Addressing “Hate Crime” Hoaxes in the Media and the Law


Of zero surprise to any sane non-leftists is that many of the stories about anti-anti-Trump attacks against minorities are proving to be hoaxes.  Jim Geraghty lists some of them (as well as one in the other political direction) and suggests:

Note for all future discussions of hate crimes: Did the victim file a police report? If a victim is strangely resistant to the idea of filing a police report, turn your wariness up a notch. If they say they don’t want to make too big a deal out of it, while simultaneously making a big deal out of it on social media, turn it up another notch. Of course, filing a false police report is a crime, and that makes the stunt a lot more dangerous and potentially consequential for the hoaxer.

Reading this advice, Rhode Islanders might recall the alleged “hate crime” incident at the headquarters of a progressive group in Providence that the Providence Journal gave page 2 attention on Friday the 16th:

The group is calling this a hate crime. However, it has not reported the incident to police because officers “pose a consistent threat to our safety and dignity, as they patrol and surveille our community,” according to the news release. …

The group will register the incident with the Southern Poverty Law Center instead, according to the news release.

Not reporting to the police (and leaving the doors unlocked), but reporting to a left-wing hate group is a major red flag.  One can infer that the group isn’t concerned with members’ safety so much as with garnering attention and serving the progressive narrative.  So basically, this story has a high degree of likelihood of being “fake news” that attempts to create a false impression of current events.

An interesting question therefore arises about the responsibility of journalists in such situations.  Let’s assume the Providence incident is a hoax.  On one hand, if the news media reports the story, the group gets its attention, and the false narrative it’s seeking to promote is effectively promoted.  On the other hand, if the news media doesn’t report the more suspicious incidents, like this one, the public won’t have an appropriate sense that it might be being played with the less-obvious ones.

It would surely help if reporters include skeptical voices in the story… or maybe follow up in light of a national trend of hoaxes at least to increase the discomfort of attempting them.

In the meantime, we should also consider whether these hoaxes are hate incidents, themselves.  If the rationale for amplifying the penalty for a crime is that it intimidates an identifiable group or groups, it’s difficult to see how hoaxes do anything different, and to the extent that they proliferate, real victims will have disincentive not to report their experiences.

  • Rhett Hardwick

    Perhaps it is time we reconsider the whole idea of punishing thought, and restrict ourselves to actions. Once we have established the idea of punishing thought, tyranny is available by changing the definition of thoughts we will punish.

  • Mike678

    You almost feel sorry for these self-righteous, delusional fools. Imagine being unable to accept reality and constantly striving to make the real world into what you think it should be. Little wonder many progressives are so angry and intolerant.