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Why are 'hate crime' hoaxes so popular on campus?

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg walks at the company's headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., Thursday, April 4, 2013. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Meg Lanker-Simons made headlines this week after police discovered that she posted the threatening, obscenity-laced post on her own Facebook page.  In other words, she was responsible for her own harassment.  Hers is one of a growing number of cases of "hate crime" hoaxes, many of which are unfolding on America's college campuses.  Why are they becoming more common?

The Wall Street Journal explains some possible reasons:

One obvious answer is that people do this sort of thing to get attention. Multicultural identity politics, which is a dominant force on campus and a significant one off it, creates a perverse incentive structure by rewarding victims of purported hate and going easy on hoaxers...

Some hate-crime hoaxers have motives that are more personal than political. TheNew York Times, reporting in 1988 on the grand-jury report in the Tawana Brawley hoax, noted that "evidence suggested that she may have feared the wrath of her mother's boyfriend for her late nights out." In 1998 Associated Press reported that Cornelius Weaver, a black Louisiana man who claimed he had been dragged behind a car by three white men--similar to what actually happened to a black Texan named James Byrd--recanted and admitted he had invented the story to cover up a drug deal that went bad.

It seems to us, however, that there is in addition an important psychological component to the phenomenon of fake hate crimes. As we noted last month, the anthropologist Robert Ardrey posited a hierarchy of three basic psychological needs, of which the most important is identity, followed by stimulation and security.

A shared experience of being oppressed can be a powerful source of identity. That's why in America groups like blacks, Jews and gays tend to identify more strongly with their groups than do their traditionally unoppressed counterparts, whites, Christians and heterosexuals. (In the case of the latter set, we are referring to the groups as a whole, not to ethnic, sectarian or sexual subsets of them.) To what extent women were oppressed by prefeminist sex roles is a complicated question, but one definition of a feminist is someone whose estimate is on the high side.

Oppression of minorities, and certainly of women, scarcely exists in America in the 21st century. Genuine hate crimes happen, but they are very rare. Few societies in history have offered more security to the previously downtrodden. But the presence of security only makes the need for identity and stimulation more pressing. Hate-crime hoaxes are an extreme way of meeting those needs.

It's an interesting read about a truly odd phenomenon.  For more, click here.

One last thing…
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