Law and tyranny

Selective law enforcement and selective prosecution sound similar, and to me seem interchangeable. Both are hallmarks of tyranny. Examples:

Hate Crimes: This is a darling of the liberals because it speaks of moral superiority. Who is to say, for example, that the brutal murder of Mathew Shepard was not a hateful act? But the concept of a “hate crime” takes us beyond crime and punishment and into the realm of attitude. We already allow for mindset – premeditation, passion, inebriation, etc., but “hate” takes us into a subjective area that allows punishment of thought processes.

Turn it around to a time when attitudes about groups within our society were different, as in the Antebellum South. Imagine back then that a black man raped a white woman. That would not only have been a crime, but a hate crime that deserved worse punishment than a white man raping a black woman. The punishment for the former: hanging. The latter? None. That’s what happens when selected groups are given special treatment under the law. Maybe it’s an extreme example, but it is the same logical pathway.

No matter how well intended, hate crime laws are bad precedent. Those who murdered Shepard should be tried, convicted and lawfully punished for murder of a man. Period. If the judge and jury finds the particular crime egregious, additional punishment can be meted out.

Thought crimes:

A Department of Justice memo instructs local police, under a program named “communities against terrorism,” to consider anyone who harbors “conspiracy theories” about 9/11 to be a potential terrorist.

That paragraph is taken from this link, which concludes that about half of us are terrorists.

Similarly, in Canada and Austria, one can be imprisoned for publicly denying the Holocaust.

The idea that the state owns truth gives it complete control of us, mind and body. In the US, most people who harbor suspicion about the true events of 9/11 are hush-hush about it. No debate is allowed on mainstream media, hardly any in alternative media. That’s totalitarian – if you harbor doubts about that day and are afraid to say so, you are feeling it, baby.

This article, The Soviet Legacy: The Impact of Early Bolshevik Law Felt Up to the Present, states,

In the first years of its existence ­or, as we say, at the dawn of its misty youth, ­Soviet criminal law was different. The main difference was that the law was couched in sociological, not legal, terms. A crime was defined as a “socially dangerous act,” a punishment as a “measure of social protection.” The offender was named a socially dangerous person and to be declared this kind of person, it was not necessary for an individual to have done something bad: any past activity that looked wrong from the viewpoint of the new regime, or some sort of connection with the underworld, was enough to brand a person with this designation.

The Soviets were new on the map and felt threatened from every sphere, not without good reason. The Americans, Brits and French were attacking from the west, the Japanese from the East. The military was crawling with moles, and Trotsky was trying to organize a coup from without. They gave themselves more leverage to punish malcontents for sake of internal security. But as time went on and the regime stabilized, it worked so well that they did not change it. Consequently, throughout its existence, the Soviet Union was a totalitarian state.

In the US, we have historically been much more open, but we are heading down that path. The social pressure people feel that prevents them from expressing legitimate doubts about 9/11 signals presence of the thought-crime overlord. Fear is a weapon of the tyrant, allowing the state usurp more power. We saw Gestapo-like house-to-house searches in Watertown, MA after the alleged bombing incident. The executive has claimed for himself the right to imprison and murder American citizens without due process. (Bad enough that even supposed civil libertarians are not concerned that he can willy-nilly murder foreigners, wedding parties a special delight.)

The Soviet Union owned truth, and dissident citizens were often confined to mental institutions. After all, if truth was obvious and a person could not see it, wasn’t that person by definition mentally off-kilter? It is no different now with treatment of 9/11 skeptics except that we’ve not completely gone down the Soviet path.
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These are the hallmarks of American jurisprudence:

  • All citizens are equal before the law;
  • The Bill of Rights represents rights won in a revolutionary struggle, and not rights that were “given” to us;
  • The Bill of Rights only exists for so long as we fight for its existence;
  • Crimes are punishable acts, and not attitudes;
  • Justice is meted out under strict rules of evidence;
  • No one is imprisoned without the right to appear before a judge in short order;
  • Torture is never justified and is itself a punishable act;
  • An executive that murders a citizen without due process is a criminal who should be brought to justice.

