Hate Speech is Not Free Speech: Chilean Students’ Killer had a History of Xenophobia

On the morning of Thursday, February 27, 14 friends gathered at a townhome in Miramar Beach, Florida for a party. At around 1:45 am, Dannie Roy Baker, who lived in the same complex as the hosts, crossed the compound with a rifle and opened fire on the partygoers.

By the time police arrived at the scene, five people had been shot—two of them fatally—and the shooter had returned to his home, where he awaited the arrival of police. Since his arrest, Dannie Baker has not spoken to the police so his motive for the killings is not known. But enough information has come out to indicate that it was at least partially motivated by the fact that the victims’ were not native-born Americans. All 14 people at the party, including Baker’s five victims, are Latinos. The two he killed were Chilean students visiting the US as part of a work-study program.

The story is not getting widely picked up in the national media and one of the first places to compile details was the Daily KOS, who reports that Dannie Baker had volunteered with the local Republican Electoral Committee during the 2004 presidential race, after which he apparently sent “radical” and “inappropriate” emails to other members. Baker’s emails were so disturbing that they were reported to the local sheriff’s department but, because the emails did not contain threats against a specific person, the sheriff’s department took no further action against him. The actual text of these emails has not yet been released.

Although Baker had no history of violence, it appears he was not entirely mentally or emotionally stable. According to Jim Anders, a member of the Republican Executive Committee, Baker was very “eccentric” and seemed to have “some emotional problems.” And Crystal Lynn, a neighbor of Baker’s, says “he did come up to me one time and asked me if I was ready for the revolution to begin and if I had any immigrant in my house to get them out.”

Until more information comes out, there’s no way to know what Dannie Baker wrote in those emails that so troubled people that they reported him to the police. Hopefully, he didn’t write about killing immigrants because that would mean the sheriff’s department screwed up big-time by not investigating him further and putting him someplace where he could not be a threat to others. A direct threat against a specific person should justifiably be grounds for police action, but so should threats against a specific group. After all, a hate crime does not target a specific person but it does target a specific group, identified by race, nationality, sexual orientation, or some other collective identity marker.

So if it turns out that Baker had made threats against Latinos or any other immigrant group, the Sheriff’s department should explain why they took no further police action against him. Freedom of speech permits deranged and sane people alike to say whatever they please, but if one of those crazy people rants against foreigners, sends “radical” and “inappropriate” emails, and tells his neighbor to get immigrants out of her house, that ought to be grounds for the local police to do something. Now two people are dead, three are wounded, and an entire community is traumatized. But of course, until the contents of Baker’s emails are released, there’s no way to know if he had made threats against a specific racial group.

At the end of the day, hate speech is not free speech, but it seems many Americans have trouble distinguishing the two. Or perhaps, with more Americans joining hate groups and anti-immigrant rhetoric—to say nothing of anti-immigrant action—becoming more mainstream, the question should not be whether Americans can recognize hate speech but whether and to what extent they are bothered by it. (The fact that several news outlets have mentioned the victims’ immigration status—as if that is relevant to the case!—further illustrates this country’s obsession with immigration. God only knows what the news coverage of this hate crime would look like if the victims had been in the country without the proper immigration paperwork!)

Now, twenty-three-year-old Nicolas Corp-Torres and twenty-two-year-old Racine Baldontin-Aragondona—two of Dannie Baker’s victims—are dead. But they might still be alive had local law enforcement understood, or cared about, the difference between hate speech and free speech the first time they had to deal with Dannie Baker.

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Xenophobia clouds the mind.

Normally, I would not even bother responding to the racist and xenophobic drivel that spews out of Pat Buchanan’s mouth but I couldn’t resist the urge to weigh in and comment on his most recent contribution to the immigration debate. If you are a regular visitor to vdare.com (or a huge fan of Pat Buchanan’s) you need not continue reading as nothing I say will make any sense to you.

Showing the rhetorical skills for which he is famous, Pat Buchanan uses the Virginia Tech massacre as the launchpad for his latest bigoted diatribe. He starts out by criticizing the “mainstream media” for obsessing “over the fact the crazed gunman was able to buy a Glock in the state of Virginia” while virtually ignoring the fact that the gunman, Cho Seung-Hui, was “not an American at all, but an immigrant, an alien.” Flawless execution! In one sentence, he conflates not being an American with being an immigrant and, worse, an alien. But he takes it even further. According to Buchanan, not American = immigrant = alien = murderer! Because—as we find out in his laundry list of murderous immigrants—the problem is not whether immigrants enter the country with or without the proper documentation; the real problem is that these “strangers” are being let into the country at all!! But I’m getting ahead of myself.

