Monday, March 12, 2012

The Right Wing Wants to Institutionalize Hate,
to Make It LEGAL Wrongly to Harm Others,
Even Kill Them

George Zimmeman
I will be writing more on the failing of the vetoed Shoot First legislation separately, but I was struck this weekend by the racist overtones of a fatal shooting of a black teen by a white man with a violent past in Florida who had a legal carry permit.  It is an incident that is pertinent, because so far, the shooter has not been arrested, despite the young victim having been unarmed and much younger and much smaller than the shooter, with the victim weighing in at 140 lbs. to the shooter's 200 lbs. - in other words, he was not a plausible threat to the shooter.  The shooter had a concealed carry permit, despite a background which included violent conduct, including against law enforcement officers.  Zimmerman's victim had no violent events in HIS background, and in fact had saved his father's life, pulling his father to safety from a burning building.
More to the point, despite being directed by the police dispatcher NOT to follow this young man, the shooter did so.  Under the Shoot First legislation, it is legal to shoot someone while in your car, if you FEEL threatened, regardless if you actually ARE threatened.  The criteria for shooting becomes not objective, but subjective.  The duty to retreat, the obligation to attempt to avoid shooting someone if you safely can, would no longer exist.  It would be perfectly legal to go looking for trouble, to follow someone, to pursue shooting someone who was not pursuing or attempting to harm you.  This case has a number of facets which underline the problems with the recently vetoed Shoot First legislation, especially that only ONE side - the shooter's version of events - can be told.

The case of the Trayvon Martin shooting also brings up the issue of violence and hate crimes.  In the case of Trayvon Martin, the only basis that appears to exist for his being considered suspicious is that he is black, and was walking in a white gated community where black teens were not common.

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Alongside the above video from the Florida television station was this one, of two teens who tried to set another teen on fire.

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And last week in Kansas, there was this allegedly racist case of two other teens, who were black, who set a white middle school teen, 13 years old, on fire in what appears to be a hate crime.

In the recent Ohio shooting, the shooter may have singled out one of his victims because, allegedly, he was dating the shooter's ex-girlfriend., and the other victims were that victims friends who happened to be sitting with him.  If this is true, the shootings were not random. The shooter was described as something of an outcast, a loner with few friends.  His background was one of domestic violence.  While this shooter may not have been bullied at school, he appears to have been bullied and abused at home, both directly and as a witness to violent abuse, including intimidation using firearms.

What struck me about this was that when kids are expressing hatred, they resorted to other means than firearms.  Adults who have access to deadly force, as in the case of Trayvon Martin's shooting, also appear to seek to use it, when they have a reasonable expectation of getting away with it.

