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Monday, 10 July, 2000, 09:46 GMT 10:46 UK
Can we stop hate crimes?
David Copeland has been jailed for life for a campaign of terror directed against minority communities in London.Disclaimer: The BBC will put up as many of your comments as possible but we cannot guarantee that all e-mails will be published. The BBC reserves the right to edit comments that are published.
The court heard how as he grew up he had come to hate gay people and had developed extreme racist views.
Should this be regarded simply as the actions of one individual who has now been punished for his crimes? Or does more need to be done to ensure that other young people do not grow up to hate in the way he did?
Can we stop the hate?
It sounds like Copeland had a rough time at school. People like him seem to go through life becoming increasingly excluded by others in society and ending up on a downward spiral leading to the extremes of either depression or hatred.
He probably didn't ask for or get help when he needed it a long time ago, and developed an obsessive intolerance to other peoples' intolerance towards him.
I am black and I went to a private school. The level of hatred that children can pass on to other children is phenomenal. I spent 9 years enduring this, not being able to do anything about it and not being able to get someone to help, especially the teachers.
What needs to be done is to educate children more, expose them to other cultures and make them see that there is more to life than just "White".
I have learnt from this and would never let my children (when I have them) be exposed to it.
We should all refrain from being hateful towards any one group of people as we are all pathetic.
People who commit these "hate crimes" almost always turn out to be sad losers with no life. Anybody who feels happy and content in themselves simply does not feel the need to hate, let alone hurt another human being. However, the horrible fact is that modern-day society in general, seems to be spawning more and more of these weirdos!!
Moataz Abou-Eita, Cairo, Egypt
We can never stop hate crimes, as long as there as politicians (esp. Mr Hague) preaching xenophobia and pandering to the views of the BNP and media prepared to provide a forum for prejudiced views then mindless thugs will take the message and justify their own violence.
Witness the debates on asylum seekers and Clause 28. When people like Mr Copeland commit acts of atrocity, we are reaping the harvest of violence when we sow the seeds of hate.
I agree with Steve Foley. Since the days of Martin Luther King and the Equal Opportunities Act, we have used social engineering and political correctness to combat racism. Racial quotas in the workplace has lead to the 'reverse discrimination' of whites. There are some minority communities up and down the country that don't make you feel welcome if you are white. Illegal immigrants are pouring into the country every day, and even white people have suffered racist attacks! Abolish all racial quotas and preferences completely, after all it was Martin Luther King who said 'judge some one by their character, not by the colour of their skin'!
Peter Orrin, UK
How can we speak of tightening freedom of speech, when freedom of speech is exactly that, freedom to say what you like? What kind of message can stifling discussion and demonising send to those impressional youngsters, looking for direction and hope?
While I do not support any of these racist psychopaths like the BNP, or Combat 18, I certainly do not think we should violate free speech by banning these groups. This would be a grave mistake as it would only give them more sympathy and support as an underground organisation. Those people in favour of limited free speech, more power for the government to monitor the internet, and to even make racist comments illegal, sound to me like they are extremists themselves, maybe their views should be banned!
Hatred can be sparked off for the strangest of reasons and no amount of education will ever overcome an individual's personal, no matter how illogical, view.
As long as high profile members of the church continue to label gay people as wicked and immoral, people like Copeland will always feel supported in their actions. I wonder how church leaders will feel when those whose persecution they have encouraged are shown conclusively to be born gay through the genome process?
Hate will always be with us and I must agree with Keith, USA that you cannot legislate people to love each other. Thirty-five years of Race Relations Acts in Britain have not eradicated racism, if anything they may have encouraged it via concepts such as "positive discrimination". Most people will peacefully co-exist with "different minorities" but I would blame the militant attitudes of the homosexual lobby, ethnic pressure groups etc for the backlash.
As someone who has been assaulted for no reason other than that I was identified as a gay man (which I am), I believe that violence and aggression are learned. As learned behaviours, society has a responsibility to teach the value of diversity, tolerance and celebration of differences, as well as joy in our commonalties.
We must look at our own prejudicial beliefs and behaviours - all of them - and begin to tear them down, replacing them with mutual respect and universal inclusiveness.
People like this are usually gay themselves, fighting the feelings and with acting with self destruction.
Here we are, a proven mass murderer and he is tucked away, in a warm jail, television, food, pocket money, and may be he can conceive a baby soon as well. Certainly if he behaves well (in Jail that is) he may get out one day.
