(CNN)I was sitting at home Friday when, in the background, I heard the ugly phrase leap out from the TV.
Victimhood is profitable. On the internet, it can get you thousands of dollars in crowdfunding donations. In the media, it can win you national prominence and a cooing audience of credulous sycophants. On campus, it can get you attention and plaudits from fellow grievance-mongers.
Convince enough people you’re a victim, and everyone from presidential candidates to celebrities will come rushing to support you.
So it’s little wonder that charlatans and opportunists regularly seek to take advantage of our species’ natural instinct for empathy. False flags, in which people deliberately stage attacks on themselves to win the support of society, are as old as history itself.
That isn’t an exaggeration, by the way. They’re really as old as history itself. The ancient Greek historian Herodotus once recalled how Peisistratos, a man who would become the dictator of Athens, staged a fake attack on himself to gain the support of the city:
Wounding himself and his mules, he drove his wagon into the marketplace, with a story that he had escaped from his enemies, who would have killed him (so he said) as he was driving into the country. So he implored the people to give him a guard. Taken in, the Athenian people gave him a guard of chosen citizens … These rose with Peisistratos and took the Acropolis; and Peisistratos ruled the Athenians.
Faking assassination attempts are risky these days, and the benefits are questionable. A failed murder attempt might make the local news, but unless you’re already a celebrity or a politician, there isn’t much to be gained. Claim to be a victim of a hate crime, though, and half of today’s uber-progressive, touchy-feely society will run to your doorstep to offer its support.
That’s assuming you get away with it, of course. The typical victim hoax is so clumsily implemented that it is only believable to those that are well trained to embrace their victimhood status and, as is also necessary, suspend their critical faculties.
That’s why they don’t work so well on conservatives, who are more sceptical of such claims. Think of Rafael Edward “Ted” Cruz blaming Roger Stone and the Trump campaign for the “sex scandal” story, when it was widely known that Little Marco’s people were the ones shopping the story.
Victimhood isn’t just used to push agendas and win power. It can also be used to make money. Professional victims like feminist pest Anita Sarkeesian have received thousands of dollars in donations after complaints about unkind words on the internet.
Little wonder that there’s been such an epidemic of hate crime hoaxes in the past few years, particularly among regressive activists on university campuses. We’ve seen students scrawl swastikas on the doors of their own dorm rooms, send themselves anonymous rape threats, and falsely accuse fraternities of queer-bashing.
So severe is the problem, lawyer and author Mike Cernovich has taken it upon himself to compile a guide on how to recognise common patterns in these hoaxes.
An epidemic of lies
This got Breitbart thinking. How many hate crime hoaxes have occurred in, say, the past decade? Progressives seem to get busted every other month, but surely that’s just our own biased impression.
When we started our search, we were expecting to find twenty, perhaps forty examples from the past decade of high-profile hate crimes that turned out to be frauds.
If only. We found over a hundred, spread across race, gender, sexuality and religion.
Perhaps thanks to the effect of social media and citizen-led sleuthing, reports of hate-crime hoaxes undergo a massive surge in the years after 2011. 2015 seems to have been a high point — our search found over 20 incidents in that year alone.
Then again, we’re only a quarter of the way through 2016. There have already been four major hate crime hoaxes this year.
And consider this: those are just the ones that were reported. How many other hate crime hoaxers are still out there, undiscovered and unpunished? It’s impossible to say, but given human empathy’s tendency to override scepticism, we suspect the number is high — and probably rising. Because the left is running out of real haters.
As British journalist Douglas Murray likes to say, the Left has a supply-and-demand problem with bigotry. There simply isn’t enough of it to go around, so reporters have to go “rape shopping” like Sabrina Erdely did for Rolling Stone, or they have to enlarge the definitions of “racism” and “homophobia” to include minuscule perceived infractions, called “microaggressions.”
