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The Slow and Painful Death of Freedom in Canada (huffingtonpost.ca)
101 points by subsystem 1605 days ago | hide | past | web | 105 comments | favorite

There may be a lot wrong in Canada, but I don't think the Press Freedom Index is any kind of valid indication.

Exactly the same as described in the article is happening in the Netherlands (or worse, like wiretapping on a massive scale), our freedom of information acts is systematically and openly sabotaged, and we've always had the strict limitations on public protests Canada has introduced. And for some reason we rank #2.

There's a coronation this tuesday and people who may possible be disruptive are being pre-emptively locked up and their lawyers muzzled. So much for liberal freedoms.

The Press Freedom index is about how much the government kisses up to traditional media, and, given how much media are in bed with the powers that be, no indication of actual freedoms.

That correlation has been broken a long time ago, and accelerated by the internet.

Also, you can go to prison for thoughtcrimes. They don't mention that. Of course, that's also the case in the #1 "freest" country, Finland, so I guess they don't take that into account.

How can you go to prison for thoughtcrimes? To my knowledge, mind reading technology is still in its infancy.

Sentence enhancement for hate crimes is essentially a form of thought crime, since "proving" you had certain thoughts in your head changes your sentence. There are interesting arguments both ways on hate crime sentencing, but make no mistake, it is sentencing you to (more) prison for your thoughts, not your actions.

Ah, so murder in the first degree is also a form of thought crime, as compared to manslaughter.


The other restrictions aren't aimed at any particular group, and therefore harbor at least the potential to silence Our Sort. But by their very design, hate speech laws only target a bunch of misfit losers who most definitely are Not Our Sort.

And similarly anti-terrorism laws only apply to terrorists. So we shouldn't care that they can be held for 3 days without charge.


Regarding hate speech laws in Canada:

> "Although it's true that they have nailed some genuine hatemongers with it, it has nevertheless been used or threatened to be used against a wide variety of constituencies who don't bear the slightest resemblance to the kind of hatemongers that were originally envisioned: anti-American protesters, French-Canadian nationalists, a film sympathetic to South Africa's Nelson Mandela, a pro-Zionist book, a Jewish community leader, Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses, and even a couple years ago, a pro-Israeli speaker was briefed about the anti-hate law by a police detective before he went in to make a speech."


If I were a canadian, I would be looking through the Criminal Code of Canada to see what things _aren't_ considered an act of terrorism now. Since Harper's been in, the Canada Gazette has been full of changes.

(is a canadian, has looked through the criminal code, knows what is or isn't terrorism)

Rightly or wrongly, those who employ capitalized phrases such as "Our Sort" and "Not Our Sort" often fancy themselves ironists.

The state is the enemy of freedom? Big news!

Journalists don't look further than their noses. The truth is that vast majority of governments restrict freedom on much much larger scale. It is stupid to expect that government in your country is any different.

National exceptionalism leads many to believe that their country is in fact different than all of those others. Its always useful to be reminded that your own country isn't so special and that your dealing with exactly the same garbage as every one else.

I know the Huffington Post is trying hard to make it in Canada, but this is painted with a pretty harsh brush. By reading this article, I would have no choice but to conclude that Canada is in a dire state. Good thing I'm Canadian.

> Speaking of our "protection," Bill C-30, or the Lawful Access Act -- proposed by the Harper government in February of last year, attempted to grant authorities the power to monitor and track the digital activities of all Canadians in real-time.

Yeah. Attempted being the key word. Like any government in the Internet age, our government tries to get as much access as they can.

In cases where our privacy or civil freedom is concerned, Canada has a pretty good battle cry. People like Michael Geist help vocalize these movements – and unlike this article would like you to believe – the movements generally work.

Consider that, like any country, Canada's media is feeling the "if it bleeds, it leads" heat. Rest assured, if Canada becomes a "left vs. right", "you vs. the government", "who can you trust?" narrative, the only one who stands to (temporarily) benefit is the struggling media infrastructure.

This article doesn't mention the fake terrorist busts we have from time to time in order to pass security legislation.


The recent Via rail plotters as well as the Toronto 18. Both fake in that anyone involved with real capability works for the government. Just like so many in the US. And the busts happen conveniently before voting on security legislation. I write on a cell phone sorry for no links. google Canadian terror bust bill 7 or toronto 18.

The Canadian officials at least don't have the same penchant for the dramatic that the US officials do at least (e.g. the whole Portland terrorist thing; the Via Rail plotters weren't infiltrated and then setup to press a fake 'button').

Is infiltrated really the appropriate word to describe these police activities? I think not.

Getting an undercover official into a position of trust counts as 'infiltrated.' In the Portland bomber example, it was only a single guy, so it's rather weak form of 'infiltration.' I don't think that the Canadian examples count as infiltration. My point is that if these happened in the US, then they would have sent in undercover officers, and helped them execute their plan right to the point of 'pushing the button,' then swooping into to arrest them.

In a lot of these cases what's happening is that police "informants" are "infiltrating" groups with no serious means or ambition to carry out an act of terrorism. The informants, who are sometimes convicted criminals, are supplying all the plans, money, and weapons.

In the wake of 9/11 Canada passed the Anti-Terrorism Act. It's basically the Canadian version of the PATRIOT Act. The most controversial provisions of the law were given a 5 year sunset clause. That is, unless a future parliament extended them, they would be automatically repealed.

And wouldn't you know, just before those provisions expired the RCMP busts a huge terror plot in Canada. In this case the police had two moles: Shaikh and Elsohemy. Shaikh supplied the only weapon the so-called terrorists ever had... a single Glock pistol, which he let members of the group fire in the woods in between trips to Tim Hortons for coffee and to use bathroom. Elsohemy supplied the ammonium nitrate, which was stored in a warehouse a few blocks from the RCMP. None of the "terrorists" involved made any effort to obtain anything dangerous themselves. Of course, both informants were paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for their services by the government.

In spite of all this drama, the government failed to pass the extensions.

