[C]an we consider the possibility that hate-crime laws were a bad idea after all? Such statutes don’t seem to deter much. Why would they? They criminalize acts that are already criminal. Yet they seem to have spawned an epidemic of false charges.

Wikipedia’s entry on racial hoaxes is instructive. Remember the Boston man in 1989 who murdered his pregnant wife and blamed a random black assailant? Such cases, playing on racial stereotypes, were once not rare. Tawana Brawley, who claimed she was raped by four white men … also had a self-preservation motive: She was seeking to avoid punishment from her stepfather for an unexplained absence from home.

The nature of the racial hoax seems to have changed. Recent cases involved mainly perpetrators who wanted to bring attention to themselves, pose as victims, and incite ideological hatred.

The College Fix, a student-reported news site, lists 50 such incidents on campus since 2012. National Review contributor Andy Ngo tweeted out details of 31 documented cases arising from anti-Donald Trump sentiment.

… [P]olice and other relevant authorities have been willing to get to the bottom of reported incidents. In 2016, an arson against a Mississippi black church, including the spray-painted words Vote Trump,” was traced to a black parishioner. A Louisiana Muslim university student’s claim that she was assaulted by Trump supporters was shown to be fabricated. The list goes on.

Holman Jenkins

My state is one of only 5 that has maintained sanity on this, and my preening State Senator (a member of my former party) is trying to change that. I hope he fails.

UPDATE: As if to prove one of Jenkins’ points (not quoted), Thomas T. Cullen, United States attorney for the Western District of Virginia, writing in the New York Times, considers it a bug, not a feature” that prosecutors must prove their hate crime case:

But the [Federal] hate crime law has its limitations. First, it requires proof that an individual acted because of a specific proscribed animus enumerated in the statute. That means investigators must uncover concrete evidence that the defendant was primarily motivated by, for example, racist or anti-Semitic views. Although this evidence exists in many hate crimes, it proves elusive in others.

February 23, 2019


Previous:And the losers are …
Next:Hoaxes are not tracked formally, but the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, said that of an estimated 21,000 hate crime cases between 2016 and 2018, fewer than 50 reports were found to be false.