09 November 2009

Don't You Feel Responsible?

drops merging
Image credit: Focus.aps.org
The Hate Crimes bill recently passed as an amendment to the Defense Authorization Act, and President Obama signed it into law. I've blogged on the ridiculous nature of "hate crime" legislation before, but now a larger connection is materializing in my mind, bringing with it a fresh sense of urgency.

As the FCC is looking to the Net Neutrality Act to enlarge its dominion and neutralize the perceived threat posed by speech that is just too free, it's worth considering how hate crime legislation will interact with that speech crackdown, particularly in the style of attack widely favored by the mass media.

When a lunatic grabs a gun and shoots security guards in a museum, or a lunatic threatens a Federal facility or an abortion clinic, the mass media rush to find a way to blame (conservative-ish) rhetoric and/or a (conservative-ish) pundit for inciting the violence.

That agenda is hardly hidden. As just one example, in a recent interview with Glenn Beck, Katie Couric asked him whether he wouldn't feel responsible if someone who happened to listen to his show or attend a Tea Party, did something stupid and violent.

The aim of that propagandist line of questioning is to blame those advocating oppositional ideas for violence - even when those same advocates are actively discouraging violence.

How far will we go in blaming ideas and groups for the behavior of individuals?

If ideas considered political are squelched because of individual renegade behavior, how much longer will it be before we see an even broader application of the same line of thought that the mass media is using today?

Take, for example, the case of someone who is murdered solely because of their same-gender sexual orientation (the spark of the Hate Crimes bill). The criminal who killed that individual is not just guilty of murder, but legally of a hate crime. Odds are that the attacker attended a Christian denomination at some point in his life. Christian denominations generally preach that homosexual behavior is a sin.  Don't you Christian preachers feel responsible for that attack?  Don't you see how your judgmental doctrine of "sin" encourages attacks on homosexuals?

Aside from basic causal logic, the unsound line of "don't you feel responsible?" questioning necessarily dismisses that individuals are responsible for their own behavior.

Accountability for our choices is the primary check on individual behavior; and as the foil to statist control, it must be fought by those advocating greater government control of our lives.

Is the nefarious nature of the "don't you feel responsible?" approach clear yet? Particularly as our government is arguing for even greater control of our speech, I am concerned that not just freedom of speech, but the freedom of conscience that leads to accountability will be disdainfully swept aside in a frenzied media search to blame someone - anyone - but an individual for that individual's actions.

Collectivizing responsibility that belongs with an individual will eventually imprison us all.