If you live in an Anglosphere nation, you are living in one of the most tolerant, peaceful societies in recorded history. Attitudes towards women’s rights, gay rights, and the rights of other races have never been more progressive. Among Millennials, attitudes to abortion, gay marriage, and other social issues are vastly more liberal than their parents. If history is any guide, the next generation is likely to be even more socially liberal.
With the Left reduced to chasing imaginary microaggressions and pizza-shop owners who’d rather not cater lesbian weddings, it’s little wonder that they have to turn to hoaxes to convince the public that bigotry is still alive and well.
It will do them no good. Despite the scaremongering, bigotry in western nations is in terminal decline. Soon, only the hoaxes will remain.
We can’t be far off from social justice education at top universities including courses on effective victim hoaxing. This may seem incredibly brazen to those of us with a modicum of integrity, but it isn’t a big step from where we are today. After all, we already have courses that do little more than teach students that straight white males are the devil and which peddle outright conspiracy theories such as the “patriarchy” and “systematic oppression.”
On the bright side, candidates for the PhD in SJW Hoax Studies may be hired by the CIA for false flag operations abroad, marking the first time a graduate of a left-wing course has been hired anywhere outside of academia, diversity offices and McDonalds.
Interestingly, false flag hoaxes in the West almost exclusively use white males at the hoax’s target. Why not use Militant Islam which is a much more believable aggressor?
I guess one explanation is that it’s hard to fake chopping your head off, or having you and your loved ones blown to bits, when you can, as a Tennessee lesbian couple famously did, burn your own house down after scrawling QUEERS on the front wall to collect the insurance money.
The media, and society as a whole, needs to become less gullible. Activists ought to give the police at least a week to determine the culprit before leaping to Twitter to coin the next hip protest hashtag. Journalists should let the police investigate before writing long, sympathetic stories about what the “hate crimes” say about our allegedly bigoted society.
Because, in reality, there’s only one thing that these hoaxes say about our society: that we’re all mugs. Especially white people, who typically serve as the villains in these hoaxes and beat themselves up every time one of these nasty progressive liars dreams up a poop swastika.
HATE CRIME HOAXES: A TIMELINE
- Student at George Washington University targets herself with swastika graffiti
- Assistant Professor at Case Western Reserve University falsely reports racist hate mail to the FBI
- Student at Hofstra University falsely accuses five male students of gang-rape
- Rachel Dolezal reports numerous hate crimes at her property, but fails to follow up with evidence
- Left-wing activists in Denver vandalize Democrat Party HQ, blame right-wing opponents of Obama
- Liberal blogs spread false rumour that a town hall protester yelled a death threat at a Democratic congressman
- Lesbian couple in Tennessee stage fake arson attack on themselves
- White woman in Portland attacks herself with acid, blames it on black woman
- African-American law student at the University of Virginia makes up police misconduct incident
- Man in Iowa makes up incident of gay hate crime
- Lesbian couple in Colorado spray-paint “kill the gay” on their own garage door
- UNC chapel hill student accidentally burns himself, claims his injuries were the result of a homophobic attack
- Gay man in Montana injures himself attempting a backflip, claims injuries were the result of a homophobic attack
- African-American woman in Louisiana claims the KKK “set her on fire” for wearing an Obama t-shirt. Police later found her own fingerprints on the lighter
- African-American woman at Grand Valley State University writes racist death threat on a whiteboard outside her own dorm room
- Lesbian in Nebraska charged with making false claims to the police after faking homophobic assault on herself
- Gay bar owner in Chicago admits to torching his own establishment, writing gay slurs on the walls
- Lesbian sophomore at Central Connecticut State University writes homophobic death threats to herself
- Republican activist in Wisconsin falsely claims he was assaulted in his home by a man shouting homophobic slurs
- Students at Montclair State University charged with faking racist graffiti
- Student at Michigan State University claims he was punched and had his mouth stapled shut by Neo-Nazis
- Lesbian waitress claims a customer scrawled a homophobic note on his receipt, refusing to tip her because she was gay
- Left-wing activists at Oberlin College scrawl racist graffiti around campus
