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A Vast White-Wing Conspiracy?

I like reading about hate crime: It is such a cheering feature of American life. And while I am always happy to see the excellent news about this kind of offense—ever-rising numbers, more and more crimes in ever-broader areas of the country—I wish we could get those statistics even higher. The reasons for mv satisfaction should be obvious. In 1950 or 1900, very few people cared about the acts that today we call "hate crime." While many did agonize over the enduring curse of lynch law, nobody paid serious attention to the countless acts of petty malice directed against other racial or religious groups, the sort of graffiti and name-calling that today swells our hate-crime statistics. As society became ever more sensitive to these hostilities, the number of attacks and insults declined steeply, and for the first time, it became politically conceivable to count these events. The more hostile society becomes toward intolerance, the higher the statistics for recorded hate crimes, which thus become an excellent barometer for inter-group tolerance and general civility. I like hate crime for the same reason that I like child abuse: The less frequently it occurs, the more we see it, and the very fact that we are counting it means it is declining.

The virtues of hate-crime figures seem so obvious that it is hard to believe anyone could take them negatively, but of course, some do. Whenever the mass media report on hate...

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