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More "Thought Crime" Meme, But This Time From A Pulitzer Prize Winning Editorialist

It amazes me that Pulitzer Prize winning editorialist Paul Greenberg follows the talking points of conservative “Christians” like Focus On The Family, the American Family Association via their “news” organization OneNewsNow, and the Concerned Women for America (CWA audio files of Rep. Trent Franks, R-Arizona and Concerned Women for America President Wendy Wright, for example) regarding hate crimes and the “thought crimes” meme.

But, in an Op-Ed of his I read just this morning in The Argus Leader by Mr. Greenburg entitled The annals of thoughtcrime, follows their lead in stating:

It’s back: the criminalization of thought.

This time the same old bad idea has been all decked out in the latest newspeak. It’s now the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, aka HR 1913.

…But under the bill’s title, like a snake under a rock, is the dubious concept that George Orwell named concisely enough in “1984”: thoughtcrime…

Angie ZapataI also learned the way a Pulitzer Prize winning editorialist makes points these days is either feigning ignorance, actually being proud of his ignorance, or just not doing his homework (emphasis added):

Another section of the bill applies to crimes committed “because of the actual or perceived religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability of any person.” There must be a reason for differentiating between gender and gender identity in the law, but I’d rather not guess.

I don’t have to guess. Angie Zapata’s hate crime murder is a reason for the differentiation that’s very fresh in my mind.

Have a read at the rest of Mr. Greenburg’s column — it reads to me as a lazy piece. Such as, the argument in his piece where he states…

The accused doesn’t become eligible for additional punishment unless he’s motivated by one of the designated politically incorrect hates named in the bill. All others are, in effect, discounted.

…so do we protect no one because the law doesn’t spell out all bigotries Mr. Greenburg can imagine? Is Mr. Greenburg arguing the law should be more expansive? No, he’s not. He’s arguing that because the law isn’t incredibly expansive, it can’t be made narrowly now, with a idea that we can add to this bill later. It appears to me he’s putting forward an affirming the consequent argument. It appears to me that he’s saying it’s better that statements that tell us that the bigotry of a perpetrator in the selection of a victim isn’t considered a worthy factor — well, not a worthy factor if every kind of bigotry Mr. Greenburg can imagine isn’t included.

Really. Well, my guess is he just doesn’t want to include lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people to any hate crime law. He doesn’t want to repeal federal hate crime laws on the books, he just doesn’t want to add teh homosexuals.

And “thought crimes?” Shouldn’t a Pulitzer Prize winning editorialist be familiar with R.A.V. v. City Of St. Paul, where speech essentially stops being free speech when it’s tied conduct? Shouldn’t he be giving us serious discussions of exactly how this federal hate crimes act winding it’s way through congress is substantially overbroad and impermissibly content based? How exactly the act as written in an unconstitutional manner that prohibits free speech that isn’t just limited in its reach to speech connected to violent conduct?

Shouldn’t he also be giving us serious discussions of this proposed federal act by taking into account Wisconsin v. Mitchell, which states:

[More below the fold.]

In determining what sentence to impose, sentencing judges have traditionally considered a wide variety of factors in addition to evidence bearing on guilt, including a defendant’s motive for committing the offense. While it is equally true that a sentencing judge may not take into consideration a defendant’s abstract beliefs, however obnoxious to most people, the Constitution does not erect a per se barrier to the [508 U.S. 476, 477]   admission of evidence concerning one’s beliefs and associations at sentencing simply because they are protected by the First Amendment. Dawson v. Delaware, 503 U.S. 159; Barclay v. Florida, 463 U.S. 939 (plurality opinion). That Dawson and Barclay did not involve the application of a penalty-enhancement provision does not make them inapposite. Barclay involved the consideration of racial animus in determining whether to sentence a defendant to death, the most severe “enhancement” of all; and the state legislature has the primary responsibility for fixing criminal penalties. Motive plays the same role under the state statute as it does under federal and state antidiscrimination laws, which have been upheld against constitutional challenge. Nothing in R.A.V. v. St. Paul, supra, compels a different result here. The ordinance at issue there was explicitly directed at speech, while the one here is aimed at conduct unprotected by the First Amendment. Moreover, the State’s desire to redress what it sees as the greater individual and societal harm inflicted by bias-inspired conduct provides an adequate explanation for the provision over and above mere disagreement with offenders’ beliefs or biases. Pp. 485-488.


Moreover, the Wisconsin statute singles out for enhancement bias-inspired conduct because this conduct is thought [508 U.S. 476, 488]   to inflict greater individual and societal harm…The State’s desire to redress these perceived harms provides an adequate explanation for its penalty-enhancement provision over and above mere disagreement with offenders’ beliefs or biases. As Blackstone said long ago, “it is but reasonable that, among crimes of different natures, those should be most severely punished which are the most destructive of the public safety and happiness.” 4 W. Blackstone, Commentaries *16.


The First Amendment, moreover, does not prohibit the evidentiary use of speech to establish the elements of a crime or to prove motive or intent. Evidence of a defendant’s previous declarations or statements is commonly admitted in criminal trials subject to evidentiary rules dealing with relevancy, reliability, and the like.

We don’t get a kind of well reasoned piece from Mr. Greenburg — one that takes into account how the U.S. Supreme Court has handled hate crime issues in the past. Instead, we have a Pulitzer Prize winning editorialist just parroting the “thought crimes” meme.


Below is the comment I left for Mr. Greenburg’s article, where my comment was the first one posted. I attacked his appeal to complexity argument regarding gender and gender identity:

I was in Greeley, Colorado, covering the trial of Allen Andrade from the courtroom for the blog Pam’s House Blend. Andrade was being tried for the bias crime murder of Angie Zapata, who was specifically selected as a victim of a brutal beating because she was transgender. Angie Zapata GravesiteWhile in the courtroom, I heard recorded jailhouse calls from Andrade where he called her “it” many times, said “Gay things must die,” and said “It’s not like I went up to a schoolteacher and shot her in the head or … killed a law-abiding straight citizen.

Let’s be clear – Paul Greenburg may not be able to tell the difference between gender and gender identity, but transgender community members like me know what the difference is. We also know hate crimes aren’t for punishing victims for their crimes against the direct victim, but for the terror that these inflict on communities from selecting victims due to their community identity. Mr. Greenburg should have felt my fear as I left from San Diego for Greeley.

He also should feel my anger at him parroting the talking points of religious right organizations, but I didn’t have enough characters to convey that message in my 1000 character reply.

So, now, Mr. Greenburg, with all the others who are arguing that hate crime legislation is really “thought crime” legislation, you too own the words of convicted First Degree Murderer and Bias Motivated Criminal Allen Ray Andrade; you own the terror he fostered within transgender community members like me by committing his bias motivated crime.

You can choke on Andrade’s words along with all the conservative “Christian” organization folk.



* Pam’s House Blend tag: Angie Zapata  

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