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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Hate Crimes and Wait Times

Posted by on Thu, Oct 25, 2012 at 11:58 AM

I didn't write about this alleged hate crime when the news broke...

At least 300 people gathered on the steps of the Nebraska Capitol, Sunday, after a local lesbian was allegedly attacked in her home earlier that day, by three men who bound her, carved anti-gay slurs into her skin, and set her house ablaze.... Though police have yet to publish official accounts of the events that occurred Sunday morning at the victim’s home, the Journal Star reports that the woman alleged to neighbors three masked men entered her home, bound her with zip ties and used knives to carve into her skin before pouring gasoline on the floor and lighting a fire. The woman crawled to safety at a neighbor’s home, where police found her.

...because something about it didn't smell right. So I waited. I got a few angry/hateful/unhinged emails from people accusing me of ignoring this hate crime because it happened to a lesbian. If it had happened to a gay man, they insisted, I would definitely be writing and blogging and tweeting about it. But I didn't write about this alleged hate crime either, which happened to a gay man at the University of North Carolina—a pretty gay man with shaggy hair, which, as everyone knows, is my favorite kind of gay man. Something about that report didn't smell right. And I was right to hold off in both cases because, as it turned out, both hate crime reports were false. The lesbian in Nebraska wasn't attacked by three masked men; the pretty gay dude with the shaggy hair wasn't branded by an unknown male.

John Aravosis didn't write about the lesbian who claimed she was attacked by three masked men either, got the same grief I did, and he had this to say after the hoax was exposed:

I got beaten up on Twitter by a number of lesbians who called me a woman-hater for not writing about this “hate crime” because the story smelled funny to me. I just didn’t believe it. Hard to say why. I read the story, and it just didn’t sound right. And I was right.... I can’t tell you why the story sounded fake, that’s part and parcel of being a good journalist/politico—it’s just something in your gut. I can say why I didn’t write about it. You HAVE to get these stories right. We can’t be seen pushing alleged hate crimes that are fake, lest we become the LGBT who cried wolf the next time a real hate crime happens. And yes, the religious right lies like a cheap rug, but we’re better than that, and we’re smarter than that.

This morning I'm being called out on Twitter for not blogging or tweeting about a gay conservative who claims he was brutally assaulted in his home in Madison, Wisconsin. The story is all over conservative blogs but I can't find any mention of it on any actual news websites in Wisconsin. The details of the alleged assault seem incredible. And I'm not blogging or tweeting about it for the same reason I didn't blog or tweet about the lesbian in Nebraska or the gay guy at UNC. The story smells funny to me.

And let's remember why hate crimes carry extra penalties: because the victim of the actual assault isn't the only victim. A whole community is made to feel unsafe. When a racist piece of shit burns a cross on the lawn of one black family in his town, all the black families in his town are made to feel unsafe. When a gay person is beaten on the street for being gay, all gay people are made to feel unsafe. A false hate crime report can do the same damage—even if there was no victim, even if the "victim" assaulted himself, other members of that person's community wind up feeling unsafe. That's what happened in Nebraska, that's what happened in UNC—and that's why I believe those who file false hate crime reports should be charged with hate crimes themselves.

And that's why I take a wait-and-see approach to hate crime reports: I don't want to amplify the damage done by false reports. I don't want to contribute to making people feel unsafe. Too many hate crime reports turn out to be false. Remember Ashley Todd?


Yeah, that was a fake—and Todd's claim came at roughly the same stage of the campaign. Late October. So, yeah, I'm going to wait until the police investigate before I blog or tweet anything about the hate crime report that came out of Wisconsin this morning, just as I waited to say anything about the hate crime reports out of Nebraska and North Carolina. Because sometimes people falsely report hate crimes and amplifying a false hate crime report does real harm.


