In the wonderful 2006 TV series Life on Mars, Sam — a modern detective inspector — is mysteriously transported back to the 1970s. He finds himself working for tough-guy Detective Chief Inspector Gene Hunt. Writers intended Hunt as a bad guy example of the horrors of the un-woke past, but his character became very popular. At one point DI Sam uses the phrase “hate crime” and Hunt sneers in response,
“as opposed to what, an I really really love you crime?”
The introduction of hate crimes was a mistake. It requires analysis of a criminal’s intent in order to assess if some opinion behind his actions somehow made them worse. Which in turn requires analysis of which opinions are hateful. Once the principle was established the whole racket becomes a game for politicians to signal their love of community X vs community Y.
To the victims of a crime, it provides no benefit. If I’m cut and bleeding on the floor after a beating, why would I care what was going through the criminal’s mind? I’m no more or less hurt by his being convicted of assault and battery with hateful intent, than without. I’m with DCI Hunt on that point.
To society in general, the disbenefit is division. If a gay friend and I are assaulted on our way home from the pub, our suffering — and the moral impropriety of our attacker’s actions — is the same. If the attacker is punished more for hurting my gay friend than me, society is saying — in effect — that he matters more.
The only equality that matters is equality before the law. The concept of hate crime undermines that — and was intended to. It is not a bug but an evil feature. All kinds of scam artists and scoundrels are making good livings by playing on inter-community fears and prejudices. They pretend they're against such things, but in fact they live on them and therefore promote them.
Identity politics is not about righting wrongs — not even in the crude way of collective punishment euphemised as “social justice”. It’s about sowing division and reaping political power.