When, in 2004, UD started blogging at her flagship campus, University Diaries I, she was amazed at the story of Kerri Dunn, a visiting psychology professor at Claremont McKenna College who earned her own Wikipedia page, a year in prison, and a $20,000 fine for covering her car with gruesome symbols, including a swastika, and then claiming to have been the victim of a hate crime.
When, in 2004, UD started blogging at her flagship campus, University Diaries I, she was amazed at the story of Kerri Dunn, a visiting psychology professor at Claremont McKenna College who earned her own Wikipedia page, a year in prison, and a $20,000 fine for covering her car with gruesome symbols, including a swastika, and then claiming to have been the victim of a hate crime. The trusting students, faculty, and administration at the college first made Dunn a heroine -- there were speeches in her honor -- but then the two guys who happened to have been taking a walk while Dunn was spray painting her car came forward and described what they saw.
UD has covered so many hate crime hoaxes since Dunn that nothing along these lines amazes her anymore. Self-created attacks are common enough on and around American university campuses that a play - Spinning Into Butter - has been written about the phenomenon. A typical recent incident involves a University of Colorado student who claimed three homophobes had carved an X in her cheek, and then admitted that she'd done it herself.
But the thing is really getting around when it gets to UD's own campus, George Washington University, where a Jewish student was just discovered to have drawn swastikas on her own door. The campus, rightly appalled at the swastikas, had been in an uproar about fascists lurking, but now it looks likely that most, if not all, of the swastikas around campus were the work of this woman.
Her motives? UD Googled her and sniffed around a bit. A freshman, she is a very ambitious student journalist -- won journalism awards in high school -- and indeed is a reporter for the GW newspaper, The Hatchet. Though I guess she's probably been fired... Anyway, the motivation here, I suspect, is akin to the motivation of the firefighter who sets a blaze in order heroically to put it out. You create an incendiary news story centering around yourself, and this gives you endless opportunities to write articles and opinion pieces and essays about yourself and the traumas you're undergoing, and about our anti-semitic society, etc. Generic desire for attention plus specific professional ambition seems to have been the ticket here.
What is to be done? I think Claremont McKenna, deeply embarrassed by its sanctification of Dunn, would tell you that exactly nothing's be to done until everyone's sure of the attack's authenticity. It looks cold to withhold sympathy and outrage, but there are too many sociopaths out and about.
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