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State vs. Crime

Crime seems to be a flavour of the day in the UK. Today a battle plan to fight crime was unveiled by the government in the Queen’s speech opening the new parliamentary year. And a new advertising campaign was launched on Monday by the Metropolitan Police Service named “Help us cut out hate crime”.

I noticed such posters on Monday and at first I thought they were designed to change the attitudes of the potential perpetrators of hate crimes by yet another ‘awareness’ campaign. (The New Labour seems to be very fond of ‘awareness’ campaign managing to spend prodigious amounts of tax-payers money on pointless and expensive advertising.) My immediate reaction was that of incredulity that anyone could imagine that plastering posters on the Underground would change anything, let alone someone’s bigoted and hateful opinions. Or do they believe in subliminal advertising?

No, the truth is far less subtle – the campaign urges victims of hate crime or those who have information about it to come forward. A name, an address or even a description of offenders will enable police to target criminals and stop the ‘abuse’. Adverts will appear in newspapers and in a number of gay, ethnic and disabled press titles, and on the Underground. There will also be a hate crime and domestic violence radio campaign as well as posters appearing on washroom panels, the underground, and on trains.

Yes, it may seem a good thing to encourage victims to come forward. But that would be more effectively and properly achieved by restoring our confidence in the criminal justice system by making sure that criminals are arrested, sentenced and jailed in timely and effective manner and that victims are not ignored or forgotten in the process.

The effect, if any, of the campaign will be an atmosphere of paranoia at the local community level. Abuse of the system will ensure that. Imagine the trouble you could cause to a neighbour you dislike by simply reporting on him for alleged domestic violence:

“reported cases of hate crime and domestic violence received by the MPS will be, where appropriate, passed to local Community Safety Units (CSUs) for investigation, otherwise handled by local borough police.”

But the scary bit is the bit about the hate crime itself, defined as abusing people because of their race, faith, religion, or disability, or because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transsexual. The danger is in the shift from the emphasis on one’s actions that can be classified as criminal acts – murder, rape, theft etc to an entirely different and vague area. Yes, it says ‘abuse’ but so does ‘substance abuse’ and nobody is encouraging drugs to come forward to report on their junkies. Suddenly, the crime is in the eye of the beholder and although it is correct that the victim is the obvious one to do the seeing, it is not correct to encourage the seeing of crime without providing a clear definition. It is precisely such vagueness of definition of hate crimes that encourages victim culture.

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26 comments to State vs. Crime

  • Mustapha Mond

    Additionally, the problem I have with all awareness campaigns of this sort, is their focus on the crime’s motivation. Abusing people is a crime, period, regardless of whether it was because they are gay or because they beat you to the last loaf of bread in the grocery store.

  • Dale Amon

    I cannot see any excuse for laws against speech in a free country. If someone calls me names but does not threaten me with violence, I’ll just tell him to eff off and be done with it.

    Sticks and stones friends, sticks and stones.

  • David Carr

    Mustapha,

    What is your defintion of ‘abuse’? Certainly if I assault you or put you in fear of assault that is a crime. On the other hand, if I simply declare that you are a cad, a bounder and a ne’er-do-well, does that qualify as ‘abuse’? Should I be arrested for it?

    Slippery slopes are best avoided altogether.

  • This situation (crime being in the eyes of the “victim”) is much like rape laws in the U.S. (and probably Britain). It’s possible for a woman to say she was raped, even if she gave consent, as long as she was too incapacitated to give meaningful consent. In other words, someone can go out, get drunk, have sex with other drunk people, regret it in the morning, and then claim to have been raped.

    It sounds to me like you could be charged with a crime for saying a racial slur to someone of that race. As ugly as the slur might be, the abridgement of freedom is pointless and wrong.

  • What, no disembodied eyes floating in the background?

    Race, faith, religion, disability, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual. What’s missing from this list? How about political beliefs, or nonreligious beliefs in general? I guess Guy Fawkes wasn’t a hate criminal.

  • The Powers That Be should be asking themselves which will save more people from assault and killing, “hate crime” vigilance or unimpeded rights to gun ownership and self-defense.

  • Mustapha Mond

    Physical abuse only. I didn’t mean to suggest verbal abuse should be included there.

  • You could start a whole new blog just tracking zany government posters.
    From their website:

    The campaign also focuses on the crime of domestic violence, building on the success of last year’s ‘Unmask the Abuser’ advertising campaign which featured the familiar ‘broken-mask’ image.

    I thought of your previous posting, Adriana, about the fudging of numbers. They certainly aren’t flaunting numbers here, even poor misleading out-of-context numbers so favored by american politics. Not even an effort, like, ‘instances of reported violence against 23-year old redhead housewives in the south precinct of 23rd st went down ten percent!’.
    I wonder, by what standard did the previous campaign enjoy ‘success’? Maybe it was just plain pretttty.

  • TrailerPundit

    Your name will be placed on file at the Ministry of Love.

    Britain needs a revolution in a hurry.

