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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

“Where is the outrage?”

posted by on October 17 at 12:19 PM

Yesterday I posted about Bob Herbert’s column in the New York Times, which asked, rhetorically, why the murder of five Amish girls was not being covered as a hate crime.

As it turns out, Mike Hendricks of the Kansas City Star (who refers to himself in an e-mail as “Mike Hendricks of the Kansas City Star) wrote a similar piece ten days before Bob Herbert did:

The story that touched our hearts this week was about 10 little girls shot point-blank in Pennsylvania’s Amish country.

Not 10 children, as some news reports put it. But 10 girls. The shooter wanted to harm only the girls.

Does it strike you as curious the way it did me that more wasn’t made of that?

Had he singled out and shot 10 black men or 10 Jews or 10 gays or 10 of almost any other group, we’d be calling it a hate crime whether it fit the legal definition or not.

And on the talk shows and in the newspapers, wouldn’t the question have been asked over and over, “What causes such intolerance, bigotry and bitter resentment against one type of people?”

But the shooter at Nickel Mines, Pa., singled out his victims based on gender. And I found only one article that used the term “hate crime,” and it said that the killings merely “followed the pattern” of a hate crime.

Gee, you mean like the crime committed a week earlier in Bailey, Colo., when a sex offender burst into another school, singled out the girls, then molested them and killed one before turning the gun on himself that kind of hate crime?

Or any number of other killings, rapes and beatings committed by males against females purely because they were female?

We didn’t hear the Nickel Mines story framed that way. Instead, the first question was, “Did he have a grudge against the Amish?”

And when the answer turned out to be “no, the Amish were simply convenient victims,” public discussion turned to the peculiarities of the case. To the spread of school violence. To the need for gun control.

Hard saying why the broader theme of violence against women didn’t come up more.

So there. Two columnists have asked the question. Which actually further illustrates Herbert’s, and Hendricks’s, point.

RSS icon Comments


It is an interesting question. And an important one.

"Hate Crime" itself is a term that many don't understand. What, exactly, is a hate crime? Why is it necessary to add that designation to a crime that is already on the books? For example, assault and murder are already against the law. What difference should it make if you also make it a hate crime?

The best rationale that I have heard is that if someone commits a random murder, there is only one victim. If, on the other hand, someone murders an African-American while wearing Klan regalia and burning a cross in their yard, there is more than one victim. There is the person killed, but in addition, the entire black community also become victims to a lesser degree. The crime is committed in part with the intent to cause fear in that community. If a person is gay-bashed, the beating isn't directed at the individual fag, it is intended to cause harm and fear to the entire gay community, to put them in their place or to drive them away. If someone paints a swastika on a Jew's door, it isn't simply property damage against one individual, it is intended to terrify a whole community. So it isn't the individual assault or murder, it is the harm directed at a whole community that raises a crime to the level of a "hate" crime.

I'm not a lawyer, and I don't know the legal definition of a hate crime, but the general premise makes imminent sense to me.

I haven't followed this case closely enough to know if it would qualify under that description of a hate crime, but on the surface, it certainly looks like a possibility.

Posted by SDA in SEA | October 17, 2006 12:42 PM

Aren't hate crimes only what islamo-fascists do?

Posted by wf | October 17, 2006 12:43 PM


Yes, as only islamo-fascists are terrorists.

Posted by Dianna | October 17, 2006 1:23 PM

Tell that to ETA.

Posted by Fnarf | October 17, 2006 2:00 PM

It's not a hate crime, because nothing he did indicated that he specifically hated little girls. Everything indicates, however, that he simply wanted the most sympathetic, helpless victims possible, and little girls fit the bill.

It's a hideous crime, precisely because he chose the worst possible victims, but it's not a crime driven by hatred of the victims.

Posted by BC | October 17, 2006 2:04 PM

It may have something to do with the Amish not really being a separate race -- except in as much as they breed only within the Amish community, as doing otherwise results in shunning -- nor are they a separate gender or sexual preference.

BC notes that young girls are helpless, so they make good victims. Young Amish girls are theoretically even more helpless, as they are very unlikely to be defended by guards, police, guns, etc.

Posted by K | October 17, 2006 2:17 PM

Oh, Bob Dole, how we miss you.

Posted by Seth | October 17, 2006 2:54 PM

BC said: "It's not a hate crime, because nothing he did indicated that he specifically hated little girls."

You mean, nothing besides rounding up only girls and slaughtering them?

