FREE SPEECH -- Among the six academics asked by the New York Times what the government should do about the linkage between hate speech and hate crimes like the murders of abortionist Dr. George Tiller and Holocaust Memorial Museum guard Stephen Tyrone Johns, two California criminologists agreed that dialing down freedoms of speech, assembly or association is no solution.
In today's report, the Times summed up as "Don't Overreact" the view of Phyllis B. Gerstenfeld, a professor and chairman of the criminal justice department at
California State University, Stanislaus and the author of Hate Crimes: Causes, Controls and Controversies.
of George Tiller and the shooting at the Holocaust Memorial Museum are
rare. We should take care not to rush blindly into creating solutions
that are ill-suited to the real problems, that result in poor
distributions of scarce resources, or that violate basic freedoms.
"Infiltrate and Monitor Hate Groups" is the heading the Times gives to the suggestions of Eric Hickey, a professor in the department of criminology at Fresno State.
In our democratic society we pride ourselves on being allowed the
freedom to gather and espouse whatever we wish so long as we do not
incite others to commit acts of violence. But we also, as a society,
have the right to monitor such groups to ensure public safety. The problem in doing that is we create a less democratic society.
Or, we can provide more security for potential targets and institute
gun control measures like those in Canada and England. Neither of these
options, however, will do much to stop violent acts, even though they
give us a greater sense of security.
Coincidentally, the ACLU of Northern California noted three years ago that then Attorney General Bill Lockyer's office found there was a strong case the Fresno
County Sheriffs Department violated the civil rights of members of Peace Fresno
by sending an undercover officer to their meetings.