Now we have this alleged railway bombing plot in the news right on time for Bill S-7. What's bill S-7? I'll give you one guess.


You paint a pretty convincing picture, but all you have is circumstantial evidence.

Yes, it would be nice to have all the internal communication inside of the RCMP, CSIS, and other government departments concerning that case. Then we would know if it was just a coincidence or if the entire investigation was motivated by a desire for expanded law enforcement powers.

Either way, we should be skeptical of claims that we've been saved from murderous terrorists whenever all of the funds, weapons, explosives, and so on are provided by the government itself.

We should be extremely skeptical when politicians use such incidents to convince us that we should be afraid and that in order to be safe we just need to give the government more power to spy on us, detain and interrogate us without the right of habeas corpus.

Huffington Post writing about freedom? Uh-oh.

Could you elaborate on this?

I haven't been exposed to Huffington Post much, aside from seeing some hyperbolic sensational posts back during the Bush Administration days which just made me doubt their commitment to any type of journalistic integrity. I've kind of avoided them since.

HP is obviously left-wing (socialist) blog & rant site, and socialism is a road to slavery as opposite to freedom. What is in that to explain?

The HN community tries to avoid this sort of political/economic trolling.

I think that it's worth mentioning that even though Jamaica was ahead of Canada in the "2013 World Press Freedom Index," there is a generally anti-gay sentiment there[1].

[1] It's worth noting that they don't hate gay people, but there were apparently some issues with young men/boys selling themselves for money in the recent past, so the general reaction to this was that gay sex should be limited/regulated (or something to that effect). I don't remember it imparting a 'liberal mindset' to me.

There is nothing inherently freedom-giving or preserving within the modern liberal movement/mindset.

For example, modern liberals would take away guns from people who have done nothing to earn that distrust.

For example, modern liberals would take away guns from people who have done nothing to earn that distrust.

All while cheerfully reciting Ben Franklin's "Those who would trade freedom for security deserve neither."

For example, modern liberals would take away guns from people who have done nothing to earn that distrust.

You have to draw the line somewhere: Should you be allowed to own rocket launchers? Nerve gas? Anthrax?

As owning a gun isn't really a basic human right (feel free to disagree, but if you do so, I'll feel free to consider you a nut case), it's a matter of social contract: If the majority decides guns should be banned or only available after a mandatory psych eval, tough luck for gun owners. If the majority decides that everyone should be able to own a gun, tough luck for anti-gun activists.

"As effective self-defense isn't really a basic human right (feel free to disagree, but if you do so, I'll feel free to consider you a nut case)"

Fixed it for you.

And echoing DuskStar, I'm damned glad I live in real constitutional republic that has multiple restraints on mob rule, AKA "the majority decides".

It's not as clear-cut as you make it sound.

Holding a loaded gun is equivalent to having strapped explosives around everyone in your line of sight and holding the trigger.

You have the right for effective self-defense, but I have the right of not having explosives strapped around myself.

Which right weighs greater, and who should decide if not the majority (or their elected representatives)? Some dudes a few centuries ago when circumstances where vastly different and firearms far less effective?

That's an amazingly bogus analogy:

First of all, guns are directed energy weapons in a loose sense of that phrase. Else we wouldn't have gun safety rules 2 and 4, "Never let your muzzle cover something you're not willing to destroy", and "Be sure of your target and what's behind it."

Second, in the context of self-defense (vs. hunting, which is ... safer than golf as I recall), no one is "holding" a loaded gun unless they're in a self-defense situation where the use of lethal force is justified. At that point we, or at least the vast majority of the US including most anti-gun states, have decided the possible increased danger to innocent parties is an acceptable tradeoff.

The only time I hold my concealed carry gun is when I put it in my holster before leaving my dwelling (with thumb firmly over the hammer to prevent an accidental discharge) and then the reverse when I return. Anyone out in public "holding" a gun, loaded or not, for any period of time outside of a self-defense situation is going to get arrested.

First of all, guns are directed energy weapons in a loose sense of that phrase.

So limit the signal of the remote trigger.

The analogy is still basically sounds, ie only as flawed as any other analogy.

My point stands: Guns can make heads explode, and it's for society to decide who should hold that power.

I'm not arguing for or against banning guns, I'm arguing for the right to make that decision.

Anyone out in public "holding" a gun, loaded or not, for any period of time outside of a self-defense situation is going to get arrested.

That'll be a big comfort to anyone who got shot before the police arrived.

I'll stop here - I'm getting cranky, and if I don't I'll start calling people ugly and stupid ;)

"My main point stands: Guns can make heads explode, and it's for society to decide who should hold that power."

Maybe that's true where you live, but I live in a constitutional republic where the "right to keep and bear arms" is enumerated in said constitution, and therefore it isn't up to "society" to decide who should hold that power.

Rather, "society" decides who shouldn't hold it (e.g. felons, the severely mentally ill, unsupervised children, and they have to have serious reasons for such bans), everyone else by default can.

"but I live in a constitutional republic where the "right to keep and bear arms" is enumerated in said constitution, and therefore it isn't up to "society" to decide who should hold that power."

This being in the US constitution only indicates that society in the US finds this rule very important. Putting it in the constitution makes it hard to change or abolish the rule.

Hard to change is different from unchangeable, though. Extreme example: if the constitution were unchangeable, slavery would not be constitutionally prohibited.

So, this is up to society.

This. The more inflexible the 2nd amendment is, the more likely it will be to be changed at some point in the future. I'm just hoping the Supreme Court comes out with a strict unpopular interpretation of the 2A to speed this up a bit.

What decision do you think they could possibly make that would get enough people seriously upset in the direction you suggest (especially enough to match the intensity of the RKBA side)?

I mean, they're not even willing to deal with the question of whether we have a right to bear arms (cert denied in the NY state may issue appeal). That said, it will get very interesting when Illinois goes full Constitutional Carry on June 9th, or, well, after the District courts enjoin the state from enforcing its unique besides Hawaii absolutely no issue law. And we'll have to see if they and the Circuit court will play wack-a-mole with all the localities that will ban or unduly restrict concealed carry.