I originally set out to write about selectivity enforcement of marijuana laws a few days ago, but found it was a much deeper and complex subject than that. I’ll get there, eventually. The reader might notice that I’m trying to make sense of it all in my own mind rather than pedantically laying it out. I do think with my fingers.

13 thoughts on “Law and tyranny

  1. Tyranny in waiting.

    Question 11E on ATF Form 4473 (required for the purchase of a firearm from a federal firearms licensee) reads as follows: “Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant or narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance?” It seems crystal [meth] clear that a lawful user of marijuana who is not addicted to the drug may purchase a firearm from an FFL. Unfortunately, marijuana is a Schedule I Drug under the Controlled Substances Act. Possession is a federal crime. Not to belabor the point, as far as Uncle Sam is concerned, marijuana use is illegal. In 2011, when marijuana legalization started gathering steam, the ATF sent states a letter telling them that they would not yield. Until someone gets a knock in their head about the futility of the War on Drugs, no Rocky Mountain High for you, Mr. gun guy.

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  2. ◾Crimes are punishable acts, and not attitudes

    Not necessarily. Many of the acts we may consider to be criminal are not crimes under the law without the requisite intent. The intent (or attitude) of the criminal is often an element that the prosecution must prove. What I believe you are saying though is that the criminalization of the content of speech is wrong. This horse has been out of the barn for a bit now that the justice department can bring charges for “material aid” to a terrorist group for just about anything. You could probably write a post that you support the Larry Kralj and you wouldn’t even need to actually buy him a beer…just the act of writing your support for him could be construed as material aid.

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  3. I tend to agree with you Mark. I think hate crimes are stupid and unconstitutional. I suppose the fact Obama and bush don’t care either way about the victims of their attacks is supposed to be a mitigating factor to charges of war crimes? You know, since at least they didn’t hate them when they killed them…they just killed them.

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  4. This was a good post. I don’t think whether or not hate crimes are an ethical ideal is cut in stone though. I think it is wholly dependent on one’s moral axioms. Basically, are you a raw Consequentialist or is there some room for Deontology in your morality? I think historically we lean toward the former.
    I think where Deontological (non-consequentialist) theories can be incorporated into your hallmarks of American Jurisprudence would be where you wrote:

    ◾Crimes are punishable acts, and not attitudes

    This is true, but not all acts are created equal. The blogger Alicorn over at LessWrong wrote a pretty good list in terms of Deontological Theory that applies to how we determine the ‘wrongness’ of an act. The idea being that an act’s magnitude on the continuum of ‘wrongness’ will correlate with the magnitude of punishment. His list:

    •The agent’s epistemic state, either actual or ideal (e.g. thinking that some act would have a certain result, or being in a position such that it would be reasonable to think that the act would have that result)
    •The reference class of the act (e.g. it being an act of murder, theft, lying, etc.)
    •Historical facts (e.g. having made a promise, sworn a vow)
    •Counterfactuals (e.g. what would happen if others performed similar acts more frequently than they actually do)
    •Features of the people affected by the act (e.g. moral rights, preferences, relationship to the agent)
    •The agent’s intentions (e.g. meaning well or maliciously, or acting deliberately or accidentally

    In light of these values, I think there can be room for an increased weight of ‘wrongness’ when it comes to Hate Crimes. My current position would be that the slope is so slippery when it comes to applying that category to an act though, that such a categorization would have a net-loss as far as utility goes, and the idea of a Hate Crime is not practical in our current Justice System.

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    1. Thanks for the input and for causing a trip to the dictionary. I absolutely did not achieve a high grade on this post, and struggled to boot, but the feedback has been really good. It is true that we evaluate state of mind in meting out punishment, so that “hate” crimes are not unique in that regard. However, hate crime is, as I read it, intended to add additional punishment if a designated group has been harmed by a crime. That requires a group that qualifies as a “worthy victim,” to borrow Ed Herman’s phrase. So Muslims right now are unworthy victims, and any crime might be visited on a member of that group without additional punishment, but gays, women, Jewish people are worthy.

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