False Alarms

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If you're interested in hate crime hoaxes, take note: The latest example involves some phony racist letters at Trinity International University.

Question: Now that members of the religious right have embraced virtually every other P.C. tactic, have they discovered this one too? Has there been an increase in fake or dubious anti-Christian crimes in the last few years? Either way, there's a sociology paper here that's just waiting to be written…

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  1. I noticed the PC aspect of this story when I was reading about it yesterday. The AP version didn’t identify the woman as being black and the only way they addressed it was with the phrase “letters that frightened fellow black students”. Reuters did identify her as being black but still did not provide a name. I find it hard to believe that if the person had been white and meant whatever was contained in the notes, that their race and name wouldn’t appear in the first paragraph of every story.

  2. I’m not sure what some hate letters would do for the religious right. They already have Satan spreading his hate through Muslims, atheists, gays, and rock and roll.

  3. Mr. Beito asks, “Will these latest revelations (that the letters were a hoax) receive the same national coverage as the original story?”

    I’d have to guess not. “Our students are in physical danger from a racist madman” is a lot more interesting than, “Oops, no they’re not.”

    Now, if the reaction to the letters had itself created something approaching the level of danger that people feared after reading the letters, it probably would receive the same amount of coverage. But “Oh, nevermind” just isn’t going to be a big story by itself.

  4. When I see these cases, it makes me think of Factitious Disorder, of which Munchausen’s syndrome and Munchausen’s syndrome by proxy are subcategories.

    http://www.emedicine.com/med/topic3125.htm

    These disorders, apparently, affect allied health professionals more so than the general population; the existence of a similar disorder specific to public policy professionals wouldn’t surprise me.

    The following link gives a list of indications that, if adjusted for a public policy version of the disorder, might help us spot the afflicted.

    http://www.mbpexpert.com/definition.html

  5. I’m waiting for somebody to find a finger in the chili in the dorm of a Christian college.

  6. I think it’s odd that they’re still charging her with a hate crime. Another weird quirk of hate-crime laws: what if you write hateful, threatening, racist letters, but not out of hate? Is it a hate crime?

    Anyway, I’d disagree with joe about the news value of this. I actually didn’t hear about the story at all until the hoax angle. A black woman sending racist letters to blacks is going to be all over the headlines, because it’s a “man bites dog” story.

  7. “I’m waiting for somebody to find a finger in the chili in the dorm of a Christian college.”

    They already find Satan’s hand in everything! Har har!

  8. My god, I thought Freddy Mercury was dead!

    And Steve, here’s my tortured analogy — If you pull the fire alarm at school just to ditch a test, you still get fire trucks showing up. Likewise, even fake hate mail engenders an atmosphere of fear, repression, etc. I think that’s part of what hate crimes laws are supposed to address (I dunno — I’m not a big hate crimes law fan myself).

  9. As a follow-up, it does seem ironic that the intent of the hate mail didn’t factor into whether to charge the perp with a hate crime, when intent is at the very essence of hate crimes.

  10. “As a follow-up, it does seem ironic that the intent of the hate mail didn’t factor into whether to charge the perp with a hate crime, when intent is at the very essence of hate crimes.”

    Dude, I’m too straight right now for my brain to wrap around that one..

  11. One could make a plausible case that the intent of the offender shouldn’t matter as much as the fact that it caused a huge uproar and disrupted the operation of the school. Not sure whether I agree with that, but I find it worthy of pondering.

    And Freddy Mercury was Zoroastrian, not Muslim.

  12. The Chicago Sun-Times has had pretty good coverage of both the original story and the “hoax” aspect.

    The hoax story is on the front page with a blurb that both mentions her name (Alicia Hardin), her rationale and has a headshot of her.

    I suspect this will get attention (as a poster said above) because of weirdness of the story.

    But in general, when do corrections / retractions ever get the same kind of play as the orginal story — maybe Richard Jewell has an opinion?

