Fake Hate Crimes Are Hate Crimes

Following up on my previous post, let's suppose that new evidence emerges proving beyond a reasonable doubt that Constantine hung the noose on her own door. What punishment is appropriate?

I submit that fake hate crimes should be dealt with as if they were real hate crimes--because they are. The primary argument for special treatment of hate crimes is that they act to intimidate every member of the target group. This applies just as well to hate crime hoaxes as it does to real hate crimes. Without knowing that the crime is a hoax, members of the target group have no reason to feel any less threatened than they would if it were real.

Perpetrators of such hoaxes are often praised, after the hoax is exposed, for bringing attention to the issue of hate crimes. But why is this a good thing? Real hate crimes should be sufficient to bring the optimal amount of attention to the issue. When people stage hate crimes, this makes them seem more common than they actually are, which ultimately means that members of the target group are intimidated for no good reason.

So, ironically, when the perpetrators of these hoaxes are praised for bringing attention to the issue of hate crimes, they're actually being praised for is for intimidating members of the target group--in short, for committing hate crimes!

Share this

Hum except there should not

Hum except there should not be "hate" crimes. I think if you believe the notion of hate crime is just your argumentation makes sense, but since it's not is there a point arguing about it?

Because it's fun to hoist

Because it's fun to hoist people by their own petards.

As long as we're accepting

As long as we're accepting the concept of "Hate Crimes" for this post, I think we can add more to it. This was not only a hate crime against the usual victims, but I think you could also consider it a hate crime against whatever the "majority race" happens to be, as this was a direct attempt to intimidate them from continuing their investigation, and played off of thier race.

If you accept the idea of "hate crime" anyway.

Ordinary Criminal Intimidation

Before being attacked by the anti-PC police, let me say I think "hate crime" laws are a bad idea on balance because they blur the distinction between criminal act and protected speech content too much, and they are too easily used capriciously by prosecutors. Having said that, I think there is a theoretical justification (as noted above).

Let me re-ask the original question in a less race/sexual orientation loaded way: if the local mob enforcer burns down a business for failing to pay "protection" money, is that the same crime as burning down a business because as a PETA member you don't like the fact they sell furs? To me, it's different. The former is arson plus extortion (of lots of other people). The latter is merely arson. The deterrence aspect of criminal punishment is already about acts that others might commit. Punishing the extortion part of the arson, even though it's about other threats to other businesses, seems as justifiable as any other deterrence punishment.

What if the mob enforcer merely threatens to burn down your business and the threat is so credible everyone capitulates and no business needs to be burned down? Is that a crime? Seems like it should be. So, now the original question can be re-framed as "What if someone threatens arson for extortion, is widely believed to be credible, but actually had no intention of committing the crime? What if they were only mocking the crime?" Hmmm, interesting middle ground.

The real world answer seems to be that we punish the truly guilty an extra amount to make the deterrence equal to the net perceived threat (including the insincere). Is that the right approach?

Intimidation

If the local mob enforcer burns down a business for failing to pay "protection" money, is that the same crime as burning down a business because as a PETA member you don't like the fact they sell furs? To me, it's different.

I know what you mean, but I think this is a bad example. In both cases there's an implicit threat (assuming that the motives are known) to burn down the buildings of anyone else who fails to comply with the arsonist's demands (pay up, or stop selling fur, respectively). I don't see any meaningful difference here.

Without knowing that the

Without knowing that the crime is a hoax, members of the target group have no reason to feel any less threatened than they would if it were real.

But once we discover the hoax, we tend to publicize that it was a hoax, thereby reassuring the intended audience that the world is less threatening than previously believed. Shouldn't this mitigate that harm caused by hoaxes, and therefore the punishment?

True, but generally the

True, but generally the perpetrators have no intention of ever revealing the truth. I don't subscribe to the idea that a good-faith attempt to commit a crime should be excused on account of incompetence in the execution.

Also, you have to weigh this against the harm specific to exposed hoaxes--they make claims of similar but real crimes less credible. On the other hand, they also make future hoaxes less credible.