This perfectly exposes the fundamental problem of separating crimes, particularly violent crimes, by various traits shared by victims and by their presumed causes. Much of the rhetoric aggressively voiced by many gay activists (and indeed wider) could be (and is) portrayed as ‘anti-Catholic’. If you have a story like this, one ‘side’ will use it to bash the other. ‘Look! Look what your words lead to!’ And the other ‘side’ will take a story like this and say the same thing. It becomes a matter of various interest groups competing to be the most victimised and most able to spin a suitable narrative from that. The violence becomes lost in this – any common empathy and, most importantly, common response to it becomes all but impossible.
It also dehumanises the victims who increasingly cease to be seen as human beings and are instead reduced to an abstract ‘difference’: a ‘gay’, a ‘Catholic’. You could see this in the instant response to the murder of Stuart Walker . He immediately became ‘a gay man’ who had been murdered because of his sexuality. As that link shows, this interpretation spread worldwide very quickly (in a way in which it would not have had Stuart not been gay – I don’t imagine very many people outside of Scotland are aware of the case of Zoe Nelson, for example). Then, over the course of the evening, some possible ‘explanations’ (not justifications, of course) for the murder came out (some of them quite unsavory). As quickly as he had become ‘a gay’ martyr, Stuart was dropped. The column which Patrick Strudwick (yes, him again) had written within 24 hours of the discovery of Stuart’s body never appeared, and anyone familiar with his work will know why – it would have fixated on Stuart’s sexuality and used it to push a narrative of increasing ‘hate crimes’ against gay people. Now, Stuart is of no use and I doubt most of the people who expressed outrage at his death are even aware that someone was caught and charged with it (the Pink Paper did report Stuart’s funeral last week but they do tend to report on anything that happens to anyone gay, anywhere, ever).
I had a discussion about ‘hate crimes’ this year with a transexual woman. She agreed that they were a ridiculous and divisive concept. Yet she still wanted violence against transexuals to be classed as a ‘hate crime’ in legislation. Her (not unreasonable) reasoning was that, since hate crime legislation wasn’t going anywhere any time soon, her ‘community’ deserved that special recognition and protection too. In the frequently depressing discussion that recently sprung up about online abuse against females, I repeatedly saw people arguing that making this abuse a ‘hate crime’ was the way to deal with it. Where does it end and how many differences do we have to highlight before we step back and say ‘hold on…all murder (for example) is hateful and wrong, no matter who the victim is. No murder is ‘better’ than another. No murder is intrinsically more ‘tragic’ than another.’ That to me is real equality – expecting that I’ll be treated the same as anyone else, even if something dreadful happens to me. I don’t want to be reduced to my ‘difference’, thank you very much.