Dylann Roof to face federal hate crime charges

This just in a little while ago:

A federal grand jury on Wednesday indicted Dylann Roof for hate crimes in the June killings of nine African-Americans at a Charleston church, according to sources familiar with a federal-state investigation.

The 33-count indictment charges Roof, 21, a white man from the Columbia area, with 12 counts of committing a federal hate crime (nine counts of murder and three attempted murders), 12 counts of obstructing the exercise of religion and nine counts of the use of a firearm to commit murder.

Hate crimes under federal law are crimes committed against someone because of their race, color, religion, religion, ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexual orientation or disability. South Carolina does not have a hate crimes law, but some 45 states do.

Under federal law, prosecutors may seek the death penalty where violent death has resulted The U.S. Justice Department is exploring whether to seek the death penalty against Roof….

Personally, I’m happy to see “the book” and all the charges it contains thrown at this guy.

But… I should note that I don’t believe “hate crimes” should be in the book to start with. Punish the deed, not the political attitude behind the deed. This is one of those few areas where I agree with libertarians: Allowing the government to punish attitudes is giving government too much power, and an offense against the freedom of conscience enshrined in the 1st Amendment. One is allowed, in this country, to harbor horrible ideas, as long as one does not act upon them.

Which leads me to the possibility of the feds pursuing the death penalty.

Three points on that:

  1. I don’t believe in the death penalty.
  2. If I did believe in the death penalty, the killer of the Emanuel Nine would definitely be a candidate for it.
  3. If I did believe in the death penalty, I certainly wouldn’t want it administered for “hate crimes,” for the aforementioned reason. If you’re going to hang a man, do it for murder, not for his motivation.

103 thoughts on “Dylann Roof to face federal hate crime charges

  1. Kathryn Fenner

    It is awfully convenient for someone of your demographic profile to disdain hate crime laws…..

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        That is really, truly, outrageously insulting! It suggests that I am somehow not sufficiently horrified at what this guy is charged with doing. That I haven’t mourned the Emanuel Nine, that I don’t care deeply, because, not to put too fine a point on it, I’m just stone racist.

        Sometimes these little PC bumper-sticker cliches are just irritating, but this goes WAY too far, to the point of being unconscionable…

    1. Doug Ross

      I ask this seriously, Kathryn… is there ANYTHING that a white male can say about ANYTHING that you will not dismiss because of “white privilege”?

      What specifically do you want white middle aged guys to say or do? Can I just say “some white people have had some advantages that some black people have not” and be done with it? Or is there some ultimate objective that would satisfy you? If you want to lower the bar for certain groups or give them advantages they haven’t earned, be my guest.

      1. Kathryn Fenner

        In the unlikely event you are actually asking this seriously, I will answer.
        Yes, you may certainly opine about matters that pertain to you and your demographic–erectile dysfunction, hair loss, etc. You may opine about general political matters. The problem comes when you dismiss claims of the less-privileged (race, sex, religion) without first checking your privilege.
        I check my privilege before I make statements along the lines of “blacks/gays/transpeople/etc. just need to ______”. I don’t really know what it is like to be disadvantaged from birth because of my skin color. I can conceal my sex/gender (at least in cooler weather), thanks to my height. I have no other glaring disadvantages–okay, so I am the child of a bottom-rung white collar, first generation college graduate, and not more upscale parents, and went to public schools in Aiken, SC. Waaaa!
        Poor me.

        1. Doug Ross

          There has never been a time in American history where blacks, gays, women, you name it have had more opportunity, more advantage, more status. If you want to talk about what happened 50 years ago, go ahead.

          I don’t even know what “checking your privilege” entails.. and I don’t spend my time spouting statements that begin with “blacks/gays/etc. need to”. I treat each person as an individual.

          Sounds like you were raised in a more privileged environment than I was. I won’t hold it against you.

          I can’t comment on the ED demographic. I haven’t lived that experience either. I guess I’ll check my privilege on THAT one.

            1. Barry

              and in many cities and states, gays are celebrated proudly and loudly. (If you have the stomach, look up the pictures from the recent NYC Pride Parade – disclaimer – not safe for work )

              That’s not a hate crime though. That’s housing discrimination.

          1. Juan Caruso

            Women have long had the privilege (advantage) of waiver from draft registration.
            One wonders how much longer “For all men ages 18 through 25
            It’s Your Duty & the Law. Persons found guilty of knowingly submitting fraudulent registration information may be prosecuted and, upon conviction, may be subject to a fine of not more than $250,000 and/or imprisonment not to exceed five years. Would Caitlyn Jenner, Jr. have to register?

