The Sharmeka Moffitt hate crime hoax is nothing new

Sharmeka Moffitt claimed to have been the victim of a ‘hate crime’. Her story was soon exposed as a bizarre hoax, but it isn’t only the police who have woken up to this sort of scam.

Tawana Brawley

The alleged attack on Sharmeka Moffitt by three men wearing white hoods has now been thoroughly debunked. It was met from the very beginning with a certain amount of skepticism, possibly because most people realise the Ku Klux Klan was never quite as bad as its reputation, but it is more likely that the public as well as law enforcement are getting wise to this sort of thing.

A cursory search reveals no record of Ku Klux Klan members ever setting fire to a woman in a park before, but as stated, hate crime hoaxes are anything but new. They come with a wide variety of perpetrators and motives.

In a dispatch dated November 28, 1870, Richard Burton, who was then British Consul in Damascus, wrote to Foreign Secretary Earl of Granville in connection with the case of a young Jewish boy who had been caught in the act of defacing the “privy” of a mosque in order to blame it on the local Christians. There had been tensions in the area between the two groups, and clearly somebody had been trying to stir things.

A particularly vile hoax was perpetrated by Gerry Gable, publisher of the self-styled anti-fascist magazine Searchlight. In 1964, a series of arson attacks were carried out on synagogues and other Jewish premises in Greater London. These attacks were as much personal as anti-Semitic, and were inspired by the wife of the British Nazi leader Colin Jordan, the former Françoise Dior, niece of the famous French designer. It was probably the sensitivities of the House of Dior over her activities of four decades and more ago as much as his own stupidity that led to the fall from grace of John Galliano last year. Although no one died in any of these attacks, another, earlier fire at a Jewish theological college in Stamford Hill resulted in the death of a trainee rabbi. Stamford Hill is the heart of Jewish London, and for obvious reasons, the fire was thoroughly investigated at the time, and the authorities went to considerable lengths to quash rumours of arson.

By 1987 though, the death of one teenager in a tragic accident was forgotten by all except his family, friends and people who knew him; it was certainly forgotten by the Jewish Chronicle newspaper, because when it interviewed Gable for its October 23 issue, he took the credit for solving this murder that never happened, quite cynically and despicably tacking it onto his non-existent investigation into the arson campaign, the one the police were supposedly too stupid to solve. His lies were taken at face value by the paper without bothering to fact check using its own archive.

Gable’s claim was even more remarkable owing to the fact that three years earlier he had credited a chum of his with solving this non-existent murder. Actually, chum is probably not the correct word, the man concerned met Gable when the former was ten years old, out on the streets at night, and some have speculated that he took an interest in the young lad the way a Kosher Jimmy Savile might have.

Gerry Gable continued spreading this lie about the Mesifta College fire until September 2009 when New Scotland Yard’s finest turned up on his doorstep and asked him what if anything he knew about a 1964 murder, and why he had been keeping this information to himself for the best part of half a century. Although he ’fessed up that he had been lying through his teeth, he has since repeated the claim. It appears that some people are totally incapable of telling the truth.

Another hate crime hoax that was perpetrated in London also involved a fatal fire, this time though the death toll reached double figures. The fire broke out inside an overcrowded house that was being used for a double birthday party in January 1981; all the victims were young, and the usual suspects were quick to attempt to exploit it for racial and political reasons, although there was never any meaningful evidence of outside involvement.

To this day, there are those who blame the New Cross Fire on racists, although the best evidence suggests both that it was started by one of the guests at the party, and that it was simply a tragic accident.

Fortunately, most hate crime hoaxes do not involve arson attacks or even fires, often they are limited to daubing graffiti and such. A surprising number involve that perennial object of vilification, the swastika.

Sarah Marshak was both a student at George Washington University and a Jew. She was perplexed when someone repeatedly daubed swastikas on her door. Others were even more perplexed when a hidden camera filmed her daubing them herself.

Another hate crime hoax that involved an obviously mentally disturbed young female was the case of Tawana Brawley. This attack and alleged rape happened in November 1987, and among other things led to a march through New York. Brawley was only 15 years old at the time she wasn’t attacked, and was undoubtedly exploited by the likes of Al Sharpton, who has tried to muscle in on the recent Trayvon Martin tragedy.