- Feminist activist at the University of Wyoming sends rape threats to herself on Facebook
- Racist and transphobic graffiti at Vassar College revealed to be the work of the same transgender student who was appointed to run the student-led investigation into the incidents
- Jersey City high school student government candidate sends racist texts to himself
- Student at the University of Chicago fakes hack on his own Facebook page, fills it with racist abuse, uses incident to push diversity agenda on campus
- African-American Baptist minister admits to painting racial slurs on the side of his house and setting his porch on fire
- Mother of high schooler in Massachussetts falsely accuses high school football team of spraying racist graffiti on her family’s house
- Gay man in Tennessee charged claims he was attacked and had a homophobic slur written on his forehead, later charged with making a false report
- Transgender Student at Hercules High School in San Francisco fakes bathroom assault
- Muslim man in California murders his wife, tries to blame it on “Islamophobic hate crime”
- Radio station in New York fabricates story of a mom stopping her child from attending a classmate’s birthday party because their parents were gay
- Bosnian immigrant in St. Louis falsely claims three black teenagers wanted to kill her due to ethnicity
- Gay Apple Store customer in Portland falsely claims employee wrote homophobic slur on receipt
- African-American waitress in Tennessee claims customer wrote racial slurs to her on the back of a receipt, handwriting experts later say this is false
- Muslim in Michigan burns Qu’rans outside Islamic Cultural Center
- Rolling Stone reporter Sabrina Rubin Ederly publishes “A Rape On Campus,” a female University of Virginia student’s account of an alleged gang rape at the hands of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity. The story proves to be a hoax, leading to a national controversy
- Gay pizzeria owner in Utah admits he made up allegations that he was the victim of a homophobic attack in his restaurant
- Lesbian professor at Central Michigan University admits she punched her own face and claimed bruises to be the result of a hate crime
- Black activist at Kean University faces jail sentence and fine for tweeting anonymous racial abuse to fellow students
- Gay student at the University of North Dakota claims fraternity physically attacked him for homophobic reasons, later admits he started the fight himself
- Black student at Saginaw State Valley University leaves fake racist threats on Yik Yak
- Mexican-American man in Palo Alto attacked by rival gang, blames it on white racists
- African-American activist, an alumni of Kean University tweets anonymous racist threats to students, charged with creating false public alarm
- “White Only” and “Black Only” signs at the University of Buffalo turn out to be a campus activist’s “art project””
- African-American man in Colorado Springs leaves racist messages outside African-American church
- Baltimore woman receives $43,000 in donations after claiming she received homophobic hate mail, later revealed as hoax
- Gay man in Utah carves “Die Fag” into his own arm, claims to be victim of hate crime
- Muslim student at UT Arlington fabricates story of being threatened with a gun by white men in a pickup truck decorated with “large Texan flags”
- Student activists at the University of Missouri spread false rumor of KKK sightings on campus
- Yale Sigma Alpha Epsilon frat falsely accused of multiple racist incidents
- Gay man falsely accuses a University of North Dakota frat of throwing him out of a party because he is gay
- Vanderbilt students claim bag of excrement left outside student cultural center was racially motivated, later revealed to be dog waste
- Students at University of Delaware claim “nooses” were hung from trees on campus, later revealed to be remnants of paper lanterns
- Mosque in Houston set on fire — by a Muslim
- Jewish student at George Washington University admits to posting a swastika on Jewish fraternity’s bulletin board
- White woman in Texas invents story of being attacked by three African Americans in front of her 3-year old daughter
- Gay activist in Ohio claims he has been abducted, late revealed to be a hoax
- Black activist in Seattle defaces African-American cultural center with racist graffiti
- African-American students at the University of Albany falsely claim to be victims of racial abuse by fellow passenger on a bus
- Pastor in Austin, Texas claims a local Whole Foods store wrote “FAG” on a cake he ordered for a gay congregation member, but surveillance footage shows he tampered with the cake himself
- Muslim woman in New York City admits to faking knife hate crime attack
A recent controversy involving feminist video games activist Zoe Quinn and “anti-abuse” campaigner Randi Harper has led to allegations of journalistic malpractice, the silencing of critics, and an internet firestorm.
