Ethics for Force Users Part 4

 

The principal justification for attacking beliefs instead of actions and for making rules against good faith speech, when laws already exist against violence, vandalism, etc. (judicial wrongs), is that such beliefs cause such actions. We must get at the root of things, after all, the argument might go. But besides the moralism of such an approach, to morally condemn beliefs as such without addressing their claim to truth, this approach is deeply dehumanizing and irresponsible. That people act from certain causes is a
judgment made by science but not normally by morality, since morality holds persons responsible for
their actions and intentions regardless of the causes, unless they are to be judged actually incompetent.
The insane act out of causes that relieve them of moral responsibility. It is then particularly paradoxical
to morally condemn someone for having acted on the basis of a cause that nevertheless is to be treated
more like a disease or a tumor to be excised, through authoritative therapy (re-education, etc.), than like
an adult, competent belief to be answered with rational argument and knowledge. Reducing people to
the puppets of causation not only completely erases their moral dignity, autonomy, and rationality but
substitutes an authoritarian, totalitarian source of standards that in principle must be accepted without
argument or objection.

The category of thought crime has recently been revived in American colleges and universities in the
"political correctness" movement, whose major project has been to write and enforce speech codes
(which, for public institutions, are then typically thrown out by the courts as unconstitutional). The
public justification for such codes has been to fight hate crimes and to punish hate related insults,
harassment, assaults, vandalism, etc. The motive for such codes and the practice of their application,
however, often seem to amount to simple hostility towards opposing political beliefs. They embody a
judicially moralistic ideological animus that is willing to vilify and stigmatize even reasonably argued
political opinions, and people, as racist, sexist, homophobic (expanding limitlessly into a circus of
political crimes, "classism," "lookism," "sizeism," "speciesism," "orientalism," etc.). In short, they seem
to seek the criminalization of mere beliefs and the people who may express them in good will and good
faith. In that project terms like "racism" and "sexism" become no more than chanted slogans used for
smearing opponents and for eliminating the need for argument or debate, since of course no one need
take the views or persons of racists or sexists, etc. seriously. They deserve, like neo-Nazis and
Klansmen, to be driven out of honest venues (like colleges, universities, and the media) and prosecuted
for the damage their ideas do. The only escape from such condemnations is to become "re-educated" or
"sensitized" and affirm the politically correct line without reservations. The political correctness
movement, consequently, represents the continuing threat of judicial moralism to free thought and free
speech. Fortunately, even most politicians recognize the totalitarian origins of this movement, although
supposedly educated academics often don't.

Similar to the judicial moralism of commanding or condemning beliefs is a judicial moralism of
commanding or condemning feelings. It can be no moral duty to feel a certain way since feelings are not
voluntary and cannot be "corrected" through an act of will. Thus, Aristotle said, "Again, we are not
angry or afraid from choice, but the virtues are certain modes of choice, or at all events involve choice"
[Nicomachean Ethics, Book II, v, 4, Loeb Classical Library,
Harvard U. Press, 1926-1982, pp.88-89].

Nevertheless, in this, traditional morality often misleads us. We find both Leviticus (19:18) and Jesus commanding love of neighbors and enemies (Matthew 5:44), and Jesus forbidding anger (Matthew 5:22). Confucius also simply commands, "Love others" (Analects XII 22:1). Not only is this basically impossible but it leads to a inappropriate guilt, when it cannot be done, that is morally damaging. The genuine moral concern about anger, as in our concern about someone's temper, is if it leads to uncontrolled behavior, i.e. violence and judicial wrongs of action. All sorts of feelings -- anger, liking, dislike, love, sympathy, hatred -- can go with either good intention and right action or bad intention and wrong action. In other words, the imperative of morality is to mean to deal justly and to do so, regardless of one's feelings. This is sometimes confused by the way that "hatred" and "ill will" can be equated with meaning to do harm and so with bad moral intention. However, few would evaluate their hatred or ill will towards Hitler or Stalin as involving an immoral intention (although according to Jesus it actually would). Our assumption is that evil persons merit hatred and ill will and that this is not to morally wrong them or maintain an immoral intention. Our hatred is because they deserve harm as just retribution for their wrongful actions (although this again violates Jesus's injunction not to judge, Matthew 7:1). Intending them harm is therefore simply to desire retributive justice. Since feelings actually are caused, often by certain beliefs, condemnation of feelings also becomes a way of indirectly condemning beliefs. Treating the "causes" of hatred thus can become the authoritarian "re-education" of political thought crimes.

