• The Oklahoma “Anti-Hoodie” Law is actually Anti-Privacy

    Below is a special guest post by Dean Hougen, who describes himself as a lifelong advocate for privacy, free speech, civil rights, and civil liberties. He originally wrote this for his Facebook wall, and I asked him if I could share it here. I have edited it to include links where appropriate.

    Hoodie-Ban-Law-A-Trayvon-Martin-Backlash-Critics-Claim-Racial-Discrimination-In-St.-Louis-665x385I have seen numerous posts to Facebook about a bill put forward by Oklahoma State Senator Don Barrington. Many people seem very concerned that Barrington’s bill would ban one of their favorite articles of clothing — hoodies. It wouldn’t. Some are also concerned that the bill would ban Halloween costumes. It wouldn’t do that either. But you shouldn’t calm down, you should get more worried because what it would do is far worse: outlaw anonymity in public.

    I can see where people got these mistaken ideas. The reporting on this in the popular press has been abysmal. So, instead, read the actual text of the bill itself. Go ahead and read it. I’ll wait.

    Okay, now that you’ve read it, here are some reasons why I oppose it:

    First, there are numerous very good reasons why law abiding citizens might want to conceal their identities when in public. Consider a person trying to escape an abusive relationship, someone who has a stalker, a celebrity who doesn’t want to be hounded by fans or the media, or an employee who wants to attend a political event but doesn’t want to be fired when their employer with very different political views watches coverage of the event on the news. Yet all of these people would be made criminals by this proposed law if they intentionally concealed their identities “in a public place by means of a robe, mask, or other disguise.”

    Second, simply wanting to be anonymous in public is reason enough. If you want to travel from place to place without the government tracking your every move, you should be able to do just that. The government has no business spying on you and prying into your private life without cause. As Justice Louis D. Brandeis put it in his dissenting opinion in Olmstead vs. United States:

    The makers of our Constitution undertook to secure conditions favorable to the pursuit of happiness. They recognized the significance of man’s spiritual nature, of his feelings and of his intellect. They knew that only part of the pain, pleasure and satisfactions of life are to be found in material things. They sought to protect Americans in their beliefs, their thoughts, their emotions and their sensations. They conferred against the government, the right to be let alone—the most comprehensive of rights and the right most valued by civilized men.

    Yet this bill would strip from us the right to be let alone when we’re out in public.

    Third, does anyone really believe that this law would be applied equally? The level of discretion here is outrageous. It would be nearly impossible to prove bias on the part of an officer who claimed that this person had a hood up and pulled too far forward but that one didn’t. This is just asking for abuse.

    Fourth, all of Section 2 of the proposed bill:

    It being immediately necessary for the preservation of the public peace, health and safety, an emergency is hereby declared to exist, by reason whereof this act shall take effect and be in full force from and after its passage and approval.

    An emergency? What emergency? Have gangs of masked marauders reduced our civilization to chaos when I wasn’t looking? Obviously not. So why does anyone feel the need to include this language in the bill? I think the answer is pretty clear. This abrogation of our right to privacy will require strong justification. This supposed emergency is that justification.

    Now, I have seen some people defending this bill and claiming, for instance, that businesses are plagued by hooded criminals who are harder to track down because their identities are concealed. However, it is already “unlawful for any person in this state to wear a mask, hood or covering, which conceals the identity of the wearer during the commission of a crime or for the purpose of coercion, intimidation or harassment” as the proposed bill puts it. What the proposed bill would do is make it also unlawful for a person to “intentionally conceal his or her identity in a public place by means of a robe, mask, or other disguise” even if that person was otherwise behaving lawfully and wasn’t bothering anyone!

    Of course, this brings us to the real reason for this bill. I can’t know for sure what Senator Barrington or anyone else behind this bill is thinking but I can imagine how this law would actually be used.

    One use would almost surely be to stop people (often young, black men) on the street and have a pretext for demanding identification from them, detaining them, or even arresting them. People who are otherwise going about their lives in a lawful way. Again, this is just asking for abuse.

    Another use would be to help the government identify protesters at marches and rallies. Currently, it isn’t uncommon for some protesters to conceal their identities (and, as I’ve described above, they may have very good reasons for doing so). As long as they act within the law, there is no pretext for demanding that they do otherwise. This law would provide that pretext.

    In total, this is just big and intrusive government with no public benefit that I can see.