(In theory the legislature could fix this, but a supermajority is needed to override Chicago home rule, and that's not happening. And the most the rest of the state is willing to give to Chicago failed.)

And thus we have a circuit split, with another decision from Maryland being appealed to the Supremes.

Must... resist... Dammit!

To quote myself:

who should decide if not the majority (or their elected representatives)? Some dudes a few centuries ago when circumstances were vastly different and firearms far less effective?

Circumstances change. Stopping to adapt is normally not a winning strategy.

And I promise to stop trying to slaughter your sacred cow - at least for now ;)

>who should decide if not the majority (or their elected representatives)?

How about 2/3 of congress and 3/4 of states, which is the standard for amending the constitution, not a simple majority? If you really think what the constitution says is outdated, that's what you should be advocating, not that we simply ignore it.

Erm, you are aware those "dudes a few centuries ago" included a mechanism in their constitution to allow adaptations?

Sure, "society" can change what I outlined about the enumerated RKBA. Just get 2/3rds of each house of the Congress, or a Constitutional Convention to propose it, and then the legislatures of 3/4ths of the states to ratify it.

You could say the same thing about free speech. "Anybody at any time could start calling for us to overthrow the government in the town square! Newspapers need to be reviewed by the government!"

Liberty is dangerous. If you don't like it, don't go outside.

If the majority decides Christianity is the true path to salvation, tough luck for atheists/muslims/buddhists/jews. Likewise, if the majority decides that religion incites violence, tough luck for christians/muslims/buddhists/jews.

What the majority decides is not always right or just.

Please re-read what I said. Freedom of religion is implied by basic human rights (freedom of thought, freedom of expression) and thus inalienable by social contract.

Ownership of personal firearms isn't, arguably (see the disclaimer in my first post).

You're saying "firearms aren't like other rights", but that's like saying "a twitter account isn't like other rights." Twitter isn't the real issue: the right to free speech without government censorship is the issue. Twitter is a medium. Likewise, firearms aren't the real issue, the right to self-defense is the real issue.

But then a few minutes later you say that I have the right to effective self-defense [1], and we just have to balance that with other liberties, so you're coming across a bit contradictory.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5622606

Ultimately, every right needs to be balanced, even basic human rights (crying fire in a crowd vs freedom of expression).

The fact remains that there are some fundamental rights we should grant all sentient beings. What these are exactly is a matter for philosophers, but I'd say most reasonable people at least agree on broad terms. In fact, I'd consider disagreement here as the definition of being unreasonable.

Then, society needs to decide how to protect these rights through specific laws, which is the mentioned balance act. There are arguments for and against the right to carry personal firearms for self protection, same as there are arguments for and against the right to universal health insurance.

All I'm saying is that citizen should be able to change the laws of the society they live in as long as fundamental rights are preserved.

1. Intentionally or not, you post seems to use my usage of the word 'liberal' as an excuse to express your disdain of 'Liberals.' I.e. "Look! He said 'Liberal!' Now I can express my views!"

2. I was using liberal in the sense of that particular issue. The opinion that homosexual males engaging in sexual relations should be banned and/or regulated would probably be described as conservative and/or repressive.

3. Maybe I should have used 'progressive' rather than 'liberal?'

You're missing the point. By implication, you paint some people as pro-freedom because they may have a certain stance on gay rights. Jamaica doesn't deserve its Press Freedom Index ranking to be better than Canada's because of gay rights. This is wrong. First of all, Canada is hardly a truly free country. I read that 40% of the cost of living is taken up in taxes. What strange definition of freedom is that? Canada also has hate speech laws which will no doubt be used in time to silence serious political dissent. I would predict the first test to be serious anti-feminist messages.

In the US, libertarians are branded as conservatives. I like how you paired conservatism with repression. Note that the most severe government actions in modern times have been done by socialist governments, not conservative.

Anyway, politically, libertarians believe in gay rights as well as the rights to self defense.

Progressives typically believe in one and not the other.

So yes, liberal is not the word you wanted to use to describe those who would restrict a person's right to self defense if you were interested in clarity.

Classical liberalism is what is colloquially known as libertarianism in today's politics so I would suggest that if you don't want to be confused next time, use a more appropriate term.

Nothing to do with guns, really. That was just the example I came up with off the top of my head.

  | Jamaica doesn't deserve its Press Freedom Index
  | ranking to be better than Canada's because of gay
  | rights. This is wrong.
This makes no sense in this context. I neither wrote that the index should be based off of gay right, nor do I believe any such thing, as it's a freedom of the press index.

Trust is earned and distrust is the norm. If you have a gun, I want a bigger one. No, I do not trust you, why should I?

Huh? That's such a pessimistic view of the world. I would say the opposite is true, statistically. There are far fewer psychopaths out to kill people than there are people who are not willing to do so. Thus in absence of any other facts about said someone, I would be willing to trust that someone, than to distrust that individual.

It's a shame that distrust is your default M.O.

Bingo; I carry concealed almost every time I walk out the door, yet I find it unnecessary to employ the Iraq combat theater advice of US Marine general James Mattis, "Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet."

By your logic, why can't everyone own a mini-nuke? Or let's make it more realistic, a tank? How about Grenades? Fully automatic weapons? I mean, statistically speaking you should trust people right?

Now here is where you draw some arbitrary line where on one side is liberty or some other overloaded emotionally charged word and on the other are things that don't qualify as liberty.

My line is different than yours. It does not mean that I am "against freedom" anymore than you are a horrible fascist denying my inherent rights as a human to own a tank.

Ummm, at least in the US people do still own tanks and fully automatic weapons; don't know about grenades (doubtful, however much our betters assure us Mexican criminals buy them at US gun shows), but they and "mini-nukes" are sort of the same sort of thing.