"Defining a Hate Crime
A hate crime is a traditional offense like murder, arson, or vandalism with an added element of bias. For the purposes of collecting statistics, Congress has defined a hate crime as a "criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender's bias against a race, religion, disability, ethnic origin or sexual orientation." Hate itself is not a crime—and the FBI is mindful of protecting freedom of speech and other civil liberties."
The kind of bias by frequency was broken down by the FBI for the most recent year available on their web site, 2010:
By bias motivation
An analysis of data for victims of single-bias hate crime incidents showed that:
■48.2 percent were victims of an offender’s bias against a race.
■18.9 percent were victims of an offender’s bias against a religion.
■18.6 percent were victims of an offender’s bias against a particular sexual orientation.
■13.7 percent were victims of an offender’s bias against an ethnicity/national origin.
■0.6 percent were victims of an offender’s bias against a disability.
I was saddened, ashamed and disappointed to see that the Southern Poverty Law Center identified no less than 12 hate groups in the state of Minnesota, far fewer than were identified in the surrounding five state area.  They are listed below:
Aryan Nations 88 Neo-Nazi  - Mora
Crusaders for Yahweh Christian Identity - St. Paul
Crusaders for Yahweh Christian Identity - Duluth
Israelite Church of God in Jesus Christ Black Separatist North - Minneapolis
National Socialist Movement Neo-Nazi
Parents Action League Anti-Gay - Champlin
Remnant, The/The Remnant Press Radical Traditional Catholicism  - Forest Lake
South Africa Project White Nationalist
True Invisible Empire Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan Ku Klux Klan
Vinlanders Minnesota Racist Skinhead
Weisman Publications Christian Identity - Burnsville
You Can Run, But You Cannot Hide Anti - Gay - Annandale
This 2010 Fox News coverage of hate crimes confirms much of this:
Inside Militia, Hate Groups in Minnesota
Updated: Tuesday, 30 Mar 2010, 8:35 AM CDT Published : Monday, 29 Mar 2010, 9:47 PM CDT
MINNEAPOLIS - FBI agents arrested nine members of a Christian militia group based in Michigan, who were suspected of plotting to kill a police officer. These groups are everywhere. But a Homeland Security Intelligence report last month said extremist "chatter" is on the rise, which is the biggest increase since before the Oklahoma City bombing. In Minnesota, so-called militia and hate groups are a mixed bag.
Investigators say the group called Hutaree hoped their spree of violence starting next month would lead to an uprising against the entire U.S. government. The group's website says they are preparing to battle the coming antichrist. The suspects face charges of conspiracy as well as possessing a firearm during a crime of violence, teaching the use of explosives and attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction.
The arrests offer an insight into radical groups, some of which operate here in Minnesota.
Charles Weisman is the owner of Weisman Publication, which is an online bookstore of extremism, publishing titles like, "America: Free, White and Christian."
The Southern Poverty Law Center tracks hate groups in the U.S.
In Minnesota, it identifies eight hate groups. It includes an eclectic list that has neo-Nazis in Austin, Minneapolis and Rochester and even the Ku Klux Klan, which has been active in Minnesota since the 1920's.
But there's also the Israelite Church of God in North Minneapolis, which it identifies as black separatists, who traditionally oppose integration and intermarriage and believe blacks, not Jews, are the "chosen people of God."
Weisman told FOX 9 he shares a racial philosophy similar to the founding fathers.
"They didn't necessarily consider them to have the same political, or mental equality at all times,” said Weisman.
I was struck by the convergence of hate crimes based on race, and by the attempts to make it legal to act in hateful, harmful ways.  In Anoka Minnesota, the high school had to contend with the right wing opposition to making the schools safe for gay students and other students who were targeted by bullying.  Those students were not shot or set on fire, but they were driven to suicide.  Attempts to make the school more safe were opposed by Right Wing Evangelicals who felt that denying their kids the right to bully other kids over their sexual orientation violated their religious right to hate, to condemn them as an abomination, an offense to God, and as un-natural.  

