I'm not surprised that Ashely Todd fabricated her entire story of being mugged, assaulted, and branded with a "B" while campaigning for John McCain in Pittsburgh yesterday. When I lived in Paris in 2004, a woman was assaulted by Arab youths on the Metro. Her clothes were torn. She was beaten. And most horrifically, swastikas were drawn on her skin in red marker. The French Jewish community, still reeling from the desecration of Jewish gravestones earlier that year, reacted with outrage. Israeli politicians urged French Jews to make Aaliyah (move to Israel). Members of my family emailed and called from the States to ask if I felt safe in Paris as a Jew.
The thing was, that story was entirely made up, too. And the woman at the center of the drama, 23-year old Marie-Leonie Leblanc, wasn't even Jewish.
Individuals who invent stories of victimization are often mentally ill, and deserve some modicum of compassion. But there's no question that in both of these cases, the lies were manufactured to whip up racial hatred. Equally bad, people who fabricate tales of violence do a real disservice to women and men who are actually victims of violent crimes. Our culture is already filled with insinuations that women in particular make-up or "exaggerate" accusations of assault, sexual harassment, and rape.
All in all, this little episode is an example of one individual crafting a narrative intended to play off an image of Barack Obama and his supporters (as radical, terroristic, and racially-motivated) that is being pushed by the McCain campaign. Sad and sordid.
cross-posted at TAPPED