VITAL SIGNSrnMatthew Shepardrnand thernThought Pohcernby Justin RaimondornLong before the advent of “politiealrncorrectness” as we have come tornknow (and hate) it, there was an activernand ongoing campaign to outlaw “haterncrimes.” This movement had its first bigrnsuccess in 1944, when 36 isolationists ofrnvaried backgrounds were indicted forrnsedition, hi charging the defendants —rnwho had nothing in common but oppositionrnto the war—with engaging in a conspiracyrnto cause insubordination in thernArmed Forces, the federal prosecutorsrndid not bother to cite any facts to supportrntheir case. The entire basis for the government’srncharge was the similarity of therndefendants’ writings and beliefs. Whenrnthe judge died, the government did notrnpursue the case, and the legal issue ofrnthoughtcrime was left unresolved.rnPolitically, however, the idea that governmentsrnmight criminalize certainrnthoughts was far from dead. The left,rnspearheaded by the Commimist Party,rnlaunched a frontal attack on civil liberties,rnstarting with the demand to revivernand expand the sedition indictments:rnTheir immediate goal was a show trial ofrnthe isolationists. But their long-range objectivernwas far more radical, and theyrnwere not afraid to proclaim it openly.rnIn a pamphlet touted by WalterrnWinchell, professional anti-rightist Henr’rnHoke invoked the popular expressionrn”there ought to be a law” to propose thatrn”there should be laws, several of them, tornprevent our nation’s being devoured byrnthe bigots, the hate-peddlers, those whornwould deny equality to neighbors becausernof race, religion or nahonal origin.”rnFurthermore, “there is no logical reasonrnfor refusing to extend our libel laws sornthat they protect the mass, as well as thernindividual.” If individuals can be hurt byrnlibel and gain redress in a court of law,rnthen why not whole classes of people?rnHoke writes that stereot^’pes have victimizedrnminority groups: “these people actuallyrnhave been hurt, personally, becausernso many still insist that freedom of speechrnalso means freedom to lie.” Such laws,rnconcedes Hoke, will not wipe out prejudicern”because a good portion of thosernwho spread it are mentally diseased andrnchances are, for the next few generationsrnanyway, we’ll have the mentally diseasedrnwith us.” To meet their rather ambitiousrngoal of wiping out all “mental disease”rn(i.e., poliHcal opposition) in a few generations,rnHoke and his friends had a fewrnsuggestions to help things along:rnThere should be some kind of lawrnwhich would treat the causes thatrnproduce the bigots and hate-peddlers.rnIt’s nonsense simply to “punish”rnthe overt act which the causesrnproduce. A whole section of America’srnFascist movement… is madernup of people who are mentally ill.rnWhile we don’t punish lepers, “at thernsame time we aren’t stupid enough to allowrnthe leper to roam freely about ourrncommunity.” Lest they “contaminate”rnsociety at large, the political lepers of thernpostwar period have to be locked up andrn”treated” for their “mental disease,” forrntheir own good as well as society’s.rn”Some machinery must be set up wherebyrnour ‘mental lepers’ can be segregatedrnand given proper medical care.” Ofrncourse, the Soviet Union had loirg ago setrnup such machinery, which came to berncalled the Gulag.rnIn 1950, the campaign to enact “grouprnlibel” legislation received importairt intellectualrnand political backing from a sociologicalrnstudy commissioned by thernAmerican Jewish Committee. It purportedrnto show that “reactionaries” were notrnjust wrong but were suffering from thernmental disease of “status resentment” —rnand were dangerous to boot. As TheodorrnAdorno put it in The Authoritarian Personality,rnthese “pseudo-conservatives”rnshow “conventionality and authoritarianrnsubmissiveness” on the surface; in thern”unconscious sphere,” however, lurksrn”violence, anarchic impulses, and chaoticrndestruetiveness.”rnThroughout the 1950’s, the Anti-rnDefamation League of B’nai B’rith, in alliancernwith black civil-rights organizations,rnpushed “group libel” laws inrntandem with civil-rights legislation, andrnat least one state, Illinois, passed such arnlaw. But the push for limitations oirrnspeech in the name of combating racismrntook a back seat to the more acceptablerncivil-rights legislation outlawing discriminationrnin housing, employment, and otherrn”public” accommodations.rnIn an important sense, however, theserntwo legislative proposals were twinrnprongs of the same weapon, both aimedrnat the heart of American libert)’. Eachrnsought to criminalize the thought, notrnthe deed. Since the intent to discriminaterncannot be proved without the assistancernof a mind-reader, both the judgernand jury must surmise and weigh thernthought-processes of the defendants.rnThe movement to enact “group libel”rnlaws did not evolve overnight into the effortrnto eiract federal hate-crime legislation.rnIt has been half a century sincernHoke, Adorno, and their sponsorsrndreamed of silencing the right with legalrnstrictures on “hate.” Their scheme, andrnthe brazeir confidence with which theyrnpursued it, was born in war-time, naturallyrnenough. Today, another kind of war isrngiving new impetus to the assault on civilrnliberties. The ongoing culture war is arncivil war, and a particularly vicious one,rnfought in movie theaters aird on televisionrnscreens rather than in the streets —rnfor the moment, at least. The stakes arernnothing so uninspiring as the exact locationrnof natioiral boundaries: The contestedrnterrain is the territory of the soul. Inrnthe aftermath of this war, the HenryrnHokes of the “hate crime” brigade are atrnhand to give the legal imprimatur to tiierndictatorship of the victorious Allied Powersrn—Washington, New York, and Hollywood.rnFlushed with their victory overrntraditional American culture, the triumphantrnAllies have set out to make anrnexample of anyone who would flout theirrnwill.rnAs a reactionar)’ holdover from the oldrnculture, “homophobia” is a promisingrnarea for the heirs of Henr)’ Hoke to makernthe link between “hate speech” and “haterncrimes.” Just as anti-porn feminists andrntheir Christian fuirdamentalist allies depictrnpornography as the theory and sexrncrimes as the practice, so the left is nowrnarguing that “anti-gay” rhetoric by thern”far right” emboldens and incites violencernagainst homosexuals. WhenrnChristian fundamentalist groups boughtrna series of newspaper ads averring that holULYrn1999/41rnrnrn