Among those in the area who are anti-gay, is one of the religious right wing extremist groups who are too widely accepted, the Bradlee Dean so-called ministry in Annandale, that appears on the hate list above.  Dean also likes to fear monger against Muslims over the fantasy that Muslims are trying to establish Sharia law in the U.S.  Dean's dubious ministry, which belongs to no denomination, and which has no clergy that have been ordained by any recognized organized religious faith so far as I can determine, is on the hate groups list, highlighted above.  One of his close associates, Michele Bachmann, has argued that it is unreasonable even to attempt to limit bullying because 'boys will be boys, and we wouldn't want them to be like girls".  (Apparently Michele Bachmann is unaware that girls in certain age groups are as likely or more likely than boys to be the ones doing the bullying.)  According to a September 2011 Huff Post article:
A string of suicides among gay and bullied teenagers in Minnesota's largest school district, Anoka-Hennepin Schools, has critics blaming the district's representation, Rep. Michele Bachmann, and anti-gay activists.
Over the last two years, nine teens in district schools have committed suicide, and Bachmann's allies are being accused of standing in the way of "blocking an effective response to the crisis and fostering a climate of intolerance that allowed bullying to flourish," Mother Jones reports. Bachmann signed a pledge this month stating that homosexuality is a choice.
The situation in Anoka-Hennepin Schools is so bad that Minnesota public health officials have deemed the area a "suicide contagion" because of the unusually high number of suicides and attempted suicides, according to the school district's website.
She historically wasn't a supporter of anti-bullying legislation. In 2004, she took part in a rally that pushed for the ban of gay marriage, according to the New York Daily News. Slate reports that in 2006, she said passing a bill that prevents bullying wasn't worth the time.
"I think for all of us, our experience in public schools is there have always been bullies," Slate reports Bachmann telling the Minnesota state legislature. "Always have been, always will be. I just don't know how we're ever going to get to the point of zero tolerance... What does it mean? ... Will we be expecting boys to be girls?"
Critics are arguing that Bachmann's impassiveness for bullying issues, her opposition to gay rights alongside Anoka-Hennepin Schools' controversial policy on teaching or talking about sexual orientation, creates a threatening environment for at-risk youth in the district.
We have racial, religious, and gender issue intolerance in the state of Minnesota.  We have violence, and we have hate groups, at least some of them part of the Minnesota right wing extremists that appear to have hijacked the GOP, and the conservative GOP auxiliary, the Tea Party, and similar groups in Wisconsin.  If the most extreme hate groups are not part of the mainstream of those groups, they are tolerated, and embraced when numbers are needed for conservative wedge issue causes.  They want to keep it legal to bully and harass others who they identify as 'other' and different.  They want to make it as legal as possible to go driving around in your car, by giving you a legal excuse to shoot someone else and not be held fully accountable on the basis of an objective criteria for self-defense.
The Heller SCOTUS decision of 2008 restricted the 2nd Amendment right to possess firearms to people in their homes for self-defense.  The Shoot First legislation, apparently drafted from behind the scenes by ALEC and funneled through the right wing majorities of our legislature before being vetoed, would extend that to vehicles and other locations.  The Shoot First legislation would - like the case above of Trayvon Martin, make it justifiable to follow someone in your car, provoke an encounter, a conflict, and then shoot an unarmed kid, so long as you subjectively felt afraid, regardless of objective criteria, like the victim of the shooting being younger, and much smaller, and unarmed.
Such legislation would give legal cover to crimes where unreasonable fear and bias hatred made shootings more likely.  It is an attempt to legalize hate activity, and potentially hate-motivated gun violence.
In this context we should remember that it was the case of R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul, MN that overturned the ordinance under which a teen was prosecuted for burning a cross on the lawn of a black family, considered a hate crime straight out of the historic violent and terrorizing acts of the KKK.  There is a good case to be made that the right wants segregation of people, that it wants to justify a fear of black people in a white neighborhood, and wants segregated white schools, for example.  It is evident in their legislation, and in what they fund and defund.
In the early morning hours of June 21, 1990, the petitioner and several other teenagers allegedly assembled a crudely made cross by taping together broken chair legs.[1] The cross was erected and burned in the front yard of an African American family that lived across the street from the house where the petitioner was staying.[1] Petitioner, who was a juvenile at the time, was charged with two counts, one of which a violation of the St. Paul Bias-Motivated Crime Ordinance.
Per the wikipedia entry on hate crime:
"Hate crime" generally refers to criminal acts that are seen to have been motivated by bias against one or more of the types above, or of their derivatives. Incidents may involve physical assault, damage to property, bullying, harassment, verbal abuse or insults, or offensive graffiti or letters (hate mail).[3]  A hate crime law is a law intended to prevent bias-motivated violence. Hate crime laws are distinct from laws against hate speech in that hate crime laws enhance the penalties associated with conduct that is already criminal under other laws, while hate speech laws criminalize speech.
The argument by the right is that they should not be penalized on the basis of the motive for their actions, they should not have an extra penalty for acting out of hatred and fear.  In point of fact, we take into account in determining what kind of crime occurs the motivation of people for all kinds of crime.  For example premeditation versus impulse of the moment violence is a criteria that frequently used to separate manslaughter from murder.  What the right is really worried about is being penalized for hating and fearing those they identify as other than themselves, and therefore wrong, bad, or dangerous for being different from themselves.

