‘The demand for bigots exceeds the supply’

Wilfred Reilly on Jussie Smollett, hate-crime hoaxes and America’s grievance industry.

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Topics Politics USA

Earlier this year, Empire star Jussie Smollett claimed to have been involved in an extraordinary racist attack in Chicago. It was later discovered that he faked the whole thing. Meanwhile, the election of Donald Trump is said to have unleashed a wave of hate in America. The FBI reports a rise in hate crimes of 17 per cent in the year after Trump’s win. But is racial conflict really rife in today’s USA?

Wilfred Reilly is the author of Hate Crime Hoax: How the Left is Selling a Fake Race War. spiked caught up with him to find out more about hate crimes in the USA.

spiked: Has Trump’s election resulted in a wave in hate crime?

Wilfred Reilly: No, probably not. This is something that you will see a lot in the media. The argument is based on numbers that show hate crime increasing by 17 per cent between 2016 and 2017. So we went from 6,121 hate crimes in 2016 to 7,125 in 2017. The argument is that this is due to the wicked Nazism of President Trump.

Empirically, there’s not any good reason to believe that is true. One thing that’s not usually noted in the media is that the number of police departments reporting hate crimes to the FBI increased by over 1,000 between 2016 and 2017. So if every one of those new departments reported a single hate crime, that would count for the entire ‘surge’.

The second thing you have to look at is who the victims of hate crime are. The stereotypical view of a hate crime is a person of colour being attacked by a bigot or a neo-Nazi. If you look at the recent hate-crime data, that’s not really what you see. Between 2015 and 2016, which is still in the ‘surge’ range that we’re talking about, one of the largest increases in hate crimes was attacks on whites – an increase of 107. Between 2016 and 2017, there was an increase of 20 assaults – some of these were very violent. Between 2016 and 2017, there was also an increase in attacks on Jews from 684 to more than 900. One that was oddest to me was an increase in attacks on Protestant Christians from 15 to 40.

So when you look at the massive surge narrative, the first problem is that the number of reporters increased so dramatically, and the second is that it doesn’t take into account who is being attacked. If 100 of the additional cases are white guys, another 250 are Jews and another 25 are Protestants, I don’t know if you can attribute that to Trump. It’s not as if they were all attacks on recent Latino immigrants. So there’s a lot of confusion in the data, I think.

spiked: What drew your attention to the phenomenon of hate-crime hoaxes?

Reilly: I’m from Chicago. There’s a club that’s very well known called Velvet Rope Ultra Lounge. It’s a very hipster place. It had a lot of ferns in it. Lots of college kids and young professionals went there and it was very gay-friendly. The bar was set ablaze and terrible gay slurs were written around the building. It became a frontpage story in the Chicago Tribune. This was a local institution that had been destroyed.

There was a fundraiser held in the city that allowed the owner to raise enough money to open a new club. But then the case collapsed. It turned out the owner owed a lot of people money – never a good idea in Chicago. He had taken out a $150,000 insurance premium on what was a pretty dilapidated building. He set it on fire to collect this money. The papers revealed this over a long period of time, so the case was hard to ignore.

Around the time this happened, there were also a bunch of cases at universities in the Central Midwest that anyone in the student community would have been aware of. At Grand Valley State, for example, a young black woman claimed that on the first day of Black History Month, someone had broken into her room and written horrific things on her whiteboard such as, ‘Go home, you black bitch’, ‘Fuck Black History Month’ and ‘Martin Luther King was a nigger’. That received prominent coverage.

At the University of Chicago, an activist of Spanish and Native American descent claimed that he had been targeted by a group of hackers called the U-Chicago Electronic Army. I’m not sure this group ever existed. He said they had hacked his Facebook page and sent him rape threats and death threats. That again was a front page story. The FBI got involved.

The apogee of all of them was at Michigan Tech. A guy named Matthew Shulz was accused of saying he wanted to shoot all the black students on campus. He was believed to be a terrorist.

