes”

  1. Judge acts, not people.on 29 Jan 2009 at 7:32 pm

    Are people who kill the homeless guilty of a hate crime, because the homeless are members of a disparaged and often scapegoated group [As in, "...the homeless are ruining my neighborhood, I hate them..."]?
    Isn’t a person who robs a rich person guilty of a hate crime against the wealthy class, a group often invested with certain ethnic and socioreligious attributes in the minds of perpetrators of robberies?
    Isn’t the landlord who ignores regulations when dealing with poor tenants who are unlikely to be able to secure their rights through litigation guilty of a white-collar hate crime of opportunity against poor people?
    So far, hate crimes are almost universally understood to be something putatively white people do to people who are labelled in another manner.
    It seems to me that hate speech and hate crimes might even be aimed at those using or accused of using hate speech. Bigots are not exactly popular–does that mean that they cannot be the victims of hate crimes, or that hate crimes against them will not be prosecuted as being hate crimes?
    We don’t live in a society of “dueling” and “fighting words” anymore. Someday, hopefully, laws establishing hate crimes may be just as outdated as those regulating duels or defining which insults one may summon violent reprisals against and still claim the protection of the law for such acts. I’m not sure, but I believe that prejudice may be an illness that any human being might succumb to. Does it make the perpetrator of a violent crime less culpable if the act was done without emotion, but only for gain? Surely, if it makes a person more liable for punishment when an act is evidently committed to some extent because of some animus in the perpetrator directed at a member of a particular racial, religious, or ethnic group, then a perpetrator convicted of committing a like act where no evidence for such animus may have been offered and received by the court also receives protection from punishment that may be unwarranted.
    Put another way, it seems to me that statutes against hate crimes may possibly encourage prosecutors motivated by gaining some political advantage to argue that a defendant is prejudiced, with this argument being aimed at juries and judges who are predisposed to believe that racial, ethnic, or religious hatred is more likely to occur in the members of some groups than in others!
    Hate crime legislation may be an interesting, fairly new field for legal professionals to till, but how practical a means are these laws toward establishing more equitable justice among people? How effective are hate crime laws at reducing violent crimes? Before awarding too much credit to politicians and lawyers for spreading and enlarging the rights of mankind, I remember that both of these groups were also instrumental in enforcing segregation until just a few years ago.
    Prejudice is the act of judging people on the grounds of some real or imagined attribute that is believed to be part of their being a member of some group, rather than judging their deeds without reference to unreliable perceptions concerning innate or acquired moral qualities that result from being the member of some group. The judicial-penal industry often appears to base much of what it does on a well-established, pervasive double standard. Legal professionals seem frequently to use one set of rules and accomodations for “good” people who do “bad” things, and another, quite different set of standards for “bad” people who do quite comparable things. Justice for all seems to be wanting in this context.
    Hate speech may be disguised. When I am being encouraged to hate bigots, either overtly or covertly, I often remind myself that it is bigotry that I ought to despise.
    To return to the start–are crimes committed against the homeless, who surely must fulfill at least some of the definitions of a disparaged class of people who are widely subjected to animosity in America, hate crimes? If not, why not?
    Please do not imply that being “white” is in some way a necessary attribute for someone committing hate crimes. In America, the laws are supposedly concerned with establishing justice, rather than protecting revenge. When will it be so?

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