On January 29, actor Jussie Smollett reported to police that he had been the victim of a vicious hate crime at around 2 a.m. in Chicago. Smollett, who is black and gay, claimed that two masked assailants yelled homophobic and racist insults, declared “This is MAGA country,” beat and kicked him, put a noose around his neck, and “poured an unknown liquid” on him before he managed to fight them off. All this in liberal Chicago during a polar vortex that had brought subzero temperatures. Showing support for Smollett in the wake of his unlikely story became a celebrated cause among progressive politicians and celebrities. Those who took a more skeptical view of the matter were attacked on social media and in the press as either deniers or even perpetrators of the prejudicial hatred that still supposedly washes across America. On February 20, Smollett was charged with the felony crime of filing a false police report. The whole thing was allegedly a hoax.  

Our nation is not racked with hate crimes. When people in positions of power or visibility say that it is, they should be rebuked for it. I have done a great deal of research on hate crimes in America, and the tragically underreported fact is that an enormous number of such incidents reported over the past decades turn out to have been hoaxes. While Jussie Smollett’s case transfixed the nation, it is merely the most recent of a long line of politically motivated fake bias crimes. It’s difficult to think of a more compelling task for American scholars than to point out the dangerous lies behind this invented crisis.  

My research and analysis of hate-crime hoaxes began informally. When I was a graduate student several years ago, I became interested in two widely reported incidents near my hometown of Chicago. The first was the burning to the ground of a popular gay-owned lounge in inner-suburban Oak Park. The second incident involved students at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, where I once applied for an academic job, reporting death threats by apparent hate-group members who put up hangman’s nooses. Strong stuff. 

I followed both cases intently and became aware of other Chicago and central-midwestern hate-crime cases that occurred shortly after these. In November 2014, Derek Caquelin, a student who had previously criticized the University of Chicago administration for allowing “racist” Halloween costumes on campus, claimed that his Facebook page had been hacked by a reactionary group called the “UChicago Electronic Army.” Caquelin alleged that the group had used his page to post extraordinarily racist and violent messages targeting Caquelin and another student in retaliation for their activism. During the same year, up the road in Detroit, a female student at Grand Valley State University claimed that her dorm-room door had been defaced with graffiti during Black History Month. The graffiti included the phrases “Black Bitch,” “Die, N***er!,” and “F**k Black History Month.” In 2015, Matthew Schultz, a student at nearby Michigan Tech, was expelled from the university after allegedly threatening to “shoot all Black people…tomorrow.” Not long afterwards, serious hate crimes would be reported at Beloit College in Wisconsin and lovely little St. Olaf in Minnesota. Apparently, the pleasant American Midwest was awash with hate. 

But I noticed something unexpected. Most of the hate-crime allegations eventually turned out to be false. By 2016, the Velvet Rope Ultra Lounge fire had been exposed as an act of arson that had been intentionally staged to look like a hate crime. Similarly, almost all the incidents at Wisconsin-Parkside turned out to be the work of a disaffected student named Khalilah Ford, who claimed that she had wanted to test how seriously the university took racism. And Matthew Schultz had merely said that he wanted to shoot Black Michigan Tech students “a smile.” His words were intentionally misquoted and reported to campus and police authorities by a fellow student. 

The deeper I delved, the more it seemed that this phenomenon of fake hate crimes did not appear to be small-scale or regionally isolated. I put together a fairly large database of hate-crime allegations—346 of them—by searching for relevant terms such as “hate crime,” “campus hate crime,” “hate crime allegation,” and “hate crime controversy” on Google, JSTOR, and Google Scholar. Over several years, I was able to confirm that fewer than a third of these cases could even possibly have been genuine hate crimes. A genuine hate crime would require that the initial alleged crime was 1) never exposed as a hoax and 2) never discovered to have been committed by a person or group different from the person or group originally alleged to have committed it. A majority of these incidents, which were almost all initially reported with a great deal of fanfare and breast-beating, were later exposed as hoaxes. 

