For every horror, another horrible law?

The idea of adding a "homeless" category to hate crime legislation is not a new topic for me, but it seems that every time a homeless person gets attacked, there's another push for it. (The way activists talk, you'd almost think it was legal to attack homeless people.)

Anyway, I was appalled to read about the latest incident, in which a pack of very young brats savagely attacked a 58-year-old homeless man:

DAYTONA BEACH -- John D'Amico dabbed a tissue to sop up blood seeping from his left eye -- the spot where he said a 10-year-old dropped a cinder block on his face.

The 58-year-old homeless man with deep blue eyes and salt-and-pepper hair said he didn't fight back as three boys -- two 10-year-olds and a 17-year-old -- attacked him near one of Daytona Beach's grittiest streets Tuesday night, not far from where another homeless man was beaten to death by bored teenagers two years ago in Holly Hill.

They wanted to kill him, the day laborer said of his attackers Wednesday from his hospital bed.

"I'm not going to start fighting a 10-year-old," he said. "Then I'd be in jail."

Good point. He probably would be. While self defense is not predicated upon the age of the attacker, as a practical matter, if an adult hurts a 10 year old kid, the cops are not going to be very sympathetic to a self defense claim.

The kids are said to be the youngest attackers of homeless people yet known to homeless activists:

Michael Stoops, acting executive director for the National Coalition for the Homeless in Washington, D.C., said his group has been tracking violence against the homeless for years, but none of those cases has ever involved someone so young.

"These are the youngest perpetrators ever, which is disturbing," Stoops said.

His group released a study last month that found Florida had more reported attacks on the homeless in 2006 than any other state.

Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, called Florida "ground zero for attacks on the homeless."

He said the violence is similar to hate crimes against minorities and gay people years ago.

"It's becoming less socially acceptable to attack other groups, so the homeless now are taking the mantle of [becoming] the universally acceptable target for aggression."Daytona Beach police Chief Mike Chitwood said the boys' actions may have been the result of bad parenting and a violent society influenced by video games.

Video games? I'd love to know how a video game could make anyone do anything, much less how a violent society has been influenced by them. (Well, I play Tetris on my cell phone. Sometimes it makes me angry when I get a low score, but I try not to take it out on homeless people.)

It also sounds as if Chief Chitwood is echoing Brian Levin, who is on record as blaming video games for attacks on homeless people, as well as calling for homeless hate crime legislation:

Homelessness must be added to vulnerable-victim laws and hate-crime.
I completely disagree. And not merely because I disagree with the identity politics/hate crime philosophy.

Whether or not someone has a home is not an identity -- any more than whether or not someone has health care is an identity. From personal experience, I know that many of those we might think of as "homeless" -- and whom we would routinely describe with the word -- are not homeless at all. Rather, they are mentally ill people with serious personal hygiene and substance abuse problems, but who actually have housing. Some of the people we call homeless also have the irritating habit of sitting around and emitting unpleasant odors, sleeping in public, or hassling people for money. One time I nearly had to get violent with someone who actually got into my face while I was trying to use an ATM, and another time a homeless man took a swing at me while shrieking incomprehensibly. Whether they have housing or not, these so-called "homeless" people regularly assault the non-homeless. Why should it be more of a crime for me to haul off and hit a homeless person than for that same person to hit me? Once a category like that is created, there's a presumption.

Now, I realize that the homeless category would, if analogous to race, probably require that an attack on a homeless person be done simply because he was homeless, with intent to terrorize him for his status. The problem I see with this is that even if we accept the validity of hate crimes legislation, it is a relatively easy thing to determine the race of an attacker and a victim, and if there's a hateful intent, there's usually evidence supporting that. But suppose the attacker just hates filthy looking people who smell, without regard to their housing status. How could a statute be written that creates a "homeless" category? Or what if some blowhard asshole simply decides that he is fed up with aggressive panhandlers, and decides that the next time he's asked for money in an aggressive manner, he is going to deck the guy. Under current law, that would be assault and battery, and he should be prosecuted for it. But would it be a hate crime? Why would that be any more of a hate crime than another asshole deciding that he'd had enough of skateboard punks nearly running over him on the sidewalk, and that he would punch the next one to cut him off?