No, you aren’t reading an article from September 2014. After two years and one SPJ conference on the issue, the mainstream media still appears to treat any story connected to GamerGate as a partisan free-for-all where the normal rules of journalism do not apply.
The latest victim of dubious journalism is Candace Owens, a Wall Street VP-turned-anti-cyberbullying campaigner. As we reported last week, Owens attracted the enmity of Quinn and Harper after launching a project to expose anonymous abusers on the web. Bizarrely, both Quinn and Harper opposed her project, despite spending most of last year complaining to the media about the horrors of anonymous web abuse.
It makes more sense when you consider that Quinn and Harper have both built careers, and received thousands of dollars in donations, as a result of these anonymous trolls.
We’ve already covered the strange behaviour of Quinn and Harper. Just as interesting, however, is the behaviour of the journalists in their corner.
New York Magazine
After the spat spilled over onto social media, Owens was approached by two of Quinn’s staunchest defenders in the mainstream media, Caitlin Dewey of the Washington Post and Jesse Singal of New York Magazine.
Neither of them told her that, of course. Indeed, Singal went out of his way to pose as a friend to Owens, offering her advice and sympathy in private before labeling her a conspiracy theorist in the pages of New York Magazine. After Owens told him she suspected Quinn was directing anonymous web trolls and colluding with journalists, Singal, instead of revealing his long-standing skepticism towards such claims, said he was “excited to hear more.”
After winning her trust, Singal went on to extract more comments and information from her, as well as a promise to delay the publication of her own blog post on the controversy. Only when his piece was on the verge of publication, two days after he initially made contact, did Singal reveal that he was doubtful of Owens’ claims.
Readers can judge for themselves whether Singal’s behaviour, which included “advice” for Owens to delay her blog post, as well as a warning against pursuing her suspicion that Quinn was connected to anonymous trolling, constitute objective journalism — as opposed to activism. In an email to Breitbart, Singal maintained that he “didn’t see a problem” with offering Owens advice.
Singal also told Owens he had heard a rumor that someone was attempting to run a “VC scam” (VC = Venture Capitalist) on her. Singal again offered to assist Owens, asking her to send him the names of VCs who had reached out to her since the controversy began. “I might be able to help you figure out what’s going on,” Singal told Owens.
If your aim is to kill a project, having a list of its potential investors is, of course, extremely valuable. Incidentally, Quinn and Harper have both made their desire to kill Owens’ project abundantly clear. Nevertheless, in an emailed comment to Breitbart, Singal insisted that his motives were pure:
I didn’t care and didn’t ask which VC firms had expressed interest since Owens first started building Social Autopsy. I asked very specifically which had expressed interest since the pile-on began, because the rumor I heard, while poorly sourced, didn’t strike me as beyond the realm of belief. I thought it wouldn’t have been fair not to warn Owens about this, and as soon as she said she personally knew the individuals behind the VC firm that had reached out to her during the pile-on, I dropped it, expressing no further interest in the subject because that told me it couldn’t be a scam.
Owens, unsurprisingly, is unconvinced by Singal’s conduct. In addition to writing a 2,600-word blog post slamming the journalist, she’s also launched an online petition calling on New York Magazine to retract his article. Owens says that Singal has “openly violated” journalistic ethics and “compromises the perception of the Journalistic community at large.”
After the publication of his piece, Singal quickly came under fire from Owens’ sympathisers on social media, over 600 of whom signed Owens’ petition. One comment, from anti-trafficking campaigner Jamie Walton, stood out from the rest.
In her comment, Walton alleged that she had a similar experience with Singal last March, when he reached out to her over her comments regarding former Nintendo employee Alison Rapp. According to Walton, Singal “hounded” her with “fake nice emails and tweets trying to get me on record.” Walton concluded that he “Behaves more like a predator than a journalist.”