Well, in truth, “exposed” is a gross exaggeration. Evidence demonstrated that they were fake hate crimes. But that fact got very little exposure in the press—particularly in comparison with the initial publicity they generated. The headlines that had touted each case as a horrific example of contemporary bigotry vanished from the Internet, replaced by either nothing at all or by low-key rueful acknowledgments that a hoax had taken place. 

As I became more aware of the prevalence of these hoaxes, the focus of my research shifted to the phenomenon of fake hate crimes. I spent roughly three weeks in 2017 searching specifically for “fake hate crimes” and “hate crime hoaxes,” using the resources already mentioned, as well as topic-specific websites such as fakehatecrimes.org. By the conclusion of this research period, I had a data set of 409 confirmed cases of fake hate crimes, all of which had at some point received substantial regional, national, or global media coverage. 

I take no position on what exact percentage of all hate crimes are hoaxes. Such a conclusion would be nearly impossible to calculate. It would be necessary, just for starters, to determine the percentage of all cases of alleged interracial fist fights that were classified as hate crimes across every county-level police precinct in the United States, the conviction versus dismissal rate for those crimes, and the percentage of prosecutorial dismissals or nolle prosequi decisions that were motivated by a belief that the allegation in question was a false one. 

In an analogous line of research, KC Johnson’s and Stuart Taylor’s 2017 book The Campus Rape Frenzy points out that widely used estimates of what percentage of rape reports are false range from 2 percent to almost 50 percent. That number varies depending on whether the standard employed is an official determination that the allegation was false and hostilely motivated or that the allegation could or could not be successfully prosecuted. Using Harvard data and an intermediate standard, the Washington Examiner’s Ashe Schow recently reached a third estimate: that 15.6 percent of rape allegations are false or baseless, and another 17.9 percent of cases are not substantial enough to be legally prosecuted.

What can be said with absolute confidence is that the actual number of hate-crime hoaxes is indisputably large. We are not speaking here of just a few bad apples. My data set of slightly more than 400 cases of fake hate crime, focusing primarily on allegations made between 2010 and 2017, makes that clear. The website Fake Hate Crimes was able to compile a substantially different database of 341 recent false allegations on their website. The researcher Laird Wilcox put together a third distinct list of roughly 300 hate-crime hoaxes in the pre-Internet era, focusing only on cases that occurred during his lifetime. Given that official FBI records document only 5,850 hate crimes as having occurred during the most recent year on record (2015), and that probably fewer than one in every 10 hate crimes is nationally reported and thus a candidate for these data sets, it seems indisputable that hoaxes make up a very large chunk of the pool of widely reported hate crimes, and quite possibly the pool of all reported hate crimes.

Several serious studies substantiate this claim. In 2016, for example, a report released by the “Hate Response Team” at the University of Wisconsin–LaCrosse had to concede that 28 of 192 recently reported bias incidents on campus were either hoaxes or had not occurred at all. This concession of a 15 percent rate of false reporting of hate incidents almost certainly represents a gross underestimate, given that the Hate Response Team’s methodology treated such things as the “discover(y) of a Campus Crusade for Christ poster on campus” and “a blog post about life as a white student” as legitimate non-hoaxes.

False hate crimes inflict a heavy cost on society. People—even decent people, people of good will—cannot be completely unaffected when they are continually told that their fellow citizens are targeting their own race for crimes. The hoaxes are bound to increase hostility between blacks and whites. The wonder is that, very much to the credit of the American people, these fake hate crimes have not (yet) fomented more real hate crimes. But if the fake crimes continue unabated and unexposed, it is only a matter of time before the racial divisions they fuel will inspire actual violence. 

Why would anyone fake a hate crime? The basic answers are fame, profit, and the advancement of a political ideology. 

It’s no secret that there exists a large and well-entrenched grievance industry in the United States. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which labels organizations such as the Family Research Council and Jewish Political Action Committee “hate groups,” pulls in $51.8 million per year and has a well-invested endowment of $432 million. While perhaps a bit more cash-poor, the great black advocacy organizations are no slouches when it comes to rallying the troops: The official Facebook page for Black Lives Matter boasted 326,993 likes and 332,368 followers when I accessed it in November 2018.

