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Washington Post: Let’s re-report this hate-crime hoax so we can blame it on Trump–and also blame the perp’s Trump-supporting mother

December 9, 2019
  • Rise in hate crimes following Trump's election win
  • Image: CBS News

Here’s how the local media in Indiana reported in 2017 about the spray-painted phrases “Heil Trump” and “Fag Church” that appeared shortly after the 2016 election on the outside of a a liberal Episcopal church in a Trump-supporting rural Indiana county:

BEAN BLOSSOM, Ind. — A Bean Blossom, Indiana, church has fired the organist who confessed earlier this month to defacing the building with anti-gay, anti-Donald Trump and anti-Semitic graffiti – but says it will offer him a “path to reconciliation.”

George Nathaniel Stang, 26, admitted to police he had purchased black spray paint at Bloomington Hardware and used it to deface St. David’s Episcopal Church last November. Stang then reported the graffiti to police as a possible hate crime.

Stang told police he wanted to “mobilize a movement” because he was disappointed in and fearful of the results of the general election.

Brown County Prosecutor Theodore F. Adams called Stang’s deception a “blight on our small and diverse community.” His office has filed charges of institutional criminal mischief, a class “A” misdemeanor, against Stang.

Here’s how the Washington Post re-reports the story in 2019:

Driving east on State Road 46, Bloomington’s neat outer subdivisions give way to church steeples, rusting mailboxes and satellite television dishes, a landscape of forested hills and hollows that feels more Appalachian than Midwestern. Many of the county’s 15,000 residents embraced the rise of President Trump, who captured 63 percent of the vote.

Rusted mailboxes.

But few of those supporters worshiped at St. David’s Episcopal Church. The small congregation welcomed same-sex weddings. Its rector was a woman. God was routinely invoked during sermons with a female pronoun.

The nice people.

To the parishioners who gathered in the parking lot to stare at the graffiti on the morning of Nov. 13, 2016, the motive for the crime — and its connection to a season of political vitriol — seemed obvious. Jim Huber, the church’s senior warden, found his thoughts turning to a nearby property flying a Confederate flag. Michael Day, a retired doctor, felt an upswell of righteous anger. “My attitude was, ‘This is my church family. My family has been hurt,’ ” Day recalled. “I was ready to go out Nazi-hunting.”

Because people who support Trump always greet each other with “Heil Trump” instead of “Hi.”

Real hate crimes far outnumber fake ones. Exact estimates vary, but academic researchers put the number of confirmed hate hoaxes in 2016 in the dozens — a tiny fraction of the 6,121 crimes of bias reported that year to the Federal Bureau of Investigation….

“Each one of these cases that happen is cited as a reason we shouldn’t have hate-crime legislation — that all hate crimes are made up,” said Jack McDevitt, director of the Institute on Race and Justice at Northeastern University.

The reality, he added, is very different: Many hate crime victims are afraid to go to police. “The problem is underreporting, not overreporting,” McDevitt said.

So there, haters.

[Stang] became a standout in the high school band and orchestra; then a music major at Stetson University; then a composition student in the master’s program at the Eastman School of Music, one of the nation’s top conservatories, in Rochester, N.Y.

In his 20s he won awards for a body of works that ranged from “Undertow,” a brooding rejoinder to Claude Debussy’s languid “La Mer,” to “Side-scroller,” an orchestral homage to the games of his childhood that incorporated the Super Mario Bros. theme. Arriving at Indiana University to pursue his PhD in music composition, he created and taught a popular course on video game music in which undergraduates could be found listening to their charismatic young instructor discuss melodic shapes in scenes of monster-slaying.

“He is one of the most talented musicians I know,” said Jay Hurst, a fellow IU doctoral student and composer.

A musical genius.

But his relationship with his mother began to fray. In temperament and intellectual interests, Rhonda — an extroverted newspaper ad clerk — was very different from her son. Still, for as long as Stang could remember, she had been his closest friend and confidante….

He had come out in 2008, when he arrived at Stetson. Though his mother had long suspected he was gay, she struggled to accept it. She dreamed of grandchildren, and a devoted daughter-in-law. She worried about her son being persecuted.

“I have no problem with anyone being gay,” she said. “But it was a little different when it came to my own kid.”

Yet it was politics, not sexual identity, that drove mother and son apart.

When Barack Obama was elected, Rhonda embraced the tea party movement.

The beginning of the end.

After several months, Rhonda moved to Tennessee. Not long afterward she adopted another belief that astounded her son, and would prove to be his breaking point. She thought Trump should be president.

His breaking point.

[Sheriff’s investigator Brian] Shrader’s words were a mix of truths and lies, pressure and patience, sympathy and ruthlessness….Cellphone data indicated Stang had been in Bean Blossom on Saturday night, but there was no surveillance video, and the FBI had never come in on the case.

Most of all, the detective deceived the organist about the purpose of his visit. He knew Stang had no criminal record, and believed he was a good guy who had committed an impulsive act. But he wasn’t there to help him.

Meanie cop. Aren’t the police supposed to be social workers?

[A] group of Stang’s friends gathered to hear him explain what he had done. What Stang offered, as they choked back their anger and tears, was a version of the formal statement he had written after Shrader’s visit.

He was frightened, he wrote, by Trump’s rhetoric. “I felt very scared and alone and, at the time, really didn’t know why I was doing what I was doing….”

Trump is scary. He can make you do bad things.

At a time of political and religious certainty, Sean Hannity and Rachel Maddow, celebrity pastors and nondenominational megachurches, the quiet tolerance and familiar rituals found at St. David’s were facing extinction. But they appealed deeply to Jan Benham, a retired doctor who was one of the two people taking Holy Communion on this October evening.

“If anything smells of certitude, I tend to run the other direction,” said Benham, 78, who has worshiped at St. David’s for 14 years. “I don’t believe anyone is lost forever. I don’t believe in hell, and I may not believe in a literal heaven.”

A member of the choir, Benham was close to Stang, and felt the sting of betrayal when she learned he was responsible for the violation of the church. But she also felt remorse that neither she nor her fellow parishioners had recognized the pain that drove him to his crime.

The Washington Post sure knows how to re-report a story!

Posted by Charlotte Allen

From → Uncategorized

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