The story, as reported in the local news, was horrific. A University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill student claimed that he was brutally injured in an attack that left third and fourth degree burns on his arm, simply for being gay.
The university community immediately called the alleged attack a “hate crime,” and Chancellor Holden Thorp vowed to “bring the strongest possible charges against the attacker.”
As the UNC student newspaper the Daily Tarheel revealed, freshman Quinn Matney claimed that he:
… ran into an acquaintance on the Craige Residence Hall footbridge. As the two spoke, a man sitting at a nearby picnic table stood up and grabbed him by the wrist, he said.
“Here’s a taste of hell you f***ing fag,” Matney remembered the man saying.
The man branded Matney, who is gay, on the left wrist with an unidentified object, causing third- and fourth-degree burns that damaged three nerves and a tendon, leaving the freshman with no feeling in his thumb and limited mobility in his index finger, he said.
Matney’s story was rife with improbabilities from the outset. It was highly improbable that he would be attacked by a random stranger as he happened to be conversing with another person. It is improbable that the stranger would know his sexuality, much less attack him for it. It seemed even more unlikely that the alleged attacker would be armed with a weapon that was both extremely portable and capable of causing fourth degree burns in the split-second before a person’s natural reflexes kicked in and caused them to rip their arm away from the searing pain.
Crucially, while Matney claims that the attack happened in front of multiple witnesses, not a single person had corroborated the story.
As a long-time resident of the area, it seemed to me that history was repeating.
UNC-Chapel Hill is but a few short miles from Duke University in Durham, where the overwrought political correctness pervading the area allowed a false hate crimes allegation to rip the campus and the city apart in 2006. A black stripper named Crystal Mangum falsely accused white members of the university lacrosse team of rape. The university community, led by a lynch mob of faculty members known as the “Gang of 88,” found the team members guilty in the court of public opinion long before there was ever a trial, and played up the angle of a racially motivated hate crime.
The entire case was a sham.
Mangum, who has a long criminal history (to which she keeps adding charges), was proven to be a liar. Prosecutor Mike Nifong was found guilty of criminal contempt and disbarred for his behavior. The accused players were declared innocent by state Attorney General Roy Cooper.
Students just a few miles away in Chapel Hill, however, did not want to learn from recent history.
They threw caution to the wind and jumped on the hate crimes bandwagon, uncritically supporting Matney’s claims, despite a raft of obvious questions regarding the allegations. But perhaps as disturbing as the suspect allegations themselves was the instantaneous assumption by Chapel Hill’s university community that Matney’s claims must be believed, and that dissenting views must be silenced. Nowhere was that in evidence more than in comments to the Daily Tarheel article about the allegation. You won’t find much evidence of that now, unfortunately.
By midafternoon Wednesday, skeptics had poked holes in parts of Matney’s story, especially after seeing photos of the wound posted on several news sites. The comment I left below was just one of the responses to the article in the Daily Tarheel questioning Matney’s story:
I just had a good look at the burn, which is posted on several other sites. The commonly available device that would leave such a mark is your average cheap butane grill lighter, used to create two separate but closely spaced burns.
Here’s the problem.
While it is possible to get the tip of one of these lighters very hot, the metal used is both thin and cheap. They lose heat very rapidly (they are designed to as a safety requirement) and to get that severe of a wound, you would have to have the flame going for at least 10 or 15 seconds, and then immediately applied to the skin. But that would only cause one burn or this severity. To create the other burn, it would once again have to burn for 10-15 seconds, and then be reapplied to the flesh. The lines around the burns are very crisp; he never flinched. These have all the hallmarks of self-abuse.
Within an hour, this comment and several similar comments had been censored by the staff of the Daily Tarheel, and the comments section to the article was closed, with the editors stating: We’ve closed comments on this item because of the nature of the post and the nature of comments being posted.
We won’t tolerate posts that insult others by using gender, race, class, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual preference or disabilities.
When called to cite the specific violation of policy for this comment, the Daily Tarheel could not, or would not, provide an answer. They didn’t have one, because this comment, like most of the other comments the student paper deleted, did not violate anything other than the editor’s presupposition that a hate crime had occurred, obvious problems with evidence and allegations be damned.
Like journalists in the mainstream media, these young student journalists had an ideological mindset that disallowed any challenges to the conventional wisdom within their insular community. The hate crimes allegation served a “larger truth” the community has accepted that the outside world was less tolerant than they, and darned if they weren’t going to resort to censorship to prove just how accepting of ideas they are!
Jon Sanders at the John Locke Foundation skewered the Daily Tarheel’s censorship just as soon as Matney’s story was revealed as a hoax. Yet UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp vowed to “bring the strongest possible charges against the attacker.” I hope that means criminal charges against Matney, and expulsion for criminal behavior and a rather obvious breach of the university’s honor code.
Whether Chancellor Thorp and the UNC Journalism faculty are willing to bring the forces of politically correct suppression of dissent by editors of the student paper up on charges is another matter entirely.
The student body at UNC is intent on ignoring any possibility of learning from this hoax, and plans on holding a “Bandage from Branding” protest. It seems even a fake hate crime is enough when the protesters only real goal is delusions of equality.