"hate crimes." "Hate crimes" form a legitimate moral and legal category, but the proper formulation of
the matter is obscured by the way in which it is usually presented and discussed. In any crime malice can
be an aggravating factor. This is just what distinguishes murder from manslaughter. A "hate crime,"
however, is one where some specific source of malice is of concern, namely, hatred based on ethnicity,
race, religion, national origin, or differences of sex or sexual preference. Malice for those reasons, and
not for reasons of hatred of individuals, is now often considered particularly aggravating as much for
reasons for social policy as for reasons of moral culpability. The laws are especially intended to
discourage ethnic, racial, etc. hatred because this is considered a social problem, and because of the
modern confusion that private individuals can violate the "civil rights" of others ("hate crime" laws are
often proposed as federal "civil rights" legislation). But if the purpose of such laws is thus some social
end, it is questionable whether it is in accord with justice to magnify a punishment for some purpose
other than just retribution. It is also questionable whether increased punishments will effectively serve
their social purpose any more than draconian punishments ever have. After all, it is actually an argument
against the death penalty that even the prospect of death does not really deter murderers.

While we may very well see malice motivated by hatreds as a morally and judicially aggravating
condition in crimes and use a principle that there are special "hate crimes," if some "hates" are singled
out over others for political reasons, this puts us onto ground perilously fraught with the possibility of
judicial moralism. The abuse of this principle is easy, especially when the rhetorical sophistry is always
handy that criticism of the category of "hate crimes" is the same as condoning the wrongful acts of
violence, vandalism, etc. that it concerns. On the other hand, what we are dealing with in hate crimes is
really not a matter of "hate" at all. The moral violation of attacking someone because of their ethnic or
racial identity is actually not a violation of right based on belief or feeling. Calling such violations "hate
crimes" introduces a misdirection into our analysis. For the right perspective, we must consider some
circumstances under which the belief and the hatred are justified, as in the feelings that Jews might have
for Germans, Armenians for Turks, Irish for British, Chinese for Japanese, Lithuanians for Russians,

Sikhs for Moslems and Hindus, etc., all based on real historical crimes that resulted in the deaths of
many of the aggrieved groups. Germans really did kill Jews, Turks Armenians, Japanese Chinese, etc.
So does that mean that it is morally acceptable, as retribution, that Jews could just start killing Germans,
and so forth? Of course not. Members of a group of people, of any kind, are not responsible for crimes
committed by some other members of the group. While we may see a group, in a general way,
committing crimes, those responsible for the crimes are those who actually perpetrate them, not others
who do not perpetrate them, especially when the non-perpetrators may be members of the group in the
distant future. The moral principle, then, is that the retributions of justice, whether formal or irregular,
can only be visited on actual responsible individual perpetrators. A "hate crime" is consequently not an
error of hate or of belief but a moral error of singling out some individual as worthy of attack, not
because of some wrong he is known to have done himself, but because of some wrong some other
member or members of his group are believed to have done.

If that is so, then it should be clear that the remedy for "hate crimes" cannot always be to try and get
people to stop hating each other. No amount of education is going to get Armenians to stop hating the
Turks. Indeed, real education is liable to intensify the hatred, once the facts of history are known, since
people tend to forget the details of crimes in the past. Thus we should be suspicious when we see that
with the magnified punishments for hate crimes (which to an extent may be appropriate for the
fundamental nature of the moral error involved) also go programs designed to eliminate ethnic, racial,
etc. hatreds through education, sensitivity training, etc. The assumption is that simply knowing enough
about other ethnic groups, or life-styles, etc., will remove the conflicts. It may well be that in cases of
baseless bigotry knowledge of the simple truth will make a difference, but to generalize this to all cases
of hatreds and conflict involves incredibly naive and ahistorical assumptions; and it clearly involves a
formulation of the category of hate crimes that heads it in the direction of judicial moralism of belief and
of feeling, instead of in the proper direction of respect for innocent individuals. Half the trouble in the
world today seems to involve peoples who have lived with each other for centuries and certainly know
each other all too well: Catholic and Protestant Irish, Moslem and Hindu Indians, Greek and Turkish
Cypriots, Serbs and Croats, Christian and Moslem Bosnians, Armenians and Azeris, Tamils and
Sinhalese, Basques and Spanish, Tibetans and Chinese, Eritreans and Ethiopians, etc. Where we find
unity among diverse people, it is always because of some overriding loyalty: Malcolm X found blacks
and whites at peace together on the pilgrimage to Mecca because of the cultural and religious unity of
Islâm. Moslem pilgrims even wear the same clothes.