  13. I would say that anyone who sends “fake” hate mail is motivated by hate. Pretty clearly, one of these black activist nutcases who sends fake hate mail to black people is trying to call down a shitstorm on the local whites, no? If that isn’t race-based hatred, what is?

  14. Who, pray tell, can divine intent?

  15. I guess one could argue that there’s a difference between crimes that, for one reason or another, create turmoil and crimes that don’t. Arguably like the difference between publishing a racist pamphlet (protected free speech) and inciting a riot (a tough crime to rigorously define, but “we know it when we see it”).

  16. Jose:

    The Shadow, perhaps?

  17. I’m waiting for somebody to find a finger in the chili in the dorm of a Christian college.

    Creationists have already claimed to find what they say is a preserved human finger in Cretaceous rock (the last part of the dinosaur era, or about 60 million years earlier than the appearance of the first manlike hominids).

    Still looking for the fossilized chili … perhaps even an imprint of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s face in some primordial sedimentary rock.

  18. Stevo-

    Let’s go to whatever museum the creationists are keeping that finger in, steal it, then go to the cafeteria at a fundamentalist Christian college and put it in the chili.

    Good thing the Darwin fish was stolen from the back of my car. That fish might clue them in as to which car is being used as the getaway vehicle.

  19. Stevo- that picture looks like it needs one of Powerline’s infamous investigations.

    I detect a stick on the right side. Looks suspiciously like a six month-old corn dog.

    However, if you tilt your head just so, and squint your eyes, the left side has an apparition of the Virgin Mary.

  20. Actually, to me, the color photograph looks like a yummy loaf of French bread.

  21. I concur with Stevo. It looks like a yummy loaf of French bread.

    More proof that the scientists were wrong: French people coexisted with dinosaurs. How else to explain the presence of that bread in those strata?

  22. exactly! the bread surrendered to the rock! to the very earth itself!

  23. “A black woman sending racist letters to blacks is going to be all over the headlines, because it’s a ‘man bites dog’ story.”

    No, actually, ever since Tawana Brawley this kind of hate-crime hoax has gotten so common that it really is a “dog bites man” story. (See http://www.isteve.com/ (scroll down to “Dog Bites Man, Again”). The phenomenon was so well recognized as far back as ten years ago that it was the subject of Laird Wilcox’s book, “Crying Wolf: Hate Crime Hoaxes in America.”

    Like Mr. Sailer’s correspondent, I’ve gotten to the point where every time I hear about some shocking story like this, I just assume it’s a hoax until I learn otherwise. (BTW, it isn’t just black women. There was the Jewish woman in France who claimed to have been attacked on the subway, and the white woman at Claremont-McKenna College who claimed to have had her car spray-painted with racist and anti-semitic slogans. (Actually her car was so spray-painted, but by her.))

  24. “Who, pray tell, can divine intent?”

    Billy Bob, Billy Ray, and Ray Bob throw a brick with a note that reads “Get out, n****r” though the window of Lower Coonsnot’s only black resident.

    I’m gonna say it takes something less than a ouija board for a jury to find that the accused’s intent involved the urge to deny civil rights based on race.

    If the intent isn’t proven beyond a reasonable doubt, then the LC3 get convicted of a lesser charge and serve slightly shorter sentences.

  25. More proof that the scientists were wrong: French people coexisted with dinosaurs. How else to explain the presence of that bread in those strata?

    Hah, that’s not all! In the Cretaceous period, not only weren’t there supposed to be any people around yet, but wheat hadn’t even “evolved” yet — according to the dogma of so-called “scientists.” Darwinism is a house of cards!

  26. Stevo-

    Damn good point! Let’s write this up and send it to the Institute for Creation Research for publication in their research journal.

  27. Yeah, I thought it looked like bread at first (I believe an Italian loaf would be the older civilization).

    But I’m hung up on that skewer thingy. I can believe that a primate would be capable of kneading dough, but a shish kebab proves the existence of mankind.

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