            KF, you are not merely a “college graduate”, you have been a member of the bar and far from disadvantaged in every way. On January 24, 2013, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta announced the end of the direct ground combat exclusion rule for female service members, following a unanimous recommendation by the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Count your blessings.

        2. Brad Warthen Post author

          How does one “check” one’s privilege? The way cowboys checked their guns with Wyatt Earp before entering Dodge City?

          Is there a procedure? Is there paperwork?

          Part of what gets me in this instance is that there is NOTHING about my demographics that could possibly bear on the thought process I set out. I might FEEL differently about hate crimes, assuming I really am as heartless and as lacking in understanding and empathy as you seem to regard me. Presumably, under the model you propose, I would have deep personal feelings about hate crimes were I to have more melanin in my skin.

          Perhaps. But that would not change the reasoning. In a society that holds freedom of conscience as a cardinal value, making the protection of it the very first amendment to the Constitution, we just cannot punish attitudes we regard as objectionable — at least, not through the coercive power of the state. The marketplace of ideas can punish the hell out of these attitudes — and it does. Holding the wrong attitudes can (and should, under the more extreme cases) make you a total pariah.

          But there’s no way that we should use the power of the state to punish, through imprisonment much less execution, unacceptable ideas.

          And if we did, you know who would be most likely to be thus punished? Any oppressed, UNprivileged group, that’s who.

          1. Kathryn Fenner

            One stops and asks oneself honestly whether one might feel differently in the other person’s shoes.

            1. Mark Stewart

              I agree with Brad. The idea of a Hate Crime statute is a perversion of justice. That said, I think the general intent of such a code is to asterisk certain actions as not just illegal, but also as especially detrimental to civic order. And that is a good and valuable thing. As long as we focus on the actions that occur as a result of the hate.

              Every time the state tries to legislate and enforce morality through the criminal code it never ends well.

              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                I have no objection to legislating morality. In a sense, all laws do that, in that they reflect prevailing notions of how people should treat each other.

                My objection is to regulating THOUGHT. And by that, I mean thought that goes beyond intent. Obviously, premeditation should be a factor. Killing with male aforethought is more heinous than unintentional homicide, and should be punished accordingly. If you MEANT to kill someone, that’s an aggravating circumstance.

                My objection is to punishing the REASON you meant to kill someone…

                We have a right, in this society, to be a__holes. If we kill someone because we’re a__holes, the ACTION should be punished…

              2. Barry

                Hate crime legislation is ludicrous. I am glad SC refuses to go along.

                Kathryn, white guilt is a burden you alone must carry.

                I won’t carry that guilt. It’s silly.

              3. susanincola

                “Killing with male aforethought is more heinous than unintentional homicide, and should be punished accordingly.” – Brad


                1. Brad Warthen Post author

                  Sorry. I was typing that on my iPad, and the “ic” got left out of “malice.” Everyone knows that males do nothing with forethought, right?

          2. Pam Wilkins

            I am too tired to respond to this in any detail right now, but I will tomorrow. An interesting and important topic!

            Quickly, though, I do think the debate about hate crime laws isn’t really a thoughts vs feelings debate (and I consider such a division artificial anyway). Brad is correct that freedom of thought/conscience is one of the “cardinal virtues” (his words) in this society and is protected (though not absolutely) by the Constitution. However, a commitment to equality is another cardinal virtue of this society and is also protected by the Constitution. One might reasonably question whether hate crime laws actually and effectively further this commitment to equality, but there’s certainly an argument that that’s in part what they are designed to do. So what we really have IMO is two great and valid values existing in some tension with each other, etc. Such situations make for difficult questions about which thoughtful and well meaning people can and will (and should) disagree.

            Anyway, this is long and I’m still trying to sort through my thoughts. More later.

            PS we punish motivations beyond just intent all the time in the criminal law. More later.

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              Interesting thought that I need to explore sometime, speaking of equality.

              Whenever I hear “liberté, égalité, fraternité,” I always think that to me, there’s a hierarchy. They are all high ideals, essential ideals, but the highest, the goal that should take precedent, is brotherhood.

              And yet there are limits to how far we should in trying to FORCE even brotherhood, the highest ideal. And I think outlawing having unbrotherly thoughts is, indeed, going too far.

          3. Bill

            Hate crimes affect their victims as well as those in that minority.If your house is robbed and vandalized by criminals,and gay slurs are spray painted on your house,other gays in the neighborhood might notice that,too-know what I’m saying?

            1. Bill

              If you saw dozens of straight white guys hanging dead from trees,you wouldn’t get the message?

            2. Barry

              Remove the word “hate” from your statement and it’s just as true.

              A crime is a crime.

              When we start punishing non whites for robbing houses because ” he’s white and rich” – then I might be inclined (probably not) hate crime laws are fairminded.

