We’ve all heard that Rhode Island is a “sanctuary state,” meaning that people who’ve entered the United States illegally will find the law easier to skirt, here. A recent story out of Providence makes me wonder whether the city is keen to suspend the First Amendment, too — specifically freedom of speech.
Steve Ahlquist reports that somebody distributed 15 fliers promoting a branch of the KKK on the door steps of wealthy residents in one of the more progressive districts in the state. The fliers were printed directly from the site being promoted, and they were inserted into sandwich bags weighted down with rice. Below a nearly parodic sketch of a pointing Klansman is the message that “It’s time for YOU to fight back White Man.”
Now, I don’t ever want to overestimate the intelligence of the sorts of people who would sincerely recruit for the KKK — especially those who would do so in a wealthy, liberal neighborhood of Providence, Rhode Island — but this looks like a hoax, to me. Why would a sincere racist bother with just a handful of fliers, printed poorly from a Web site, take the time to put them in bags with rice, and then toss them on doorsteps? That’s pretty furtive for somebody trying to recruit, who is presumably proud of his or her rebellious views.
It seems more like something a hoaxer would do to avoid detection.
Much more important, though, is the reaction of Mayor Jorge Elorza and the city’s safety commissioner, Stephen Pare, who asserted that such activity would not be tolerated and would be prosecuted as a “hate crime.” It’s disturbing that none of the journalists asking them questions thought to inquire: What’s the crime, here?
It might surprise some folks to learn, but hatred is not a crime. Even racism isn’t a crime. So, what’s the underlying criminal action, here, that is exacerbated by “hate”? Littering?
We’re on extremely dangerous ground if government officials are going to decide what sorts of messages are protected by the First Amendment and, especially, if journalists aren’t going to challenge them on it when they do so. Of course, the predictability of the response is more reason to think it’s a hoax, perhaps to justify another Black Lives Matter march or demand public money for some organization.
P.S. — Lest we ignore the obvious, by the way, it’s worth noting the likelihood that the very same people who’ll call this a “hate crime,” specifically citing Jewish residents and a nearby synagogue, likely harbor a visceral hatred of Israel, with a tendency to draw equivalence between Palestinian attackers and the Jews who defend themselves. And the same people who instantly believe distribution of a picture of a Klansman is a “hate crime” likely support public funding for “artists” who are overtly offensive and hostile, particularly against Christians.