But today, it is often claimed that harmony results from emphasizing differences and diversity and even
denying that there is or ought to be anything that imposes some overall ("hegemonic") unity. This is an
ignorant prescription for nothing but increasing conflict and hatred, wherever it is applied. Differences
breed aesthetic variety, and aesthetic variety (even apart from histories of crime and conflict) breeds
likes and dislikes, even loves and hates. That is the aesthetic truth of human life and is perfectly innocent
in itself. Those dislikes, etc. can only be suppressed by the most ferocious anaesthetic or judicial
moralism, which will persuade few and have little enough effect in any case. Even without serious issues
of conflict, culture and "lifestyle" will always be inevitable hinges of aesthetic preference. The unity, in
turn, which is the only hope of peace and justice, is the principle of morality itself, the respect for the
autonomy of others regardless of likes and dislikes, loves and hates, cultural or ethnic identity, or
personal practices. The project of morality is to clearly distinguish those things, not to judicially
moralize the aesthetic dimension of feelings and preferences. To appreciate the beauty of another culture
can be a major hortative good, but it cannot be a moral imperative. Confusing justice with aesthetics all
too easily has the unintended consequence, not of morally abolishing hatred, but of moralizing hatred
into fanatical and violent self-righteousness.

But if Jews or Armenians do not have the right to attack Germans or Turks, what if they do not wish to
associate with them? Well, we certainly can't make them. Or can we? What if Jews or Armenians own
businesses and don't want to hire or serve Germans or Turks? Right now they could be sued for

discriminating according to "national origin." Thus our laws as written actually try to force people to
associate with each other even if they don't want to do so and even if their reasons for not wanting to are
based on major traumas of history. We might say that they don't have any reason to hate specific
individual Germans or Turks any more than they have any right to attack them in retribution for the
wrongs of history, but that is precisely to commit the fallacy of judicial moralism of feeling: people are
going to feel the way they feel for whatever reason, and ill feelings for a group are inevitably going to
tend to be applied to all members of the group. Morality can only forbid the action, not the feeling; and
the actions that can be forbidden are only the ones causing harm through violence, coercion, fraud, or
negligence, not ones merely of a refusal to deal with or associate with someone. Freedom of association
lessens conflicts by allowed people who don't like each other to separate. Forcing people to associate
out of the notion that this is going to make them learn to like each other is not only tyrannical but a
formula for civil strife. In small, intensely controlled contexts, as in the military, this may work to an
extent; but we often see how conflict can still explode even under military discipline -- and it is a very
bad sign when political activists take comfort that society could be reformed if subjected to something
very much like military discipline.

The passion and violence that accompany religious and political moralism, and especially their
dimension as judicial moralism of belief and feeling, are as much with us as ever. The saying is that
politics and religion are not things people should discuss in polite company, but that simply is the result
of the difficulty we have in separating the evaluation of the truth of beliefs from value judgments about
moral or judicial worth. Here we can only labor to avoid judicial moralism and to attempt to review with
some dispassion the issues we consider, remembering that beliefs and propositions must be answered
with reason and evidence, not with self-righteous moral condemnation.

