Sunday, March 18, 2012

Hate crimes and hate speech: the laws are stupid, childish, and counterproductive.
Known in the novel as Stefan Cyliak, the identity of the real "Buchenwald Kind", as he is popularly known, was later revealed to be Stefan Jerzy Zweig, a Polish boy born in the Kraków ghetto who came to Buchenwald with his father, Zacharias, when he was three, leaving after liberation in 1945. His mother and sister were both murdered at Auschwitz. Recent information, however, has revealed that – contrary to the book – Zweig was "swapped" for a 16-year-old Roma boy called Willy Blum who was sent to death in his place, almost certainly after the communists who saved him did a deal with a Nazi doctor.

The book's re-release has reignited controversy about how the Zweig story should be presented. Zweig, now 71 and a retired cameraman living in Israel, recently went to court to prevent Volkhard Knigge, the director of the Buchenwald Memorial Foundation, from ascribing his survival to what Knigge has called a "victim swap". According to Knigge: "These legends must be brought to an end." Zweig told the judge "I am not a legend", but said he felt stripped of his dignity by the foundation after it removed a plaque referring to his rescue.

"When you erase a name, you erase the person," Zweig said. "If you want, erect a plaque with the names of all the other children who were in Buchenwald … but don't erase one of them. "The judge eventually ruled that Knigge had to stop using the phrase "victim swap" in interviews.

The case set off a debate about whether hate-crime statutes are the best way to deal with bullying. While Mr. Ravi was not charged with Mr. Clementi’s death, some legal experts argued that he was being punished for it, and that this would result only in ruining another young life. They, along with Mr. Ravi’s lawyers, had argued that the case was criminalizing simple boorish behavior.
But Bruce J. Kaplan, the prosecutor in Middlesex County, applauded the jury for sending a strong message against bias.
“They felt the pain of Tyler,” he said.

...Some of the charges carry penalties of 5 to 10 years in prison. Mr. Ravi has surrendered his passport; prosecutors said he could face possible deportation to his native India, but that decision would be left to immigration officials.

Ravi is charged with invading Clementi’s privacy, for peeking on him with a Web cam as Clementi kissed a guy. But he’s also charged with “bias intimidation” — a hate crime that could double his sentence.
In alleging bias, prosecutors say Ravi spied on his roomie not for kicks, but because Celmenti was gay — something only a mind reader, or an angry jury, could decide.
As proof, they’re presenting e-mails in which Ravi made fun of Clementi’s sexuality. Also, his (relative) poverty. His dorky clothes.
A hate crime? My friend Sam remarked:
“If I was tried for catty things I’ve said and thought, I’d be doing life.”
Truth is, New Jersey prosecutors are caught between a rock and a politically correct place. It’s as if they’re trying to prove that intolerance won’t be tolerated on their turf.
That does not change the fact that Clementi’s death is a mystery. No one — not his parents, authorities or Ravi himself — understands the source of his desperation.
That hasn’t stopped folks from condemning Ravi, a then-18-year-old jerk whose interest in Clementi’s sex life is less creepy than it is suspicious.
Two days before Clementi died, Ravi caught his roommate on his Web cam, kissing a guy. The idiot then tweeted about it.
“I saw him making out with a dude. Yay,” he wrote.
A legend was born.
Anderson Cooper labeled bullying of closeted gays “sickening.”
Dr. Phil McGraw said, “This is someone that took a video of someone in an intimate act.”
“Something must be done!” DeGeneres cried.
Trouble was, none of it was true.
Ravi never recorded Clementi’s fully dressed kiss. Clementi was open about his sexuality.
Clementi also kind of liked Ravi, in spite of himself.
He brushed off Ravi’s spying in an e-mail to a pal as “he just like took a five sec peep lol.’’ Clementi worried that a new roommate would be worse.

That makes this a fitting time to inquire of his syndicator, Clear Channel Communications, whether it intends to continue supporting someone who addicts his audience to regular doses of hate speech. Clear Channel's Premiere Radio Networks Inc., which hosts Limbaugh's program, has defended his recent comments.
If Clear Channel won't clean up its airways, then surely it's time for the public to ask the FCC a basic question: Are the stations carrying Limbaugh's show in fact using their licenses "in the public interest?"
Spectrum is a scarce government resource. Radio broadcasters are obligated to act in the public interest and serve their respective communities of license. In keeping with this obligation, individual radio listeners may complain to the FCC that Limbaugh's radio station (and those syndicating his show) are not acting in the public interest or serving their respective communities of license by permitting such dehumanizing speech.
update: more of the same

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