        3. Barry

          Well I am clear Kathryn. My brother in law- who is black by the way- has a better job than me, had richer parents (college grads, my parents didn’t go to college) than me, and makes more money than me.

          He’s also quite conservative- socially and politically.

          I will have to remind him to check his “privilege” the next time he and my wife’s sister go to New York for one of their weekend shopping trips while my wife and I hit up the Target.

  2. Doug Ross

    Keeping Roof in prison for the rest of his natural life is a waste of time and resources. He will have to be in solitary confinement for his own protection. What’s the point? He did the crime and the proper punishment is death. The death penalty is not a deterrent, it’s a punishment.

    I agree that the term hate crime is meaningless. All premeditated murders are hate crimes.

  3. Brad Warthen Post author

    Let me add a fourth point:
    4. Even if I did believe in the death penalty, I’d be very reluctant to have the federal government wield it, for anything but treason, or murders with a specifically federal aspect such as assassination of the president. Aside from that, capital crimes should be matters of state law. As most of them are.

    1. Pam Wilkins

      As for Brad’s fourth point, I understand the point that criminal law is traditionally a matter for the states (although criminal law has increasingly been federalized), but you might feel differently if you looked both at some state statutes and how those states’ death penalty statutes are actually enforced. In my view, the federal death penalty statute at least contains a few checks and balances designed to avoid ridiculous and irrational geographical disparities (think of the difference between Richland and Lexington counties in capital sentencing rates) and other problems endemic in the state systems. Of course, the answer might be better state statutes, but that requires political will and–yes–resources.

      All that being said, I’m opposed to the death penalty regardless. My only point is that the states have made a real mess of it, especially those that kill a lot of people.

  4. Karen Pearson

    But, by the time everything is totaled up, it usually costs more to execute a person, than to simply keep him in jail.

      1. Bryan Caskey

        Hey, man. Sometimes delay is your friend. Especially when there’s a hangman’s noose at the end of the line. 🙂

          1. Bryan Caskey

            Yeah, but I’m pretty sure that Roof ain’t innocent, so maybe that’s not the best argument for delay in this case, counselor.

          2. Bryan Caskey

            The reality is that any innocently convicted defendant is infinitely better off appealing a death sentence than a life sentence.

            A capital convict will receive significantly more assistance (and special attention) from outside special interest groups than someone who has been sentenced to life in prison.

            So, perhaps one could argue that the serious and permanent nature of the death penalty adds scrutiny to the process that is not otherwise there.

            1. Juan Caruso

              The weight of the greater good is on the side not of the relatively few innocently convicted persons, but of innocent society at large. Capital punishment is both an age-old preventative for the majority of guilty convicts and a deterrent for potential murderers at large. Is it a perfect remedy? Of course not. For the majority, however (except conflicted trial lawyers) it provides a formidable pause for second thought, however.

              Likewise, the natural phenomenon of lightning strikes a few innocent people occasionally. Their unfortunate example serves as a reminder to the majority of the populace. Suppose newspapers stopped reporting lightning deaths…. .

              Per Shakespeare (Henry The Sixth, Part 2 Act 4, scene 2).

      2. Pam Wilkins

        No, because we have the Bill of Rights, which includes the right to effective assistance of counsel at certain stages, and a set of statutory protections lawmakers have deemed necessary to safeguard the integrity of the process. I am not proud that our nation kills people as punishment, but these constitutional and statutory protections do at least suggest that we consider it a serious and grave matter to execute someone and that we shouldn’t do it quickly or cavalierly.

        Moreover, ask yourself whether all delays in the process are the work of defense attorneys. Judges have been known to sit on things for a time themselves.

        And despite all these protections, the system is a mess, riddled with all kinds of mistakes.

        1. Barry

          I am extremely proud our nation reserves the right to kill people as punishment.

          I do wish we would work on refining the process, shortening the process, and limiting the tool to very specific crimes.

          1. Bryan Caskey

            We already limit the availability of the death penalty to a very specific set of circumstances. A defendant is tried twice by jury of his peers. First on the issue of guilt. Second, if guilty, on whether the death penalty should be applied.

            The jury considers all mitigating and aggravating factors in making the determination on the application of the death penalty. It currently takes 18 years (on average) to carry out a death sentence. We don’t do it quickly or cavalierly.

            People have argued over whether the death penalty is moral for centuries. There is sharp disagreement among philosophers on this moral question.

            Accordingly, we have a system that allows the People of the United States, sitting on juries, to decide whether the death penalty is appropriate on a case-by-case basis. Categorically abolishing the death penalty rejects the idea that the People can make their own informed judgments about controversial issues.

            1. Barry

              I agree it’s for a very specific circumstances now.