One category of "hate crimes" that the principle offered does not cover is that involving "sexual
preference." Crimes against homosexuals cannot be said to involve an error of thinking that the
individuals are not engaged in the practices that the group is thought to be guilty of, since practicing
homosexuals indeed engage in homosexual practices. Since the Bible itself mandates the killing of male
homosexuals and it is regarded by very many people as a proper source of morality, even of law, one
cannot say that all "gay bashing" is done in bad faith or merely out of malice. That the Bible is not a
proper source of secular law should now be obvious, but it is not to all persons of good will; and as
philosophers cannot agree on what the proper source of secular law and morality is (many asserting that
there is no proper source), the case for Biblical morality would tend to be strengthened in the eyes of
many.

If crimes against homosexuals do not qualify as "hate crimes," does this mean they are simply to be
allowed? Of course not. The idea of "hate crimes" merely addes an aggrevating factor to something that
is already a crime. When a young homosexual student, Matthew Shepard, was murdered in Wyoming,
in October 1998, there was a great outcry for more "hate crime" legislation -- and political
demonstrations which, of course, only influence politicians, not murderers -- but since such a murder in
Wyoming was already a capital offense, it is not clear what kind of added punishment a hate crime law
would add to the sentences of the perpetrators. Many in favor of vast "hate crime" legislation are
themselves opposed to the death penalty, and they certainly would never consider adding, for instance,
torture to any other kind of capital or prison sentence.

The distortion this introduces into public discourse is evident in the continuing news coverage given to
the Shepard case (plays and movies have even been produced about it), while the September 1999
bondage rape and murder of 13-year-old Jesse Dirkhising by two homosexual men in Arkansas has
received virtually no attention in the national media, except for conservative commentators. Just as the
Shepard case was promoted as evidence of such pervasive "homophobia" as to require federal
legislation, those persuaded of Biblical morality could easily offer the Dirkhising case as evidence of
pervasive crime by homosexuals. Neither view, of course, is true or proper. Local murders do not appear

in the national media unless the media think that some national issue is involved. The Shepard case
receives national attention, but not the Dirkhising case, because the national press accepts the
importance and the political agenda of federal "hate crime" legislation, while not acknowledging the
importance of conservative objections to homosexual practices. This is a political bias. The conservative
agenda, however misguided, is just as newsworthy as the leftist one that promotes the category of "hate
crimes" involving homosexuals. Either both or neither should receive attention in honest news coverage.
The disturbing truth is that the Dirkhising case largely has received no coverage because of the national
media bias that facts that might reflect negatively on homosexuals should be, not just under-reported, but
actually suppressed.

The truth is that in much political and academic thinking "hate crimes" are not really moral offenses at
all, which is why few advocates are ever troubled by the status of homosexuality in Biblical morality.
Instead, the advocates of hate crime legislation almost always see these as political crimes, not moral
crimes. Political crimes do not call for just retribution, but for punishments that are seen as instruments
of social engineering and political suppression, meaning that any punishment sufficient to the end is
justified. This dimension is also evident in feminism, which itself sees crimes against women as political
crimes -- since, for establishment feminism, everything is political. Thus, even a Republican Congress
passed the bizarre "Violence Against Women Act" on the principle that crimes against women were
federal "civil rights" offenses. Similarly, feminism thinks of crimes against women as themselves "hate
crimes," meaning that what is called "hate" is not really an emotion or a feeling at all -- not all battering
husbands, muggers, or even rapists, necessarily hate women -- but a politically incorrect
"consciousness," calling for the full weight of federal civil rights authority -- or for political
demonstrations, the kinds of things ignored by rapists but noticed by legislators. "Hate" becomes merely
a codeword for those violating a certain political program. Thus, the popular theory of hate crimes is no
longer even an example of possible judicialism moralism, but just a case of a larger political moralism;
and as such, it is not surprising that crimes against homosexuals are not seen as problematic, but instead
as obvious, candidates for the "hate crime" category.

The potential for misuse of the "hate crime" category has become evident in several recent cases. In one
of them, an Idaho man, Lonny Rae, was charged with "malicious harassment," a felony, for using the
"N" word. This was after an October 2001 football game between local high schools. The fans of the
school that lost became angry at the referees, as losing fans often do. Mr. Rae's wife, Kim, was at the
game as a freelance reporter and photographer. Because of the possible controversy about the referees,
she took pictures of the referees to go with the story. The referees didn't like that and asked her to stop.
One of them, who happened to be black, grabbed her camera and tried to yank it away from her. There
was a strap from the camera around her neck, so the camera didn't come away, but the strap left some
burns and bruises on her neck. When Mr. Rae was informed about this, he went down to where the
referees were going into the locker room and began shouting at the black referee in question, liberally
using the "N" word. Since arguably an assault had occurred on his wife, his anger is understandable,
even if his choice of vocabulary is less so. There was never physical contact between the two men.

