Say this for the guy: It takes some Jedi-level trolling to make yourself part of another country’s national debate about racism after a mass murder when you don’t even count as a celebrity there anymore.
I like that he calls for actual jail time, not a fine or parole or some other more ceremonial penalty. If we’re going to carve out First Amendment exceptions for thoughtcrimes, might as well be bold about it.
What would I do with white people who use the N-word? Jail them.
— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) June 22, 2015
Not to play a fool’s game here, but why limit punishment to white offenders? Believe it or not, that’s probably the biggest constitutional problem with his idea. The First Amendment is an obstacle too — a law that purported to criminalize the use of the N-bomb would probably be unconstitutional in any federal court in the country at the moment — but that obstacle might be cleared in due time. Remember Chris Cuomo mumbling about the “fighting words” exception to free speech? The “fighting words” doctrine says that the state can ban words which are so inflammatory that their mere utterance is apt to incite a breach of the peace. If there’s any word in American life that a majority of the public might agree rises to that level of inflammation, it’s the word “nigger.” In fact, Cuomo explicitly analogized between that word and drawings of Mohammed to try to capture how insulting Pam Geller had been to Muslims. If the left ever fully commits to trying to ban “hate speech,” Morgan’s idea is their strongest play, a potential foot in the door of First Amendment jurisprudence. Get one word banned successfully and then everything afterward is a simple matter of analogy. If people deserve jail time for the N-word, why doesn’t a cartoonist deserve it for a Mohammed drawing? Hate is hate, right?
How would you write that law to maximize its chances of passing Fourteenth Amendment scrutiny? Any thoughts, legal eagles? Treating a certain kind of behavior as a crime only when someone of a particular race engages in it seems … not so progressive, a prime facie violation of equal protection. I guess there are ways you could torture the jurisprudence to find that it’s copacetic — if protecting minorities (“suspect classes”) is the chief concern of equal protection, a law that focused on wrongdoing committed exclusively by the majority would be kinda sorta okay-ish if you squint real hard, I guess? I dunno. Presumably you write the law neutrally, making racist intent an element of the crime, and trust that prosecutors will understand that one black person calling another “nigga” playfully doesn’t meet the definition. But let’s not overthink this. Morgan’s not making a legal argument (the niceties of Second Amendment jurisprudence have never slowed him down from backing gun-grabbing), he’s making a moral argument to show his Twitter followers how enlightened he is. How enlightened is he? So enlightened that he’d eagerly embrace a precedent in which the state can imprison people for their opinions, obnoxious though they may be. Which is darned enlightened.