              But I would limit it further- mainly to situations where there is clear DNA evidence, or clear video evidence.

              Evidence would have to be backed up with DNA (and automatic testing of all available DNA would be required – as opposed to guys sitting on death row for 20 years before all the DNA in their case is tested).

    1. Doug Ross

      Define “simply” for a person who must be held in solitary confinement for 50 years. Include all expected medical costs when the prisoner gets older.

      1. Barry

        It won’t necessarily cost more if Roof makes a motion to skip his. On mandatory appeals.

        Plus, I think we can take up a collection to put this guy down.

  5. Bryan Caskey

    Boy, that Roof kid is going to be in some big time trouble with the federal prosecutors after he spends his mandatory time in SC’s electric chair.

    Oh, and hate crime laws are for the birds. You criminalize the act, not the thought.

  6. Dave Crockett

    I’ll wade in on capital punishment and hate crimes and my problems with both….

    I agree with Doug that capital punishment is not a deterrent. But I’m not even sure that ‘punishment’ is really the right word. I tend to lean toward ‘retribution’ as being the real element involved.

    That said, my aversion to capital punishment as currently practiced in this country relates to those points. As it currently imposed, it is not a deterrent because it is handled (in most states that still use it) in almost complete seclusion. If one really wants to make it a deterrent, it has to be widely viewed by those one hopes to deter. Also, with lethal injection at least, its imposition is clinical and antiseptic. As such even viewing widely would have little ‘deterrent’ effect on those we hope to deter.

    I’m a dollars and cents guy, but basing the capital punishment/life imprisonment question on a pure cost basis bothers me. And I do have some problems with whether a civilized country should be putting down citizens in the 21st Century, even really rotten ones.

    So we need, IMHO, to be honest about what we’re about. Justice? Maybe (another definitional quagmire). Deterrent? Not as currently employed. Retribution? Yeah, that’s pretty much it. If we are honest about why we use it and can generally agree to accept a basic tenet that some of the most heinous crimes deserve the ultimate retribution, then my opposition wanes.

    But I also agree that the ‘hate crime’ concept concerns me. If someone murders ME and gets different treatment from someone who murders another person based solely on a determination that the murderer ‘hated’ me but didn’t ‘hate’ the other person, I’d feel a bit put out (if I weren’t already dead). So I generally agree with Brad’s and Bryan’s contention that the government punishing a motivation somehow trumps punishing the action itself is troublesome.

    1. Kathryn Fenner

      The point, white man, is that you are vanishingly unlikely to be murdered simply because you are a white man who is presumably straight than all those murdered because they are not those things. As long as you stay out of the Middle East, you are in good shape.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        You know, that almost makes me wish someone would come up and kill me for being a whatever I am, just to go and show you. Almost. I mean, I’d be all for it if I could still see the look on your face. But I don’t know how to swing that…

        1. Barry

          Well Kathryn’s “hate crime” approach is likely reserved for only certain “hate” subjects. That’s pretty typical for leftists the n the subject.

          They aren’t as concerned when a white man is shot on the south side of Chicago because he is white.

          Feb 14, 2014 . What they were saying was, ‘Knock that boy out!’ ‘White boy.’ ‘Cracker’. They were saying, ‘Knock that white boy out’,’a visibly shaken Matthews told 19 Action News.

          That quote is from a witness describing an attack on a disabled white veteran by three black teens. No hate crimes were pursued or alleged by federal authorities. (Several hate crimes experts were quoted saying the language used in the attack would typically qualify a hate crime charge)

          1. Kathryn Fenner

            The number of straight Christian white men killed or even “persecuted” is vanishingly small, and they have a whole TV network devoted to their “cause.”

            1. Barry

              “The number of straight Christian white men killed or even “persecuted” is vanishingly small, and they have a whole TV network devoted to their “cause.”

              Ah – the old ‘ “well, there are only a few of them so we can ignore them even if their it’s legit” defense.

              That illogical approach is typical.

      1. Barry

        Silly stuff worthy of DailyKos isn’t helping you

        White guilt is powerful stuff for some though.

    1. JesseS

      I can kind of get behind the whole privilege check thing and I kind of can’t. If I get pulled over generally 3 or 4 police cars aren’t showing up. Yeah, that’s a “privilege”. Though that is a sad thing to think of as a “privilege” in a free country.

      Personally I can’t say I like the term “check your privilege”. It’s loaded to illicit a defensive response from the “privileged” and implies that you are lucky for not getting punched in the face today. It’s a clever activist device, but I’m not sure if it does as much to reconcile as it does to antagonize.

      1. Bryan Caskey

        It’s also a vehicle for not addressing your interlocutor’s argument on the merits. By alleging that someone’s viewpoint on an issue is held solely because of their “privilege” you are relieved of having to address the substance of their argument.

