Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Heads up! Here comes another hate crime

Did you wake up this morning feeling like beating up a double amputee? Don't do it — no, I say! No matter how satisfying it might seem, it's just not worth it. Especially if you're in the United Kingdom.

Over in Orwellia, the government is planning to outlaw "inciting hatred against disabled people." (Tip of the hat to the ever-watchful DumbJon.) That comes bundled with legislation against inciting hatred of gay, lesbian, and transgendered people. (That is, I presume, someone who falls into any of those categories: you don't have to be both lesbian and transgendered to be "special.")

The Barmy Broadcasting Company reports:
Damon Rose, editor of the BBC's Ouch website [excuse me?], said he had seen increasing stories about disabled people being bullied. "There is something about the happy slapping culture which hasn't helped disabled people. Disabled people are 'interesting' targets in that way," he said.
"Happy slapping," in case you live in a civilized place and have not heard of it, is the latest trend among Britain's apprentice criminals. Usually performed by a group, it consists of walking up to someone minding his own business and punching him till he's on the floor and bleeding, while capturing the celebration on a video camera, later posting it on the Web.

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Mr. Rose has a point. There is undoubtedly something — I can't quite put my finger on it — that hasn't helped disabled people. However, let's not be too judgmental; happy slapping has been no little help to others who've been treated to a punch-up, especially accountants wearing pin-striped suits and carrying attaché cases. They deserve it, the toffs. But they're such unimaginative targets; surely it's more interesting, maybe even artistic, know what I mean, to bash some poor sod who's blind and a little lame into the bargain.

Simone Aspis from the British Council of Disabled People, which represents 350,000 members, said a "huge number" of disabled people were being victimised. "At the moment people don't take it as seriously as other forms of hate crime. Research suggests that you are four times more likely to be a victim of crime if you are a disabled person."
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Four times more likely? To be a victim of "crime" in general? I can just about believe that the differently abled would be mugged at a somewhat greater rate than their samely abled fellow citizens, although four times more likely seems like a number plucked from the ether. But to leave the field behind in suffering burglary, identity theft, car theft, investment fraud? Well, there are lies, damned lies, and … hold on, I'm sorry, we're talking about the unfortunate.

And David Congdon, head of campaigns and policy at Mencap, said it was important to try to "change the culture, to ensure people value each other equally".

Aha. Person Congdon, you have spilled the beans. As DumbJon notes, "So it's not about the huge number of people in wheelchairs being thrown off cliffs, after all. Instead it's about closing down the debate, so we won't be allowed to ask, for example, whether or not a guy so delusional he can't be held responsible for acts of hideous violence should be out on the streets in the first place. After all, asking that would be 'hateful'."

No, in Britain it is Year 25 in the Revolutionary Calendar, and the Union of Certified Guillotine Operators is sharpening the blades for necks bearing heads that don't value people equally. The People's Tribunal can't look the other way if any of the plebs lets slip a hateful statement of unequal regard for someone who falls into the category of, let's see, membership in a race (unless it's white) or religion, being gay, lesbian, transgendered, disabled, having a previous condition of servitude … my apologies if I've left anyone out, which I'm sure I have.

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The diverse, egalitarian state of Orwellia knows what you should think and feel. And it isn't asking you. It's telling you.

Just in case I ever visit the U.K. again, I want to make it clear that I value everyone as equally as they want to be, and one of my best friends was a Zoroastrian sight-impaired transgendered unwed Tibetan father, formerly a foot washer in the mansion of a Saudi prince. It really bothered me when the happy slappers failed to show him due respect.

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Anonymous said...

Rick, I think you may be a little too quick off the line on this one. I am totally against the idea of hate crimes, but I have heard stories of disabled people being special targets of low lifes, and especially of muzlims. It seems that muzlims in particular look at weakness, for what ever reason, as marking a person as a target, and goodness knows, Great Britain is having enough trouble with muzlims.

I don't think there is any need for special legislation for crimes against the disabled. I do think that there is the need for the vigorous pursuit of the perpetrators and the full prosecution of those guilty of such crimes, without any sort of extenuating circumstances (like the fact that they are muzlim, or orange, or whatever). -- Dr.D

Rick Darby said...

Of course I want to see any dregs of humanity who prey on the disabled suitably punished. But I'm against the principle of differential punishment based on what a criminal thinks of his victim — it's irrelevant but implies that some victims are more valuable than others. The penalty should be for the act and in line with its severity.

It's also hard to think that someone who is such a sickbag as to take advantage of a victim's disability is going to make a rational calculation about the consequences of a "hate crime" as opposed to a loving crime.

I'm no expert in criminology, but at least some of those who say they are maintain that the deterrent value of punishment varies with the likelihood of being caught and sentenced, as well as how quickly that occurs. Adding a few more years of hard time to a sentence that may or may not be imposed or served fully is less likely to affect behavior.

Anonymous said...

I think we are on the same page here, Rick; I don't think there is any disagreement. My concern is that we quit excusing criminals because they come from predefined "victim groups" such as blacks, Hispanics, muzlims, etc. and therefore cannot really be prosecuted. I think they need to be prosecuted to the fullest possible extent, with no regard to their "victim group" status. Our legal system in such cases is often totally without any backbone. -- Dr.D

David Foster said...

Maybe what is going on here is a kind of market segmentation. That is, people feel they have no hope of getting the society to deal harshly with these brutal assaults *as a general matter*...thus, they hope to get special protections put in place for groups of which they are members--in this case, the disabled.

To change the analogy, it's like the emergence of feudalism. If the Empire is in disarray and does not protect its citizens, they they will affiliae with a local lord--who, in exchange for certain committments on their part, will undertake to protect them. In this case, "local" is defined in terms other than geographic, but the principal is the same.