Yes that is the incentive for (hate) crimes to just carry on! I am certain that nobody wants this animal back in society as it was proven he will do this again. As it appears most commentaters are disgusted by the death penalty, I am disgusted by this animal who should be permanently spared from society.
So the nail bomber, for his murders, gets free food and free housing for the rest of his life. What a deal. That doesn't sound like a good way to fight hate crimes.
Society does perpetuate - in my opinion - what is going on here. You get one bigot who thinks his problems are because of the Asian peoples for example. He can't get a job and he notices there's a high concentration of Asian people where he lives. Therefore, it must be their fault that he can't get a job. Nothing to do with the fact he didn't get a proper education. Anyway - he meets another bigot with the same feelings. Then it becomes "we're not racist, but..." More people join in. These people are just people who cannot handle their own failings and need someone to blame. They blame the faceless minorities because they are too cowardly to stand up to individuals (why do you the members of the KKK wear masks?) And then it just snowballs.
I am not sure that punishing hate crimes with hate is the answer. I think we should be teaching and practising love and compassion to the future generation to dilute the hatred. Sadly this is no more fashionable and as we have become more individualistic tolerance takes the back seat!
We can do everything to prevent people like Copeland committing these disgusting acts of destruction. People who commit hate (or in fact any) crime or antisocial act are doing so as a product of their society.
Benj'min Mossop, Britain
When certain viewpoints are effectively banned, people who hold them tend to cluster together, confirming their own extreme beliefs among themselves, without any objective debate, and causing them to fester.
I am gay and was disturbed by these bombings. However, this is not an excuse for limiting freedom of speech on the internet or elsewhere, regardless of how 'subversive' and 'destructive' this material may be.
This is a all-too-familiar story. I have seen so much bigotry being tolerated it makes me wonder. Name-calling, lewd jokes and even calling minorities by their ethnicity tends to dehumanize people and alienate them as well. I can never really see myself integrating into Canadian society, for example. The solution is education and exposure to other cultures from an early age. It also matters what one hears at the dining table from a young age onwards. Racism is not something we are born with but something we grow up with. If it is tolerated around us, we think its ok to be racist/sexist/homophobic. It is indeed ironic that most of these mindless acts are executed in so-called advanced countries which are supposedly leading the charge into the "information age".
People hate for different reasons, however I believe that one reason why some people hate is if they have been subject to physical abuse or sexual abuse in childhood but are unable to direct their hatred towards the adult abuser and so deflect their hatred onto society. I knew someone just like this. Not everyone, nor even most people who suffer childhood abuse will turn their hatred onto innocent victims of society, but many will. Give children the freedom to leave abusive parents and I think that one would see a reduction in hate crime.
Of course society must play a role, however the final
responsibility lies with the individual. The media do create
stereo types and by doing so will affect the public's opinion.
But in a liberal democracy it is not a nanny state and people
make their own decisions. Therefor should accept the consequences.
It will never be possible to stop hate
crimes. Bigotry and prejudice have
been around as long as there have
been people; there always has been
bigotry and there always will be. I do
not believe that hate crimes should
be regarded differently from other
crimes. Crime is crime is crime; all
crime deserves equally harsh punishment.
Treating hate crimes differently will
ensure that there will not be equal
justice under the law and that it will
be very hard for prosecutors to prove
hate as a motive and thus win
I feel that locking people up is not a solution to society's problems. It may act as a deterrent, and it may ensure that dangerous people are kept away from the public. But does that solve the problem of people becoming bad in the first place? I don't think so. Many see the viewed of 'blaming society' to be old fashioned. To me it makes more sense to work on the cause, rather than clean up the effect.
I am gay, and also feel that such freedom of speech - ie allowing access to all modes of thought - is very important. However, that shouldn't come on its own. It should be accompanied by a structured methodology of appropriately assimilating such information. If people are taught how to use the information in a socially-aware manner, such atrocities could be prevented.
No, society is not to blame, he individual who harbours the hate and anger and then chooses to act on it, is fully responsible. We all have choices, that is what a free society is all about.
Hate is a terribly powerful and destructive force. What is important to realise though, is that hate is "learned behaviour" - we learn to hate, we aren't born that way. If we want a future free of hate then we have to start today, we have to get the message across to children in our words and actions that hate - in any form - can never be justified. If we ignore the problem, then another generation will grow up in a society characterised by hate.