        Note, Kathryn is not providing a substantive argument in favor of hate crime laws. (If I missed it in this thread of comments, I apologize.) She’s simply essentially claiming that an argument is irrelevant and/or invalid because of who makes it.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Which is unAmerican. Where is McCarthy’s HUAC when you need it?

          And yes, it is a very convenient way to avoid discussing merits. And a tiresome one.

          You know, even the purveyors of Jim Crow sometimes tried to dress up their oppression — demanding that a black potential voter answer esoteric civics questions or some such. But Kathryn just sees you coming and says, “You’re a white guy. You don’t get to have an opinion.”

          Which is awkward. I mean, we run everything, right? How are we supposed to do that without forming and expounding opinions?

          1. Doug Ross

            I need to remember to admonish my Indian friends to check their caste privilege when they speak of other Indians. Just last night at dinner with three Indian co-workers, one called the other a “Northie” – as in from the northern region of India – implying those from the north were lower on the caste system (sort of like how we Yankees feel about Southerners).

        2. Barry

          “She’s simply essentially claiming that an argument is irrelevant and/or invalid because of who makes it.”

          Correct- or better yet- she’s claiming that their point of view is irrelevant on some matters based on the color of their skin.

          Not cool.

  7. Norm Ivey

    It doesn’t matter if the death penalty is a deterrent, a punishment or a retribution (which is how I believe we use it). My opposition to the death penalty lies in the answer to this question: Have we ever executed an innocent person? The justice system is not foolproof, and never will be. It’s not worth the stain on our collective soul when we get it wrong. That said, I’ll lose no sleep if Roof is executed.

    The way I understand the hate crime law is that it allows prosecutors to seek the death penalty under federal statute in states which have no death penalty. Remove the hate crime designation, and a similar criminal in a place like Providence or Milwaukee cannot be executed. Unnecessary here, but needed in other locations (if you support capital punishment).

  8. Brad Warthen

    So far, according to my count, all the white guys here agree with me on hate crimes.

    Which is nice, but, you know, in a way not helpful.

    So… I propose that at the next meeting of the Oppressors’ Conspiracy, we discuss this. A bit more subtlety may be in order…

  9. Doug T

    I agree with Kathryn on this. I keep thinking back to the announcement of the OJ verdict. We old white guys do not have a clue what it is to be other than what we are.

    Also, I’vr been anti death penalty for the longest. It isn’t Christian-like. Not that I am a devout Christian or anything.

    1. Barry

      The state doesn’t act Christian or anti Christian.

      So that has nothing to do with it.

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      The OJ verdict was probably the most racially divisive moment in my adult life.

      I’ll never get over my shock at the way black friends saw it. They actually identified with him simply because of his skin color. I didn’t see a black guy; I saw a rich celebrity who could afford lawyers who managed to muddy the waters enough to get him off. And I wasn’t a bit surprised when he did.

      Whereas my black friends — the ones I spoke with at the time — seemed surprised and overjoyed at his acquittal, as though it were a miracle.

      A bizarre and disturbing moment.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        I know I’ve told this before, but I’ll tell it again.

        I had done my best to ignore the OJ case, but that was hard to do. Starting with the moment that everyone went ape over the white Bronco “chase,” it was hard not to pick up on what was happening with it inadvertently.

        The day of the verdict was another such moment. I was doing my daily workout on a stationary bike in front of the TV in our little basement gym at the paper. Someone had put the TV onto live coverage of the trial, and as time for the verdict approached, people started wandering into the room in their streetclothes to watch it. So eventually there was a group of 8 or 10 people who weren’t there to work out, standing next to me while I huffed and puffed and sweated away.

        So I had a good view of the little crowd when the verdict came. Instantly, the black members of the group cried out with joy and started celebrating. The whites — who had obviously been just as interested for whatever reason — looked blank.

        When I finished my workout, I went by to see one of the celebrators at her desk in advertising, and interviewed her, in an attempt to understand what was going on.

        I then went upstairs and quickly wrote a column about the experience. Which I never ran. It was early in my time as an opinion writer, and I still thought editorials and columns should be prescriptive — “we should do THIS; we should do THAT” — and if possible omniscient in tone. And I had no advice whatsoever as to what we should do about the cognitive divide I had just witnessed.

        I ran across a printout of that column years later, and it wasn’t bad. But it had no answers…

            1. Barry

              I remember the verdict. No one shouted at my workplace.

              One of my dear co-workers who happened to be a black female was very happy about the verdict. She and I were lunch buddies for over 2 years. I was surprised by her reaction- but honestly I didn’t really care that much about the case at the time. Too many other things going on at the time.

