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The Post-Election 'Hate Crimewave' Is a Mirage

A recent Gallup poll showed that 42% of Americans are afraid following the election of Donald Trump. That may explain why there have been more than 200 incidents across America of "hateful harassment and intimidation" since election day, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

There is no doubt that some people are behaving in a beastly manner since the election, but what's striking is that most of the reports received by the SPLC are in the third person. And none of the reports have been confirmed.

This is important because there have been several violent incidents supposedly inspired by Trump's victory. Hit and Run's Elizabeth Nolan Brown explains most of these attacks either never happened or are hoaxes

  • A Muslim woman claimed that two men wearing Trump hats stole her wallet and ripped her hijab. Later, the woman admitted to having made up the story.
  • Another Muslim woman had her car stolen by two men who then made some unkind comments about Islam. Trump was never mentioned and it seems pretty clear the motive was car theft and not hate.
  • A gay man in Santa Monica was supposedly beaten up by Trump supporters. But the Santa Monica police say they received no such reports and no hospitals in the area reported any beatings of gay men.

There are other incidents that are questionable:

Other instances of "Trump inspired" violence and vandalism have also turned out to be hoaxes or misinterpretations. An alleged Ku Klux Klan rally in honor of Trump's victory turned out to be an old photo of conservatives carrying U.S., Gadsden, and Christian flags that were billowing out in a manner mistaken in a grainy photo for Klan robes. There were no Southern Illinois University students posting blackface selfiesto social media after Trump's win.

A Nazi flag that went up over a home in San Francisco Wednesday wasn't a show of support for anti-Jewish sentiment but "a comment on our new president-elect," according to the anti-Trump resident who put it up. "I am hoping people get that this is a political statement, and that I'm not a Nazi supporter."

Other anti-Semitic imagery—such as "Sieg Heil 2016" spray-painted on an abandoned store front in Philadelphia—may have been legit expressions of bigotry or may have been similar attempts at commentary on Trump's election; it's unclear because no one is taking credit for them. The bulk of racist graffiti incidents appear to have happened around middle- and high-schools, which doesn't make their messages any less hurtful, I'm sure, but does suggest a phenomenon driven by mean and immature kids rather than rogue bands of serious neo-Nazis.

And while all sorts of horrible incidents are being reported on Twitter and Facebook... well, anyone can say anything on Twitter and Facebook. The bulk of these stories are "friend of a friend" told me types. But if men were really going around pulling knives on Muslim women on public buses in Trump's name, there would at least be local or campus news reports of it. Same, too, for the alleged wave of transgender teen suicides which keep getting mentioned in media but for which no one can offer any evidence.

I point all of this out not to mock or attempt to diminish the fear or dismay any individuals feel right now but to put things in perspective. The "hate acts reported across the country" in the wake of Trump's victory seem mostly relegated to graffiti at a few schools and one carjacking which may or may not have had anything to do with racial or religious prejudice. Less dramatic acts of racism—name calling, derogatory comments made in passing, etc.—do seem to be bubbling up more frequently this week, if the sheer number of such anecdotes shared online means anything. But while that's a shame in and of itself, it's also a world apart from the wave of "hate crimes" and violent attacks that many are conjuring up right now.