  • Brooks

    This is another example of what PC really is: Hippie Stalinism.

  • Howard Veit

    Since “hate” is a feeling, lots of do-gooders are going to have one hell of a time proving this stuff. What they are actually after is any action they can attribute to a feeling they don’t approve of.

    Next we may have love crimes, shitty crimes like in, “I wuz feelin’ shitty man”, pissed off crimes which differ markedly from hate crimes, and so on and so forth.

    So if you slap some babe because you were “feeling shitty” it’s going to be ten or fifteen years instead of probation. The beat goes on.

  • Oddly, I am up at 1 am reading blogs because I am trying to shake a nightmare and then I see this poster. Maybe it is just because of the frame of mind I am in right now, but the poster terrifies me. Are we supposed to think that in cutting out hate crime we cut out the people who commit these crimes? I am reminded of the Communists airbrushing political pictures to remove the photos of people who fell out of favor with the party. And the two people on either side looking away, as if to not see the one being removed. And finally, of course, the encouragement of people to turn each other in.

    The power of the tyrant comes from our internalizing of the police state. I hope that I’m missing something in the current British culture which would offset this ominous sight.

  • Jeremy

    Look at the bright side – if you’re jailed for calling somone something, you’re apparently entitled to all the free hard core pornography you want while you’re in jail.

  • You should conduct a parody contest of these posters. My first attempt is here.

  • zack mollusc

    I am wholly in favour of this fight against hate crime. We in the Molluscarian church are constantly oppressed for our beliefs ( such as worshipping god by driving fast whilst drunk, etc ).

  • This is about thoughcrime, pure and simple. The state is now criminalising ATTITUDES rather than just actions.

  • FeloniousPunk

    Perry is absolutely right. This is so audacious – I know rotten PCism has spread to a surprising number of places but I never thought it would be this bold. University campuses are one thing, but this – this is an utter outrage.

    What fills me with despair is that I can’t think of any really effective way to fight this without putting myself in jeopardy of jail.

    I am so glad I don’t live there. UK folks, you have my profound sympathies.

  • Scott

    Hate Crime, Thought Crime. It all depends on who you ask. Luckily the experts in law enforcement will keep everything kosher. Don’t worry, stay at home, watch BBC, love Big Brother.

  • Jim

    Local Community Safety Unit.

    That’s one of the most terrifying things I have ever seen. Is this just a British way of sayihg Neighborhood watch, or is it something quirky? Would this have the same meaning in the States?

  • sage mclaughlin

    Wow. So let’s see. We outlaw self-defense first. We take everyone’s guns. Then, as crime rates skyrocket, we go after the REAL criminals: people who have been mean and insensitive.

    I’m sure you guys feel SO much safer now.

  • sage mclaughlin

    Wow. So let’s see. We outlaw self-defense first. We take everyone’s guns. Then, as crime rates skyrocket, we go after the REAL criminals: people who have been mean and insensitive.

    I’m sure you guys feel SO much safer now.

  • I’m so glad I left England when I did. 1993-1996 I lived in Hackney, not exactly the best part of town, but I still felt relatively safe. Then they seriously strengthened the anti-weapon laws, and suddenly blackmarket guns from eastern Europe were all over the place in Hackney, and my lawabiding friends who still live there walk in fear of being shot. Can’t even legally carrry a squishy lemon in your grocery bag, because hey, you could squirt lemon juice at someone violently.
    Does this cover people who are abused (whichever definition of abuse) for their traditional non-pc religious beliefs (can you sue if someone says Christianity is a psychological crutch? you can sue if someone says Islam is stupid…), or because they’re straight? Any straight woman hanging out with extreme feminists gets a lot of verbal abuse for “sleeping with the enemy” — does that count? or are straight people not due the same kind of legal protection?

  • An utterly terrifying thing to see. This site seems excellent at tracing examples of state abuse of power. Here’s my take on the posters.

  • Bob Briant

    How about a poster campaign to help stamp out political corruption – in the Euorpean Commission, for example? Unfortunate things seem to happen to those who try:

    http://www.freedomtocare.org/page84.htm
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/2219114.stm
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/2226345.stm

    And then there’s corruption in local government – I have a long list of relating press reports. The fascinating insight is the frequency with which the webpages with reports get hacked and disappear so searchers have to rely on google caches and other archives.

  • “Local Community Safety Unit.”

    I guess they didn’t want to use Committe for Public Safety, non?

  • Bob

    Alan,

    The connection with the French Revolution is timely and apt. We have long since abandoned the death penalty in Britain but we have certainly learned and applied lessons from Robespierre’s undoubted talent for political spin.

    His genius devised the political objective of creating a “virtuous society”, from which it naturally followed that any critics were therefore opposed to virtue and could be justly eliminated to secure a more virtuous society. Anything wrong with that?

    In his case, the model was very successful for a while until diffident critics caught on. The really sad part is that there have been many imitations of that model in European history with just minor variations in the terminology.