From the Opposition to Hate Crime section of the Hate Crime entry on wikipedia:
The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously found the St. Paul Bias-Motivated Crime Ordinance amounted to viewpoint-based discrimination is in conflict with rights of free speech, because it selectively criminalized bias-motivated speech or symbolic speech for disfavored topics while permitting such speech for other topics.[58] Many critics further assert that it conflicts with an even more fundamental right: free thought. The claim is that hate-crime legislation effectively makes certain ideas or beliefs, including religious ones, illegal, in other words, thought crimes.[59][60][61][62][63][64][65]
In their book Hate Crimes: Criminal Law and Identity Politics, James B. Jacobs and Kimberly Potter criticize hate crime legislation for exacerbating conflicts between groups. They assert that by defining crimes as being committed by one group against another, rather than as being committed by individuals against their society, the labeling of crimes as “hate crimes” causes groups to feel persecuted by one another, and that this impression of persecution can incite a backlash and thus lead to an actual increase in crime.[66]
That seems to me to be the crux of a range of right wing and specifically ALEC legisltion; we should not penalize the hate thinkers, speakers, and those who act hatefully, because we might hurt their feelings, we might prevent them from terrorizing people who are different from them in some way the right exaggerates or misrepresents.  They want greater freedom to influence and actively harm others, not simply hold their own views and beliefs.
The reality is, the right wingers want to make it easier, and more legal, to inflict their hate thought in the form of action to abuse others who think or believe or act differently than they do.  It is true in their opposition to hate crime laws, it is true in their opposition to schools protecting children from bullying by anti-gay evangelical students and others, it is true in how they craft the laws that would make it easier for them to shoot someone they didn't like by claiming fear or threat when no objective basis for it exists.  The right wing doesn't want people to be protected from their hatred, and they seek every opportunity, including the recent Shoot First legislation that was defeated, to do so.

In fact, they are perfectly free to believe or say what they like, no matter how hateful.  They are not free, and should not be given protection, to do so in a way that threatens others, either by actual violence or intimidation or harassment.  We have too many hate groups here in Minnesota, and far too many of them are actively and effectively politically connected to the right wing.  We need to be free from bigots spouting faux patriotism, false interpretations of the U.S. Constitution, and filiopietistic claims about the founding fathers in order to justify hateful speech and actions that harm others.  We have a variety of dominionists on the right running for President, who would make the U.S. Constitution and U.S. law, from the federal level down to School Boards, subordinate to their version of the Bible. We have a variety of right wingers who want a free pass to inflict any amount of pain, from verbal abuse and harassment to shooting those who are 'different' to be excused under law.

It would be dangerous to let that extreme form of right wing ideology pass their legislation, not any of it, and most certainly not that which allows people to shoot other people without objective justification, which allows them to pursue and harass other people to initiate the conflicts they subjectively use to justify those shootings.

But we should not allow them the less obvious cases of legislatively institutionalizing their hate under the justification of their faith either.  That is the danger of extremism; the GOP currently embraces extremism every time they treat the word 'moderate' or 'compromise' as dirty words, as things to be penalized, as a basis for opposition.  The right extreme is making war on the moderates in their own party, and they are making a culture war on the rest who are outside their party and their ideology as well. 

That is BAD legislation, it is dangerous legislation, in some cases LETHAL legislation; it should be fought against intensely.  The most fundamental right of people to be themselves, to be safe in their own communities or anywhere in the United States, regardless of their age, gender or sexual orientation, race or religion is at stake.  The essence of the life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is on the line.


  1. If the right wwing can say that a foetus has a right to life, why do they pass these laws which violate the right to life of a full and complete person who can be said to be truly alive?

    I thinkn laws such as this and the notion that deadly force can be a first option in most circumstances shows that the talk of right to life is pure nonsense by the right wing.

    Thosw people who truly believe in the sanctity of life should be appalled by this.

  2. I agree Laci; the right embraces the theoretical, the hypothetical, the coulda-woulda-might have beens on the basis of an assumed innocence, which is based on faith not science, and very selective faith at that.

    Real people in the world don't fare as well if they are viewed as differing from the right, or in failing to conform; that seems to frighten and antagonize them.

    The cases of Islamophobia and other religious intolerance on the right, of racism on the right, of gender war on women, of gay-hating, is all there, all laid out in examples of their point of view, and their legislation.

    They are to one degree of another the Christian version of Taliban wannabees, especially segments of the religous right. They applaud executions, even when the people executed are innocent - as many have been proven by subsequent evidence that the largely right wing courts did not allow.

    They practice enforcing conformity to their ideas, their beliefs, while they deny facts, evidence and science. They approve harm, in varying degrees to others.

    Voter ID suppression is just one more example; they don't care if they hurt their fellow conservatives, or non-aligned voters, if they think they can stop legally enfrachised democrats from voting. That is evil, it is bad governance, and it is wrong...but all too right wing.