              I talked to her about it later because she talked about the subject a lot after the verdict. My joke at the time was “OJ is the most white black guy ever.” Meaning- he liked to date white women, he seemed to prefer to hang out with white people- at least that is what a lot of folks that knew him said.

              After being asked my opinion – all I could tell my friend was ‘ we will know if he’s guilty or innocent based on how hard he looks for the “real killer” in the years to come” She agreed with me and admitted to me that he probably did it.

              I think we know how that turned out.

  10. Karen Pearson

    Punishment and/or retribution have seldom worked as deterrents. In earlier times thievery could be punished publicly in a very brutal manner. Death by hanging when one’s neck isn’t broken is a slow, torturous death. And it did not stop pickpockets from plying their trade in the crowd gathered to watch the hanging.

    Are you sure that solitary confinement, or at least close confinement for life is kinder than death via lethal injection? I’m not.

    The only way I can think of to justify capitol punishment is if it is done as the only way to ensure that the condemned person does not harm others (consider Pee Wee Gaskins). But how do we tell for certain? And is there no other way? Then I go back to my second paragraph.

    1. Norm Ivey

      I don’t think we’re deterred by legal consequences often. I won’t kill because the act itself is so horrific; it’s not the legal consequences that deter me. I don’t steal because I am content with what I have. I don’t speed because driving is more pleasant when I just cruise. I don’t smoke pot because it could cost me my job–not because I could go to jail.

      Prisons, I think, serve more to protect us from those without an internal moral code rather than to punish. Which is why I think we should not lock away non-violent offenders. Those who lie, cheat or steal should pay their debts to society in some sort of service. And drug possession and use should not be a crime at all.

  11. Scout

    I can see Brad’s point that hate crimes don’t make sense from the perspective that we are allowed to think whatever we want but not act on certain things – and the action is what is illegal, not the thought.

    However, Bill’s point that “hate” crimes can be about intimidation of a larger group in addition to the isolated criminal act in question seems possibly relevant in establishing that there can be something essentially different about “hate” crimes.

    If the manner of the crime causes intentional intimidation, that could be an additional action to punish. So you’d be still be punishing action not thought.

    Would you distinguish between intentional and unintentional intimidation – kind of like 1st degree murder and manslaughter?

    Would It be necessary to use the label “hate crime” as long as you considered whether intimidation was present as an additional crime?

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Seems like you’d have to prove the intimidation — in other words, demonstrate that other people were indeed coerced into acting differently because of said intimidation.

      And that doesn’t seem to be what we focus on when we talk about hate crimes. It’s more a matter of examining motives.

      1. Bryan Caskey

        Just to be devil’s advocate here, is intimidation of others a worse reason to kill someone than say, killing someone just to watch them die?

        1. Johnny Cash

          I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die… but I didn’t hate him. He was pretty cool. I shot another guy for calling me “Sue”. Him, I hated.

          1. Bryan Caskey

            Clear example of a white man’s privilege getting him life in Folsom Prison instead of the death penalty.

          2. Brad Warthen Post author

            Question: If Johnny Cash were still alive, and he sang that his name was “Sue,” would we all start referring to him as “she”?

            And how would he react to that? And would his reaction put him back in Folsom Prison?

            1. Doug Ross

              I checked my privilege before answering this question.. but let me check it again… yep, still privileged.

              A boy (assuming he identified as a cis-hetero boy of the male persuasion) would be called Sue or Susan but never Susie as that could be interpreted as sexist, misogynistic, homophobic, or bullying. Due to the violent acts and parental abandonment associated with being named Sue, it would be necessary to notify said boy in advance that you were planning to call him Sue as a trigger warning.

      2. Rose

        Lynchings of blacks during segregation were not simply murders; they were messages sent to blacks about remembering their place. Certainly a hate crime, and an effective one.
        It seems to me the murder of these nine people with the intent of starting a race war follows along those lines and into hate crime territory.
        But I think it’s important that South Carolina try and convict him (and execute him) instead of relying on the federal government to do it.

        Re: white privilege. As the white parents of a brown child, we have tried to educate ourselves on the racial issues he will face, and simply to be aware that our skin and our class level grant us some levels of privilege that others don’t have. And that there are events, situations, attitudes, etc., that we will never understand because of how we were raised (that includes class privilege), so we need to view other people unlike us with a measure of intentional empathy instead of judgement. Are we always successful? Heck no.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          “Lynchings of blacks during segregation were not simply murders; they were messages sent to blacks about remembering their place. Certainly a hate crime, and an effective one.”

          Actually, in those cases, it was probably more about sending the message than about the individual victim. Although other factors were at work, such as mob pathology and bloodlust.

