The Fulford File: Fake News Frenzy–Remember the Great Black Church Burning Hoax?
The recent “fake news” about bomb threats at Jewish Community Centers and desecration of Jewish cemeteries recalls a much earlier chapter in the history of Fake News—the Black Church Burnings of the 1990s.
Bomb threats phoned in to Jewish Community Centers across the country caused a spasm of “Trump is not denouncing these fast enough” tweets. At around the same time, there were multiple cases of reported desecration of Jewish cemeteries, including the toppling of tombstones. All this was presumed to be part of an imagined Trump Effect:
Since the election of Donald Trump in November, there have been almost 1,000 reported hate crimes targeting Muslims, Arabs, African-Americans, Latinos and other people of color. At this same moment, there have been terrorist threats against Jewish synagogues and community centers as well as the vandalizing of Jewish cemeteries
Trump’s election has created “safe spaces” for racists: Southern Poverty Law Center’s Heidi Beirich on the wave of hate crimes, by Chauncey DeVega, Salon.com, March 8, 2017
Well, it turned out that many bomb threats could be traced to one black disgruntled reporter (Juan Thompson, right) who was attempting to lay the blame on his white girlfriend.
Then it turned out that in one apparently desecrated Jewish cemetery in Brooklyn, tombstones had been toppled by age, cold, and neglect.[ Senator Chuck Schumer says Jewish cemetery vandalized by anti-Semites, but the NYPD discovered who was really responsible., by Mark Meckler, Patheos, March 6, 2017]
Toppling monuments to the dead is, of course, despicable. But it also sounds like hard work—work that would be not only difficult, but dangerous in February, especially if undertaken after dark. Possibly all these tombstone topplings were caused by cold and neglect.
The Black Church Burnings in the 90s, which happened mostly in the warmer climate of the American South, weren’t caused by cold—they were mostly caused by blacks.
The alleged racist attacks on Black Churches were not a real thing—a 2006 Washington Post profile of black Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick admitted:
In 1994 President Clinton nominated [Deval] Patrick to become assistant attorney general for civil rights. They were riveting and edgy times: Conservatives launched attacks against affirmative action; a wave of black church and synagogue burnings erupted in the South, echoes from another era, when burnings and bombings haunted America. The burnings turned out to be the work of drunk boys playing arsonist [in black neighborhoods] and insurance-scam artists [in black congregations]. Still, the probe consumed Patrick and his investigators. “You know how hard it is to solve arsons? Sifting through ash?” Patrick says.
A Long Way From Home, By Wil Haygood, Washington Post, October 25, 2006. Emphasis added.
Sure, it’s hard to solve arson crimes, but it’s also not the responsibility of the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. It’s because the national media got on this kick that the Feds got involved.
An NAACP-promoted Hate Hoax in Mississippi prompted Michelle Malkin to recall:
The incident indeed “brought back memories” for me–memories of the embarrassing 1996 media malpractice of former USA Today reporter Gary Fields, who manufactured a purported epidemic of racist church-burnings in the South with 61 hysterical stories. A typical and familiar headline: “Arson at Black Churches Echoes Bigotry of Past.” The NAACP jumped onboard and demanded that then-Attorney General Janet Reno investigate. President Clinton fanned the flames; panels were formed; federal spending programs were passed. But a year later, Fields’ own paper was forced to admit that “analysis of the 64 fires since 1995 shows only four can be conclusively shown to be racially motivated.”
Several of the crimes had been committed by black suspects; a significant number of the black churches were in fact white churches; and the Chicken Littles had obscured numerous complex motives including mental illness, vandalism and concealment of theft.
See also on VDARE.com by Michelle Malkin: Fanning the Flames of Another Black Church Arson Hoax and Who’s Burning Black Churches? Black Suspects.
As you see, Michelle blames “former USA TODAY reporter Gary Fields” for pushing the false narrative. Fields (right) who was at the Wall Street Journal until he took a buyout recently, is a black reporter who spent his career writing about racial issues.
This is something I never picked up on reading Michael Fumento’s coverage of this in the 90s—neither he or Malkin alludes to it, although it’s an obvious source of motivation for this kind of Fake News.