Once again, these hate crime laws create legal mischief, and I think they're a terrible idea.

AFTERTHOUGHT: I think what may be fueling some of the push for special hate crime legislation is the fear that nothing will happen to criminals under existing laws. But this is not because the existing laws are "inadequate"; it's because of the callused way the criminal justice system is administered. For various reasons, charges are often dropped, violent criminals are routinely granted probation, and even imprisoned criminals are released early because of jail overcrowding. Thus, the victims rights groups become more and more "competitive" in the hope of getting a better shot for their special interest group. In addition, activists just always want more, and the addition of one special category leads to demands for another. Besides, prisons are filled with drug offenders and the courts are filled with drug cases. Who has time to deal with real, violent, criminals?

posted by Eric on 03.29.07 at 05:03 PM


Do 'Hate Crimes' bills fit the following:
1) The ascribed group over the individual citizen?
2) A dichotomy of groups: Oppressor vs. victim groups?
3) Group proportionalism as the goal of "fairness"?
4) The values of all dominant institutions to be changed to reflect the perspectives of the victim groups?
5) The "demographic imperative" in regards to shift in cultural change via demographics?
6) The redefinition of democracy and "democratic ideals"?
7) Deconstruction of national narratives and national symbols of democratic nation-states in the West?
8) Promotion of the concept of postnational citizenship?
9) The idea of transnationalism as a major conceptual tool?

Lets take them one-by-one.

1) "He said the violence is similar to hate crimes against minorities and gay people years ago." - Why not mere crimes against Citizens that we can ALL repudiate?

2) "It's becoming less socially acceptable to attack other groups, so the homeless now are taking the mantle of [becoming] the universally acceptable target for aggression." - They are 'victims' of society.

3) "Homelessness must be added to vulnerable-victim laws and hate-crime." - Yes, lets ensure that this proportion is protected more than just Citizens. Why do Citizens, in general, not need this 'special protection'? Doesn't seem too fair to me.

4) "News of the attack spread quickly through the homeless community, some of whom blamed the city's new police chief Wednesday for trying to get rid of the homeless." - Yes, the poor Chief of Police trying to enforce vagrancy laws and such, just so heartless! Let us not enforce the laws so as to be 'kind' to this group.

5) "His group released a study last month that found Florida had more reported attacks on the homeless in 2006 than any other state." - Well someone has to lead in such things! Perhaps the vagrants should settle down and learn to vote to end such things? No, just given them a say beyond the ordinary expectations of the law for the People there.

6) For democratic ideals see above for special laws and protection. Whatever *did* happen to the UNIVERSAL rights of man?

7) Daytona Beach police Chief Mike Chitwood said the boys' actions may have been the result of bad parenting and a violent society influenced by video games. - Yes the ubiquitous 'bad parenting' and social ills. Why are the PARENTS not being pulled into court? They are responsible for the actions of their children.

8) Post-National citizenship concepts not demonstrated openly in this piece.

9) Transnationalism as a tool not demonstrated.

Seven out of nine for Transnational Progressivism, weakening of society, removing responsibility from individuals who are responsible for their actions, giving special rights to a 'victim' group and putting forward that society needs to change for that group.

What ever happened to giving the poor a hand up, not a hand out? And ensuring that the mentally ill were seen after in decent facilities, not just kicked out onto the street as a burden to society but taken in by society to protect them? If we didn't like the conditions of the asylums in the '70s, then kicking such people out on the streets did no service to society or to the individuals involved. Ensuring the down-and-out have a place to stay and finding a path to a productive life *used* to be something society at least gave talking points to, if not actually *did* and encouraged.

Then society is to blame for everything, isn't it? And poor individuals just have no power and so must be 'victims' of society... and the universal rights of man? So sorry! Not 'progressive' enough.

ajacksonian   ·  March 30, 2007 10:34 AM

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