She was found apparently dumped in a garbage bag near her former home with torn clothing and excrement and other things smeared on her body. However, there were so many holes in her story, as far as she gave one, that the whole business was soon exposed as a hoax if not an outright scam. The Grand Jury that was convened to examine the case returned the following findings of fact.

Back in the 1990s, Laird Wilcox produced a seminal study of hate crime hoaxes, Crying Wolf. At that time it was a rule of thumb that such hoaxes received massive publicity when the initial reports were made, but very little or none at all when the truth came out. An examination of them shows a wide variety of motives from mental aberration to financial gain to sordid political agendas, like those of the aforementioned Gerry Gable.

The perpetrators of such hoaxes in the US, UK and occasionally other places, like France, are almost invariably black or some other minority, including Jews, and the bad guys - even when the truth comes out - are white people, be they specific segments of the majority, or white society in general. Occasionally though, the bad guy really is white, as in arguably the two most shocking cases in American history.

In October 1989, a pregnant woman, Carol Stuart, was shot dead in her car, allegedly by an unidentified Negro mugger. Her baby was delivered eight weeks prematurely by Caesarean section, but survived only for some seventeen days. This was one of those murders that can shock even a nation of 200+ million. There was one witness to the dastardly act, her husband, who was in the car with her. The couple had recently left a childbirth class at a Boston hospital. Carol was shot in the head; Charles in the abdomen. Charles managed to call the police on his mobile phone, and became a media hero as the surviving victim. Unsurprisingly, the atrocity also caused outrage. A black man named Willie Bennett was identified by Stuart as looking “most like” the murderer.

Alas, an otherwise open and shut case was soon revealed to be anything but, because the police with their nasty suspicious minds left no stone unturned. Charles Stuart stood to gain from a substantial insurance policy on his wife, which in itself meant nothing, but when his brother went to the police and confessed to being an accessory after the fact by helping him to dispose of incriminating evidence, the game was up. Before he could be arrested however, Stuart jumped into the river.

The suicide of Charles Stuart was reported prominently by the New York Times. If you thought that was as bad as they get, you are not familiar with the case of Susan Smith.

Because women are far less violent than men and because of the natural affinity they have with children and especially babies, a woman who kills a child is particularly reviled. There are times it is true when a woman who causes the death of her young baby may be deserving of compassion more than punishment. The law of most countries recognises this. The crime of Susan Smith though is in a different category altogether. On October 25, 1994, she reported that her car had been stolen by a black man who had forced her out at gunpoint and driven off with her two young sons on the back seat. The eldest was 3 years old and the youngest 14 months. A hoax was suspected fairly early on in the case for various reasons, not the least of which is that the story was prima facie hard to swallow. On November 3, Smith confessed to the sheriff and led the authorities to where she had dumped her car in 18 feet of water with her sons still inside. Details and analysis of this notorious case can be found all over the Internet, including on YouTube. An unusual take on it is presented by Rachel Pergament who asks Susan Smith: Child Murderer or Victim? No, she doesn’t suggest Smith didn’t murder her sons, only that she was failed by her family, society, anybody but herself, the sort of psycho-babble we have all heard a myriad times.

Returning to the Sharmeka Moffit case, it is obviously unfair to tar her with the same brush as Susan Smith except in a very general sense of being out of her tree. It has been suggested that she could or should face prosecution herself. If some deranged vigilante had exacted summary justice on some hapless individual, the local racist or whatever, that argument would have some merit. (One dude actually said he felt like shooting the first white person he saw in reprisal for this hate crime hoax).

Clearly though this woman has suffered enough and will continue to suffer, even if she receives the best medical treatment money can buy. And she may yet end up in losing her liberty the same way Brandon Raub lost his.

So what should we learn from all this? Although hate crime hoaxes are far less common than are false rape allegations, we should always bear in mind the possibility of there being more to any particular case than meets the eye. We can do this without being unkind to victims, or without becoming paranoid about false flags. We should also be aware that there is really no such thing as a hate crime; this terminology is something that was coined not as a means of dealing with real crime but as an assault on free speech and other freedoms. The idea is that hate speech leads to hate crime, therefore we can only properly address hate crime by criminalising hate speech. This policy is not only ill-conceived, it is doomed to failure. Would dragging a man into court for using the dreaded n word or for calling a homosexual a faggot make him less or more inclined to hate the target of his rant?

[The above op-ed was first published October 28, 2012 [UK time], not October 27 as indicated by the archived version.]

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