Civil-rights groups such as the NAACP, the Urban League, and indeed some of the very organizations mentioned above all did considerable good in the past, notably during the civil-rights movement of the 1940s to 1960s. But today these organizations have a deep-rooted interest in presenting the sort of bigotry they fight as a serious ongoing problem in the United States in order to continue receiving donations and funding. More broadly, it would not be wild speculation to say that one in every 10 dollars spent in business interacts in some way with an affirmative-action or minority set-aside program. These programs too have advocates, who welcome evidence of their own necessity in society. Especially in a liberal environment, such as a college campus, the false report of a hate crime brings both predictable support from a preset group of allies and a chance to strike back at perceived oppressors. 

The fact that there are sizable payoffs for reported victimization, real or false, is the result of a quirk of historical memory. Simply put, the American activist left often seems to have forgotten that the civil-rights movement ever occurred, or that it was a success. Although most forms of institutional racism have been illegal since the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964, and affirmative action designed to benefit African Americans has been the unofficial law of the land since the Philadelphia Plan in 1967, one of the most consistent themes of modern social-justice activism is that the United States remains a “genocidally” racist nation. Allegedly the lives of black Americans, and to a slightly lesser extent other minorities, are nightmares of unstinting oppression. 

This is no fringe opinion. The official manifesto of the Movement for Black Lives claims that Black people are “criminalized and dehumanized” across “all areas of (modern American) society,” including—but not limited to—“justice and education systems, social service agencies…and the media and pop culture.” How the oppression is effected is not specified; it never is. 

The idea that civil-rights laws and policies of affirmative action are toothless shams is quite common among both people of color and white social-justice activists. According to a well-designed study reported in the 2012 Richard Sandler/Stuart Taylor Jr. book Mismatch: How Affirmative Action Hurts Students It’s Intended to Help, and Why Universities Won’t Admit It, after nearly 50 years of affirmative action programs, 67 percent of African Americans believe that if a black student and a white student were to apply to the same university with the same grades and the same SAT scores, the white student would be given an admissions preference and will be more likely to get into the school. Only 5 percent said that the black student would have the advantage. And yet the latter is undoubtedly the more likely outcome under the current dispensation. The representative University of Michigan affirmative-action policy challenged in the famous Grutter v. Bollinger case awarded undergraduate applicants 20 full points for being black or Hispanic, in contrast to 12 points for a perfect SAT score, four points for legacy status, and 20 points per one-unit increase in grade point average (GPA). Thus, a black applicant with a 3.0 GPA was as likely to get into Michigan as a white applicant with a perfect 4.0 average, and more likely to gain admission than a 3.0 white legacy student who also aced the SAT. 

Racial preferences this large have unintended consequences. As Sander and Taylor demonstrate in Mismatch, the boost that affirmative action gives to many black and Hispanic students during the college-admissions process results in huge gaps in preparedness between minority and white students at virtually every level of the American university system. Black students who might do very well on the local state campus or at a historically black college find themselves struggling in the Ivy League or at their state’s flagship university, where their GPAs and test scores are, on average, lower than those of their white classmates. The resulting gap in success between white students and non-Asian minority students cries out for an explanation, at least within that huge majority of universities where the “sausage-making” realities of racialized admissions are not honestly discussed. And exaggeration of racism in America is often a convenient one. 

False hate-crime allegations have value because they provide support for the meta-narrative of majority group bigotry. Unfortunately, the hoaxers are playing with fire. 

