The ‘It Started a Dialogue’ Excuse for False Allegations

Ashe Schow
March 15, 2016

Falsely accusing someone of a crime is never okay and society should never excuse it. Sadly, today’s culture allows anyone to accuse someone of rape or racism and seek forgiveness by claiming the false accuser just wanted to “start a dialogue.”

In the recent race hoax at State University of New York at Albany, where three black women started a fight on a bus and accused a dozen white people of attacking them for being black, a professor at the school claimed they were justified because they started a conversation on race.

“My white students have said this has opened up conversations,” said Sami Schalk, and assistant professor in SUNY Albany’s English department. “Things that are inadvertent, small, but that these white students have no experience with, not being a person of color on this campus.”

The three women who claimed to be the victims of a racial attack are currently being charged with assault (as videos show one of them threw the first punch) and filing a false report.

Another recent hoax, this one involving a lesbian professor at Central Michigan University who claimed she was attacked for her sexuality by a man at a Tony Keith concert, also included the “starting a dialogue” excuse. Professor Mari Poindexter said she made up the story (and punched herself in the eye to fake evidence) “because she wanted to raise awareness about the social hardships of people in the LGBTQ+ community.”

After Rolling Stone’s article about an alleged gang-rape at the University of Virginia was proven to be a hoax, media outlets — including MTV — rushed to suggest that the article “may have unintentionally started a conversation that’s bigger than the controversy itself.”

Oddly, but not unexpectedly, that “conversation” was not about avoiding a rush to judgment when accusations check all the boxes in preferred narratives, but about accusers needing to be believed.

The most famous rape hoax of the past decade, the Duke Lacrosse case, involved campus administrators rushing to judgment to condemn the accused team. A “Group of 88” professors and administrators circulated an ad with quotes from students and others about how the accused were racists and how the culture at Duke promoted rape.

For the 10-year anniversary of the hoax, some of the administrators who promulgated the ad claimed they weren’t trying to condemn the students (yeah, right) but were merely trying to start a discussion on campus.

These are just the most recent examples. The next time a hoax is revealed, watch. Those committed to driving the narrative will claim that even though this particular accusation was false, their narrative still stands and that it should “start a dialogue” regardless. And as I mentioned before, that “dialogue” is never about waiting for facts or evidence before condemning accused people, but about how we should accuse more people because they’re probably guilty.

Ashe Schow is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.