    Category: ActivismFeaturedPoliticsSkepticism

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    Article by: Caleb Lack

    Caleb Lack is the author of "Great Plains Skeptic" on SIN, as well as a clinical psychologist, professor, and researcher. His website contains many more exciting details, visit it at www.caleblack.com

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    • To be honest, Caleb, I’d rather not hang around anyone who covers their face completely in public. Probably religious nutters or else they are about to rob someone. Possibly ninjas. All of those scare me.

      Cannot recall the last time I met anyone who needed to “intentionally conceal his or her identity in a public place” for a good reason. Of all the examples given, only one of them sounds terribly plausible.

      • Brenda Weber

        Can I assume these are the reasons you are referring to?

        “Consider a person trying to escape an abusive relationship, someone who has a stalker, a celebrity who doesn’t want to be hounded by fans or the media, or an employee who wants to attend a political event but doesn’t want to be fired when their employer with very different political views watches coverage of the event on the news. ”

        If so, which one of these reasons do you find plausible, and how do the others fail to meet that standard?

        • I suppose any one of those things COULD happen, but I doubt that they actually do, outside of fiction. Maybe you know of people in real life who have actually disguised themselves for one of these reasons, but I don’t. If I wanted to point to a single real world example of where this law would impair freedom, I’d be hard pressed to do so. Possibly the Guy Fawkes masks used by some members of Anonymous during protests.

          • Brenda Weber

            I can think I legitimate reasons to avoid having your identity known to a government you are actively protesting…

            • Well, yeah, if you’re wantonly vandalizing other people’s property. My point above was that masks are usually for lawbreakers, and this isn’t a counterexample.

            • Brenda Weber

              Vandalizatuon is a crime and it’s already illegal to conceal your identity while in the commission of a crime. So at best this legislation is unnecessary.

              I think all those reasons are legitimate. I know several people who have given up their right to vote because their address and phone numbers become public record when they register leaving them vulnerable to their stalkers and past abusers. Should they also feel the need to give up their rights to peacefully protest as well?

              You know perfectly well what happened to my business once my political and religious views were known. Fearing for your ability to earn a living based on your political activity is a real thing, hopefully we aren’t dismissing that.

              Finally, there is at least one good reason to cover your face during political protests that has nothing to do with concealing one’s identity. It’s called tear gas.

            • Fearing for your ability to earn a living based on your political activity is a real thing, hopefully we aren’t dismissing that.

              I’m not a university professor like Caleb, so I’ve been dealing with that fear ever since around 2002 or so, the first time AOK protested at the Capitol.

              Incidentally, have you ever been to a protest or other event wherein the protesters covered their faces, Brenda? Does that happen around here?

            • Brenda Weber

              Does it need to have happened here at one time to be considered an option in the future?

              But, yes, I have been to protests in Oklahoma where some participants wore gas masks, character masks, or otherwise obscured their identity for any number of reasons. Of course it’s possible I run with a generally more radical crowd when it comes to political protests than you do.

            • Entirely possible, even plausible. Did anyone get photos?

            • Brenda Weber

              Not that I know of. But Barrington referenced some protests at the Capitol last year that prompted his legislation. Perhaps a local news organization got some photos from those.

      • Frank Grove

        There are plenty of reasons to conceal your identity at a public 1st amendment protected event, especially if your job is at risk if your boss sees you on camera supporting something they don’t. If you haven’t seen masked people at demonstrations, I’m betting you don’t attend many demonstrations.

      • Dean Hougen

        The bill is not about covering your face “completely.” If your hood is pulled forward such that your face is obscured and it might be hard for someone to recognize you, you would be breaking this proposed law. Whether you would actually be charged and convicted probably has a lot to do with your identity.

        I’ve concealed my identity in public and I’ve helped friends to do so as well. Pleased to meet you.

        You nailed one thing, though. This bill is most likely about being scared of those perceived as different. Scared to the point of wanting to strip rights from all of us.

        • I’ve concealed my identity in public and I’ve helped friends to do so as well.

          To what end?

          • Dean Hougen

            Well, in one instance there were some people who threatened physical harm to a friend of mine at a public event. I helped him to conceal his identity to help him avoid violence.

            • Klan rally? Anonymous protest against Narconon? Hoods up against police brutality?

    • jamesnimmo

      Barrington has the KKK covered, so to speak: to those
      participating in any meeting of any organization within any building
      or enclosure wholly within and under the control of said
      organization, Link to the bill is in my article.

      http://apollosbrain.blogspot.in/2015/01/red-or-blue-it-seems-to-be-true.html

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    • Chas Stewart

      The emergency language is standard in OK bills nowadays because it allows the law to go in to immediate effect once passed. It’s terrible that this tactics is standard but doesn’t have particular meaning to this bill.