“Hate crimes” are always good for a headline, even when they’re fake. Last week the Los Angeles Times confirmed what many have long suspected and in some cases known—there are a lot more phony “hate crimes” padding the count than the bare numbers reported tell us. [As Hate-Crime Concerns Rise, So Does the Threat of Hoaxes, LA Times, also here]
A “hate crime,” of course, is a crime motivated by “hate,” which these days can cover just about any expression or indication of disagreement or dislike. Laws against “hate crimes” are among the few on American law books that actually punish motive (and therefore criminalize thought rather than simply action).
Assault someone for his wallet and you go to jail for assault or robbery; assault someone because he’s black, Hispanic, homosexual or (rarely) white, and you go to jail for assault as well as for “hate”(extra penalties are added on because of your motives).
These laws are a long step toward the totalitarian manipulation of expression, thought and feeling that George Orwell warned us about.
Nevertheless, there is a constant drum beat for more hate crime laws, more categories to be covered and more propaganda trying to tell us the laws are needed because American society—more particularly,white, Christian, male, heterosexual society—is so full of “hate.”
Now, thanks to the Times story, we know the case for hate crime laws is full of—well—something else.
The story dwells on fake hate crimes perpetrated on college campuses, which seem to be a favorite location for fraud (in more ways than one, perhaps). “A person who is a victim of a hate crime can probably expect to get almost universal sympathy on a college campus. Out in the world at large, that’s not necessarily true,” Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center told the paper.
Mr. Potok believes that’s because people on college campuses are so much more sensitive than those dumbbells and bigots “out in the world at large.” In fact, they’re just a lot more gullible and perhaps more warped.
Hence, hoaxers and fakers of all descriptions flock to the campuses to stage phony “hate crimes” and then parade themselves as victims deserving attention, sympathy and publicity.
At San Francisco State, the paper reports, two black students scrawled racial epithets in their own dormitories and then claimed “white racists“ did it. At Northwestern University, a Hispanic student claimed someone grabbed him, held a knife to his throat and called him a bad name. At Claremont College a professor claimed her car was smeared with anti-Semitic slogans. Police say in all these cases the perpetrator was the alleged “victim”.
And there are dozens more. No one knows how many because no one bothers to track fake hate crimes.
It will be noticed that many of these fakes are hardly crimes at all. Usually when we hear about a “hate crime” we think of crimes like the brutal murder in Jasper, Texas a few years ago.
But most hate crimes, including these hoaxes, are not so violent or significant. Most are little more than cases of vandalism with ugly names. If the vandals scrawled obscenities instead of racial or sexual epithets, nobody would pay attention.
Why do the fakers do it? One motivation for faking hate is, as one expert says, “the accuser’s sense of victimhood.” Another is the personal inadequacy of the faker. One black female who scratched a racial epithet on a dorm room door and wrote herself a note using it later confessed to the police and said “she wanted to be accepted by other students and draw attention to what she regarded as racial issues on campus. ‘I tried to be part of something,’” she told the paper.
What in fact runs through most of the cases the Times recounts is that when a society is as obsessed with finding and punishing “hate” as ours is, not only will “hate” be easy to find but anyone who claims to have found it will be believed.
Nor will anyone drilled to think of himself as a victim of hate have any trouble finding it.
The admission, even by professional witch hunters like those of the Southern Poverty Law Center, that many “hate crimes” are fakes ought to wake up some of those crusading for more laws. It might suggest that “hate” is maybe not quite as pervasive as they want to believe and as they have to make us believe in order to get more laws and the power the laws will give them.
And it might also tell us that some of those yelling about hate the loudest are people who know a good deal more about that emotion than the ones they’re yelling about.
Maybe the real hate is already inside those who are so eager to find it.