Don't know how many civilian tanks out there really have operable canon, but there is a mechanism whereby a civilian can own a "destructive device", it and each round of ammo for it subject to a $200 tax. I've heard this coming into play for people who take boats in dangerous waters, getting RPGs with the appropriate licenses.

Machine gun ownership is widespread; the number in public circulation got capped in 1986, but there are a quarter million at last count. Again, you need the license/$200 tax (was ~$3,500 in 2013 dollars when the law was passed in 1934), but the mechanism exists with many using it.

You are evading the point by focusing on arbitrary details. There is a limit to the destructive power of weapons that a citizen can own in the US. It may vary by state and weapon type, but there are definitely limits.

The same is true of free speech. You do actually have limits, though choose not to recognize them. For example, you cannot make various types of death threats. You can be sued for libel. You cannot speak copyrighted works. It may be ok to say that atheists or gay people should die, but try saying that about some of your authority figures and see what happens.

So many people have these very strong notions of black and white when it comes to these sorts of political issues. In reality, none of these issues are black and white.

"You are evading the point...."

Errr, I'm not upstream of you on this sub-debate, I just wanted to point out you had some of your facts wrong.

And as it turns out, in a way that supports your point. We do draw lines, and "undirected" weapons from grenades to "mini-nukes" is one of them.

Although I'd note that most gun control is prior restraint, something that is considered to be illegitimate with speech in the US.

Distrust your government but trust your neighbours.

Citation? And, particularly, a citation in the Canadian context which is what that article is about would be relevant.

Do guns need to be lethal? If so, why?

Well, when we're talking about human beings as targets, the legitimate civilian use is "stopping" them. Not killing per se, that's the remit of the judicial system.

Unfortunately it's very difficult to stop a determined opponent without using "lethal force", in the case of guns a maiming or deadly central nervous system hit, or causing them to lose enough blood (a large fraction of opponents, though, will stop combat upon getting hit the first time). There aren't any other practical options.

If your question includes hunting, I can continue about it.

For target practice, they don't need to be "lethal", and generally aren't used with ammunition designed for increased effectiveness in live targets. The exception is practicing for self-defense, you need at least some of that to be with service ammo for a bunch of reasons. Lots of government units buy in bulk where the price difference for service ammo isn't large and use the same thing for all purposes, which I'm sure saves in administrative costs and ensures no one accidently goes out on the street with less effective target ammo.

So you're saying that if handguns could stop without killing, then it would be ok to ban handguns that killed?

Hand weapons for the purposes of civilian self-defense, yes (they wouldn't be "guns" except in the loosest of senses).

"Set phasers to stun" and all that; a nice idea, but way beyond the foreseeable future.

Given how many people's lives would be saved, why do you suppose that we don't have more research into less lethal handguns? Phasers, perhaps not. But there are many other options.

You are using a red herring. A people's views on homosexuality have nothing to do with how free and open that country's press is. You are doing a disservice to the discussion by implying that Jamaica's Press Freedom ranking should not be commended highly because some Jamaicans allegedly "dislike gays".

The article is about more than freedom of the press though, otherwise they wouldn't be talking about laws that are aimed at quashing protests. My point was that the Freedom of the Press ranking isn't the whole picture. The author cites the Freedom of the Press ranking, but then spends most of the time talking about other freedoms being suppressed.

I don't know what drugs reporters without borders are on but the UK and Australia, both rated worse for freedom of the press than Canada and better tham the US both have crippling libel laws where truth, public interest, and good faith are insufficient defenses against libel. The consequences of libel laws alone on freedom of the press are enormous.

What exactly does that have to do with the erosion of civil liberties in Canada?

The comparison was based on freedom of the press according to reporters without borders. My point is that the reporters without borders ranking is nuts, so the starting point of the article is bankrupt.

> And I have the sinking suspicion that whichever party is in power, these rights will continue to decompose unless the citizenry is willing to vocalise this as a major election issue.

Our first-past-the-post voting system all but guarantees this erosion of civil rights will continue.

I don't think the voting system is particularly relevant, here. The erosion of civil rights will continue for as long as Canadians put up with their elected members of parliament representing their parties, first, instead of their constituents. Preferential ballot is great, to an extent, but there are also several other alternatives that I think would make the situation worse, to the point that I question whether it's worth opening that can of worms. As I see it, the problem is mostly cultural, anyway.

With the current system, every Canadian has a particular MP who depends on him to be elected again, and that MP can theoretically side with his constituents over his party without destroying his career. If MPs depend on their parties to elect them, for example, we lose that and we're basically picking an emperor (albeit in a way closer aligned with the popular vote) along with the number of lackeys he has.

The thing we really need is parties to stop treating their MPs like liabilities. On that note, there is a promising discussion going on about MPs' freedom to speak: http://openparliament.ca/search/?q=standing+order+31

Passed last May by the National Assembly of Quebec in the midst of the student upheaval, Bill 78 requires organisers of assemblies involving 50 or more people to register the details of any demonstration with the police at least eight hours before it begins. Anyone who does not comply with the law faces a fine from $1000 up to $125,000 depending on his or her involvement and leadership in the protest.

That's creepy. Would that pass a legal challenge in Canada's higher courts? The right to assemble is a constitutional right in the US. How does that work in Canada?

I looked up Canadian freedom of speech laws and came across


specifically: “Limits on speech were incorporated in the criminal code in relation to treason, sedition, blasphemous and defamatory libel, disruption of religious worship, hate propaganda, spreading false news, public mischief, obscenity, indecency and other forms.”[3]

That generality is pretty ominous sounding.

> 50 or more people

And the way this provision is abused "when needed" is by injecting imposter demonstrators into an assembly until it gets over the 50 limit and then having a legal reason to shut the whole thing down. This made news several times in a context of protests in Moscow, so I'm guessing the technique is just seeing a wider adoption now.

Freedom of peaceful assembly is protected under section 2 of the Charter. I am unsure of whether or not Bill 78 would hold up to a charter challenge, but it is already on its way through the courts.

