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The Inevitability of Hate Hoaxes

News that NASCAR’s Bubba Wallace was not, in fact, the victim of a hate crime was followed by bizarre histrionics among his supporters. Wallace himself went on CNN with alleged sexual predator Don Lemon (who never met a self-righteous cause he could not embrace). With a sympathetic Lemon clucking away in time to the music, Wallace — whom almost no one had heard of before this — insisted that he was, in fact, the victim of such a crime. He was certain of this, even if no less than 15 FBI agents were dispatched to investigate a troubling incident in which no one was harmed, no one was threatened, no crime took place, and no actual action was taken before or after the “incident.”

The “noose” hanging from Bubba Wallace’s NASCAR garage door, you see, wasn’t a noose at all. It was a simple rope pull for the garage door — or, depending on whom you ask, a serpentine belt from an engine hanging from…. somewhere. The implication was that had the rope been a noose, it was necessarily a call-back to the days of lynching and thus an act of racial hatred. I might argue that it’s much more likely that the appearance of a noose made of clothesline-gauge cotton rope, the loop on which is no larger than your wrist, is hardly a hate crime; it is much more likely to be someone getting clever with knots.

I know of what I speak. Once, at a job I held many years ago, I took to teaching myself knots during my lunch hour. I had a book on knots that I kept in my office, and with a length of cotton clothesline of suitable size, I tied a number of knots. One of these was a noose; they are easy to learn and make you feel fairly clever when you tie them. At no time did it ever occur to me that this was a symbol of racial hatred, because of course, I do not spend my every waking moment obsessing about race.

One day, I was called into HR by our well-meaning Human Resources manager. She had seen the noose in a corner of my cubicle and became concerned. Was I, she wondered, expressing feelings of self-harm? I was taken aback by this but assured her that, no, I was in no way suicidal, and simply trying to teach myself a few ancillary “boy scout” survival skills. I was told not to leave any nooses lying about in the future and sent on my merry way.

For this reason, I am not so quick to jump to “this was an obvious threat of lynching” whenever a piece of fabric or a length of string is found hanging from something else. There have been multiple incidents in which scraps of rope or cord were taken to be “nooses” when they were, in fact, utterly benign. In one case, they were leftover ties for balloons. In another, they were “exercise equipment” placed in a park tree by a man who is himself black. With only the rarest of exceptions, every single alleged incident of hate crime symbology has either been a misunderstanding or an out-and-out fabrication.

When the Bubba Wallace story first came out, I knew immediately that it was a hoax (and said so). I was not alone. Too many times, we have been screamed at by the media, told we live in such a casually racist country that black citizens live under a constant barrage of nasty symbols, notes, and comments. Cynically, we might point out that so many victims of these alleged hate crimes seem to be almost-famous people (Jussie Smollett being the most prominent one) who then become household names when they trumpet their victimhood. But more broadly, many of those alleging themselves victims of such crimes are from all walks of life, with seemingly nothing to gain from lying about it.

Except that today, victims of alleged racial attacks have everything to gain from faking hate crimes. Jussie Smollett did it to raise his profile, not counting on the fact that his story was so flimsy that it could not bear up under the slightest scrutiny. There have been churchgoers who spray-painted their own churches with racist graffiti in order to implicate Trump voters. There have been a number of threats made by college students to themselves.

A Muslim woman who claimed her head scarf was torn from her head by Islamophobes fabricated the incident. Two men who beat a Macy’s employee and recorded the incident said he used the “n-word” and provoked them, but the employee said no such thing. The owners of a diner claimed their establishment was vandalized by anti-Semites, but it was they who committed the crime. On and on it goes ,with no end in sight.

What is gained by the constant faking of hate crimes is the most prized of currency in today’s society: victimhood. We value victims above all else. We would rather commiserate with a woman who has been raped than we would see her shoot her rapist; our laws, aimed to prevent her from arming herself (and to punish her if she does) reflect this. People who can cry “victim” always have someone else to blame for their failures. People who can cry “victim” always have an external enemy on whom to heap their anger and frustration.

In support of this, our popular culture pumps out a steady stream of entertainment intended to fan the flames of racial resentment. A new streaming series called Cracka is the latest. The trailer asks, “You took our breath away… What if we took yours? …You raped our daughters… What if we raped yours?” It’s a disturbing hymn to racial hatred, and a revenge fantasy built on punishing people alive today for things their ancestors did in centuries past. This becomes yet another brick in a wall between the races — a wall built on victimhood that is, like Bubba Wallace’s “hate crime,” largely imaginary.

The next time a “racist note” is left on a restaurant receipt, the next time a suspiciously flimsy noose is “discovered” by an appalled chorus of screeching progressives, the next time suspiciously misspelled graffiti “proves” just how stupid unnamed “right-wingers” or “Trump supporters” are, remember to ask these questions: Who was hurt? How were they hurt?

What, once the dust has settled, have they gained by crying injury?

 

 

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