I have long been an opponent of hate crimes laws, as 1) they criminalize thought, and 2) they privilege certain victims by designating them as part of a protected class. Matthew Shepard is no more or less dead than my parents. And as usual, there’s another ramification of this, which is that these laws provide the State with cover to expand into more and more communities/ethnicities/subcultures/insert collective here, under the guise of protection from hate crime.
For instance, let’s look across the Atlantic to Britain, where an AP story tells us that the Greater Manchester police force
will begin recording offenses against members of alternative subcultures in the same way they do attacks based on race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or transgender identity.
The Greater Manchester force – the first in Britain to take the step – says “Goths, emos, punks and metallers” and members of other alternative groups often endure abuse.
Members of these groups – often teenagers – are easily identifiable by their distinctive clothing, hairstyles and accessories, from Goths’ pale makeup and black garb to punks’ spiky hair and piercings.
“People who wish to express their alternative sub-culture identity freely should not have to tolerate hate crime,” Assistant Chief Constable Garry Shewan said.
The problem here, of course, is that no one should have to tolerate crime at all.
Manchester police said the change would enable officers to give more support to the victims of anti-punk or anti-Goth crime.
But it won’t necessarily mean tougher sentences. Although British judicial guidelines call for people convicted of hate crimes to receive tougher sentences, the Manchester decision has not been recognized nationally.
But fear not — folks are working on it. The article goes on to discuss activist groups working to expand the number of subcultures eligible for a spot in the Hate Crime Olympics. And it closes with this bit:
There are no immediate plans to change the national hate crimes register, but last year Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone acknowledged that the five recognized categories of hate crime was “an incomplete list.”
Here’s a hint, folks. If you have an “Equalities Minister”, you’re already in a great deal of trouble.
A tip of the Mondo Mortarboard to James Taranto’s Best of the Web.