It kind of bothers me that Canada as a whole gets crapped on for one province's shady law. It is kind of like condemning the whole of the USA for Texas allowing capital punishment.

The funny thing about the Charter, is that section 1 basically means you never really know what your constitutional rights are, because they are all subject to "such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society".


That seems pretty equivalent to the "compelling government interest" which can supersede the rights of US citizens.


Please re-read that article. Compelling government interest alone is not enough to pass strict scrutiny.

Sure, I said "similar" not "identical". Being narrowly tailored and the least restrictive means, as determined at some hypothetical point in the future by the judgement of justices a laymen is forced to trust, gives me minimal comfort.

All of the other things in the article are at a Federal level. I think it's just trying to show a general pattern of limiting freedoms that has seeping into Canadian politics.

Please correct me if I am wrong but I understand that, since Quebec is the only province that doesn't endorse the Charter of Rights, it is probably a moot point if Bill 78 holds up such challenge.

Not that I support the Bill, far from it. What I support is Quebec signing the Charter.

All Canadians have these rights, regardless of the provinces endorsement.

Unless Quebec successfully separates, its citizens and governors are subject to the Charter. Endorsement or not.

As far as I know the bill was overturned after the ruling party lost the election. It does show a willingness to handle these kind of situation with "emergency laws". Then there was also this: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/story/2010/12/07/ombud...

Adam Kingsmith makes no mention of Canada's far more threatening hate speech laws. This article should have been titled "The Slow and Selectively Outrageous Death of Journalism at the Huffington Post."

HuffPo is itself a reflection of the death of journalism and has been since inception.

A number of posts here have mentioned "thought crime" and hate crime legislation as supposed indicators of lack of freedom.

This makes me wonder about what exactly it is that the opponents of hate crimes want to be free to do, were their actions not criminalized?

For many conservative opponents of hate crime legislation, their intent is pretty clear: they want to commit violent acts against gays, blacks, and other minorities with minimal reprecussions. They are afraid of and opposed to a vision of society that respects minorities and other traditionally oppressed groups, and that (and not some purported ideal of "freedom") is the real reason they fight hate crimes legislation.

David Neiwert[1], has made some excellent rebuttals[2][3][4] to the "thought crime" and anti-hate crime legislation arguments, from which I'll quote below. I encourage you to read the posts in full, because they make many other excellent, relevant points from which I'll have to refrain from quoting in the interests of not making this post too long.

  Do hate-crimes laws create thought crimes? The issue has certainly
  been addressed in the courts, notably in the definitive Supreme Court
  case, Wisconsin v. Mitchell:

    Mitchell argues [via the First Amendment] that the Wisconsin
    penalty-enhancement statute is invalid because it punishes the
    defendant's discriminatory motive, or reason, for acting. But motive
    plays the same role under the Wisconsin statute as it does under
    federal and state antidiscrimination laws, which we have previously
    upheld against constitutional challenge. … Title VII, of the Civil
    Rights Act of 1964, for example, makes it unlawful for an employer
    to discriminate against an employee "because of such individual's
    race, color, religion, sex, or national origin." … In Hishon, we
    rejected the argument that Title VII infringed employers' First
    Amendment rights. And more recently, in R.A.V. v.  St. Paul, 505
    U.S. at 389-390, we cited Title VII (as well as 18 U.S.C. 242 and 42
    U.S.C. 1981 and 1982) as an example of a permissible content-neutral
    regulation of conduct.

    Nothing in our decision last Term in R.A.V. compels a different
    result here. That case involved a First Amendment challenge to a
    municipal ordinance prohibiting the use of "`fighting words' that
    insult, or provoke violence, `on the basis of race, color, creed,
    religion or gender.'" … But whereas the ordinance struck down in
    R.A.V. was explicitly directed at expression (i.e., "speech" or
    "messages"), … the statute in this case is aimed at conduct
    unprotected by the First Amendment.

    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. For
    example, according to the State and its amici, bias-motivated crimes
    are more likely to provoke retaliatory crimes, inflict distinct
    emotional harms on their victims, and incite community unrest. … 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."

  Of course, this is William Rehnquist, but the ruling was unanimous.
  Nonetheless, I think Matt Singer puts more or less the same argument
  much more elegantly in his first post on the matter:

    [T]he real answer is that hate crimes laws don't punish individuals
    for their thoughts. They punish individuals for acting on their
    thoughts in unacceptable ways, by targeting a community for

  Frankly, I've always found the argument that these laws are "thought
  crimes" to be a little creepy, since it is echoed in the claims of the
  Christian Right that hate-crimes laws that include sexual orientation
  are an attempt to impinge upon their freedom of speech.  But gay-bashing
  is no more a free-speech right than is lynching or even, say,
  assassinating the president. Political thought may motivate all of
  them, but that doesn't mean the Constitution protects any of them.
[1] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_neiwert

[2] - http://dneiwert.blogspot.com/2003_06_08_dneiwert_archive.htm...

[3] - http://dneiwert.blogspot.com/2003/12/thought-crimes-newspeak...

[4] - http://dneiwert.blogspot.com/2003/06/hate-crimes-response.ht...

"or many conservative opponents of hate crime legislation, their intent is pretty clear: they want to commit violent acts against gays, blacks, and other minorities with minimal reprecussions."

No, I believe a crime is a crime. I believe in equal rights and clear cut rules. If you knife a person, it is a crime regardless of who the victim is unless it was in self defense.

What most conservatives are very afraid of is the "code word" mentality that was demonstrated in the 2012 election cycle. Look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dog-whistle_politics for some serious horror.

"If you knife a person, it is a crime regardless of who the victim is unless it was in self defense."