Comments (44) RSS

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MacCrocodile 1
What do you have against impatient hotheads? This outrage will not stand!
Posted by MacCrocodile on October 25, 2012 at 12:07 PM · Report this
Pope Peabrain 2
They don't smell right because, like any crime, there doesn't seem any proportion until you get details. And you don't get details because the report is false.
Posted by Pope Peabrain on October 25, 2012 at 12:14 PM · Report this
i've anxiously been awaiting the ashley todd part of the campaign. i've been trying to figure out what its going to be this year...maybe fake hate crimes is it?
Posted by poster nutbag on October 25, 2012 at 12:15 PM · Report this
Thanks for reminding me, Dan. I saw a story earlier this week about a woman who claimed to have been set on fire by KKK punks; that story sound a bit fishy to me when I read it. You reminded me to check for an update and, like the stories you mentioned, turns out hers was a hoax too.
Posted by originalcinner on October 25, 2012 at 12:15 PM · Report this
Cato the Younger Younger 5
Thanks for checking on this and holding tight. I wish the same could be said for some of your cohorts at The Stranger
Posted by Cato the Younger Younger on October 25, 2012 at 12:22 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 6
Come on, just because 100 percent of all tweets and FB status announcements by supposed gay conservatives being beaten up and attacked with carving knives have been PROVEN LIES this century doesn't mean this one isn't true ... right?

By the way, loved the tweet about Unusual person outside the New French Film Fest party in Ballard (on Ballard Ave) last night. Um, yeah, it was like he was a tall dark black man with a beret who looked unusual ... cause he was French!

Sometimes there's no there there.
Posted by Will in Seattle on October 25, 2012 at 12:26 PM · Report this
Urgutha Forka 7
Yeah, but knee-jerk, reactionary, extremist, vigilante, lynch-mob behavior is one of the things that makes 'Merica the Greatest Country on Earth (fuck yeah!).
Posted by Urgutha Forka on October 25, 2012 at 12:26 PM · Report this
Pick1 8
I always wonder about these false reports. Do they honestly think they're helping the cause or is it just M√ľnchausen syndrome manifesting in a terrible way?

Currently my money is on M√ľnchausen.
Posted by Pick1 on October 25, 2012 at 12:26 PM · Report this
Remember the Iraqi woman who was attacked in her home in California?? Promptly labeled a "hate crime," this was another story that just didn't seem right. Turned out that it was apparently a family dispute. Meanwhile, the family members were allowed to take the woman's body back to Iraq -- where they're safe from any nosey detectives in the El Cajon, CA police force.
Posted by Veryslowwriter on October 25, 2012 at 12:27 PM · Report this
Yeah @4, that story was very troublesome. And something just didn't smell right about it. I hate when things like this happen because it causes people to doubt actual instances of hate crimes.…
Posted by ddmama on October 25, 2012 at 12:28 PM · Report this
Bravo, Dan!

Yeah, reading the description of the zip-tied woman, I couldn't help wondering why she wasn't dead. The scenario didn't sound like one which would have survivors.
Posted by Brooklyn Reader on October 25, 2012 at 12:45 PM · Report this
Thank you, Dan.
Posted by Alice Dreger on October 25, 2012 at 12:46 PM · Report this
This happened a few years ago at NU. A Latino student claimed harassment (stuff written on his dorm whiteboard) then mysterious men jumped him, no witnesses, held knife to his throat, threatened to kill him. I was not popular with some colleagues for saying it didn't add up, but it didn't. Writing "spic' on a whiteboard is a cowardly act; it takes stones to hold a knife on someone. Didn't match. Sure enough, he was exposed, expelled. And everyone who marched and written letters to the editor of the student paper in his support felt like a credulous dupe who'd been taken advantage of by a con man.