No matter what we do as a society, it seems that the idea of hate will always exist. Even that being true, there's no excuse not to educate and enlighted our young. They will be faced with the residue of many of our mistakes and those before us. Let's attempt to see each other as people, not objects of desire or hatred. Gay people, people of colour, and all the other 'minorities' that we learn to hate are still our neighbors, family, colleagues, and fellow man. Maybe the NHS should be more prepared to help those with mental/emotional issues BEFORE more people are slaughtered because of their skin colour or sexual orientation. Haven't we had enough ?
Ab, US (UK citizen)
I live 30 miles from where a few years back a man was killed and burned on old tires only because he was gay. Everyone expressed shock and outrage in public, but behind closed doors, they said: "He came on to those boys, he deserved what he got". I personally blame the extreme religous right, who refuse to believe that you do not choose to be gay. Who would choose to be shunned and rejected by the majority of people. We do not have a choice in the matter. Because it is not a choice (just like race or origin), crimes committed against someone solely based on their sexuality should be treated as a hate crime and that person prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Only when the public's perception of gay people change (when is the last time you were personally assaulted by, or lost your job because of, or denied anything because of someone being gay)will true equality be realized. It's only love, what's everybody so afraid of. If God is so against Gay people, why did he create us?
What does free speech have to do with this crime? I think they should bring back capital punishment for guys like this.
I believe that allowing total freedom of speech actually proves detrimental to the spread of the vile hate perpetrated by David Copeland.
If people can see the absurdity of the views of such fanatics, then they will be better able to guard against them.
I think there should be action now to introduce hate crimes legislation that imposes tougher sentences if it can be established that crimes of viloence are motivated by hatred. Copeland's crimes have set a precedent that many right-wing extremists will look to and every possible action must be taken to stamp out crimes of this nature.
All categories of crime involve some form of violence and hatred, and to categorize a crime as a "hate crime" is just being redundant. Enacting hate crime legislation in effect creates two tiered justice system, one for those who target minorities, and one for those who target everyone else.
You can't stop people harbouring irrational hatred, but I firmly believe that in a civilised society it is right to circumscribe the right of such people to attemt to spread their hatred. Nobody can censor the Internet or international broadcast media, but that's not an excuse for not trying to ensure that content hosted in the UK and other advanced democracies is not gratuitously offensive.
The best thing we can do is to teach our children that hatred is ultimately self-destructive.
A good start would be to fine newspapers which run blatantly xenophobic stories.
This was a sick, mad and bad crime and David Copeland deserves his life sentence. I hope he is never released.
But is it not terrible that he was easily able to access hate material, legal fascist societies, instructions for making bombs and vicious amoral racist hate propaganda?
I do not believe freedom of speech and civl liberties can be respected if it includes and embraces such repugnant views.
I feel the media, the film industry, the computer game industry etc also have a part to play if only they would stop sensationalising violence. I wish more people would refuse to watch, buy or have anything to do with such material, to deny its perpetrators any reward.
A few weeks back there was a lot of fuss about so-called anarchist extremists planning to target the Queen. It was in all the papers. The new Terrorism Bill is designed to stop such people. When it came down to (I was there) these terrible anarchist extremists were actually only going to show their bottoms, in a "Moon against the Monarchy". Dreadful crime. You begin to wonder what Police resources are actually spent on, when far-right groups advocating violence against ethnic minorities are ignored, while a bunch of aging republicans with a sense of humour get all that attention. As I say, I was there, as were half the Met. Funny old world... it ain't!
While education can go some way towards dispelling racial/sexual/religious stereotypes, it will do nothing to stem the mindless violence which is endemic in British society. This particular incident is quite extreme, most people do not plant bombs, but typical Saturday night brawls go on the length and breadth of the country, alcohol fueled aggresion spreads from the bars out onto the streets and innocent bystanders get hurt, if they are of a different colour it becomes a rascist incident and attracts coverage, if they are the same colour it does not. Nobody makes a big deal out of the tide of "fashionist" violence sweeping the country, but you are just as likely to get beaten senseless by a drunken yob for wearing the wrong clothes as you are for being the wrong colour. I am not saying that racism is an invalid argument, merely that the problem runs far deeper than that and racism etc are merely the easily identifiable faces of it for the simple reason that there is an identifiable group against whom the violence is bieng directed.
Is society to blame? Only in so much as it does not deal harshly enough with these people upon their fist offence to put them off commiting more.
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