In response, I'll just quote David Neiwert again (for sources, see the links in my previous post above):

  Throughout the text, they consistently describe hate crimes laws as
  being designed to create special "protected groups," a focus derived
  solely from viewing the special-interest advocacy that often spurred
  these laws' passage. Moreover, they consistently describe the laws as
  protecting only these selected groups and not everyone in society

  This is simply a false characterization of the laws themselves. None
  of these laws specify the race or ethnicity or religion of the victims
  -- rather, they are focused solely on the motivations of the
  perpetrator. A person need not be actually gay to be the victim of a
  gay-bashing hate crime; he need only have been perceived as gay by
  someone who specifically set out to assault homosexuals. This is only
  logical, since the terroristic motivation of the assault is present in
  either case.

  Moreover, the laws protect everyone equally. Majority whites are
  victims of bias crimes too, and every year there are over a thousand
  prosecutions for such cases. (Indeed, the definitive Supreme Court
  case, Wisconsin v. Mitchell, involved a black man accused of fomenting
  a hate crime against a couple of white teens.) Check the FBI
  statistics for yourself.

  Hate-crimes laws generally have three chief categories of bias
  motivation: racial, ethnic and religious. Some statutes include sexual
  orientation, others include gender bias. It's important to keep in
  mind that everyone has a race, an ethnicity, a religion (or even lack
  thereof). Everyone has a sexual orientation and a gender. This is what
  makes the laws generally universal and fully in tune with the
  equal-protection clause.


  These are the most serious of the points that Jeralyn raises, and
  there are two components of it that need addressing. ...

  First is the suggestion that current laws against the parallel crimes
  are adequate to the task and that hate-crimes laws intrude
  unnecessarily on this ground. Indeed, this identical argument was
  raised in the 1920s and '30s by opponents of the anti-lynching
  legislation that was the NAACP's raison d'etre during its early years.

  Nowadays, it is proffered by such hate-crimes-law opponents as the
  Traditional Values Coalition and the Family Forum (who fear new laws
  that include sexual orientation among the categories of bias). A
  clearly specious version of it is the common Republican meme, "All
  crimes are hate crimes" -- which, fortunately, does not appear in
  Jeralyn's arguments, but which can be heard frequently from the likes
  of George W. Bush and Orrin Hatch.

  It should go without saying that in fact not all crimes are alike in
  nature. Indeed, not even all homicides are alike; they range from
  second-degree manslaughter to first-degree murder. The difference
  among them largely stems from the circumstances of the act and from
  the perpetrator's mens rea. Intent and motive can be the difference
  between a five-year sentence and the electric chair.

  Are hate crimes truly different from their parallel crimes?
  Quantifiably and qualitatively, the answer is yes.

  The first and most clear aspect of this difference lies in the breadth
  of the crimes' effects. Hate crimes attack not only the immediate
  victim, but the target community -- Jews, blacks, gays -- to which the
  victim belongs.  Their purpose today, just as it was in the lynching
  era, is to terrorize and politically oppress the target community.
  They resemble anti-terrorism laws in this respect as well. As Matt
  Welch puts it in the post that started this debate:

    So, in effect, you add more punishment to those who perpetrate hate
    crimes because the crime targets and effects more than the immediate
    victim. It creates a culture of fear to which society must respond.

  But this is only one aspect of how different hate crimes are from
  their parallel crimes. There are several more, and they are
  substantial.  Frederick Lawrence, associate dean of the Boston
  University Law School, describes these differences in detail in his
  landmark text, Punishing Hate: Bias Crimes Under American Law
  (1999, Harvard University Press), which is a truly definitive text on
  hate-crimes laws (and from which I openly admit I draw many of my
  arguments, partly because I've explored these issues thoroughly
  through other avenues -- at one time I too was skeptical of
  hate-crimes laws' efficacy -- and found that Lawrence was correct in
  most respects, indeed in nearly every detail):

    Bias crimes are far more likely to be violent than are other crimes.
    This is true on two levels. In the first place, crimes committed
    with bias motivation are dramatically more likely to involve
    physical assaults than do crimes generally, One study conducted in
    Boston found that approximately half of all bias crimes reported to
    the police involved assaults. This is far above the average for
    crimes generally, where we find that only 7 percent of all crimes
    reported to the police involve assaults.  Secondly, bias-motivated
    crimes are far more likely than other assaults to involve serious
    physical injury to the victim. The Boston study, for example, found
    that nearly 75 percent of the victims of bias-motivated assaults
    suffered physical injury, whereas the national average for assaults
    generally is closer to 30 percent. …

    Bias crimes are may also be distinguished from parallel crimes on
    the basis of their particular emotional and psychological impact on
    the victim. The victim of a bias crime is not attacked for a random
    reason -- as the person injured during a shooting spree in a public
    place -- nor is he attacked for an impersonal reason, as is the
    victim of a mugging for money. He is attacked for a specific,
    personal reason: his race [or religion, or sexual preference].
    Moreover, the bias crime victim cannot reasonably minimize the risk
    of future attacks because he is unable to change the characteristics
    that made him a victim.

    A bias crime thus attacks the victim not only physically but at the
    very core of his identity. It is an attack from which there is no
    escape. It is one thing to avoid the park at night because it is not
    safe. It is quite another to avoid certain neighborhoods because of
    one's race. This heightened sense of vulnerability caused by bias
    crimes is beyond that normally found in crime victims. Bias-crime
    victims have been compared to rape victims in that the physical harm
    associated with the crime, however great, is less significant than
    the powerful accompanying sense of violation. The victims of bias
    crimes thus tend to experience psychological symptoms such as
    depression or withdrawal, as well as anxiety, feelings of
    helplessness, and a profound sense of isolation. …

    … Bias crimes cause an even broader injury to the general community.
    Such crimes violate not only society's general concern for the
    security of its members and their property but also the shared value
    of equality among its citizens and racial and religious harmony in a
    heterogeneous society. A bias crime is therefore a profound
    violation of the egalitarian ideal and the anti-discrimination
    principle that have become fundamental not only to the American
    legal system but to American culture as well.

  Not only are bias crimes substantially different in nature from their
  parallel crimes, there is no question that they cause substantially
  greater harm, so a harsher punishment is fully warranted.

So, if I were to believe your quote, a brother or sister who attacks me is more psychology damaging then a random stranger, so they should get a higher penalty. A spouse or parent should really get the extra time. Why aren't those listed?

