It is slowly dawning on the public that fake hate crimes, like the one just perpetrated by Princeton student Francisco Nava, are quite common on college campuses. Perhaps some aspiring academic, casting about for a PhD. thesis, will try to explain why these hoaxes – mostly imaginary rapes or fake attacks on black students – have come to seem so routine.
I have been following the phenomenon and writing occasional columns on the subject for ten or twelve years. When my eldest daughter was at Oberlin, the campus was propelled into uproar by anti-Asian graffiti in the campus quad. Someone had written “Death to Chinks” and other racial slurs on the monument to members of the Oberlin community who had died in the Boxer rebellion in China. Anger, various demands and a few scuffles went on for weeks until an Asian-American student announced that she had written the graffiti to make manifest the racism she thought was inherent in the monument. This turns out to be a popular rationale for faking hate crimes – the need to create a fictional outrage adequate to express the feelings of an angry student. The more campus voices are raised against “institutional racism” and the alleged sexual dangerousness of all males, the more fake race crimes and fake rapes there will be. Look into the hoax reports and you will see an endless parade of students painting racist graffiti on their own cars, tearing their clothes and writing hate phrases on their own bodies or sending themselves politically useful death threats.
Many campus hoaxes turn out to be teaching instruments of a sort, conscious lies intended to reveal broad truths about constant victimization of women and minorities. At a “Take Back the Night” rally in Princeton in the 90s, a female student told a graphic story of her rape on campus. When the alleged rapist threatened to sue, she recanted the story and a spokeswoman for the Women’s Center said, “Listen we can’t hope to find truth in all these stories,” meaning that the story line was important, not the truth of any one rape.