I have become inured to the American Family Association's misrepresenations of S.1105, a bill that would add sexual orientation and gender identity to race, color, religion, national origin, gender and disability as biases that, if the motivation for a crime, could increase the penalty and bring it into federal court. Instead of the honorable position that we simply should not have "hate crimes" at all, but should ignore bias as a motive for crime, the AFA has taken a stance solely against including sexual orientation and gender identity in federal hate crimes legislation. Their emails on the topic endeavor to alarm recipients by claiming or implying that criticism of homosexuality will become illegal if S. 1105 is passed. This is irksome, but ignorant fear-mongering crosses all political lines and cannot be driven out of political discourse at the intellectual level occupied by "action alerts," whether emitted by the AFA or MoveOn.org.
However, in Christopher Hitchens's tale of a crime spree, the most shocking item was not that rape, murder and general thuggery were occurring in Oakland, nor that the cops had been late to address it, but this:
This official apathy -- amounting to collusion -- is undergirded by a culture that cringingly insists on "respect" for any organization, however depraved, that can masquerade as "faith-based." If I had stood outside that hideous bakery with a sign saying "Black Muslims Are Racists and Fanatics," I think the cops would have turned up in a flat second and taken me into custody. I might well have been charged with a hate crime. As I have written before and am sure I will write again: This has to stop, and it has to stop right now, before sharia baking comes to a place near you.Er, exactly what crime does Hitchens think he would be charged with? I realize that as a Brit, he didn't grow up with a First Amendment, but had thought that Slate, upon receiving this column to be posted online, might have informed him of our fancy American inventions like a right to free speech. Had Hitchens stuck to the sign and not said anything, there wouldn't have been even a trumped-up charge of "disorderly conduct" to throw at him. The bakery, like abortion clinics dealing with protestors, might have gotten an order to keep Hitchens a certain distance from their door, but that would have been the extent of it. There is the fighting words exception to the First Amendment, but it generally requires that the unprotected speech be personally abusive and not an "exposition of ideas." If the sort of sign Hitchens hypothesizes carrying were precluded, Nazis and KKK members never would be able to get a rally going.
Slate apparently feels that their editorial duties do not include describing hate crimes legislation honestly when an inflammatory characterization makes for better reading.