The mismatch problem is only one example of the general trend—which Thomas Sowell demonstrates using extensive research in his magisterial 2004 book, Affirmative Action Around the World: An Empirical Study—in which affirmative action increases hostility among racial groups wherever it is implemented. Members of the races that are disfavored by the affirmative-action policy (whites and especially Asians, in America) tend to resent the boost that is given to favored groups at their expense. And many members of favored races (blacks and Latinos) naturally resent the fact that their accomplishments are called into question by that favoritism. One famous example of this latter trend is Clarence Thomas’s affixing a 15-cent price tag to his Yale Law diploma to express his frustration with prospective employers who assumed he had gotten into and through the Ivy League law school only because he was black. 

Both kinds of resentment increase hostility among the races and, as Sowell documents in his research on affirmative-action programs in countries from Sri Lanka to Sierra Leone, have even led to violence—up to and including race riots and civil war. Thankfully, interracial violence is a much, much smaller problem in the United States than in many less fortunate countries—and also a smaller problem in America today than it was in America’s past. More than 3,000 black Americans were lynched in the United States before the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964. Today, threats involving hangmen’s nooses are likely to be hoaxes. But the perpetrators of those hoaxes are doing their best to exaggerate racial animosities—which may very well fuel real hate crimes in the future. 

It is a tragic truth of human history that fake hate crimes have, on more than one occasion, been the precursor to real atrocities. The best-known example is probably the “blood libel” against the Jews. Throughout medieval Europe, Christians started rumors that Christian children were being killed and their blood used in Jewish religious rituals. These stories were, invariably, complete canards. But the false belief that the Jewish people were perpetrating violence against Christians became the inspiration and excuse for the Christians to commit real violence against the Jews—vicious pogroms in which whole Jewish communities were driven out of their homes and many of them killed horribly. 

While the current epidemic of hate-based violence in the United States is mostly an epidemic of hoaxes, and any “race war” going on today exists only in the minds of a few radicals, there are disturbing signs that the fakes are fostering real hostility among the races, which could lead to real violence in the future. Consider, for example, the fact that hate-crime hoaxes are increasingly being perpetrated by white members of the alt-right, with the explicit goal of making black people and leftist causes look bad. 

Hate-crime hoaxes take a variety of forms. College and university campuses were hotbeds of fake-hate-crime reporting throughout the duration of my study period (2013–17) and for some time before my research began. Literally hundreds of major hate-crime hoaxes have taken place on American university campuses during the past decade. Ninety-three of the 260 nationally reported hoaxes and sets of hoaxes to appear on the first eight pages of the Fake Hate Crimes website either took place on a college or senior high-school campus or involved a student as the primary perpetrator—and FHC didn’t get them all. 

Many examples are truly outrageous, almost unbelievable. In 2016, at Kean University, the now-suspended Twitter account @keanuagainstblk was used to tweet out multiple disturbing messages such as “I will kill all the Blacks [who] go to Kean University,” tauntingly tagging the campus police department in some of the tweets. This was taken as evidence that the university president, himself a minority activist named Dawood Farahi, had failed to do “enough to address racial tensions,” and massive demonstrations swept the campus. The state police and Department of Homeland Security were involved, and the total bill for restoring order and identifying the maker of the threats ran to $100,000. In the end, however, an IP-address trace by police showed that every one of the tweets came from the computer of one Kayla McKelvey, a leader of anti-administration protests with past grievances against Kean. McKelvey faced 90 days in jail and a fine of $82,000, and the long-suffering Kean University issued a statement noting that the institution continues to “wholeheartedly respect and support activism.” 

As absurd as the Kean situation was, it was not especially unique. The University of Wisconsin-Parkside case demonstrated that. First an object resembling a hangman’s noose, woven out of rubber bands, was found on campus by a group of students. The very next day, an honor student named Aubriana Banks was sent a second noose made of corded string in the mail. Later that night, students came across professionally made flyers posted around campus, reading “N***ers will DIE in two days,” with the names of 13 black students written on the bottom of each. Finally, after a great deal of shouting and some detective work, most of the apparently anti-black incidents were traced back to black student Khalilah Ford. It is worth noting that Ford was initially identified as a suspect because her name was the only one on the double-digit list of black targets to be spelled correctly. Incredibly, Ford defended her racist flyers and death threats by claiming that the Parkside administration had not responded quickly enough to the first “noose” found on campus—for which she rather implausibly denied responsibility—and needed to be prodded away from such unacceptable “racism.” 