The signs I think suggest a story is bullshit: no witnesses, victim gets to help on his/her own, description of attackers is murky/generic, and, oddly, the presence of some sort of TEXT. They beat me up and wrote slurs on me! Sure they did.
Posted by Chicago Fan on October 25, 2012 at 12:47 PM · Report this
sirkowski 14
The elections bring the crazy out of the crazies.
Posted by sirkowski on October 25, 2012 at 12:49 PM · Report this
Sorry for missing "had" in last comment.
Posted by Chicago Fan on October 25, 2012 at 12:51 PM · Report this
Supreme Ruler Of The Universe 16
Tawana Brawley Syndrome
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe on October 25, 2012 at 12:54 PM · Report this
Gordon Werner 17
@16 ... was just going to post about Tawana Brawley ... I lived in NYC at the time that happened ... what a cluster that was ... and all fake at that
Posted by Gordon Werner on October 25, 2012 at 12:58 PM · Report this
Chelydra_serpentina 18
It seems like a lot of hate crime hoaxes involve writing slurs on the skin. Branding, carving, magic marker, whatever. Apparently it's not something bigots actually do very often, but it is something that disturbed people think bigots must do all the time.
Posted by Chelydra_serpentina on October 25, 2012 at 1:02 PM · Report this
It was probably the writing on the skin. Anything with writing on a person's body tends to smack of falsehood. (I'm talking about perception, not reality, why something would seem fake, not why it might be fake.)

There was an ep of Law and Order long ago in which a girl was found in a garbage heap with racist slurs painted on her skin and claimed to have been raped by white police officers. The fictional expert said that skin writing was more common in cases of false accusation than in actual cases of sexual assault. The fictional girl later admitted that she had lied for reasons of her own.

I know that not everything on TV is true, but any assault with a sex angle that involved writing on the victim's skin would trip my wait-for-more-proof switch.
Posted by DRF on October 25, 2012 at 1:07 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 20

You mean the L&O episode based on the Tawana Brawley case?

And that was waaayy back. The very first season.
Posted by keshmeshi on October 25, 2012 at 1:10 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 21

Something about that story reminded me of that woman in Vancouver who claimed a black woman threw acid in her face.
Posted by keshmeshi on October 25, 2012 at 1:12 PM · Report this
seandr 22
@7: It's a fine American tradition dating all the way back to Salem that liberals and conservatives can enjoy.
Posted by seandr on October 25, 2012 at 1:20 PM · Report this
Bonefish 23
Even without this explanatory post, you'd think more people would be able to grasp the simple possibility that certain bloggers just might not have seen a trending story yet.

I think it's telling when a person's very first go-to explanation for a specific story's absence from a specific blog is "they must have PURPOSEFULLY omitted it because they secretly HATE [lesbians/transsexuals/homocons/women/gay men/white men/etc/etc/etc]!!!!11"

There's your surest sign of a drama-hungry victim complex, right there.
Posted by Bonefish on October 25, 2012 at 1:24 PM · Report this
Pope Peabrain 24
When I looked at the vicious, self-inflicted burn, I think the hate is against himself. This is self-loathing. You must really hate yourself to do this.
Posted by Pope Peabrain on October 25, 2012 at 1:47 PM · Report this
Puckerd Poop Chute 25
I remember Ashley Todd and the whole hilarious reaction to idiots who trotted her out as an example of the rampage of black me if Obama was elected.

Funniest thing I read was a comment on a YouTube video: " As someone who has been branded by an enraged negro, your stunt has cheapened my pain..."
Posted by Puckerd Poop Chute on October 25, 2012 at 2:55 PM · Report this
I wish more Stranger writers would take your cue and not post any random bullshit that superficially appeals to their world view.
Posted by tkc on October 25, 2012 at 3:56 PM · Report this
Fnarf 27
Hey, where's Ashley Todd now? She got jail time, right? But surely she's out now. That chick was hot, man.
Posted by Fnarf on October 25, 2012 at 4:19 PM · Report this
Ms. Todd got probation.

@20 Yes, that is the episode I mean. I didn't know it was based on Ms. Brawley at the time, though. I was pretty young and had never heard of her.
Posted by DRF on October 25, 2012 at 4:43 PM · Report this
Fnarf, you're a strange man.
Posted by clashfan on October 25, 2012 at 4:48 PM · Report this
@29 - no kidding. That woman wasn't even slightly attractive, much less hot.
Posted by Reader01 on October 25, 2012 at 5:06 PM · Report this
Oh yes, Danny the paragon of restraint. He and the rest of the Stranger Poof Patrol got caught too many times jumping on shit that wasn't true. Now when they want to libel someone they just hide under the guide of parody.
Posted by Stranger'sWorstNightmare on October 25, 2012 at 6:29 PM · Report this
Doctor Memory 32
@31: you know what I like about you?