          A digression: I tend to harbor significant doubts about the human race getting better as it goes along. I look askance at automatic assumptions that we are better than people were hundreds of years ago. (I don’t even think we’re particularly different from people centuries ago, but when we are different, it seems to me like temporal chauvinism to assume we’re better.)

          All of that said, one of the most dramatic bits of evidence I can think of indicating that humans ARE getting better is our attitudes toward capital punishment.

          And no, I’m not saying that people who oppose the death penalty, as I do, are somehow more morally evolved than those who disagree.

          I’m thinking in terms of the demise of PUBLIC executions. They used to be a major form of popular entertainment. People would gather up their kids and take them to watch. Nobody wanted to miss such an event.

          Nowadays, I don’t hear many people seriously advocating for public executions. Occasionally, someone who OPPOSES capital punishment will suggest they be public, just so people can’t wash their hands. But no one seriously advocates for such a public spectacle as a good thing, much less as a form of entertainment.

          And I have to marvel at people who, not so long ago, would run to see an execution and hope not to miss it. HOW could they have wanted to see such a thing? What made that person so different from me?

          Has our modern access to a firehose of entertainment, much of it graphically violent, satisfied the atavistic urges that previously were only satisfied by public executions? Or is something else at work?

          I heard someone say on the radio today that there has been a reduction in teen pregnancy, and maybe it’s because kids are too busy with their smartphones to fool around with each other. (Someone else said that the information revolution means kids just aren’t as ignorant as they once were about how to avoid disease and pregnancy.)

          Well, may the fact that we can view any kind of violence or other distraction at any time on our phones made us less bloodthirsty for the real thing?

          1. Norm Ivey

            I heard someone say on the radio today that there has been a reduction in teen pregnancy, and maybe it’s because kids are too busy with their smartphones to fool around with each other. (Someone else said that the information revolution means kids just aren’t as ignorant as they once were about how to avoid disease and pregnancy.)

            A few years ago I read an article discussing an annual survey of how young people use technology. One of the findings was exactly this–they use it to seek out information about sex and health they they don’t get in school, and may be too embarrassed to ask an adult personally. They have access to information they need in real time.

              1. Rose

                Hey, my mom is a nurse. She told me EVERYTHING in great detail, including what STDs do to you. And showed me pictures. I was not interested in sex for a loooooong time.

          2. Mark Stewart

            Lynchings were also a tool of segregationists to give support to all the small gestures of rejection whites, in general, gave to blacks. Horrific actions have different, but just as indelible impressions on the other side as well.

            It says a lot about our progress that such strong and swift rejection by the majority did occur in this instance.

  12. Mike Cakora

    By virtue of their subjectivity, hate speech and hate crimes are tools of the authoritarians. Not only must one obey the law — really only certain laws whether written or merely understood — one must love and respect those who promulgate whatever it is that all are to love and respect. Any failure to display complete fidelity is hatred and must be dealt with by expulsion or multiple public acts of contrition. Re-education camps are probably available.

    Recent examples are manifold. My favorites are those Democrat candidates who have had to apologize for saying “all lives matter” because the current belief is that only “black lives matter.” Hate is bad unless one hates the right things. You’ll be told what’s right.

    As an example of how idiotic the privilege stuff is, take a look at who’s really getting screwed: Asians. They are prevented from entering the schools they over-qualify for, companies are criticized for hiring the most capable and ending up with too many Asians, Asian- run businesses in primarily Black areas are verbally and sometimes literally attacked because they are owned and operated by Asians, etc. At the same time Bobby Jindal is criticized because he’s not Indian enough. Screwy, no?

  13. Jeff Mobley

    Imagine three scenarios, and pretend that somehow we’re omniscient about the perpetrator, his knowledge, and his motives:

    In each scenario, the circumstances, and actions are identical, the only difference between them is the knowledge and motives of the criminal, who we know (because we’re omniscient) is a greedy and nasty guy who hates gay people.

    In scenario 1, the criminal knows the victim is gay, and wants to kill him because he’s gay. He’s been spying on the victim and knows his routine. He follows the victim to an ATM machine, waits for him to withdraw some cash, kills him, and then takes the money (because hey, free money).

    In scenario 2, the criminal doesn’t know the victim is gay, but he wants to steal some money, so he’s been spying on the victim and knows his routine. He follows the victim to an ATM machine, waits for him to withdraw some cash, kills him, and then takes the money.

    In scenario 3, the criminal knows the victim is gay (and remember, he hates gay people), but his real motivation is the money, and if not for the money, he wouldn’t be killing the victim.

    So here’s the question. We know these things because we’re omniscient in this situation, but these differences in the knowledge and motives of the perpertrator would be very difficult to ascertain by prosecutors or a jury.