At the University at Buffalo in 2015, an anonymous vandal posted the classic “Whites Only” and “Blacks Only” signs associated with Southern segregation at the entrance to campus bathrooms and over several prominent water fountains. The New York Times, Daily News, and other national mass-media outlets reported breathlessly on the “surprise” and “outrage” of UB students. Then, during a formal campus-wide meeting hosted by the Black Student Union, a black graduate student confessed that she had posted all of the offensive signs as part of an art thesis project called “Installations in Open Spaces.” She did this to create “dialogue” about campus racism.

In 2017, the Diversity Leadership Council at Minnesota’s well-regarded Gustavus Adolphus College went one remarkable step further. Members posted flyers across campus informing “all white Americans” that “America is a white nation” and that reporting illegal aliens to law enforcement is every white man’s duty. Students who attempted to report the flyers to the Diversity Council or the college’s Bias Response Team were informed that those entities had themselves posted the flyers to conduct “a social experiment educating students on issues of bias and racism.” Again, so far as I can tell, no incidents of actual racial bias have occurred at Gustavus Adolphus during the past decade. 

As sophomoric as it may be, the recent epidemic of fake hate crimes is not a phenomenon confined to literal sophomores. Another common category of hate-crime hoaxes is made up of what I will call “Klan Springs Eternal” (KSE) incidents. In these, members of racial minority groups use fictional attacks by members of white hate groups to explain away their own crimes or struggles with mental illness. In one 2016 case, which drew the attention of the New York Times and then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, three black women who claimed to have been attacked by a mob of white supremacists on an Albany bus were exposed on video as having actually been the aggressors in a very different sort of fight from the one they described. In reality, they violently attacked a young white woman, hitting her after a possible exchange of insults. In another incident that received national media coverage that year, the individual responsible for torching a historic black church in Greenville, South Carolina, and writing “Vote Trump!” on the blackened exterior turned out to be a black parishioner with a lengthy history of legal troubles. 

Quite a few church burnings alleged to be hate crimes seem to have been hoaxes. A very similar case, involving the vandalism of the large and integrated St. David’s Episcopal Church in Indiana with graffiti including a swastika, the words “Heil Trump,” and multiple anti-gay slurs, wound down to a very similar conclusion in early 2017, when the church organist who had reported the vandalism confessed to being the culprit. Media outlets noted that his actions were not motivated by actual animus toward gays, Christians, or blacks, but seemed to be an attempt to demonstrate the supposed consequences of the Trump presidency. In a less political but equally strange case during the election year, a black man in Florida was exposed by police as the individual responsible for faking a hate crime by battering his ex-girlfriend’s car with bricks, writing the words “KKK” and “Trump” all over it, and then setting the vehicle on fire. The couple had apparently been clashing over issues of child custody. In still another case that sparked a national media frenzy, a black Louisiana woman who had claimed that men in white hoods used lighter fluid to literally set her on fire was discovered to have actually set herself ablaze and simply made up her original story. The list goes on. 

As several of these cases illustrate, the election of Donald Trump as president seems to have inspired an entirely new category of hate-crime hoaxes. In what we might call “Trump hate crimes,” as in college-campus hate incidents, the actual numerical majority of alleged crimes to have drawn national media attention seem to be total fakes. Perhaps most notably, there’s the case of Yasmin Seweid, the Muslim student who garnered headlines worldwide in 2016 after claiming to have been accosted on New York City’s 6 train by three drunken white men who called her a terrorist and yanked at her hijab. She claimed that her assailants were yelling “Donald Trump.” After being confronted by police about multiple inconsistencies in her story, Seweid broke down and admitted to making the whole thing up in order to avoid confessing to her strict Muslim parents that she had been out late enjoying a night of underage drinking with her boyfriend. The endgame of the Seweid case was simply bizarre, with Seweid appearing for court dates bald—apparently, her unsympathetic parents had shaved her head—and the Daily News revealing that in 2012 her older brother had also falsely reported a potential hate attack.

