By La Voz de Aztlan
March 24, 2004 Anno Domini
La Voz de Aztlan, as a public service, is making the following information on how to spot an antisemitic hate crime hoax in view of the incident that occurred at the Claremont Colleges on March 9, 2004. In this incident, one of a growing number, Professor Kerri Dunn staged a hate crime hoax by graffiting “Kike Whore” and a swastika on her own car as well as slashing her tires after she delivered a speech on hate on the campus of Claremont-McKenna College.
The information below was collected from the book “Crying Wolf – Hate Crime Hoaxes in America” written by Laird Wilcox.
How to spot an antisemitic hate crime hoax
What traits distinguishes antisemitc hate crime hoaxes and fabrications? Police, federal, state and local agencies, and college officials have observed certain “patterns” that tend to suggest a hoax might be afoot.
1. An incident that can’t be corroborated with reasonable evidence or disinterested witnesses, or is accompanied by an account which contains inconsistencies, or when the alleged victim suddenly refuses to talk to police.
Often, alleged hate crimes are insufficiently supported by evidence or reliable witnesses. Upon examination, the statements of the victim may contain inconsistent or contradictory elements. When confronted with a lack of evidence to support their claims, or with problems with their story, the victim may become angry or frightened an cease cooperating with authorities.
2. An incident that occurs just when it’s “needed” to promote awareness or sensitivity to racism or anti-Semitism, to disarm critics and make them reluctant to “talk back.”
Be particularly alert for hoaxes during appropriate holidays, birthdays, or on anniversaries of important events. Hoaxes may also occur following speeches by minority spokespersons, or at times when the issue of prejudice and discrimination is in the news.
3. Repeat incidents, especially with “difficult,” resentful and easily offended individuals who frequently complain of disrespect, slights, insults or harassment.
Incidents directed at specific individuals are unusual. In some cases hoaxers have been “followed” from one place or resident to another by hate crime perpetrators. Disturbed individuals of attention-seekers are frequently found among hoaxers. Bear in mind, however, that these individuals often create a “self-fulfilling prophecy” with their behavior and actually antagonize others to the point where they will retaliate in some manner.
4. An incident that is particularly skillfully exploited by the alleged victim to attain victim status, manipulate institutions, obtain concessions, special privileges, or money.
When the victims response to a hate crime is particularly skillful and articulate, or when supporters seem very well-organized and appear on the scene very quickly, it suggests some planning was afoot. Bona fide hate crimes are sometimes not reported for days after they occur. Hoaxes are almost always reported immediately.
Because of the possibility of civil damages in hate crime cases, it is likely that hoaxes of the nature will be increasing. Be alert for cases where the issue of lawsuits and damage amounts emerge early in the event. (Note: Not an issue with Texas hate crimes law. Senate, on debate and passage on May 7, removed provisions for civil damages for hate crime victims.)
5. Incidents which occur improbable circumstances, such as racist graffiti in a mostly black dormitory or neighborhood, assaults that occurred in normally crowded areas with no witnesses, graffiti or vandalism in a room occupied only by the victim, and so on.
Some hoaxes are surprisingly poorly planned. In several cases hoaxers had failed to dispose of incriminating evidence. The highly improbable case, where an actual hate crime would have been difficult to pull off, is usually a hoax.
6. In the case of graffiti, carefully drawn symbols or slurs suggest that the author really wants to get a point across—precisely what is meant and the repulsive character of the person behind it—and this suggests a hoax.
Most bona fide incidents represent impulsive striking out, not careful planning. Generally speaking, the more elaborate the circumstances, the greater likelihood of a hoax. Cases where the damage is deliberate, meticulous and extensive should be cause for suspicion.
7. Another trait that suggests a hoax surfaced in several of the cases mentioned here. Where authorities suspect a hoax and this face becomes known, the likelihood is enhanced somewhat when local anti-racists and radical special interest groups defame and vilify doubters. In fact, they may suspect it themselves.
Often the perpetrator will confide in others or even brag about the hoax. Persistent rumors of a hoax are often initially ignored because of “sensitivity” concerns, or because the principle players downplay the issue with threats and pleading.
8. Finally, several hoaxers have reported marking or symbols painted on their bodies by their alleged assailants. This rarely occurs in bona fide cases.
For reasons that are not clear, body markings on the victim by the alleged perpetrators are apparently a cause for suspicion. One theory is that the markings are intended to represent wounds. Another is that hoaxers are often self-absorbed individuals and the markings are narcissistic attention-getting devices.
9. Copycat hoaxes are likely to occur after an earlier, perhaps bona fide, incident has taken place that has aroused great publicity.
A large number of similar incidents in a relatively short time may very likely include some hoaxes. Often, some of the same people will be involved and the same symbols used
Why do Jews, homosexuals, lesbians and others stage phoney hate crime hoaxes?
The first has to do with the personal payoff for victimization, i.e., attention, sympathy, a sense of importance, feeding persecution fantasies, and material payoffs. The second has to do with advancing a political or social agenda, as in the case of hoaxes intending to create support for regulations or legislation, or to help create a climate sympathetic to specific interest groups. The third has to do with insurance fraud, with the racial or anti-Semitic element almost an afterthought. Most hoaxes are combinations of the first two types.
Carefully done, the risk of discover of a hoax is minimal. Most hoaxes simply remain “unsolved” hate crimes. Those that are discovered may not result in criminal action against the hoaxers. When criminal charges are filed they can have wide ranging consequences, from long prison terms in some cases to a slap on the wrist on others, with most cases tending toward the latter.
What can be done about hoaxes? Probably very little as long as victimization claims are so uncritically accepted, and the payoff for alleged victimization is sufficiently tempting and rewarding. “Hate crime” legislation, although well-intentioned, has created a powerful market for the side benefits of alleged hate crimes. When these crimes are not naturally occurring, or are not occurring in sufficient numbers, a motive to commit hoaxes is created. Provisions in hate crime legislation for civil damages also creates a powerful motive to commit hoaxes.
Vigilance in discovering hoaxes and appropriate publicity may discourage some potential hoaxers. Punishment for hoaxes equal bona fide hate crimes, including sentence enhancement, would probably have a greater deterrent effect, but would also perpetuate the injustices inherent in the hate crime concept itself.
Probably the most effective thing would be for universities, police agencies and the media to entertain a healthy skepticism about hate crime claims, and to establish a category of “not proven” in cases where no perpetrator is identified and charged. Any unsolved case may be a hoax, include those intuitively thought to be bona fide.