Nope, actions are what we can measure and put on the wall. Everything else is opinion.

So I suppose you believe that a somone who killed another person unintentionally and by accident should be punished just the same as someone who killed another person deliberately and with a lot of premeditation.

After all, the only thing that differentiates the two cases is the intent of the perpetrator. And we can't measure intent, can we? Or can we?


Intent is part of the law and action of a crime. I specifically added the self-defense part to my first post to illustrate that. Belief of the person is only important as view from the action and circumstances of the crime (eg. did this person knife the person because they were being attacked). It is generically applied to all people regardless of their own attributes (race, creed, etc.). The law is blind and we are all equal. Intent in the commission of a crime is a separate idea and has nothing to do with "hate crimes".

Intent, or (to use the legal term) mens rea, has everything to do with hate crimes.

To quote David Neiwert yet again:

  Lawrence points to the distinction between bias crimes and their
  underlying parallel crimes, which in effect create two tiers of
  evidence for any kind of hate-crime prosecution to succeed. At both
  tiers, the criminal's mens rea is an essential component. In the first
  tier of a crime -- say, an assault -- the intent to commit the crime
  still must be established; at the second tier, both the first-level
  intent and the second-tier bias motivation must be proven. For a
  bias-crime prosecution to succeed, it must establish both tiers of
  mens rea.
  Thus someone who merely partakes of hate speech, with no intent to
  intimidate, is guiltless of a hate crime, because the first tier of
  motivation is absent, and thus no free-speech rights have been
  infringed upon. But because menacing and intimidation, all of which in
  fact take the form of words alone, are punishable crimes in every
  state, anyone using hate speech to terrorize his neighbors has
  partaken of a bias crime.
  Consider, for instance, the example of cross burning. A white
  supremacist who burns a cross at a private rally is undoubtedly
  voicing a kind of racial hate, but there has been no attempt to
  intimidate or menace anyone, and no crime has been committed.
  Likewise, someone who, say, dumped garbage on a black neighbor's lawn
  would only be guilty of harassment or intimidation, not a bias crime
  (unless, of course, evidence existed he had done so because of the
  neighbor's race). But someone who burns a cross on his neighbor's lawn
  has clearly committed a hate crime, because he has both the intent to
  intimidate and racial bias as his motivation.
  In this sense, hate-crime laws avoid running afoul of the First
  Amendment in the same fashion as any other of the myriad
  sentence-enhancement laws, including anti-terrorism statutes, because
  they all reflect the differences in mens rea among acts that are
  already established crimes. More to the point, there are limits to
  free-speech rights; threats and intimidation are already illegal, as
  are incitement to riot, incitement to murder, and other kinds of
  And indeed the Supreme Court recently has moved in this direction in
  upholding the constitutionality of hate-crime laws. The recent
  cross-burning case, Virginia v. Black, produced a March 2003 ruling
  (authored by Sandra Day O'Connor) that followed this logic closely.
  The state of Virginia, the Court said, was well within its rights to
  outlaw cross-burnings meant to intimidate:
     The protections the First Amendment affords speech and expressive
     conduct are not absolute. This Court has long recognized that the
     government may regulate certain categories of expression consistent
     with the Constitution. … For example, the First Amendment permits a
     State to ban "true threats," … which encompass those statements
     where the speaker means to communicate a serious expression of an
     intent to commit an act of unlawful violence to a particular
     individual or group of individuals. … The speaker need not actually
     intend to carry out the threat. Rather, a prohibition on true
     threats protects individuals from the fear of violence and the
     disruption that fear engenders, as well as from the possibility
     that the threatened violence will occur. … Intimidation in the
     constitutionally proscribable sense of the word is a type of true
     threat, where a speaker directs a threat to a person or group of
     persons with the intent of placing the victim in fear of bodily
     harm or death.

Look, I don't believe the premise of the person you are quoting and to put it simply without 6 poorly spaced paragraphs:

"But someone who burns a cross on his neighbor's lawn has clearly committed a hate crime"

No, they are guilty of harassment, property damage, and possibly assault depending on the legal definition in the jurisdiction.

The last paragraph does not support "hate crimes" legislation, it points out what a threat is.

"No, they are guilty of harassment, property damage, and possibly assault depending on the legal definition in the jurisdiction."

Well, according to the hate crime legislation Neiwert is referring to, they are guilty of commiting a hate crime.

Whether they should be guilty of commiting a hate crime (depending on your opinion of the worth of hate crime legislation) or whether that hate crime legislation itself should exist is debatable, and you can argue one way or the other. But it is clear that a violation of the existing hate crime legislation has occurred in the example given by Neiwert above, for the reasons he gives.

As for your implication that the underlying crimes of harrassment, property damager, and assault are enough, I refer you to the second half of an earlier Niewert quote I posted above.[1]

"The last paragraph does not support "hate crimes" legislation, it points out what a threat is."

A threat to whom exactly? To people who single out others based on their race, color, creed, sexual orientation, ethnicity, national origin, religion or gender and commit harrassment, property damage, and assault "with the intent of placing the victim in fear of bodily harm or death"?

I sure hope they feel threatened. Because they need to realize that our society will not tolerate these sorts of actions, just as society has less tolerance for deliberate, premeditated killing than it does for unintentional, accidental killing.

Intent does matter, and that's what hate crime legislation is a recognition of.

[1] - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5622339

I believe all "hate crime" legislation is bunk and sets up unfair interpretations of situations. The threat is to a fellow human and it should be punished in the same way no matter the classification of the victim. Equal means equal under the law. Anything else is a political stunt.

"it should be punished in the same way no matter the classification of the victim"

Hate crime legislation does not protect people based on "the classification of the victim". It protects everyone equally.

