On the heels of the Jussie Smollett debacle, in which Chicago authorities say they have even more evidence of the alleged victim's culpability, some conservatives have been accused of "pouncing" on the issue of falsified hate crimes. This incomplete thread chronicled dozens of such hoaxes during the Trump era, and now there appears to be a doozy to add to the list. The following story out of Michigan is wild. Local officials have accused a local LGBT activist of setting fire to his own house:
When the home of Nikki Joly burned down in 2017, killing five pets, the FBI investigated it as a hate crime. After all, the transgender man and gay rights activist had received threats after having a banner year in this conservative town. In the prior six months, he helped open the city’s first gay community center, organized the first gay festival and, after 18 years of failed attempts, helped lead a bruising battle for an ordinance that prohibits discrimination against gays. For his efforts, a local paper named him the Citizen of the Year. Authorities later determined the fire was intentionally set, but the person they arrested came as a shock to both supporters and opponents of the gay rights movement. It was the citizen of the year — Nikki Joly. “It’s embarrassing,” said Travis Trombley, a gay resident who fought for the ordinance. “How do you do it to the community you have put so much effort into helping?”
Why would Jolly do such a thing? Arson is an extremely serious felony, and killing multiple pets in the process is simply horrific. The suspected motive is pathetic:
A police investigative report suggests a possible reason for the fire. Two people who worked with Joly at St. Johns United Church of Christ, where the Jackson Pride Center was located, said he had been frustrated the controversy over gay rights had died down with the passage of the nondiscrimination law, according to the report. The church officials, Barbara Shelton and Bobby James, when asked by police about a possible motive for the fire, said Joly was disappointed the Jackson Pride Parade and Festival, held five days before the blaze, hadn’t received more attention or protests.
"Or protests." If confirmed, this would suggest that Joly is more or less addicted to activism. Having won a number of battles in his community, he grew bored by the lack of controversy, so he allegedly manufactured one. The point of activism ought to be making policy progress, preferably while winning over hearts and minds. Achieving such progress, and being met with public ambivalence, should be considered a double victory. Accomplishments, coupled with public indifference. This is how equality is normalized. But if personal gratification and adrenaline rushes became the priority, as it increasingly appears, that's not activism. That's selfishness. Criminal selfishness. And incinerating two dogs and three cats in pursuit of this 'activism high' is unspeakably cruel. Imagine being so obsessed with the act of confronting bigotry that you literally torch your home and kill your pets in the process of inventing bigotry to confront.
The Detroit News story also notes a number of previous actions and manipulations that alienated Joly's own allies, suggesting that this crusader exhibited warning signs about his trustworthiness. After the blaze destroyed the home he was renting, Joly urged supporters to be "very angry," and channel that rage into pushing for change. Local groups raised nearly $60,000 to help him. But following an investigation, police gathered evidence that pointed in one direction:
The sequence of events would have made it difficult for anyone but Joly to set the fire, Grove said in the police report. “The timeline shows a window of less than five minutes for another person to enter the residence, splash gasoline around, ignite the fire and then leave without being scene,” wrote Grove. Joly told an insurance company investigator the arsonist must have been in the home at the same time he was, according to the report. Lab tests by police found traces of gasoline on the clothes Joly was wearing on the day of the fire, said the report. Two weeks after the fire, Joly was questioned for four hours by a city police detective and two FBI agents. During the interview, he drooped his head, staring at the floor, not looking at his interlocutors, according to the report. He didn’t admit setting the fire and didn’t deny it, either.
After 13 months of police work, Joly was finally arrested. He's been charged with arson, appearing in court earlier this month. The case, which has roiled the local community since 2017, has received renewed scrutiny in the context of the Smollett story. The purpose of highlighting this story is absolutely not to claim that genuine hate crimes do not exist. According to a number of metrics (which are sometimes imperfect, and some organizations tracking such things have no credibility), reported US hate crimes have increased in recent years, especially against Jews. The purpose of calling out hoaxes is to (a) shame the perpetrators, who are hurting their own supposed causes through myopic and sociopathic tactics, and (b) to try to tap the breaks on society's knee-jerk overreactions to certain allegations. Phony hate crimes make it harder for real victims to be believed, while sowing dissent and distrust. They are insidious and damaging -- and must be met with strong social opprobrium and severe punishment. We must reverse the perverse incentives of 'victimhood chic' culture, which is a very real and sick phenomenon. On that front I'll leave you with the longtime leader of the Log Cabin Republicans blasting Joly over his apparent addiction to grievance:
Liberal LGBT activist burns down own home in hoax hate crime because “he had been frustrated the controversy over gay rights had died down with the passage of the nondiscrimination law.”— Gregory T. Angelo (@gregorytangelo) February 25, 2019
The need for some to be perpetual victims is all too real. https://t.co/yCGyQd9aPH