According to Pat Buchanan, the 1965 Immigration Reform Act let tens of millions of people into this country from all over the world. So what? you ask. After all, isn’t the U.S. population comprised of immigrants from all over the world? Well, you’d be right (except for indigenous Americans, of course) but that’s not really where Pat Buchanan is coming from. As he cleverly points out, the majority of those who entered the U.S. after the 1965 Immigration Reform Act came from “countries whose peoples have never fully assimilated in any Western country.” Logically, one can only assume he’s referring to people who are not from “Western” countries i.e., Africans, Arabs, West Indians, Asians, Latinos and other dark-skinned or non-Christian people. People from Europe (like his own Irish ancestors) are not included in this group. Interestingly, nor are the Africans who were brought to this country in chains, enslaved and then discriminated against by the more-recently-arrived-but-fully-assimilated “Western” immigrants. But I supsect this is something Mr. Buchanan and his ilk have no interest in discussing or even thinking about. Besides, I digress from my original point.

Pat Buchanan would have us believe that the 1965 Immigration Reform Act (by giving millions of people access to the American Dream regardless of skin color, national origin, religion or language) is the main culprit in the dissolution of “the bonds of national community” that was to take place in the 1960s. One has to wonder about the role played by groups like the Ku Klux Klan in creating and sustaining these bonds of “national community.” After all, he makes it sound as if, prior to 1965, the U.S. was an all-inclusive love-fest for everyone who found her/himself within the country’s borders.

OK, I could go on for ever picking apart the glaring omissions in Pat Buchanan’s tirade but I’ll focus on my original reason for posting. Buchanan goes through a long laundry list of heinous crimes committed in the U.S. against Americans by . . . gasp! . . . immigrants! The list includes everyone from John Lee Malvo (the teenage accomplice of the DC sniper) whom Buchanan derides as “flotsam from the Caribbean” (possibly a reference to boat people?) to mass murderer Juan Corona (Buchanan fails to mention that his victims were poor Latino farm workers, probably undocumented, whose disappearances often went unnoticed) to Sirhan Sirhan, infamous for his assassination of Robert Kennedy.

Implicit in Buchanan’s rant is the notion that a murder committed by an immigrant is somehow a worse, more serious offense than one committed by a person born in the U.S. After all, why else would he so brilliantly avoid mentioning native-born Americans who have committed heinous crimes. Absent from Buchanan’s list of villains are such good Americans as Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, who earned a place in the history books for carrying out the largest act of domestic terrorism in the U.S. when they blew up the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City and killed 168 people. Also absent are the Americans who tied a rope around James Byrd‘s neck, attached it to the back of their pickup truck and dragged him until his head (along with one of his arms) was severed.

What Buchanan and other racists seek to do is conflate all immigrants with the deranged and violent few. He uses the Virginia Tech shootings (still fresh in the nation’s mind) as the starting point in attempting to accomplish this goal. In his mind Cho, Malvo, Sirhan Sirhan and other violent immigrants might as well be every immigrant, and vice versa. This is good old fashioned racist essentialization, which happens when qualities belonging to some members of a group are attributed to all members of that group. But whereas racists of previous generations used skin color, religion, or country/region of origin as the basis of their essentialization, today’s racists use having been born outside the U.S. as the criteria for relegating people to a despised group. Thus, Buchanan is able to include Arabs, Persians, Africans, and Latinos in his list of undeseriables in an attempt to demonstrate, through rhetorical sleight of hand, that because some immigrants have committed violent acts, all immigrants are bad for America.

Buchanan’s techniques rely on a leap of logic worthy of the most notorious exponents of racist theory yet, disappointly, he remains a mainstream commentator in American politics. I am deeply saddened that in this day and age, people still cling so strongly to—and so vociferously proclaim—such prejudice. But I am even more saddened when I think about the family and friends of the people murdered on the Virginia Tech campus. I wonder how they feel about Pat Buchanan using the deaths of their loved ones to advance his message of intolerance.