Maybe you missed it, but David Neiwert pointed this out in one of the quotes I pasted above.[1]

  None of these laws specify the race or ethnicity or religion
  of the victims -- rather, they are focused solely on the
  motivations of the perpetrator. A person need not be actually
  gay to be the victim of a gay-bashing hate crime; he need only
  have been perceived as gay by someone who specifically set out
  to assault homosexuals. This is only logical, since the
  terroristic motivation of the assault is present in either

  Moreover, the laws protect everyone equally. Majority whites
  are victims of bias crimes too, and every year there are over
  a thousand prosecutions for such cases. (Indeed, the
  definitive Supreme Court case, Wisconsin v. Mitchell, involved
  a black man accused of fomenting a hate crime against a couple
  of white teens.) Check the FBI statistics for yourself.
[1] - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5622339

That is bunk, plain and simple. A crime against an accepted classification will get more play than one without. Look at the discussion on college admissions and Asian students to see how unfair this stuff is in real life. Anytime you venture too far into subjective criteria over objective leads to serious trouble.

> they want to commit violent acts against gays, blacks, and other minorities with minimal reprecussions

Actually this is incorrect. The hate speechs laws were recently tested in the Supreme court [1] and they are not simply based on threats of violence in speech against discriminated groups (that is already covered by many federal laws)

The provincial level speech laws are intended to criminalize (via fines) speech containing prejudice in order to promote social equality. For example, the intended objective in Saskatchewan hate speech laws:

> “tackling causes of discriminatory activity to reduce the harmful effects and social costs of discrimination.”

> “appropriately balances the fundamental values underlying freedom of expression with competing Charter rights and other values essential to a free and democratic society, in this case a commitment to equality and respect for group identity and the inherent dignity owed to all human beings,” wrote Mr. Justice Marshall Rothstein for the court.

[1] http://news.nationalpost.com/2013/02/27/supreme-court-uphold...

So it's not a simple as just targeting people who promote genocide or deny the holocaust.

These broad hate speech laws have the potential of causing "chilling effects":


But what's worse is that they are trialed in special tribunals and the defendants don't have access to the standard legal defence rights.

> Mary Agnes Welch, president of the Canadian Association of Journalists stated that Human rights commissions "were never meant to act as language nannies. The current system allows complainants to chill the speech of those they disagree with by entangling targets in a human rights bureaucracy that doesn't have to operate under the same strict rules of defence as a court."


A few years ago, there was a book where the general implication was that Muslims in Europe would gain power/majority just through sheer "out-breeding" of other ethnicities/religious groups. This was deemed to be 'hate speech' because it might incite people to commit hate crimes against Muslims.

Note: I did not read the book, so I don't know how inflammatory it was. Just adding an anecdote.

Sure, you're thinking of Mark Steyn's "America Alone". Great book, and not at all fringe material. Christopher Hitchens had a favorable review, here: http://www.city-journal.org/html/17_1_urbanities-steyn.html

The book itself was not found to be hate speech. The Canadian Islamic Congress made a human-rights complaint about an excerpt from it, which was published in Macleans, at both the federal and (multiple) provincial levels. They never should've been brought in the first place, but all cases were eventually dismissed.

That's ... odd, or based on outdated statistics per David "Spengler" Goldman, in his writings that include titles like "The Closing of the Muslim Womb" (one of the things freaking out the rulers of Turkey and Iran). About the only place where it might be playing out that way the last time I checked is the U.K.

You left out what I view as the best part about these tribunals, just before your last quote from Wikipedia, a great example of "power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely":

"Lemire (with the qualified support of PEN Canada and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, among others) has won the right to cross-examine HRC investigators concerning their conduct during investigations, namely their posting of provocative racist comments on websites. Jonathan Kay, of the National Post, opined that the HRC had "managed a seemingly impossible task: They've found a way to rehabilitate the image of neo-Nazis, transforming them from odious dirtbags into principled free-speech martyrs.""

Nice "business" they've got, plant racist speech at the websites of their enemies and then prosecute them for it (or something close to that, I forget the details now).

This argument, one that is seen quite often, is quite possibly the worst in the subject. Making assumptions and straw man arguments to support your position is not something to build legislation off of. Immediately assuming that someone who is against thought-crime like laws is siding with racist, violent, hate-crime supporting individuals is so absurd that you have to have to preform some serious mental gymnastics or doublethink just to make it seem reasonable.

Arguments like these are very comparable to those who support the erosion of privacy online and at home. They don't want people or the government to snoop around in their data, so that must mean that they're pedos hiding child porn in their hard-drives, right?

This is a prime example of a lack of critical thought.

>This makes me wonder about what exactly it is that the opponents of hate crimes want to be free to do, were their actions not criminalized?

I think that you're confusing the opponents of hate crime laws with the people who commit hate crimes, or else I don't understand who "their" refers to in this sentence. That's a terrifyingly aggressive equivocation when it comes to laws, punishment, and policing.

The defense that hate crime legislation is fine because labor discrimination law is fine is weird. Labor discrimination law is screwed up and unenforceable in the US, because it allows people to be terminated for any reason excepting a few. For example, I can fire you because I don't like your face, but I can't fire you because I don't like your race. IMO it's a way of papering over a complete dysfunction in the balance between the rights of workers and the rights of employers, one that tends not to acknowledge, even theoretically, that workers deserve any rights at all.

This is not an issue with assault or murder. If we have a list of less valid reasons to hurt and kill people than others, we are simultaneously creating a list of more valid reasons to hurt and kill people.

Also, anyone who says that they don't understand how people could criticize hate crime laws as laws criminalizing certain kinds of thoughts, when the only qualifications distinguishing them from other laws are speculations on the mental state of a person committing a different, separately recognized crime, is being disingenuous.

Or perhaps less absurd than your examples, simply speaking one's opinion on "off-limits" topic:


This is a good classic example of the left's defense of thought crime legislation. First start off with the requisite statement that conservatives are racist. Then roll out some convoluted logic that nobody buys on why thought crime legislation is needed.

Leftists (not liberals) just don't have the courage to come out and say that generally leftist ideology doesn't value freedom of speech as much as say libertarians.

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