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The truly deplorably tendency to regulate behavior by codifying and punishing inappropriate views as “hate crimes” will no doubt accelerate after the killing of the abortion doctor in Kansas and the Holocaust museum guard in Washington. What is worse, perhaps, is private sector attempts to anticipate such legislation by purging themselves of all objectionable content. A friend checked out of the Dulles Sheraton Hotel yesterday morning. Before leaving to catch his flight, he used the hotel internet service to check the sites that he reads each day. He could not access Ron Paul’s Campaign for Liberty site. The message “Code 451 – The access to the address above is restricted. According to our harmful content database, SiteCoach does not allow you to visit this page” appeared. When he tried again and held the key down a very brief message appeared that said “Forbidden: keyword racist.”

I know that there are a number of companies that offer internet screening software that does word searches to identify objectionable content, but if Ron Paul’s website is racist then virtually every website I read every day would be condemned by the same standard. If the private sector, to include sites like google, is forced to adopt some kind of voluntary community standard it will result in the end of the internet as we know it. It will mean that either the government or a Rupert Murdoch-type will be able to position himself to dictate the standards of the screening process and will be pretty much able to filter what we read, much like the “all the news that’s fit to print” environment before Al Gore (ha!) invented the internet.

(Republished from The American Conservative by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Hate Crimes 
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  1. TomB says:

    You know, thinking about this kind of stuff can be so depressing. It makes you wonder whether there’s any room anymore for nuance or reasonableness or restraint in society.

    That is, to me at least, this “hate crime” kind of stuff—the absolute demonization of others—really got its legs under it with the New Left in the Sixties. Taking their cue from folks like Lenin, they realized that what was effective enough was just simple, raw sloganeering and labeling. “Racist,” “sexist,” “homophobe,” you name it. Even to the extent of adopting the Soviet’s favorite sometimes: “fascist.”

    Not that the Right wasn’t guilty of same to some degree; “commie-symp” was way to blithely thrown around, but to far lesser degree it seems to me. But the New Left in the Sixties seems to me to have set the modern stage and I think their successes with it moved into the mainstream of political mores. And I think it goes a good ways towards explaining a George Bush for instance, or a Rush Limbaugh or much of the modern Republican Party backers who, in a way, are just sloganeering labelers themselves. (“Terrorists!” “Appeasers!”)

    After all how do you fight the success of this kind of thing? You patiently and reasonably and equably argue against the idea of hate crimes for instance, and you get whacked in the face with an epithet accusing you of condoning gay bashing or whatever.

    So of course the natural consequence is going to be that in opposition sooner or later someone like a Limbaugh is going to adopt the same sloganeering, labeling tactic.

    The result of course is to leave all the rest of the citizenry and us—no matter how big a majority—being at the mercy of the hard-eyed polemicists on either side. And the only answer is to have a government of limited powers so that the harm the polemicists do is limited, but of course that’s a long gone thing.

    No longer just a means for setting the basic rules, one can suspect that now and presumably forever democratic politics has turned Clausewitz on his head and has simply become warfare by other means. Warfare, with all that means for nuance and reasonableness and restraint.

    Cheers, (if one can find any),

  2. Aaron says: • Website

    You remind me of a similar incident at a hotel, a couple years ago, where I couldn’t access a website that made mention of the KKK. Mind you, it was a single use of the organization’s name in the context of an article that was condemnatory of the KKK, but that was enough to trigger the site blocker. (And now your friend probably can’t read this post.)

    I suspect that the filters are deliberately overprotective, so that the hotel (almost) never has to explain to another guest why the person using a public terminal is viewing offensive conduct.

  3. Chris Moore says: • Website

    The only way to hold a diverse, multi-cultural, far-flung society like America together is either through a common religion, a common and sublime dedication to and appreciation for its Constitutional doctrine, or the authoritarian hand of Big Government.

    Guess which route the Statists of Left and Right that populate Washington have chosen? They have set the tune, and servile private enterprise will dance accordingly. Unfortunately for all Americans, it’s a Siren song.

  4. Tangentially to your blog I offer a case reported in my local newspaper in Devon uk. In response to a planning notice to install a caravan site for gypsies near a town called Uffculme, various residents sent in objections on the slightly obnoxious grounds that Gypsies always brought trouble to an area because of their criminality. The council responded by sending them emails threatenning with legal action for being racist, which they were. There is no evidence that the percentage of Gypsies who are criminal is any greater than that in the general population, but it is a curious world where people exercising their democratic right to object to planning applications can be taken to court.

  5. To the extent that I’m still an optimist at all, I’m a long-term one.

    The free speech climate simply can’t keep worsening at the present pace. There are simply too many people speaking freely, and our society isn’t capable of demonizing all of them. Implying that your neighbors are racists and should be prevented from speaking publicly has to be very taxing, and the increased tightening of restrictions puts more and more speech into the “condemned” category which means that it will take ever more energy to enforce.

    That’s why I think the pendulum will swing back. This country has so many people whose views fall outside the acceptable realm of opinion (which for some of these is the space between the editorial policies of the New Republic and the Weekly Standard) that control will eventually prove a losing proposition.

  6. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    If you were ( whomever you are ) to beat and rob my elderly White father or mother, sister or brother, call them rude and evil names or just threaten them with violence why would it be any different if the victim was my Black friend or my Asian coworker ?

    A crime is a crime and if it is worse depending on the color of some ones skin I am afraid that sounds like a politically correct version of racial profiling.

    I would expect the person that victimized my elderly White parents to get the same sentence as the person that victimized my Black friend or Asian coworker .

    Why would it be any worse to hurt and humiliate a white, black, yellow or purple person, they are all people and if you want them to be equal you can not give some more special rights than others.

    Bill from Canada.

    Attention all humans. We are your photos. Free us.

  7. […] the rest here, and take action against the passage of the Cybersecurty Act, S.773, which if passed will bring us […]

  8. […] THOUGHTS ON Hate Crimes and Harmful Content …. […]

  9. “I suspect that the filters are deliberately overprotective, so that the hotel (almost) never has to explain to another guest why the person using a public terminal is viewing offensive conduct.”

    …And whenever something like this occurs, the incident will be added to official and unofficial “hate crimes” lists. “I saw something I don’t like. HATE CRIME!”

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