Media Creates Incentives for Students to Invent Racial Hoaxes (Video)

While the consequences of promoting a racial hoax are devastating for the hoaxers, the alluring appeal of celebrity – of stopping your world dead in its tracks, be that world the entire United States or merely a college campus – often proves too seductive to resist. Likewise, in Oberlin’s case, the students’ belief in the cause of anti-discrimination and Americans’ inherent racism is so virtuous that even a lie in the service of addressing those issues is justified.

A series of offensive fliers appear on campuses using racist and sexist language. A person adorned in KKK regalia struts around a campus. Threatening anti-gay letters are slipped under dorm doors. A noose appears in an African-American student’s room. Terrifying texts arrive in cell phones employing racial language to threaten both a student and the President of the United States. What do all these recent events have in common? They are all lies.

While manufacturing claims of being the victim of hate speech carry some severe penalties, actually being the victim of discrimination is often rewarded on college campuses. While the young adults who perpetrate these hoaxes are at least partially aware of the consequences, they are just as aware of the incentives associated with being the victim of racism. A recent increase in the number of hoaxes being uncovered suggests that the cost/benefit calculation has changed. Students now seem to believe that the rewards associated with creating a myth of victimization around themselves outweigh the risks. This is a miscalculation on the part of the hoaxers, but perpetrating a discrimination hoax is not an illogical venture. It makes perfect sense for students to see the risks associated with such a hoax as acceptable.


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