For someone like Singal, who claims to oppose misogyny on the web, the claim was damning: the female head of an anti-trafficking organisation accusing him of being more like a predator than a journalist. Indeed, despite a clarification from Walton, Singal found the comment damning enough to want it removed from the web.
Walton’s message has since been deleted and can only be found on archive sites. In a series of tweets, Walton said she had agreed to retract her comments after communicating privately with Singal. Initially, she said that she had removed the tweets because he was being “harassed.”
Her later tweets, however, took on a distinctly sarcastic tone.
How did Singal persuade Walton to retract her comment? If the tweets above are any guide, she only did so reluctantly. Was she coerced?
Whatever he did, Singal isn’t telling. “We agreed not to comment further on this,” he told Breitbart.
The Washington Post
Owens was also contacted by Caitlin Dewey, a Washington Post reporter who has previously called Zoe Quinn’s critics in the GamerGate movement “hateful and amorphous trolls.”
According to Owens, Dewey was more upfront about her bias in favour of Quinn and Harper than Singal:
She couldn’t hide her opinion and emotions while she was talking. She was angry at me for insinuating that Zoe and Randi had harassed me, and kept trying to get me to admit that I couldn’t “definitively state” that they had.
Caitlin had been trying to get me to understand that Zoe Quinn was a victim, and that I was too under-researched in the Gamergate controversy to understand that.
Where Dewey did mimic Singal was in her determination to discover the names of the venture capitalists who had reached out to Owens since the controversy began.
Similar to Jesse, she kept wanting me to specifically list which anti-bullying organizations we had dealt with. I declined to answer this point entirely and I told her explicitly that the reason was that I did not want to drag anymore unrelated third parties into this mess, as anyone who had been even remotely associated with us had received some form of unwarranted contact.
Caitlin moved on and kept wanting me to list specifically, which Venture Capitalists firms we had heard from since the video got torpedoed. I again declined using the the same reason… she was persistent. She asked me if I wanted to tell her the firms “off the record”.
Owens declined to name them. Undeterred, Dewey proceeded to independently track down Social Autopsy’s partners, despite the fact that Owens hadn’t named any of them.
As it turns out, it was lucky that Owens hadn’t. Because when Dewey successfully located what she thought was one of Social Autopsy’s partner organisations, the result proved disastrous.
According to Owens, Dewey told the organisation that Owens claimed they had acted as consultants on her website, and that they had received “hate mail” following the fallout between her and Quinn. Owens maintains that she made neither claim, yet Dewey nonetheless relayed the information to the organisation.
The result was an angry phone call to Owens from the organisation:
He was angry, that I saw it fit to relay to the Washington Post that his company was acting as “consultants” to us on our app. He was also angry that as a result, I made a statement on their behalf, that their company had been receiving tons of “hate mail”.
This prompted a cease-and-desist letter:
he simply stated that he would have to shoot over a cease and desist letter from their lawyers to warn me against lying about them in the media. He also gave me a heads up that they had issue[d] a strong statement against me to Caitlin
Had Owens actually been lying about them in the media, the organisation’s response would, of course, have been completely understandable. But Owens maintains that she told Dewey nothing, and that the reporter acted on her own initiative.
We reached out to Dewey to get her side of the story, but she did not respond to our request for comment.
After Owens complained to the Washington Post, she received a response from David Malitz, the Deputy Features Editor. Malitz told Owens that he was killing Dewey’s story, although he emphasised that there were no irregularities in the way Dewey had conducted herself, and that the story was instead being killed because Owens was no longer “newsworthy.”
If so, why was Dewey’s investigation approved in the first place?
Malitz, like Dewey, did not respond to a request for comment.
It’s still about ethics in journalism
With so many parties remaining silent, there are still several questions that have yet to be answered. Why was Dewey, like Singal, so interested in Owens’ investors and partners? Why did both journalists try to persuade Owens to drop her suspicions of Quinn and Harper? And just what did Jesse Singal say to Jamie Walton to convince her to retract her comments?