    To me, this a major problem with hate crime legislation. The even bigger problem is that even if prosecuters could somehow divine this information with absolute certainty, the implication (intentional or not) of hate crime legislation is that some excuses for callously disregarding human life are more valid than others.

  14. Burl Burlingame

    I have black friends who were upset with the OJ verdict (one of whom explained to me a key piece of evidence the prosecution muffed) and I don’t see many, if any, black folks supporting Bill Cosby — although there are white folks delighting in talking about him because he’s black.

    But hate crimes — whether you agree with it or not, it’s on the books as a prosecution tool, and they’re using it to make sure Roof doesn’t get off.

    1. Barry

      1) Roof isn’t going to “get off” for many, many reasons (Video, eye-witness, he admitted to it, gun evidence, bullet evidence, car evidence). Being charged with a “hate crime” is not going to do that at all.

      2) A lot of white LIBERAS are GIDDY about Bill Cosby. Evidence? Left wing MSNBC has talked about Bill Cosby- and even led off with it as their top national news story on many of their programs all summer long. They don’t like Cosby because he’s spent a lot of time telling black youth to quit wearing their pants around their thighs and complaining about not being hired.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        No, Barry. The reason they would be big on the story, to the extent that ideology would play a role in their interest, is because he’s a male big shot who has apparently abused and exploited young women who were in vulnerable situations.

        I mean, that’s a big story whatever your political views, but if you’re on the left, you also have ideological reasons.

          1. Barry

            On MSNBC at least – it’s both

            Many, Many times their liberal guests have said something to the effect of “and here he was telling black young that they should act better, etc…. ”

            It’s been a constant refrain on MSNBC throughout this fiasco.

            1. Barry

              and that’s why- at least for MNBC – some of it has to do with Bill Cosby giving advice to those young, black people as he was often “ACCUSED” of approaching things from a conservative point of view in the past in his talks to young folks.

              They’d repeated it too many times at this point.

      2. Brad Warthen Post author

        And since I don’t watch cable TV news, I just have to take my friends’ word that outfits such as Fox and MSNBC are as ideological as people make them out to be.

      3. Pam Wilkins

        I’m a white liberal and am not remotely giddy about Bill Cosby. I’m sickened and saddened. I’m sickened by his apparent gross hypocrisy–talk about removing the speck in one’s eye before complaining about the mote (or whatever) in another’s! Of course, I’m also sickened by what he’s accused of doing.

        I’m saddened because he seemed like such a good and decent man, and like everyone else, I hate having my illusions shattered. I grew up on The Cosby Show and admired Bill Cosby. Obviously there is no Huxtable family, but the degree of disillusionment and disappointment here is, well, pretty big. It’s no surprise this is a big story.

        As for Brad’s comment about people on the left having “ideological reasons” for being interested in a story about a male big shot who has apparently abused and exploited vulnerable young women, harumph. Why don’t you let those of us on the left speak for ourselves as individuals? Aren’t you supposed to be so anti-collectivist? I don’t take any pleasure or otherwise bask in such stories. Why would I?

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          First, Pam, I am not buying into the notion AT ALL that the media are interested in this for ideological reasons. This is a horrific news story that pretty much any news outlet would be interested in reporting. I’m normally a guy who takes little interest in celebrity news, but even I see this as a significant story.

          I was just saying that if there WERE an ideological cause for especially intense interest, he was pointing to the wrong one.

          I don’t think I am in any way libeling my liberal friends in saying that they, like I, would be appalled at a powerful man taking advantage of women in vulnerable positions as he is alleged to have done.

          But if anyone is insulted by that, I certainly apologize.

          1. Pam Wilkins

            No offense taken–thanks for the clarification. I just didn’t understand why someone on the left would have some PARTICULAR ideological interest or stake in the story, beyond the interest/stake anyone else would have. Your comment suggested to me (perhaps mistakenly on my part) that you thought the left might have some gender axe to grind that the Cosby narrative would serve (men bad, women good, or something like that). I’m as much a feminist as anyone I’ve seen post here, but a general “men bad, women good” narrative (or even “man predator, woman victim”–clearly a plausible narrative in this particular case) strikes me as simplistic and naive. I guess I felt those of us on the left were being painted as simplistic and naive, and that did annoy me.

        2. Mike Cakora

          Pam wrote:

          As for Brad’s comment about people on the left having “ideological reasons” for being interested in a story about a male big shot who has apparently abused and exploited vulnerable young women, harumph. Why don’t you let those of us on the left speak for ourselves as individuals? Aren’t you supposed to be so anti-collectivist? I don’t take any pleasure or otherwise bask in such stories. Why would I?

          Which Bill are we talking about here, Clinton or Cosby?

          We really need a scorecard around here…

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