Nevertheless, although no charges were filed for assault against the referee, Mr. Rae ended up charged
under the Idaho "malicious harassment" hate crime law, which carries a maximum penalty of five years
in prison. Since nothing had happened between the two men except Mr. Rae's speech, the only way such
an application of this law, which now has nothing to do with aggravating factors in some independently
defined unlawful act, could pass muster as not violating the First Amendment is if it fit in under the
Supreme Court's "fighting words" exception. With the provocation of the assault on his wife, however,
there is a serious mitigating factor about whatever Mr. Rae might have done while angry. The situation
was one in which the aggravation had already occurred. It is therefore fortunate that nothing worse than
angry words were involved. The niceties of First Amendment jurisprudence, however, do not seem to
have been of concern to the prosecutors, the judge, or the jury. The use of the "bad word" was obviously
the offense, all by itself, regardless of the circumstances. In February 2002 the jury, in fact, found Mr.

Rae innocent of the "malicious harassment" charge. The judge, however, had suggested that a lesser
charge of which he might be guilty could be "misdemeanor assault"; and the jury found Mr. Rae guilty
of this. The judge sentenced him to seven days in jail, although jail time for a first such offense is rare.
The judge evidently regarded the matter as sufficiently serious to warrant it. So now using a "bad" word
is equivalent to an assault -- which is no less than what "critical race theory" legal scholars, like Mari J.
Matsuda (Words That Wound: Critical Race Theory, Assaultive Speech, and the First Amendment,
1993), have seriously proposed.

What is serious is the fact of an assault on free speech and the attendant decriminalization of a physical
assault. If Mr. Rae is someone who goes around gratuitously shouting the "N" word at black people,
then "harassment" is a description that comes to mind. This situation was nothing of the sort, and the
actions of the authorities and the court in penalizing the speech and ignoring the prior physical assault
betrays a judgment that political crimes are important while mere violent crimes are not. This, indeed, is
the tendency of a politicized jurisprudence slipping over into judicial moralism. Mr. Rae's speech
betrayed him to be the sort of person who is intrinsically in the wrong, just because of his attitude,
regardless of the nature of the events in question. As George Orwell would have said, he is not on "our"
side and so is deserving of punishment as a political criminal.

An even worse case is that of Janice Barton of Michigan, who was overheard in August 1998 using the
word "spic" in a private comment to her mother, about a group of people speaking Spanish leaving a
restaurant near them. In that group was an off-duty deputy sheriff, who heard the comment and wrote
down Barton's license plate number. Two weeks later Barton was arrested for "disorderly conduct," later
"insulting conduct," and finally a "hate crime." In this case we have a crime consisting of no more than a
bad word, and not even one directed at anyone thus characterized. Barton was actually convicted,
despite Supreme Court rulings that the only exception to the First Amendment in such a case would be a
use of "fighting words" likely to provoke a "breach of the peace." In November 2002 her conviction was
reversed by an appeals court, on the principle that this was "conduct she could not reasonably have
known was criminal." Usually, courts hold that "ignorance of the law is no excuse"; but in this case
ignorance of the law seems to have been the problem with the deputy sheriff, the prosecutors, the judge,
the jury, and the appeals court. What it looks like is that the appeals court knew that the conviction was
going to be reversed eventually, and so they wanted a pretext to avoid the embarrassment of the
Michigan "hate crime" law, if it allowed this conviction, itself being struck down.

In all cases like these, it becomes more apparent that the tendency of "progressive" legislation is a
totalitarian hostility to free speech and "politically incorrect" belief, a program that did not die with
Communism in 1991 but lives on in the political left of American universities, law schools, and trendy
opinion. The consequences of this are already pervasive in distorted civil rights law.