I hadn’t expected any of these cases to be false. But by this point, I was already aware that the Velvet Rope Ultra Lounge case had collapsed. And then all of these campus cases collapsed. The activist that said he was hacked had made the whole thing up. The FBI found out that he had sent the death threats himself. The Grand Valley State case collapsed as well. Handwriting analysis showed that she wrote those things herself. Most dramatic was the Michigan Tech case. This guy had actually said on YikYak [a social-media platform] that ‘I’m tired of all the racial conflict on campus. I’m going to shoot every black person I see on campus a smile tomorrow.’ A campus rival of his cropped out the words ‘a smile’ and sent a screenshot to the police. This guy’s life was almost destroyed. He was forced to drop out of school. He was able to clear his name only years later.

These all happened within a short period of time. A few years later, I was able to spend a summer finding out just how many hoaxes had taken place across the country.

spiked: The most famous hate-crime hoax is the case of Jussie Smollett. What did you make of that?

Reilly: I jokingly asked my publisher to send Jussie Smollett a copy of my book. It was an extremely convenient coincidence. It happened in Chicago, my hometown, the day before the book came out.

The Smollett case was hopefully the boil bursting. These kinds of cases had become incredibly common. By around 2010, you start to see hundreds of cases per year. The Jussie Smollett case was probably the cherry on top of the phenomenon.

Victimhood is heavily rewarded in our society. He had been looking for a raise but had been turned down during a stiff negotiation. In making this ridiculous claim he had the chance to become internationally famous. Everything worked out until it didn’t. The Chicago police had probably seen enough bullshit. They tracked the case very intensely, doing things which Smollett admitted he did not expect.

The whole thing reads like a bad farce. He paid two big Nigerian guys to pretend to be white and to beat him up. Afterwards, they took a cab which had a camera inside. He knew them from his gym and as extras on his show. None of this was a Moriarty-level crime. Smollett had probably seen something similar work elsewhere. But it backfired. Hopefully, people will be a bit more sceptical towards these more extreme stories.

spiked: What motivates people to commit these hoaxes?

Reilly: I think there are three possible motivations for hate crime hoaxes: two of which rest with the hoaxer and one with society beyond.

First of all, a lot of hoaxers have the same tawdry motivations as other criminals, which is what you are if you file fake police reports and cost the city of Chicago a million dollars. People usually commit crimes for money or personal notoriety and attention. Insurance money is often a motivating factor – there are about 600 cases of this in my dataset.

Secondly, some hoaxers think they are doing something noble. College kids that engage in these hoaxes very frequently say that they did it to call attention to a real problem.

The archetypal case like this was at Kean University in New Jersey. An activist organised a rally against racial conflict on campus. I’m not sure whether there had been any racial conflict – this was a very integrated school, near New York, where many people had interracial relationships. During the rally, people were very unenthusiastic, so the activist went to the campus library, set up a fake Twitter account called @keanuagainstblk and started tweeting out all these crazy messages like ‘I’m going to kill all the blacks at Kean-U right now’. She then went back to the rally, saying ‘look what I found’. A crowd can very quickly become a mob and that’s what then happened there. So the ‘noble purpose’ was to call attention to racism.

The third factor is rarely discussed in criminal-justice literature, but to put it bluntly, there is a very large and established grievance industry in the West. I don’t want to blame individual institutions, as they do some good, but you cannot ignore something like the Southern Poverty Law Center, which has an endowment of $470million. They made $139million in profit last year. It’s the size of a Fortune 500 business. And they don’t stand alone. These groups have a vested interest in promoting the idea that the race war never ended. In fact, affirmative action, minority set-asides and funding for NGOs are all dependent on the existence of an ongoing ethnic conflict.

The problem with this argument is that there is not a great deal of ethnic conflict in the USA. Eighty-five per cent of white murder victims are murdered by whites, while 94 per cent of black people are killed by other black people. We desegregated in 1964, we had the Civil Rights Act in 1965, and affirmative action in favour of minorities began in 1967. The problem is often that the demand for bigots exceeds the supply.

