Lately I've stumbled upon an on-line discussion about a violent assault, perpetrated by two African American teenage girls, on a man who was dressed as a woman and whom they caught in a women's rest room. They beat him up pretty badly, and now they are being accused of "transphobia," which apparently is defined as an irrational hatred of people who think they were born as members of the wrong sex and who then go about cross-dressed. The "hate crime" category is being suggested here, which would aggravate their punishment severely. That prompted arguments back and forth, carried on at a depressingly low level, on whether "hate crime" legislation is an unconstitutional proscription of thoughts.
Those who were in favor of the legislation argued that we already criminalize evil thoughts that are acted upon, and that that is what separates a charge of murder from a charge of involuntary manslaughter. That argument is absurd. The difference between murder and involuntary manslaughter is a difference of intent, not opinion or attitude or feeling — and these are the things that people mean by "thought," when they inveigh against a Thought Police. Intent is constitutive of the action. That is, it not only prompts the action, but it stamps the action with its seal; it makes it the kind of action it is. So if I have been drugged by a stranger, and in a delusional state take a heavy object and crush someone's skull with it, I am not guilty of murder, simply because I was not in a state to form the intent to kill. If I see someone falling from the window of a thirty story building, either dead already or certain to die in moments, and I pull a gun and shoot, I am guilty of attempted murder, because the intent to kill informs my action. What I feel about the body falling is of no consequence, unless it can be shown that I was motivated in part by something deeply disturbing, such as fear or a desire to avenge a terrible wrong, in which case, if anything, my passions will be a mitigating and not an aggravating factor. It is why we consider murder for hire a worse thing than murder committed for passion.
The defenders of the legislation could not perceive the difference between intent and attitude or feeling. I don't think that the teenage girls should be out on the streets again for a long time, but they did not go out seeking this crime, motivated by hatred. The crime, as it were, came to them. They acted like barbarians and should be punished accordingly, but it would be utterly unjust to punish them worse, because they may have been motivated in part by scorn or disgust or fear or revulsion — if anything, those passions would mitigate their guilt somewhat.
The one argument that the defenders of "hate crime" laws put forth was that such crimes are perpetrated to terrorize a whole community. Sure, I will agree that if you are going to terrorize a community, you will probably be motivated by hatred (unless you are hired to do it, which again makes your crime all the more despicable). But what is justly punished is not the hatred. It is the intent to terrorize. Let us say that you are the head of the Tartaglia crime family, and the local priest has been leading demonstrations against your control of corrupt politicians. You have the priest executed, gangland style. That, in my mind, is legitimately punished as more than murder. The murder, after all, is committed not simply to kill a particular person, but to intimidate thousands of others. It is an act of declared war on the public order.
So then, if someone happens to believe that homosexual pseudogamy is a threat to the public good, and if, being something of a hothead, he gets into a quarrel with his next door neighbor over noise late at night, and he loses his temper as they quarrel and breaks his jaw, it is quite unjust to aggravate his punishment if the neighbor happens to be homosexual. For there we would be criminalizing a political viewpoint which rational and quiet and lawabiding people can hold (and many millions do hold it), or a passion, and not an intent. We might change the characteristics of the next door neighbor, making him a redneck with tattoos, and the hothead neighbor a redneck-hating sociology professor. The law does not touch the passion. We know he shouldn't hate rednecks, but he does hate them, and we are within our rights to take that into account in mitigating his sentence, if we choose to mitigate it at all. For there is not a single person alive who is not frail at times in this regard. Moreover, in neither case would we have someone who set out to terrorize a whole community. It's not as if the sociology professor passed out flyers reading, "Death to NASCAR," and snuck into a trailer park with an acetylene torch.
But I do have an interesting case to look at, one that certainly does involve "hate crime." It's this case, from a totalitarian regime. Again, I don't think that holding or even preaching a political opinion, no matter how loathsome, is an actionable offense. And I certainly don't wish to punish people for evil feelings. But if "hate crime" legislation is morally defensible at all, it is as legislation aggravating the sentence for people whose crimes are intended to strike terror into the heart of a whole community. So, for instance, if the Ku Klux Klan were to invade a black neighborhood and abduct a child, I agree heartily that that would be far worse than if a divorced husband were to abduct his own child. That is not because of the political opinion or the feelings of the Kleagles, but because of the intent, which is to attack, directly, the whole community, and bully them into submission.
The Klansmen, if you accused them of hatred, might well respond with a shrug. "We don't hate them," they might say. "We just want them to live somewhere else." They would be lying, but if they were telling the truth it would only make them all the more disgusting and depraved, because then they would be acting in cold blood. But their emotions here don't matter. The act and its intent are what matter. They would be guilty of war against a community. In such a case, capital punishment seems none too strong. I'm not advocating for capital punishment, note well — but if a state did recognize capital crimes, abduction of a child with intent to terrorize a community would sure qualify.
And this is exactly what the Swedish KKK, otherwise simply known as the Government, have done. If the judge in question had hired a thug to abduct Domenic Johansson because he was her son and she wanted custody and hated her ex-husband, well then, I do understand that passion, and I'd certainly allow it as a mitigating factor. But that was not the case at all. The Swedish KKK abducted Domenic, who was only a few moments away from leaving Sweden forever with his mother and father, for the sole purpose of terrorizing every family in Sweden, particularly Christian homeschoolers, and bullying them into submission. The Mafiosi leave the priest dead in a ditch, not because they hate him, and not because they hate priests (they may not, and if they do, it is neither here nor there), but because they want to make sure that no priest again will get up the nerve to oppose them. That is what makes their murder more than a murder. If the abominable people led by Fred Phelps were to invade Greenwich Village and abduct a child from a homosexual couple, that too would be more than kidnapping. I don't think that children should be raised without both a mother and a father, but I also don't think that children should be abducted!
What the Swedish KKK have done here is purely evil. I have no doubt that many of the perpetrators have been as dispassionate as serpents, unblinking as they coil to strike. I could go farther here. As I said, I understand animal passions, and human passions. But the cold passion, if it can be called a passion at all and not the deliberate freezing of all human feeling, that would sacrifice a child to make everyone else tremble before they question the authority of the state, that I find hard to understand. Perhaps it is an evil that approaches what a deceased professor at Providence College once called "negative transcendence," an evil so deep, so devoted to the abyss of pride, that it can only be explained by diabolical inspiration.
"Ah, but it is for the child's best interest," says Moloch.