Quantative reporter Fumento is the man who exposed this hoax—you can read eight articles about it on Fumento’s website:
- A Church Arson Epidemic? It’s Smoke and Mirrors, The Wall Street Journal, July 8, 1996
- Politics and Church Burnings, Commentary Magazine, October 1996
- USA Today’s Arson Artistry, The American Spectator, December 1996
- Who’s Fanning the Flames of Racism?, The Wall Street Journal, June 16, 1997
- USA Today Collects Kudos for Debunking Its Own Myth, The Washington Times, January 7, 1997
- The Great Black Church-Burning Hoax, 1998
- Rights Commission Blows Smoke over Church Arsons, 1998
- Church Burning Hoax Plays Huge Dividends, 1998
Even after the hoax was debunked, Fields wasn’t fazed—and as you can see, it didn’t ruin his career, because he’s black.
Gary Fields stuck by his story anyway. He “was justifiably proud of the enterprising reporting he did on the church-burning story,” according to the Columbia Journalism Review. Asked by the American Journalism Review whether the media overplayed the story “in light of the lack of significant increase in the rate of burnings compared with previous years,” Fields was unapologetic. “Who gets to decide what is a normal rate for churches to be burned?” he said. “The one conspiracy there has been is a conspiracy of indifference.”
white-racists-are-burning-down-black-churches-in-Alabama quasi-hoax that was a huge respectable story in the 1990s? (What happened then was this: there are a lot of churches in America, many of them closed most of the week, more than a few of them more or less abandoned. And every year hundreds of churches across the country catch fire, more than a few due to arson. Whether this arson is for more for functional reasons [e.g., nobody around most of the time], or because churches attract firebugs for psychological reasons [flames of hell?], or because some financially failing ministers unleash a little Protestant Lightning to collect fire insurance, is unknown. What happened was that the national media started paying selective attention to black churches being subject to arson, and soon we had a national crisis on our hands.
Steve ‘s expression “Protestant lightning” is switch on the older expression “Jewish lightning” referring to insurance fraud. This expression, is of course, Deplorable, although the people who made the joke that ends in the punchline “How do you make a flood?” were not members of the Klan, but Jewish comedians.
What we’re talking about is black dysfunction being mistaken for white racism. Black churches are more likely to be poorer, thus less likely to have sprinklers. (The best thing you can do to protect your own church from fire is install sprinklers.)
They’re also in black neighborhoods, which means black teenagers. And finally, if they have black pastors and congregations, they’re more likely to commit arson fraud—Steve Sailer’s “Protestant lightning.” [ Pastor, others arrested in arson, Amarillo Globe News, November 8, 1999]
Nevertheless, in the age of Trump, it happened again—five days before election day: Black church torched in Mississippi, with ‘Vote Trump’ painted on wall, By Cleve R. Wootson Jr. November 3, 2016.
In December—Trump having been elected anyway, in spite of all the Fake News, Steve Sailer blogged that this story contained
No mention of the fake news about a non-existent wave of black churches being burned that was promoted in the 1990s by President Bill Clinton.
The reality is that churches burn all the time. About 1,780 churches and funeral parlors catch fire per year nationally. Some of its accidental, some of it is insurance fraud (“Protestant lightning”), some of it is arson by people mad at God or religion, some of it is arson by pyromaniacs who like fires but aren’t particularly homicidal and are therefore attracted to churches because they are empty so much of the week.
And then Steve linked to the Mississippi Clarion-Ledger story Member of black Mississippi church arrested for arson by Sarah Fowler , December 21, 2016, with its picture of accused arsonist (and member of the congregation) Andrew McClinton, 45.
We call this Narrative Collapse, but as proof that Fake News never dies, the story A Black Church Burned in the Name of Trump, by Emma Green, November 2, 2016, is still up on the Atlantic’s website, with no apology, and only the note that
The Clarion-Ledger in Mississippi reports that police arrested Andrew McClinton, reportedly a member of Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church, for setting the fire that gutted the church and painting the words “Vote Trump” on the outside wall in the week before the election. He has been charged with one count of arson in the first degree. Police have not reported any motive for the crime so far. [December 21, 2016]
Emphases added. No mention of the race of the alleged arsonist—and no apology from the Atlantic, anymore than there was from USA Today.
The good news is that now the internet can defeat Fake News—Trump was elected anyway.
James Fulford [Email him] is a writer and editor for VDARE.com.