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Can’t Fix Stupid, But Congress Will Try

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First let’s echo Ron White when he says, “you can’t fix stupid.” Now that we agree on that, let’s also doubt that imposing stiffer penalties on those stupid enough to post video evidence on YouTube of themselves committing a crime won’t really act as a deterrent. Because, again, you can’t fix stupid.

But don’t tell that to Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.). This week, Diaz-Balart introduced the Web Video Violence Act, a bill that “encourages” states to impose stiffer sentences against people who post videos of violent acts online. I use the word “encourages” because states would have a choice, if they don’t mind giving up some crime-fighting federal funding.

The bill comes in response to concern about young people, especially teenagers, attacking victims and then posting videos of the attack on MySpace and YouTube – and therefore encouraging others to do the same. The goal is understandable, and honorable, but it seems a little like spitting in the wind. TechDirt points out that by them posting the videos, they’re actually aiding law enforcement.

“In today’s technologically savvy world, we need to look at ways to curb the promotion of violence among students,” Diaz-Balart said.

“The recent trend of posting videotaped attacks onto websites like MySpace is especially disturbing since these videos are clearly intended to further humiliate the victims as well as spread fear and intimidation…

“These attacks are bad enough. We don’t need to promote them throughout cyberspace.”

Here are excerpts from the actual language of the bill:

. . .when a criminal defendant is being sentenced, a graduated sanction (in the case of a juvenile defendant) or an increased penalty (in the case of an adult defendant) is applied -

(A) if the defendant is convicted of a violent crime against the person of another; and

(B) if the defendant is found to have placed, or directed another to have placed, a video or image of the commission of such crime on the Internet…

If a State opts not to certify that it has increased penalties for certain violent criminals as specified under section 502(6), the Attorney General shall reduce the total amount of funding that would otherwise be allocated to that State-

(A) by 10% in the first fiscal year in which the certification is lacking; and

(B) by an additional 5% for each subsequent fiscal year in which the certification is lacking.

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Can’t Fix Stupid, But Congress Will Try
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