Posted by Diana | October 17, 2006 3:15 PM

I think, in order to define it as a hate crime, you'd have to look at the ultimate motivation. If it's just crazy - well, you can't legislate away crazy. On the other hand, a crime committed against a specific group for the purpose of intimidating or terrorizing that group IS a hate crime. So what you have to look at is whether the lunatic in this particular case was interested in keeping all women, or girls, in a state of fear.

In the Amish case, I'd be inclined to say no; the motivation in that case looks to me like barking mad, not desire to intimidate. In a case like the one in Colorado, that one lends itself more to the definition of a hate crime.

Posted by Geni | October 17, 2006 3:26 PM

By that definition, Diana, every crime is a hate crime.

The perpetrator always chooses certain victims over all others. If the reason isn't a general hatred of the victim's class, then it's not a hate crime.

Posted by BC | October 17, 2006 3:26 PM

speaking of outrage, how come the apologist erica has nocomments about the city council's $200,000 "investigation"??????

Posted by nydoll | October 17, 2006 3:48 PM

the only logical conclusion to be drawn from those two columnists is that any crime perpetrated against anyone but straight white males is a hate crime. that is not only ridiculous it renders useless the concept of a hate crime in the first place.

even as a gay man I have always thought the idea of a hate crime was an unfortunate one. acts should be criminalized, not thoughts or beliefs. (the only problem left, then, is the law already draws distinctions in crime motivation, such as pre-meditated murder versus a spontaneous, crime of passion, etc.)

Posted by huh? | October 17, 2006 4:40 PM


The gunman told his wife that years ago he had molested two girls related to him and confessed in his suicide note that he dreamed of molesting again, even bringing lubricant to the scene of his crime. Five of the ten girls died, and at least one of the injured girls may not survive.

Right, he didn't hate women or girls, he was just looking for the easiest victims. Of course, it would have been much easier for him to run in there and shoot the first children he spotted. Separating out the boys and girls demonstrates a premeditated decision to kill ONLY the girls.

a crime committed against a specific group for the purpose of intimidating or terrorizing that group IS a hate crime

The legal definition of a hate crime doesn't require that the criminals intended to terrorize the group in general. In order for a crime to be classified as a hate crime, it has to be demonstrated that the criminal hated that group and wanted to do harm to one or more members of that group.

any crime perpetrated against anyone but straight white males is a hate crime.

Uh, no, if a black guy walked into a school, separated out the white students and executed them, that would also be a hate crime. Hate is not exclusive to any color, gender, or creed.

Posted by keshmeshi | October 17, 2006 5:50 PM

Id like to know why either men of the past few weeks(Amish and in Colorado) - let alone the suspect in the death of the U of Vermont young woman last week - aren't held up as examples of the inherent pathology of heterosexual men.

If Foley's behavior is being bandied about as typical homosexual sickness, then why isnt the same standard applied to the molesting, murdering hetero men?

Posted by patrick C | October 17, 2006 10:15 PM

keshmeshi, you are saying that all rape and pedophilia is a hate crime. All that abusing a definition like that does is make it worthless.

But then, I think the phrase "Hate crime" lost a lot of it's value a long time ago, for precisely that reason.

Posted by BC | October 18, 2006 8:54 AM

I don't agree, BC, that my comment makes all crimes a hate crime.

If the perpetrator had shot five boys and five girls, or even the first ten children he saw, that would be random, and not a hate crime. Sorting them by gender and then executing only the girls is more than just an unfortunate or meaningless coincidence, it indicates a preference for committing murder targeting a "specific group."

I'm echoing Keshmeshi's comments, I suppose.

Unfortunately, even if we can all agree that this was a hate crime against girls, the FBI guidelines for defining a hate crime do not include gender in their definition of bias. ("Bias Crime: A criminal offense committed against a person or property which is motivated, in whole or in part, by the offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or ethnicity/national origin; also known as Hate Crime."

Bias against women is considered normal crime, otherwise rape of females would be a hate crime and then what would the FBI do?

Posted by Diana | October 18, 2006 9:23 AM

I think that most stranger rape does fall in the category of hate crimes... after all, is the motivation really just to have an orgasm?!? No, it's to subjugate a woman, as an indication of contempt or rage.
Date rape is trickier, of course, but even then I think most men who commit it have contempt for the woman... how else would you justify giving someone a roofie so you can fuck them? I wouldn't call that respectful or friendly!
It saddens and sickens me that violence against women has been normalized to the point that the men who commit it are not considered to "hate" women.

Posted by Think about it | October 18, 2006 9:24 AM

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