Well, nothing really. But you know what I appreciate about you?

I appreciate your dedication to attempting to troll in spite of the handicap of having zero, nay, negative skill at it. You make Bailo look subtle and Will in Seattle look smart. Somewhere, the ghost of Loveschild shakes her head in sadness every time you post. Seriously, in case you're missing the point: you suck at this. A lot.

And yet, despite the fact that every time you show up and make one of your pathetic attempts at derailing the thread you immediately get curb-stomped by every last person here (and I swear last time there were some elementary schoolkids getting some kicks in), you slink away, lick your wounds, and then convince yourself that next time, NEXT TIME, you're gonna finally manage to hold your own... and you open up your seeping pustule only to get a dozen boots jammed down it again.

Admit it: you're not really coming here to hunt, are you?
Posted by Doctor Memory on October 25, 2012 at 7:05 PM · Report this
Sandiai 33
@32 Delicious.

Troll, we know you better than you know yourself.
Posted by Sandiai on October 25, 2012 at 9:47 PM · Report this
mikethehammer 34
Whatever the fine/penalty is for these false accusations, it's not nearly enough. I know the last thing we need is more overcrowding in the prison system, but I certainly hope these people get at least a taste of the clink. And that Ashley Todd photo just doesn't get old.

Finally, you go easy on the Stranger's Worst. He's kind of adorable in his efforts, honestly. Keep it up there, fella!
Posted by mikethehammer on October 25, 2012 at 10:34 PM · Report this
Corylea 35
Why do people make up these hoaxes? I don't understand what the motivation is.

Posted by Corylea on October 26, 2012 at 12:16 AM · Report this
I do miss Loveschild!
Posted by migrationist on October 26, 2012 at 5:09 AM · Report this
Not sure if I agree with punishing those who make false accusations in all cases. In some cases, it would be good to get them treated for mental illness.

That Black woman in Louisiana who burned 60% of her body and claimed that three White men in hoods racially attacked her needs psychiatric help.

Who burns their own body so badly that they end up in the hospital just to claim a hate crime? These people are crying out.

But I agree with Dan that the media should investigate before jumping all over these stories. That whole fiasco at Duke (false rape allegations against the Lacrosse team) should have taught everyone a lesson.
Posted by Patricia Kayden on October 26, 2012 at 5:34 AM · Report this
i live in Madison, and watch the news every day... haven't heard anything about this on the news.
Posted by Meg84 on October 26, 2012 at 6:08 AM · Report this
John Horstman 39
The Capital Times has a story about the Madison attack (sourced largely from an article in the Conservative blogosphere; they also interviewed police, no response to attempt to contact Wood himself):…

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel hasn't picked the story up yet.

@35: Attention, sometimes motivated by what can be considered a pathological need for it, or cynical attempts at discursive engineering through false-flag attacks.
Posted by John Horstman on October 26, 2012 at 6:54 AM · Report this
40 Comment Pulled (Spam) Comment Policy
mikethehammer 41
Good point about the mental health evaluation/treatment there @37. Was actually thinking that too and forgot to include it in my post. If they're found to be completely competent though, then I think it should get fairly ugly for them.

@40 = weirdest spam ever. Check out "her" post history. She actually DID reach out for help before finding salvation in a love potion. Bizarre.
Posted by mikethehammer on October 26, 2012 at 9:21 AM · Report this
Doctor Memory 42
By the by, I will personally offer a case of beer (or other intoxicant of choice to be negotiated) to whichever member of the Stranger staff changes the display name of user 13970863 to "StrangersWeakestTroll".
Posted by Doctor Memory on October 26, 2012 at 11:41 AM · Report this
Good job Dan.

I still disagree with the entire premise of hate crime laws, but I am glad to see at least some proponents of them act responsibly when considering which cases to publicize.
Posted by Learned Hand on October 26, 2012 at 1:27 PM · Report this
Lance Thrustwell 44
@40 - good for you! But I hope you're not just shilling for some religion/cult/scam. You wouldn't do that, right?
Posted by Lance Thrustwell on October 26, 2012 at 2:29 PM · Report this

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