School Shooting in Finland Predicted by YouTube Video – Hate Crime Discussion
FYI – September 23, 2008 – a similar shooting has taken place today. The post regarding that incident can be found here.
Update: The shooter has shot himself in the head but survived and is listed in critical condition at the hospital.
At least 7 people have died in the shooting, 1 is severely injured in Finland’s first school shooting. Ten more have minor injuries.
According to BBC a youtube video titled “Jokela High School Massacre” was posted just hours before the shooting took place. Currently the users account has been suspended but this description was taken from BBC:
The YouTube video, entitled “Jokela High School Massacre – 11/7/2007”, was posted by a user called Sturmgeist89.
“I am prepared to fight and die for my cause,” read a posting by a user of the same name.
“I, as a natural selector, will eliminate all who I see unfit, disgraces of human race and failures of natural selection.” “Sturmgeist” means storm spirit in German.
According to Finish law:
Finnish Penal Code 515/2003 (enacted January 31, 2003) makes “committing a crime against a person, because of his national, racial, ethnical or equivalent group” an aggravating circumstance in sentencing.
While the law may not have much affect as ten people have been killed and I am assuming without knowing Finish law that the sentence would be life anyway, the situation does call to attention hate crimes and hate crime laws. Above and beyond that it also calls attention the use of our technological advances and how we use them, namely the world wide web.
As the ever rapidly online world grows with more forums, blogs, personal web sites, myspaces, facebooks and youtubes as personal outlets for opinions and as networking tools, new challenges are presenting themselves. Gone are the days of political correctness. In its place: tides of best selling self-declared experts on subjects, bloggers and websites that know the true nature of all evils, and proffessionals that compromise as they compete with this new phenomena of blogging which is fast becoming a news source for people. The media even acknowledging blogs as news sources.
Where does this leave us? It leaves us with a wealth of information. It allows us to see just what is going on in places such as Pakistan today through blog reports that are comming out even during media blackouts. It allows us to go beyond our borders with a click and recieve news reports from outside countries. It allows us to see just how the other parts of the world live, how they think, how they feel. Unfortunately it also allows us to fear monger. It allows us to post information as it is happening without follow-up to the outcome which may be of the utmost importance to actually forming an informed opinion. We’ve made heros out of fear mongerers and bigots. Ten people have died because some 18 year old saw fit to: “I, as a natural selector, will eliminate all who I see unfit, disgraces of human race and failures of natural selection.” We’ll be shocked and appauled by this. And saddly some of us who are shocked and appauled by this will still make heroes out of bigots and fear mongerers.
Wiki has an entry in regards to hate crimes and lists the arguments for and against them.
Justifications for harsher punishments for hate crimes focus on the notion that hate crimes cause greater individual and societal harm. In Wisconsin v. Mitchell, the Supreme Court of the United States unanimously found that “bias-motivated crimes are more likely to provoke retaliatory crimes, inflict distinct emotional harms on their victims, and incite community unrest…. The State’s desire to redress these perceived harms provides an adequate explanation for its penalty-enhancement provision over and above mere disagreement with offenders’ beliefs or biases. As Blackstone said long ago, ‘it is but reasonable that, among crimes of different natures, those should be most severely punished which are the most destructive of the public safety and happiness.'”
It is said that, when the core of a person’s identity is attacked, the degradation and dehumanization is especially severe, and additional emotional and physiological problems are likely to result. Society then, in turn, can suffer from the disempowerment of a group of people. Furthermore, it is asserted that the chances for retaliatory crimes are greater when a hate crime has been committed. The riots in Los Angeles, California, that followed the beating of Rodney King, a Black motorist, by a group of White police officers are cited as support for this argument.
The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously found that penalty-enhancement hate crime statutes do not conflict with free speech rights because they do not punish an individual for exercising freedom of expression; rather, they allow courts to consider motive when sentencing a criminal for conduct which is not protected by the First Amendment.
Perpetrators of the same criminal act should not be treated differently because they hold different beliefs or motives.
Over time, these provisions might be disregarded and hate crime laws and associated case law could evolve to the point where speaking out strongly against a particular group or its actions could be construed as a libelous hate crime, violating rights to freedom of expression, thought, religion (among others).
Penalties that do not include hate-crimes enhancement are already sufficient, in that vandalism, assault and murder have always been illegal and subject to prosecution. The fact that they still occur does not justify infringing on the freedoms of speech and religion.
It brings the law into disrepute and further divides society, as groups apply to have their critics silenced.
Religious practices will become subject to government regulation, violating the separation of church and state.
Allowing a self-declared victim to decide if a crime has occurred violates the principle of objective justice.
Personally, I think that hate crime laws can and will exist on a federal level beyond federally protected activities – eventually (this legislation has passed the senate but Bush has indicated that if it comes to his desk he may veto it). Currently the bill contains a “Rule of Construction” which specifically provides that “Nothing in this Act… shall be construed to prohibit any expressive conduct protected from legal prohibition by, or any activities protected by the free speech or free exercise clauses of, the First Amendment to the Constitution.” I believe it covers the concerns listed against Hate crime laws.
In my opinion, hate crime laws are necessary as the crimes themselves carry heavier sentences which draw attention to the cases. Our world history is filled with hate crimes that include the Armenian genocide, the Holocaust, the Bosnian genocide, the Rwanda genocide. In most cases, hate crimes do not just happen. Many things have to happen before masses run to murder groups of people. Creating fear and thereby hate is a crucial part of these campaigns. While freedom of speech and information need to be protected we need to remember how our world has in the past been moved to these actions. Knowing that hate crimes can and do happen is key to holding on to freedom of speech and expression while battling hate. Understanding how the effect of any bigotry or racism can influence actions that we may not want to be part and parcel to is the only way that we will as human beings come closer to eliminating bigotry and racism from our world. It is the way that we will become aware of our greater responsibilities to humanity.
However, it needs to move beyond our own countries and become an international initiative. I’d love to see a UN that makes it a requirement for membership to sign human rights declarations and hate crime laws that would put any country in violation of such (on a nation level) in suspension but yeah – i’m a dreamer.
I’m wondering though, with this YouTube video being posted just hours before the shooting – I’m wondering how this is going to affect YouTube, myspace, facebook, the blogs, forums. Are they about to be swept for other potentially dangerous situations?