Racial Hoaxes Have A Damaging Effect On America

James Gagliano Law Enforcement Analyst for CNN and Adjunct Professor at St. John's University
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The president of an NAACP chapter in South Carolina, the Reverend Jerrod Moultrie, was caught red-handed in a falsehood designed to smear law enforcement as “racist.” And sadly, disingenuous efforts like Moultrie’s are far more common than one might be led to believe.

On April 13, the civil rights leader posted on Facebook a detailed interaction with police in Timmonsville, South Carolina, whereby he defiantly proclaimed:

“Tonight, I was racially profiled by Timmonsville Officer CAUSE I WAS DRIVING A MERCEDES BENZ AND GOING HOME IN A NICE NEIGHBORHOOD.” 

Providing his recollection of dialogue between himself and the officer who pulled him over for failing to use a turn a signal, he characterized the stop as “racial profiling.” The incident seemed to mirror recent troubling cases of African-Americans being confronted by law enforcement in a Philadelphia Starbucks and a Yale University dayroom in episodes that have been well covered by the media — supposedly indicia of blacks being treated differently than whites.

But the “Reverend” has been exposed as a fraudulent racial huckster and charlatan.

In a deft counterpunch to the supposed faith leader’s contrived grievance, the police chief in Timmonsville elected to release the videotape from the officer’s body camera. It told a completely different story from the fantasy spun by Moultrie.

Watching the footage, after taking in Moultrie’s Facebook account, made me angry. As a former law enforcement official, I know that there are instances whereby citizens elect to lie about their interactions with police to aid their own cause – usually in the pursuit of spinning their own innocence. But this one was different. It seemed quite premeditated and purposely injurious to the police officer and department and designed to injudiciously smear.

But what this pastor failed to comprehend as he perpetrated his hoax was this – He injured the very cause he pretends to care deeply about. He is the epitome of the boy who cried “Wolf!”

And, yes, there are cops who act improperly. There are those who brutalize and mistreat the very citizenry they are sworn to serve and protect. The media does a wondrous job of highlighting these cases and calling out those who act inappropriately under the color of authority. There should be zero tolerance for police – acting as instruments of the state – who mistreat anyone.

And in 2018, there’s no worse a smear than to be labeled a “racist.” Jerrod Moultrie had no problem with attempting to falsely accuse and malign a public servant in order to serve his narrative.

He is beneath contempt.

Yet sadly, his outrageous charges and maliciously concocted tale of being targeted for his skin color are seemingly part of a dishonest playbook that aligns with other recent nefarious stories of manufactured injustices that are having a deleterious effect on race relations in America.

Racist hoaxes also seem to be proliferating on college campuses across the country. So many seem to be debunked on a regular basis, that when we first hear of one, it almost seems a default mechanism to suspect there might be skullduggery afoot.

Of course the initial sensationalism and breathless front page media coverage far outweighs the minimalist “Oops!” addendum once the hoax is discovered, the retraction buried well below the next cycle’s top stories.

One of the worst examples of “hype-and-oops” happened at the United States Air Force Academy in September of 2017. This one especially pained me when I first heard of it, because I’m a graduate of West Point. And the notion that some miscreant could have scrawled a racist message targeting a black cadet incensed and infuriated me. This wasn’t tolerated at the service academies during the 1980’s when I attended the United States Military Academy — much less in 2017.

But then this story – which, of course, made major national news — was also disassembled as a hoax.

I’m convinced that in the lower chambers of Hell, next to the real racists and bigots, will be assembled those who recklessly smear and charge others – knowing their accusations are false.

Like the Muslim woman who accused Trump supporters in December of 2016 of assaulting her on a subway in New York City. Police later arrested Yasmin Seweid, 18, and charged her with filing a false report, after the story was easily debunked and she recanted, claiming to have made up the tale to avoid punishment by her parents for remaining out after curfew.

Her fabricated tale included details of drunken white men chanting “Trump! Trump! Trump!” She claimed they then attempted to snatch the hijab off her head.

But stories like this help feed the false narrative — Donald Trump and his minions are in an all-out assault on people of color. If you are viewed as an “other,” well, you should fear for your lives. Fear-mongering is back with a vengeance in the age of the #Resistance.

And as we rightly call out these charlatans, hucksters, liars, and grievance industry purveyors, we must understand their ideology. It is an ethos rooted in consequentialism – one where the ends always justify the means.

And when the perpetrator of a hoax is caught, there is always the old, “But, I wanted to start a broader conversation on race” justification.

Think I’m kidding?

Well, that’s exactly what the Diversity Leadership Council at Gustavus Adolphus College did –with help from other “social-justice groups” – did in March of 2017. They papered campus with “racist” fliers that celebrated white nationalism and decried “illegal aliens” who were encroaching on the concept that “America is a white nation.”

Laughably, the feeble response to the understandable outrage was that this reprehensible effort was designed to encourage “dialogue.”

Allow me to fathom a prediction here. The age of racial hoaxes will soon come to an end.

The very next time someone as duplicitous as the “Reverend” Jerrod Moultrie gets stone-cold busted with some fanciful tale of racist, redneck cops, who are hell-bent on “racial profiling” and target a black man for driving a Mercedes Benz in their own “nice neighborhood,” don’t just dismiss it out of hand.

Take a deep breath and sort out the facts. Body cameras are a cop’s friend these days. They will exonerate far more than they indict. It will make the Moultries of the world far more circumspect before posting click-bait Facebook story about a fabricated encounter with “racist cops.”

We’re in the “viral video age” now. But cameras work both ways.

Racial hoaxsters beware.

We see you. And you will be exposed just like “Reverend” Moultrie.

Truth matters.

James A. Gagliano ( @JamesAGagliano ) served in the FBI for 25 years, retiring as a supervisory special agent in 2016. He is a law enforcement analyst for CNN and an adjunct assistant professor in homeland security and criminal justice at St. John’s University.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.

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James Gagliano