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Bias-motivated crimes: You can accurately analyze, or you can Rush

by Jeremy Hooper

Wanna see a clear example of how Rush Limbaugh deliberately misleads his leaders? Well here, check this out. This is a transcript from yesterday's show:

RUSH: I want you to hear this. June 25th, a week ago, Senate Judiciary Committee, Eric Holder testifying, and this is the question. "Jeff Sessions presents a hypothetical where a minister gives a sermon, quotes the Bible about homosexuality and is thereafter attacked..." You know what the media didn't pick up yet? Whether liberalism is chosen or whether you're born with it. Once they get through the fog of the Jackson death, Media Matters will get that to 'em. I'm sure they have it. It's just a matter of it hasn't penetrated the fog there at the editors' desks. Anyway, a question, hypothetical. "[A] minister gives a sermon, quotes the Bible about homosexuality, is thereafter attacked by a gay activist because of what the minister said about his religious beliefs and what Scripture says about homosexuality." Is the minister protected, is what Sessions said. Here's a portion of the answer, the testimony from Eric Holder.

HOLDER: Well, the statute would not -- would not necessarily cover that. We're talking about crimes that have a historic basis. Groups who have been targeted for violence as a result of the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, that is what this statute tends -- is designed to cover. We don't have the indication that the attack was motivated by a person's desire to strike at somebody who was in one of these protected groups. That would not be covered by the statute.

RUSH: In other words: ministers and whites are not covered by the hate crime statute because we're talking about crimes that have a historic basis, groups who have been targeted for violence as a result of their skin color, sexual orientation. So hate crimes are reserved exclusively for blacks and homosexuals. Everybody else can get to the back of the bus on this one. So if you're a minister, if you're white, he didn't even say -- well, sexual orientation, that's not gender. Not unless you've got an addadictomy, and he didn't talk about that, either. So I guess at the front of the bus are blacks and gays on hate crimes.
Holder: Whites, Ministers, Military Not Protected by Hate Crime Law [Rush Limbaugh]


Here, listen to the unedited exchange for yourself:

“The Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009” [Sen. Jud. Commitee]

Hear the difference? Holder specifically addresses the difference between an attack motivated by speech and an attack motivated by a person's characteristics. He is, quite accurately, separating true bias motivation versus argumentative motivation. Inciteful speech vs. attacks incited by nothing more than certain characteristics.

Of course all of the groups -- ministers, soldiers, security guards, etc. -- are too protected on the basis of race, religion, national origin, etc (and hopefully soon sexual orientation and gender identity). But Sessions doesn't want to hear it. Rush doesn't want to hear it. They want to cut out all explanation and analysis, so that they can boil it all down to the most base level and make it sound as if progressives are hellbent on keeping the poor, poor majorities down. It's as anti-intellectual as it is anti-gay.

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Your thoughts

In 2007, there were 1410 ACTUAL documented hate crime offenses (FBI statistics) against gays.
The speaker talks of one HYPOTHETICAL situation.
So 1410 actual problems should be held up because of one HYPOTHETICAL situation?

And if they want hate crime legislation for the elderly, or for soldiers, or for ___ (insert group here), then BRING UP LEGISLATION FOR THAT.
Republicans had control of the White House and Congress for SIX YEARS, and they didn't bring up any sort of attempt to pass such legislation.
Which tells me that this complaint NOW is just a shallow attempt to try to derail hate crime legislation for gays.

And as for Rush???
IMAGINARY CRIMES do go to the "back of the bus" in my opinion.
1,410 offenses, vs no real life example?

If you can show me a significant problem of that happening, THEN we can talk about such hate crime legislation. Otherwise, it's just pointless...

Posted by: foundit66 | Jul 3, 2009 2:29:22 PM

My dad worships Rush, listens to him every day. I can't wait til he brings this one up next time we talk.

Posted by: Jake | Jul 3, 2009 2:52:38 PM

@ Jake: I sympathize. My mom listens to him sometimes. It's sad because she's really quite smart, but prefers her political information spoon-fed.

Posted by: GreenEyedLilo | Jul 3, 2009 4:34:24 PM

I'm not sure why Holder would try to work the "historic basis" angle because I can see how that would get people all ruffled up about who has been targeted and when and who merits protection and all that. While I see what he is referring to, it just seems like a phrase that a lot of people would consider is up for interpretation and therefore cause many, like Limbaugh, to claim it gives arbitrary preferential treatment.

It frustrates me that so many people are apparently still very confused about what "hate crimes legislation" even means. (I don't know, is the name just problematic?) It's really does not mean that if you are gay or black or Jewish then suddenly any crime committed against you is treated specially because you are some crime victim VIP, and that if you are straight, white, and Christian, you are ignored. The hate crimes statute only factors in if the crime is one of a nature that suggests you were targeted because of one of those distinguishing features and only because of that. In that way, white people would be "protected" if the crime was directed at them simply for being white, as the legislation cites "race" and not "being black" as a protected feature.

One problem is that hate crimes committed against majority groups are far less common than those committed against those with minority statuses, so it's not a surprise that when talking about hate crimes legislation, we tend to refer to those who have realistically been targeted and not those who only may be targeted in the hypothetical. But this doesn't mean they wouldn't actually be protected if it happened. Another problem is that, in the minister example, the supposed assault would not necessarily be (hard to know since it's made up) an attack on the minister because of his Christian faith. Most likely this would be viewed as a personal assault motivated by the specific speech of one individual, so it was right of Holder to say that a hate crimes statue would not necessarily be implemented in that situation. (Or, if it was found to be a broader assault on him based on religion, then maybe the statue would come into play...which is why Holder only said "not necessarily.")

Again, I find it so troublesome that so many people want to base their support for hate crimes legislation on all these hypothetical situations that are simply not sufficient for answering questions as to how the law would be applied. There is no cut and dry answer because you'd need the full scope and complexity of an actual crime in order to make that determination.

Posted by: Eric | Jul 3, 2009 6:19:22 PM

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