Wilfred Reilly was talking to Fraser Myers.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

Comments

James Knight

12th July 2019 at 3:44 pm

If racism didn’t exist the woke left would invent it. Actually that is what some of them are now doing.

Fortunately serious incidents are relatively rare. Hence the false positive paradox strikes again.

Amelia Cantor

12th July 2019 at 9:38 am

There have been Uncle Toms, oreos and coconuts throughout history, denying the lived reality of communities of colour suffering under white cis-gender hegemony. Here is another Uncle Tom.

Oh, and if the “supply of bigots” is so small, how come we have Trump in the White House after 60+ million racists voted for him and Boris Johnson about to enter 10 Downing Street to steer through Brexit, as voted for by 17+ million racists, xenophobes and deluded wrinklies?

In Negative

12th July 2019 at 10:11 am

You’re new here aren’t you?

AMELIA CANTOR’S LAST SYNAPSE

12th July 2019 at 11:53 am

Sorry, I forgot to take my meds this morning. They have now put the straitjacket back on and dosed me up and so I should be able to write normally.

Jerry Owen

12th July 2019 at 5:26 pm

You really need to calm down love !

Jerry Owen

12th July 2019 at 5:32 pm

Amelia Cantor
Is their actually anybody you like ?

Amelia Cantor

13th July 2019 at 10:42 am

I like good people who are trying to create a better, fairer world for oppressed communities, be they communities of colour or the Muslim community or the LGBTQIA+ community or the indigenous communities threatened by climate catastrophe and neo-liberalism.

Paul Duffin

13th July 2019 at 3:05 pm

“Here is another Uncle Tom”

So says the racist.

I must admit I was in two minds when I first read this as to whether it was a parody account or not. It seemed to ignore the article while at the same time repeating all the flawed arguments of the hatemongers that the article criticised. In an over the top, willfully ignorant, rehashing tired old cliches kind of way common to parody accounts.

After reading the some up responses I’m leaning towards it being a serious one because it didn’t keep up the same level of silliness.

Jerry Owen

13th July 2019 at 3:21 pm

Amelia Cantor
So not all indigenous communities are affected by climate catastrophe then ?
Wow this AGW picks it’s victims at will !

Hana Jinks

13th July 2019 at 9:36 pm

Ameliorate Cant.

I find it pretty offensive for you to be describing people as oreo’s and coconuts, and I’m not Black.

Samsundar Duvakemar

18th July 2019 at 10:28 pm

“There have been Uncle Toms, oreos and coconuts throughout history, denying the lived reality of communities of colour suffering under white cis-gender hegemony.”

I am a person “of colour”, as you so patronizingly put it. “Lived reality” ? Myself & my family have experienced no suffering from white folks in England here, rather politeness, helpfulness and good will. You do not speak on behalf of dark skinned people. Rather you use us to promote your agenda. Imperialism old style. We will not sail in your ideological slave ship just so you can feel good about yourself.

“Brexit, as voted for by 17+ million racists, xenophobes and deluded wrinklies?”

I and my mother voted for Brexit. We are dark skinned and muslim. We are not racist. How dare you make such insulting generalizations about people you don’t know. And to call my mother a “deluded wrinkly” How insulting and distrespectful of our elders. In our community we respect our elders. We were told that westerners have little respect for the elders, they are more interested in selfishness, short term pleasure and youth narcissism. You have proved this theory correct.

Jerry Owen

12th July 2019 at 9:03 am

Amen to that last sentence !
I have no idea what a ‘fern’ is but enjoyed the article nonetheless.

James Taylor

12th July 2019 at 1:36 am

This is a phenomenon which seems to manifest in some form or other in every liberal, Western democracy.

In the UK, certainly, similar social and political prestige is rewarded to certain identities whom successfully claim the mantle of victim.