Seweid is hardly alone in having tried to blame a made-up incident of racial terrorism on the tough-talking president. In Philadelphia’s hardscrabble South Philly neighborhood, a 58-year-old black man named William Tucker was charged with vandalizing numerous cars and homes with slogans such as “Trump Rules!!!” just before Election Day 2016. Back on campus, a bisexual student activist at North Park University claimed that she had repeatedly been sent pieces of hate mail with the hashtag #Trump containing messages such as “Go back to HELL”—before she was exposed as a hoaxer by a campus-wide investigation. 

Bowling Green State University’s Eleesha Long claimed to have been attacked the day after Election Day by three white men wearing “Trump” T-shirts who followed her for blocks and threw stones at her head. A police check of her Facebook and Verizon history showed that Long had been nowhere near the location where she claimed the incident occurred, apparently ever. The same email search by law enforcement turned up disparaging references to poor white Trump supporters such as: “This is why you should take an IQ test to vote” and “I hope they all get AIDS and die.” 

In 2016, in still another notable case, Ann Arbor woman Halley Bass became one of the small number of people to receive a jail sentence for falsely reporting a hate crime after slashing herself across the face and claiming that a white conservative angered by her anti-Brexit pin was responsible for the injury. In a truly weird irony, Bass’s false hate-crime report appears to have been inspired at least partly by the story of a Muslim-American woman who claimed to have been threatened with being beaten and set on fire if she did not take off her hijab in the “tense” post-election climate in Ann Arbor. As far as anyone investigating the situation has been able to tell, no such thing ever happened.

Judging from my own work as well as that of Fake Hate Crimes and Laird Wilcox, false allegations of anti-gay and anti-Jewish crime are substantially less frequent than fake hate crimes reported by campus activists or people of color. But they are not infrequent. Frank Elliott, the owner of the Oak Park suburb’s well-known Velvet Ultra Lounge nightclub, was arrested in November 2013 and charged with arson and federal insurance fraud after he burned down his own gay club, used spray paint to write anti-gay slurs throughout the fire-ravaged building, and blamed the fire on homophobes.

It must be noted here that, especially given the small size of these populations, real hate crimes against LGBT Americans are all too common. According to the social scientists Caitlin Ryan and Ian Rivers, 80 percent of gay citizens report having experienced verbal abuse in the recent past, 44 percent report threats related to their orientation, and 30 percent report having been actually attacked or at least followed and chased. In contrast to collegiate “hate incidents,” the majority of anti-gay hate crimes reported to police or other authorities are almost certainly real. And yet there are multiple verified incidents of anti-gay hate-crime hoaxes. 

Elliott’s crime came to light only as a result of multiple lawsuits against him by creditors holding past-due notes. By then he had already benefitted from a $20-per-head fundraiser at the city’s trendy Hideaway Bar and opened a new venue (the Bonsai Bar) with the proceeds from his insurance settlement. In a similar case, Joe Williams, the owner of the organic food store Healthy Thyme in Paris, Tennessee, claimed that three men came into his establishment near the close of business, beat him senseless, wrote a “three-letter homophobic slur” on his forehead, and set his store on fire, causing about $5,500 in damages and forcing him to file a claim with his insurance company. Inside a month, Paris police had established that no such attack ever occurred; Williams was suspected of fraud and prosecuted for filing a false report. 

Some alleged attacks in this category reach a truly jaw-dropping level of bizarre. In the spring of 2016, for example, Jordan Brown, the openly gay pastor of the Church of Open Doors in Austin, garnered national headlines after accusing a Whole Foods store of selling him a cake with “Love Wins … F**got!” written on it in icing. Whole Foods responded by producing videos showing Brown doctoring the cake himself. The story disappeared from the news. 

