What Do Fake Racist Attack Stories Tell Us about the U.S.?

A fraudulent racist attack allegation shows us that power is available through victimhood.

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After a horrific triple homicide, a great many people wanted to convince us that the crime was really bad because of an alleged racist motivation. Now we find that there are other ways of convincing us of widespread racism.

According to the Dallas Morning News, “UT-Arlington student admits making up claim that gunman followed her to campus, threatened her.”

A UT-Arlington student who claimed she was threatened at gunpoint on campus this week admitted Friday that she’d lied, a university spokeswoman said.

The student told police she hadn’t even been at the school the day she said the incident occurred.

UT-Arlington had been investigating the complaint with Arlington, Denton and University of North Texas police, school spokeswoman Kristin Sullivan said.

Officials have not released the student’s name, and it was unclear Friday night whether she would be charged with filing a false police report.

The student could not be reached for comment.

University President Vistasp M. Karbhari said in a written statement that he appreciated the police efforts in the case.

“We take these issues very seriously,” he said. “The safety and security of all UT Arlington students, faculty and staff is our utmost concern.”

The university had issued an alert Friday that the student told police she had been followed six miles by a man in a pickup before she reached the campus. She had reported that when she parked at the university, the man threatened her and pointed a gun at her before he left.

The student also posted on social media that the man might have targeted her because she is Muslim. In a Facebook post, she referred to the killings of three Muslim students this week in Chapel Hill, N.C.

So what would motivate such a false claim?

Obviously, someone making such a claim would believe that they could gain an advantage from the claim. The false accuser might think she is the victim of injustice that needs to end. Or she may have some other advantage that she believes she can gain.

But more interesting (to me) is why someone would think a story about being threatened would help her. Notice that her story used Tea Party characteristics. Not only was he driving a pickup truck, but

The suspect was described as a white man in his mid-30s wearing a camouflage baseball cap, a short-sleeve blue shirt and blue jeans…

So she wasn’t just promoting her own cause, but she was framing a different ethnicity and political culture.

What this means is that she believed there are people in power who might be ready not only to help her (or her minority), but also do so to the detriment of the group she was framing for wrongdoing by her story. At the very least, she believed there were people in power who were ready to trust her story or to view such a person as likely to carry out such a threat.

It didn’t happen the way she hoped, but what does it tell you that someone thought such a strategy would work?