Whilst there has been no high profile British hate crime hoaxes and no exhaustive study into the phenomenon. In the UK, the laws and the way the establishment defines “hate crime”, ensures that, regardless of the truth; the UK will always have a worryingly high level of “hate” to battle.

Our not only is claiming to be a minority victim incentivized, by the way our media, police, judiciary and politicians react.

Claiming the mantle of minority victim is a trump card. A super power available to women and minorities, whereby they can win any argument, garnering instant sympathy, lionization and bring real institutional power to bear, simply by claiming to have been a victim of racism, sexism or any other kind of phobia or ism. The offence need not be contemporaneous, backed up by evidence nor even be a crime. Merely declaring that one has received rape threats on Twitter, was stopped by racist police at some point in one’s life, looked at or ignored in a racist fashion by retail staff, and one wins the debate and gets the live and resources.

Our hate crime legislation is based on a subjective standard which must encourage frivolous or mistaken claims and the police have begun recording “non crime hate crimes”.

The massive uptick in recorded hate crime is not only beneficial to women and minorities claiming victimhood. They are also beneficial for the police, in potentially increasing powers and funding.

A “post Brexit tidal wave of hate crime” also gifts the political and media class a story which can be used to win over public opinion, garner votes and get clicks.

So British society lauds and rewards minority victimhood. The British criminal justice system jukes the stats and the UK political and media class can use hate crime statistics to win debates.

It would be a miracle if the UK didn’t have some kind of culture of hate crime hoaxing.

Perhaps Spiked could investigate.

Mark Bretherton

12th July 2019 at 1:07 pm

There doesn’t need to be hate crime hoaxes in the UK. Our media do a good enough job deliberately mis-reporting crime to make it appear like there is an increase in hate crime.

James Hillier

12th July 2019 at 1:21 pm

“Whilst there has been no high profile British hate crime hoaxes and no exhaustive study into the phenomenon.”

Almost every piece of research published by the Women and Equalities committee fits comfortably under the heading “hate crime hoax”.

Take this, for instance:

“5,500 sexual assaults, including 600 rapes, were recorded by the police as having taken place in schools in England and Wales over the previous three years.”

I won’t link it, because the post will end up lost in moderation. But the source is an article, on parliament’s website, entitled “Government’s assessment of sexual harassment and violence in schools”. It was published 6 July 2016. The document it links to goes on to reinforce the impression that there is a crisis of sexual harassment and violence in English schools.

What the report doesn’t tell you, and the text actually deliberately misleads on, is that these are reported rapes, not convictions. For evidence of this, see the Hansard entry for 2 November 2017. It’s called “Sexual Harassment and Violence in Schools”.

Worse still, the crucial context of this is that there are 8.74 million school pupils in England. While one rape is too many, 200 reported rapes a year in a population of almost 9 million is not evidence of a crisis. That it was made to appear so, speaks of concerted effort to mislead and to do so for the purpose of justifying bias in policy, legislation and funding.

We have a name for politicians who use misleading evidence to make groups in society feel under attack, in order to further their own ends. We call them populists. And that is what many feminists are, or aspire to be: sex-based populists.

Perhaps saddest of all, is that this does nothing to help keep girls at school safer. If we correctly recognised that rape and sexual assault in schools are rare, we could then study what the verified instances of these phenomena have in common. That might help us identify cases in which there really was an increased risk, and do something about it.

What we have instead, is a lot of noise in the system, drowning out signal and making it hard to know what to usefully do to make at-risk girls safer. And this noise was introduced by campaigners and politicians who say they care about women and girls.

Jerry Owen

12th July 2019 at 5:30 pm

James Hillier
The Manchester police, local Labour party, and social workers did their absolute best to lessen the numbers of teenage rape victims … by brushing it under the carpet !

James Hillier

12th July 2019 at 9:01 pm

This is the same problem in a different guise, or rather, the same two problems: the needs of vested-interests being put before those of the public and the dictates of identity politics distorting and warping the response to a crisis in public life.

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