A few years earlier, in an on-campus story, the student head of Vassar College’s Bias Incident Response Team, Genesis Hernandez, was expelled from school for prominently “tagging” multiple student residences with graffiti messages such as “Tranny Know Your Place” and reporting them, essentially to herself. In 2017, the person found responsible for making violent anti-Semitic threats to 10 Jewish community centers and Delta Airlines throughout 2017 was revealed to be not an anti-Semite but an Israeli teenager. 

The mainstream American media’s treatment of fake hate crimes follows a predictable pattern: massive coverage of an obviously questionable story followed by a well-hidden retraction if and when the story is exposed as a hoax. One of the oddest things about hate-crime hoaxes is just how long this pattern has existed. In 1988, a teenage black girl’s claim that a group of white men had raped her, smeared her with dog feces, and written racial slurs on her body was reported globally as the “Tawana Brawley affair” and condemned as evidence of real racism. At one point, Brawley took on Al Sharpton as an adviser and accused police officers and a New York City district attorney of having participated in her abuse, before the entire nasty business was revealed to have been a complete hoax. 

In recent years, however, one new twist has been added to the fake-hate-crime game. Whites now seem to be catching up. In Texas in 2015, police supporter Scott Lattin claimed that black vandals had nearly destroyed his white pickup. He said they tore out the glove box, ripped out all four seats, and spray-painted slogans including “Black Lives Matter” down both sides of the vehicle. Lattin raised nearly $6,000 via GoFundMe before being exposed as a hoaxer and arrested on misdemeanor charges.

A year earlier, in St. Louis, Bosnian immigrant Seherzada Dzanic received regional headlines after she claimed to have been attacked by three black men who pulled a gun on her, pushed her to the ground, kicked her, and threatened to kill her. The specificity of Dzanic’s story—she described three distinctive-looking black men in their “late teens or early twenties”—led St. Louis police to focus on solving her case for “a good 7–10 days that could have been spent investigating real crimes,” before she was finally revealed to have made the whole thing up. Also falsely claiming that a black assailant had attacked her was Bethany Storro, a woman from Portland, Oregon, who permanently disfigured her own face with sulfuric acid in 2010 and received national attention after alleging that a black man had done it. She also finally admitted to inventing the entire story. Media and scholarly analyses attribute her dangerously strange behavior to a combination of unresolved racial issues and “extreme narcissism.”

My research indicates that, although this has not always been the case, anti-white hate crimes reported by whites today are, like other hate crimes, very likely to be hoaxes. As a possible explanation, it is worth noting that the timing of my study period (2013–17) took place alongside the rise of the white-identity movement, including the formation of extremist Tea Party factions (2009–11), the subculture popularity of Jared Taylor’s 2011 book White Identity, and the growth of the alt-right (2013–17). More whites have begun engaging in openly racialist in-group-promoting behavior such as falsely reporting hate crimes. And it bodes ill for the future of our country that the epidemic of hate-crime hoaxes is already spreading from one race to another. The next danger is that, now that minority hate-crime hoaxes have inspired white hate-crime hoaxes, some of these hoaxes will inspire real retaliatory crimes. 

There are ways that we can address the problem of widespread false reporting of hate crimes. Prosecutors must put political correctness aside and enforce the law by seeking jail sentences for anyone convicted of falsely reporting a hate offense or similar serious crime. And we must begin to challenge the narrative with facts, pointing out as often as possible the actual rates of real hate crimes, fake hate crimes, interracial crime, and police violence against blacks and others. Interestingly, success in removing the unjustified fears created by false perceptions of oppression would be the best possible thing for minority Americans. 

Until we succeed in dispelling that false narrative, the best defense against the epidemic of false hate-crime stories is probably good old-fashioned skepticism. When some astonishingly unlikely-sounding event is reported—a seemingly targeted attack involving rope, bleach, and MAGA hats during a polar vortex in Chicago, for example—Americans should take a pause for thought and ask some questions other than “That’s terrible; what can we do to make up for it?” 

Solving the problem must begin with acknowledging its existence.

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