Why do we allow hoaxers to get away with creating fake hate crimes that damage the reputations of people, cities, schools and companies and make it harder for real victims to be believed?
In an article for the New York Post, Kyle Smith argues that it's time to start treating hate-crime hoaxers as criminals. He used the example of the recent Whole Foods cake hoaxer Rev. Jordan Brown, a gay man who claimed he ordered a cake that said "Love Wins" but when he got home, he claimed, he noticed that someone at the grocery bakery had added the word "fag" to the cake.
Brown sued and his story made international headlines. But it turned out to be easily disproven, thanks in part to security video footage that had been taken at the store. Brown ultimately admitted that he had made it all up, presumably to draw attention to himself. Whole Foods, which had countersued him, dropped its lawsuit when Brown dropped his. Smith argues that the grocery chain shouldn't have retreated.
"If Whole Foods had been unable to prove the Rev. Brown was lying — if it didn't have a security camera trained on the right spot — it could have suffered massive damage to its immensely valuable reputation," Smith wrote. "A smaller grocer that couldn't afford a network of security cameras to protect itself from lying customers might have been put out of business entirely."
Further, Smith wrote, Brown "tied up public resources in filing a lawsuit" and made it less likely that anyone will believe the next person who claims to be discriminated against in a similar fashion.
For the record, Brown is not Smith's only example of hoaxes — he also cites a woman in Baltimore who claimed a neighbor said her yard decorations were too "relentlessly gay" and a Utah man who claimed he was beat up and had "Die fag" carved into his arm. I can also cite the case of the Central Michigan University professor who claimed she was punched in the face for being a lesbian while at a Toby Keith concert (she punched herself in the face to "start a dialogue"). There's also every example ever of a waiter or waitress claiming they were denied a tip for being gay, only to be proven a liar. Another recent hate crime hoax took place at the University of Iowa, where a freshman student got drunk and got involved in a frat-related bar fight, then made up a story about being attacked by white supremacists.
Smith points to fakehatecrimes.org, a website that, as the name implies, tracks fake hate crimes. It's clear from these stories that hoaxers almost never get punished (the State University of New York, Albany students are a rare exception).
"Hate crime con artists stir up hatred, cheat honest people out of their money and waste public resources on investigations. They do harm to all of us. They should be treated as criminals," Smith concludes.
The excuse that one merely wanted to "start a dialogue" is unacceptable. The damage that hoaxers are doing to real victims is incalculable. It's impossible now to view an accusation of a hate crime and think it won't be proven a hoax because there aren't modern examples of real hate crimes that get the attention of the hoaxes.
Whether it's a race hoax, a gay hate-crime hoax or a rape hoax, allowing people to get away with lies sends the message that it's okay. It's not.
Ashe Schow is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.