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Friday, March 16, 2012

Bias Crime Tyranny: Political Correctness Gone Wild

The Dharun Ravi guilty verdicts today pose a new and dangerous threat to the basic constitutional freedoms we thought we enjoyed.

The successful prosecution and conviction of an 18-year-old student for operating a webcam within his own shared dorm room will now embolden the politically correct authorities, whose abuse of power knows no limits, to go after and target for intimidation and prosecution all manner of personal and political enemies.

Make no mistake, this prosecution wasn't about a webcam. That was a pretext. The real, unstated crime was that Dharun Ravi was insufficiently hospitable to or accepting of his gay roommate Tyler Clementi. End of story.
Intolerance is an unfortunate part of life. We cannot compel others to like, or accept, us. (Think that's unfair? Think about a time when you broke off a relationship.) But it is far from clear that intolerance was present here, and even if it were, that should not be a crime.

Society cannot make everyone who rejects us, who disapproves of us, into a criminal. Part of being an adult is accepting the rejection of others. (Some, like Andrew Breitbart, embrace the rejection.). Worse, there are some bullies who enterprisingly have learned to market themselves as victims, both to cash in and to use lawsuits and criminal complaints as weapons to intimidate opposition (economic, political or social) into silence, invisibility or noncompetition.

The danger of the Dharun Ravi verdict is this. If you hold personal or political views that a prosecutor disagrees with, or simply because you are a target of personal or professional envy, these vague laws can be used to intimidate you into withdrawing from civic and public life, and even to interfere with your business and wholly personal activities.

So-called bias crime laws will now be more aggressively used to compel your acceptance of behaviors with which you may, as a matter of personal and religious conscience, disagree. But acceptance may not be enough. You may be required to publicly endorse this behavior, publicly denounce or denigrate your own behavior, and give preferential treatment to certain favored or "special" groups, lest you be accused of a bias crime.

Today, New Jersey moved one step closer to a state where freedom depends on the arbitrary capriciousness of unelected, unaccountable prosecutors and judges.
Eric Dixon is a New York lawyer.   

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