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Fake “Boogaloos” and Fake Hate Crimes

There is no “Boogaloo movement.”

There, I’ve said. it.  It’s true, but that won’t change the momentum this dumb idea has. It’s already been codified in a variety of “authoritative” sources. Politicians, journalists, and other pundits are already breathlessly referring to “The Boogaloos” as if this is a coherent or even loosely organized group. when it is not. It is nothing but a meme — a meme without adherents. If anyone shows up to any protest clad in Hawaiian or “floral” shirts and BDU pants, understand that he is doing it ironically, in deference to yet another runaway Internet hoax.

Understanding that will not change anything, of course. It’s as if we’ve breathed life into a golem that now walks under its own power. It’s a self-fulfilling boogeyman that is a 2020 equivalent of the early 90s “militia threat.” You see, there’s so little racism, so little “white supremacy,” in the United States that progressives are forced constantly to invent it. The demand for a racist, “militia” enemy far outstrips the supply in popular culture. Therefore, an imaginary group called “The Boogaloos” (the meme ultimately references the film Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo) has been repurposed to fill the gap.

Imaginary enemies are much more convenient than real enemies because any act can be credited to them without the bothersome need to offer evidence. A real person or group can deny connection to a crime, but there is no limit to what can be attributed, uncontested, to a fabricated villain. Progressives are fond of invoking “white supremacy” in… well, literally anything in the United States, but hanging a face on their magical golem makes it much more convincing.

The invented enemy becomes a straw man to which progressive can point in defaming their ideological enemies. “See?” they cry. “These evil white supremacist libertarian militia gun nuts committed this crime, and therefore all straight white cis-gendered males are domestic terrorists!” There is no way to prove a negative; there is no way to prove the innocence of an imaginary enemy. These militia members, these ghostly white supremacists, become a Goldstein on which the progressive scions of Oceania may hang any and all blame. This is a common tactic, a well to which they return time and time again.

As a fiction like this pervades popular culture, it becomes very easy for individual inhabitants of that culture to lay claim to it. So it was that Althea Bernstein, a teenager in Wisconsin, claims that floral-print wearing white supremacists pulled up to her car at a traffic light and set her on fire.

The story is a hoax, of course. Althea’s burns are unconvincing, more in keeping with some manner of “road rash” than being doused with an accelerant and set ablaze. Her story is likewise what I would call a “Voltron of BS.” Allow me to explain.

A teenaged relative of mine was once given to telling… tall tales. She would come home from school and recite a litany of grievances in which her classmates and her teachers were all conspiring to treat her poorly. She was not artful at lying, and thus she would exaggerate far too much, overplaying her hand. Just as amateur authors tend to forget to give their villains redeeming characteristics to humanize them, she would forget that it is quite impossible for students and teachers alike to be wholly wrong and wholly unfair fully 100% of the time.

“No part of that story,” I once told her, following a tale of this kind, “is true. In fact, if all the parts of that story climbed on top of each other’s shoulders in the shape of a giant robot, they would form a Voltron of BS that is collectively more false than the sum of its individual parts.”

Ms. Bernstein’s story is a Voltron of BS. She claims that at 1 in the morning, she stopped at a traffic light only to hear someone shout a racial slur from the next car. Turning, she obligingly waited patiently while they sprayed her with lighter fluid. She then waited for them to “throw a lighter” at her, which supposedly ignited the accelerant. Some instinct to self-preservation propelled her to drive away, she told investigators, while patting out the flames. Strangely, racist attackers so keen to murder a young biracial woman that they would set her on fire in traffic did not pursue or otherwise harass her (because this is where the story ends).

The story is a hoax, but what gives it away is that she could not populate her tale with anything other than Cartoon White Supremacist Boogaloos from Central Casting. There is the troubling mechanic of the lighter, of course; if a lighter was hurled at her face from another car, how could it possibly stay lighted? Any disposable lighter would shut off the moment it was released. Even a Zippo is unlikely to stay lighted as it sails through the air from car to car (no matter what you’ve seen on television). And if a lighter was thrown into Ms. Bernstein’s car, why are there no photos of it (and no mention of its admission to evidence in this case)?

Her humble brags about how she somehow managed to “blast through the red light” to get away seem similarly self-serving. It simply is not the case that cars full of white men are cruising the streets of the nation, setting fire to persons of color. I’m only surprised she didn’t mention that one or more of her imaginary attackers were wearing MAGA hats.

It will be interesting to see how quickly this tall tale unravels — how fast the component parts of this Voltron of BS tumble from their precarious perches on the backs of their fellows. It will be two days from this writing when this column is published; it’s possible that the hoax will already be known as such by then.

Of course, it’s at least remotely possible that Ms. Bernstein’s story is true. But then, there is still a percentage chance that Bubba Wallace was indeed the victim of a year-old hate crime involving a “noose” sized for a human wrist and used to pull down a garage door. Every report of these conveniently detailed hate crimes by supposed Trump supporters has at least some vanishingly small chance of being true.

But I know which way I’d bet regardless.

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